Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mom...I Miss You

The last few weeks my heart has been heavy missing both my sweet baby girl and my mom. Back to back I was brought back to their death days as if it had just happened, flashbacks, tears, questioning, longing, missing. Many times I am still thrown off when grief hits. Even after all this time, grief can still knock me down, bringing me to my knees with no mercy. I often find myself still resisting these moments, pushing them down, avoiding them because the pain feels almost unbearable. I judge my grief, especially when it comes to my mom.

When my mom was alive, I feared her death, I feared I would find her, I feared she would die from drinking, which became a reality on June 18th, 2013. One of my biggest fears was finding her dead. The night I found her  has been in my head the past couple weeks, replaying that moment, feeling that moment, reliving that night over and over. There are just no words to explain how finding her felt. In an instant none of the drinking matter, I wanted my mom. I felt like a little girl again. Lost, bewildered, confused. I stood there looking at my mom desperate for her to wake up, desperate to hug her, desperate to hear her voice, I just wanted my mom. I was suddenly the daughter needing her mom. Now I am and will forever be the daughter needing her mom, desperately wanting that connection back, the mother daughter bond, the conversations only we could have, they’re  gone forever.  

My mother was a broken soul. I never realized how broken until she was gone. I replay the weeks leading up to her death and so many emotions fill my heart, guilt, regret, sadness, shame. Images of those last few days I saw her, our conversations, the way she looked, the way I talked to her, the way I treated her, hurts my heart more than anyone really knows. I couldn’t fix her, I couldn’t help her, I couldn’t change her, I was helpless in a situation that I couldn’t fully walk away from. Yet, I am feeling such guilt with her death, with her life, with my mom. I didn’t do enough, I could have helped her more, been more kind, listened to the pain, see her, truly see her. I ache when I remember the look on her face, I ache when I see the desperation in her eyes, I ache when I remember where she was living, I ache because I now understand the pain she was in. It’s too late to understand. She’s dead.

 Growing up with an alcoholic is hard. It’s hard to worry all the time, it’s hard to be the “mom” to your mom, it’s hard to wonder not if but when the alcohol will kill them, it’s just plain hard to see the person you love be destroyed by alcohol. In the end of her life I was so frustrated with her, I was so angry, I was so hurt, I was so lost on what to do, that I distanced myself from her more than once. I shut her out; I could not bear seeing her wither away into someone I did not recognize. I could not look past the alcohol, I could not *see* her as the human, the woman, the mom she was under the pain. Growing up with an alcoholic changes everything about them, you, your relationship. It’s hard.

 My mom was lost, confused and broken from her past. She did not know how to cope with life. The more I am learning in school, the more I feel that the system failed her, the system that is supposed to “help” people. My mom was in and out of rehab and detox. Neither of which truly helped her. When she went into detox she would be very sick, they would give her medication, and once she was done detoxing she would be released. They would not get to the heart of her drinking, the reasons she drank. She suffered trauma, a significant amount of trauma that she could not handle. If she had someone who would be willing to sit with her in her pain, her suffering, her story, who could walk with her until she could tolerate her pain she may be here today. Sober. My mom desperately wanted to get sober. I saw it in her face, I heard it in her voice. It was her past that was haunting her. Medication was not the answer, alcohol was not the answer, for my mom she needed connection.  My mom was a beautiful soul lost in a dark world screaming and no one was hearing her. Including me.

I am not sure I can forgive myself for this. I try and remember that I was the daughter and I did what I could. I try and hear the words a friend told me, it doesn’t matter, your mom knew your love and she loved you no matter what you said, did or didn’t do. Sometimes I just have a hard time believing those words. I miss my mom, my sober mom, the beautiful mom, person, human being that she was. I am thankful I knew that mom, because she is the reason I am who I am today. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Alcohol, Change, and Loving Myself...

For many years alcoholism was a part of my everyday life. I was constantly worried, scared, sad, angry, annoyed, heartbroken, and hopeful. I hated watching my mom change right before my eyes. The mother that was deep down in all that pain, the mother that loved me, the mother that I loved deeply became more and more of a stranger. I feared for a long time that I would find her dead. I tried to distance myself from her because the alcohol mom was too hard to be around. I could not save her, I could not help her, I could not see her, I was angry, though that did not stop my worry. I would call and when she didn’t answer I would worry. I was on constant alert, in constant fear that she was going to die. That fear came true the day I found her dead. I was in shock, I stood there in disbelief looking down at my mother’s body, shaking, crying, at a loss for words. It is a moment I will never forget. Alcoholism took my mom’s life, it took her away from everyone she loved, from everyone that loved her, it robbed her of a beautiful life, it robbed my brother and I from our mom, it took so much from us, all of us.

Though the day I found her the alcohol did not matter. I just wanted my mom back.

I have noticed for the last few months just how easy it is or can be for alcohol to become a problem. I notice in me the moments I crave it, the moments when it is all I can think about, the moments I feel this need for it and it scares me. When sadness creeps in I can feel the craving, the urge, the want to drink. I do not want to feel the sadness, the pain, the guilt. The guilt is usually the driving force for wanting a drink. The guilt of my moms last weeks of her life. I did not do enough, the look on her face haunt me, knowing she died lonely eats me up inside. The guilt of Mckenna's death can be too much to bare at times. There are days my breath is taken as the image of her feet sticking out from under the television I moved pops in my head and I am brought to my knees. I feel this panic inside me and drinking sounds way more appealing that feeling all that guilt. I do not drink where I am living, so often times when these cravings and urges happen as I am in the middle of a guilt attack I either avoid or talk my self through it, with avoiding being the my usual choice. Neither is healthy. 

I also like to drink because drunk Ashley is the Ashley that I wish I could always be sober. I feel I am more sociable, fun, funny, approachable, silly (though I am sure many feel this way when they drink). I have very few in my world that I can be my total authentic, full, self with sober. When I can be my authentic self it lights up my world and I love how I can let my wall down. I was recently told (by a loving, caring friend who I can be my authentic self with) that I can be a bit rigid, not warm or approachable. This made me cry. I cried because my mind went straight to my mom who would tell me I was cold.I do not like that part of me, I do not like that people feel they cannot approach me, that I don't feel warm because that is not me. Alcohol will not allow me to be my authentic self or help me let my wall down. Awareness, not drinking and opening up sober is the only way this can happen.

This is going to be a challenge for me because I like to drink, I like the feeling, I like how I can be silly, more open and almost carefree. I don’t want alcohol to be my liquid courage anymore, I just need to trust in myself, believe that I am fun, silly, funny, and approachable sober. I want someone to see me as the warm, loving, caring, compassionate, generous person I feel I am with those I feel I can be my full authentic self with.

I do not want to end up with the life my mom died in. I want my authentic self to shine through without alcohol being the driving force.

This is important to me and I hope my family and friends will understand and be supportive of this decision. Don’t judge me for making this choice and don’t judge me if I happen to have a couple drinks. The more I say no, the easier it will get…..

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Friendship and Forgiveness

I am a very forgiving person (some say too forgiving). I am not sure why or if it really matters why, I just know being a forgiving person also comes with a lot of pain. While I may be forgiving of friends and family, some may not be forgiving of me. I am a people pleaser and always have been. I don’t like it when people don’t like me, I hate it when someone is made at me, I want to fix things and move forward stronger with friendships and family, though I feel I am unique in this aspect.
I have had many friends come and go in my life and I know this is a part of life. Sometimes it is because we grow apart, or move away or are just not on the same track, whatever the reason it happens. For a long time it was hard for me to accept when this happened. I always thought, why does this have to happen, why can’t we just remain friends even when life happens and things change? Many factors are usually at play when a friendship dissolves. It is never simple.

For me personally I feel the reason I forgive is because if something were to happen to them or to me I would not want there to be regrets.  I live with many regrets in my life and a lot of it has to do with forgiveness.

I have friendships that are very unique. I have a friend I have known since we were 4 years old. We may not talk often, but I know she would be there if I needed her and has been there for me at times that I felt I had no one to turn to for help. I have a friend I have known since 1st grade and was reunited with when we were 21 through the friend I have known since I was 4. They are beautiful inside and out. I have a friend I have known 20 years, she has supported me in everything I do and will always be willing to kick someone’s ass for me. She has been around for all the good and all the bad. We started out on very rocky terms, but I can't imagine her not in my life. She inspires me to live life and do things that scare me and have fun. I have a friend that was a former marine wife. We went through things together that bonded us forever. She flew out the day after Mckenna died despite having 6 week old twins and a 2 year old at home. She may live in a different state, but we always pick up right where we left off. She is a gift to me in so many ways. I have a friend that has seen the dark side with me and understands this grief journey when many do not. We have laughed together, cried together and we share the bond of having a dead child/children. It is a bond we wish we did not share. I have friends that are older than me that have been a huge piece of my growth and becoming. Without these beautiful souls who have cheered me on, help guide me in this grief journey, held me while I cried, and laughed with me in embarrassing moments I don't know where I would be. Despite my flaws they all still love me. I love them and would go to the ends of the earth for each and every one of my friends.

When things get hard, when life happens and things change, when there is a misunderstanding try and remember that life is short and either you or they could be gone tomorrow. If you feel it is too big to forgive try anyway, don’t live with regrets in your life. The friendship may not be saved, but it does not need to end of bad terms. If you or they die tomorrow then at least there is peace of mind that you parted ways peacefully with better understanding of each other. Talk, communicate hurt feelings, be vulnerable, ask for forgiveness, show forgiveness, be genuine and authentic, you never know the gifts that can come from loving one another despite the challenges and flaws of each other and your friendship. Love big or go home…

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ah ha Moment....

For years I have often wondered why I am so worried about how others feel or why I felt/feel so judged when I am grieving. Where did it stem from? A couple weeks ago I had a bit of an, ah ha moment and figured out where it started (or at least I think I know). Let me give a little bit of a back story…

When I was 13 my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer and died 10 months later, the day before my 14th birthday. This was a devastating loss for me. Before his death I lived in Tucson with my Nana and Papa, my mom lived in Phx and my brother lived with our dad. We all moved back in with each other that summer of 1997. I was so excited to get the chance to see him more, stay at his house, get to know him like my siblings got to, but that was taken away when he was diagnosed the same month we moved back to Phoenix. As a 13 year old girl you are already confused, emotional, in that in between stage of a little girl and a young lady and then your dad gets sick and slowly dies right before your eyes and you are left with the aftermath. It wasn’t an easy time in my life and is still one of the hardest things I ever went through.

I did not take his death well. I was not ok with the fact that my dad was dead. I wanted my father, especially when my mom was an alcoholic and I became the mother. I was trying to navigate his death, my mom’s drinking, me being a teenage girl all alone and I will admit that I was sad. I was lost, in a dark place, I rarely smiled, I clung onto anyone who would see me, hear me and love me. My home life was falling apart and I was suddenly thrown into the adult world at 14.

When thinking about all this I figured out when it started. One night while lying on the floor watching TV, my mom came over to me and said, “So I talked to Nana today. She told me that you need to move on, that it isn’t normal for you to still be this way about your dad.” I laid there on the verge of tears and said, why would she say that? Why would you tell me that? I was confused. The rest of that moment isn’t clear and I am not sure what was said after, but I remember how I felt. I felt shamed, confused, alone, exposed and broken, this women that I loved dearly just judged my grief. I thought it was normal to feel the way I did after a parent dies. I thought I was allowed to feel this way, cry, play songs, be sad but in that moment it all changed. I started to question my feelings, I started to hide my pain, I started to push people away, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to grieve, I felt like my pain wasn’t valid, I felt like everyone thought I was crazy, all from that one moment.

That stayed with me, I carried that with me and I feel subconsciously affected me more when Mckenna died. The moment of her death I was always concerned with what people thought, I couldn’t show my emotions, I couldn’t show my pain, I couldn’t feel my pain because everyone would think I was crazy, I couldn’t let people think I was crazy. I held onto my pain because that is what I knew to do after learning to mask it for so long.

It almost angers me because I felt I wasn’t allowed to grieve the little girl who gave me life, who was my entire world and who was ripped from my life in an instant. I felt I couldn’t express my pain because people would judge, people would label me, they would look at me differently, that matter more to me than saying, screw you I will feel this pain because I have the right. This is what angers me.I have the right to miss my daughter, my mom, my dad and who ever I want, because I love them. I was told at one point that we feel pain deeply because we love deeply. We don’t stop loving them so when they are gone we don’t stop grieving for them, we just learn to carry it and bring it into our lives.

My Nana lived in a different generation. She held her pain, but I know she loved deeply.

Don’t judge those who are grieving, it is their pain, their loss, their love that they are feeling. Just sit with them, let them talk, let them cry without judgment. That is the greatest gift you can give someone who is grieving. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

This Too Shall Pass...

I don't know if it's the time of year, the weather, the changing of seasons , or my hormones but a sadness has washed over me the last few days. A loneliness I get from time to time. A loneliness that brings me to a place where I feel like there is something wrong with me, why I feel so different than others I know. I start to question my life, I start to question me as a person and wonder why I am the way I am, I get discouraged and I feel like I am destined to be alone the rest of my life.

 I am a 30 year old women who has a hard time making new friends, keeping friends, having friends my own age. I am an old soul, a mother hen, a 50 year old women in a 30 year old body. I am old fashioned, stubborn, a loner, a homebody, quiet, I get attached easy, and I am more like my mom than I ever wanted to be.

I try to think to myself that maybe it is the little steps that will allow me to grow into that person I envision? Maybe I set to high of standards for myself? Maybe I am just always going to be this way and I just need to accept it? Maybe I am judging myself too much? Things will happen when they are supposed to, be patient. You are lovable, and you are likable....

Then that little voice screams, no one will love you, no one will put up with you, no one will try and get to know you, the real you, who would really like you....all things I know aren't true deep in my heart.

Self love, and self compassion are not a part of my vocabulary when I am discouraged and lonely. Though I do try and allow these emotions to be there and to just be, just sit in, and just trust. I am only human and it is all a part of this life's process. Sometimes it is easier said than done...

This too shall pass....

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Beginning

As I reflected on my journey yesterday I was brought back to that painful part of my past. Not just with Mckenna’s death, but everything before her death. My marriage falling apart, having to find a place to live, not making enough money to support Mckenna and myself, taking care of my mom after her surgery, packing up the house by myself, doing everything on my own because that life was no longer what he wanted. I lost everything in a matter of 3 months. I felt alone, lost and broken.
Looking back I can see just how broken I was, how out of my body I was, and feeling a little bit more compassion for that 24 year old Ashley.

After Mckenna’s death I felt as if I was drowning, slowly dying inside and trying to pick up the pieces of my life. The one place I felt safe was no longer safe, I distanced myself from my family, I distanced myself from my friends, I was in a dark world where I was slowly being deprived of air and suffocating.  My life seemed to be spiraling out of control and I slowly reach a place where if I did not do something I was going to die.

I was having flashbacks, I couldn’t sleep, I was anxious, scared of my thoughts, I wouldn’t allow myself to cry, I pushed the pain so deep inside that when it tried to escape I felt like I was going to explode so letting it out was not an option. If I let go I would surely die. But it was the not letting go that nearly took my life.

 I know I have written about my journey and why I am where I am today, but I just want to share for those who may be scared to reach out, those who are scared no one would show up and see them, see their pain, for those who need to be seen, heard and upheld while they feel like their world is spiraling out of control after losing their child. I had a voice inside me telling me that I needed to get help, I needed to find someone to help me and I needed to reach out. I went on a trip to Australia and told myself that I would make it my mission to get help when I got home. It took me 3 months to walk into a support group. I was terrified to go, I was so nervous I felt as if I was going to throw up. I was about to open up to strangers that my daughter died and not only died but died from me moving a television. I thought, what would they think? Would they judge me? Would they run from my pain? Would they be able to handle my story? As it got closer to me the more terrified I got. When it was my turn I was shaking, the tears came and I spoke quickly hoping the words would just hurry and fly out of my mouth without causing me too much pain. I looked at the ground as I told a part of the story and I was watching it before my eyes, I was in my own world, I looked up and saw the sadness of the facilitators face but I also saw the compassion, the empathy, the understanding. I knew in that moment that I was where I was meant to be, I knew that that is where I would find the strength to work through this horrific tragedy.

I will never forget that moment because it was the moment that saved my life. I listened to that little voice (which I feel was Mckenna) and followed my heart. I have grown in ways that I truly never thought I would after Mckenna’s death, but I did and here I am carrying the grief, trusting the grief and allowing the pain to come and go without judgment. I allow it to be what it is and trust that I will be ok. It has taken a lot of work to get here and it has not been easy, but it has been worth it. Love is the reason we have so much pain when we lose those we love, but I would never want to not feel love in fear of pain. The pain validates my love.

I am forever thankful for those who have sat with me in those darkest days and never really left me. I may have done the work, but their guidance is also what saved my life. Truly saved my life. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Yes Even After 6 Years....Sigh

Mckenna  has been gone 6 years, 6 years. I just don’t know how that happened and yet this year it feels like it hasn’t been that long. I yearn for her, long for her, and when I look at her pictures I cry, yes even 6 years later. Sometimes it is hard for me to fathom that Mckenna died, that she is buried in the ground, and that I held her when she died. Just does not seem possible.

Dead and died were not a part of my vocabulary in the beginning because those words hurt my soul, they didn’t feel “right” (as if saying my daughter is dead would ever really feel “right.”) And still sometimes when I say those words my breath is taken as it is hard to believe that my child died. How she could wake up one morning and 3 hours later be fighting for her life, how 9 hours later she was in my arms as her heart stops beating, how I could go to bed that night without her? I listen to those words coming out of my mouth and they feel as if I am telling someone else’s story, a story from a movie, a story that could not possibly be my life.  

Not sure why this year has been more intense with grief than last year, and I guess it shouldn’t really matter why, it just is. Tears come easy as I think of Mckenna and sit with the pain. I wish it was easy for me to lay on my bed, curl up into a ball, and cry those deep cries out like I know I need to, like I know I should. Silent tears fall, as I just wish this wasn’t my life.

This past year has brought me to a place of peace that I have not had in many, many years. Though I am more at peace it doesn’t mean I don’t have days of grief, that I don’t miss Mckenna, that I don’t have sad days, because I do, still even after 6 years. Though this peace has been needed for many years, it also reminds me to stay humble because at any given moment it could be taken from me yet again. It is teaching me to not sit around and wait for the ball to drop, but to embrace the moments of joy and pay attention to the moments of sadness and be ok in each and every moment. Self compassion isn’t easy for me as I have many stories I tell myself, but I am being reminded every day that it is ok to feel how I feel without judgment, that if I am sad and miss my daughter I have the right to miss her, and if I am angry (which has been a big emotion lately) that it is deserved that and be ok.
6 years later I can still be back to that day as if it were happening all over again right before my eyes, the difference between now and 6 years ago is that I can sit in that pain and tolerate it better, I can carry it better, I can just be with it and know, trust, that the darkness will fade into light all while knowing the dark will come around again. I have learned that it will go just as quickly as it came, I don’t have to sit in it all the time to feel connected to Mckenna, that joy, tears, laughter can all coexist in the same sentence, and that my love for Mckenna will never end and that means my grief will never end. 

I miss her fiercely, from the depth of my soul, to the tips of my toes.

My dear Mckenna,
I wish I could wrap my arms around you, squeeze you and never let go. I wish I could kiss your face all over and make you laugh, I wish I could hold your hand, I wish I knew what you looked like, I wish, I wish, I wish…..I love you baby girl and miss you so very much. Hope you feel the love today as there are so many who are thinking of you. Sending you big love and big hugs.