I have been trying to write this post for many months now, but have been consumed by grief, a lack of creativity, and no desire to write.
Grief takes on many forms when you have chronic pain or a chronic illness, like fibromyalgia. You might be grieving the person you used to be, the life you used to have, or all of the things you used to be able to do.
Any loss can be profound and all-consuming. Even life-changing.
My grief is the more traditional sense. Simply put, I lost my father a few months ago after a lengthy illness. He was my hero, so this has left a big void in my life. (You can read more on that story here.)
My father had been in hospice care for 6 months, so we knew the inevitable was coming. Knowing doesn’t make it any easier.
His last week on earth, I was his advocate when he became too weak and incoherent to take care of himself or tell care workers what he needed. I mustered all the strength I had, put my needs aside, and fought for my father’s right to die with dignity and little or no pain. I held his hand and talked to him, recounting our favorite memories. I told him I loved him. ❤
I was in full-on flare mode, but I was there with him and for him. When he slept, I curled up on the couch in a fetal position in pain and exhaustion, sleeping as best I could. I arranged for overnight care to stay so I could rest.
And when we knew the end was just days or hours away, I made the hardest decision I have ever made. I got on a plane and flew home. I had done my duty and dad was in good hands.
I needed my own bed and pillow. I needed my husband and family to take care of me. I knew my father’s passing would not be the end of my work; it was the beginning of another long road.
Notifications. Arrangements. Eulogy. Paperwork.
What I needed at that moment was self-care. Self-preservation.
Being sad, in pain, and just plain tired takes energy. Sometimes grief is so overwhelming you don’t know if you can get out of bed, or even go on. The hardest thing to muster at that point, is HOPE and STRENGTH. But you must dig deep down and look for something to hold on to, that glimmer of hope and the will to move forward.
This too shall pass, I tell myself.
How did I cope?
How did I not only survive, but thrive during two weeks of my worst days in pain and grief?
Like you hear as a new mother, when they sleep, you sleep. I curled up on a couch and rested when the apartment was quiet with just me and my father there. I went home and slept for three good nights in my own bed. I made rest a priority as best I could whether I was at home, staying in a hotel, or sleeping on a couch. You cannot drink from an empty cup.
Fuel your body. I kept my nutrition and water intake up with Orgain protein drinks, soup, and nuts when I wasn’t able to leave my dad’s side. And when I could leave, I stuck to healthy food choices. This was not the time to abandon a healthy diet and trigger even more issues!
Daily yoga. NO MATTER WHAT. I got up every morning and got my blood flowing, body moving, and head cleared – if even for just a few minutes. My daily movement helps start my day off right.
Let people help. Don’t try to do it all. When people would ask what they could do, I gave them a task, even if it was minor. But don’t wait for them to ask you. You cannot expect to get through your grief if you’re trying to do everything, and not prioritizing your physical and mental well-being.
It’s been almost three months since my father passed; I still miss him every day. Much like finding my “new normal” with fibromyalgia, I have had to find my new normal with not having my dad to call for advice, share my good news, or just call to say “hi.” I now often think, “What would Dad do?“
It took a good month to feel human after his passing, and recover from that wicked flare. The last few weeks I have even started feeling, dare I say, well. As expected, the loss is still there. I am comforted knowing he’s no longer in pain; I was there for him when he needed me most.
And I know there will be days, like yesterday – it would have been Dad’s 84th birthday – where the waves of grief and sadness will overtake me again. And I will breathe, smile, and quite possibly cry, but I know I am my father’s daughter and I will have the strength to overcome and move forward.
How have/do you cope with loss or grief?