It is appropriate to go back to where I took the fork in the road. Jillian had died. I was going through the motions of living day by day. I held down a job. I spent time with my precious grand-kids, my children and their partners. My family. My friends. I made memories.
In spite of my efforts towards healing, I was living under the weight of a fog. Sort of like Pig-Pen in the Charlie Brown cartoon. It didn’t matter where I was, who I was with, or what we were doing. Joy was missing, Fog was not.
I’ve written quite a bit about grief and how it has affected me and my family. It’s a very real thing and one that isn’t discussed near enough.
Below is a paragraph from an article written by NCIB.
Research on the impact of bereavement as a trauma has emphasized significant negative psychological and health outcomes. For instance, Stroebe, Stroebe, and Abakoumkin (2005) found that bereaved persons, especially those with extreme emotional loneliness and severe depressive symptoms, are at risk for suicidal ideation. Li, Laursen, Precht, Olsen, and Mortensen (2005) found that bereaved parents, especially mothers, were at increased risk for a first psychiatric hospitalization as compared with nonbereaved parents. In fact, maternal risk of hospitalization remained significantly elevated 5 years or more after the death. Using Danish national registries, these investigators also found that mortality rates were higher among bereaved than nonbereaved parents, particularly for deaths due to unnatural causes (e.g., accidents and suicide) within the first 3 years after the child’s death (Li, Precht, Mortensen, & Olson, 2003). Bereavement was associated with long-term mortality due to illness (e.g., cancer) for the mothers, presumably because of stress, a weakened immune system, or poor health behaviors (e.g., smoking, alcohol consumption).
It goes without saying, I wasn’t doing well. Oh, I looked okay. I was able to function, but inside my head I was screaming. So mad. So sad. I couldn’t see an end in sight from the pain. I read all the books, I met with a grief counselor. Nothing helped. Not really. And the wine at night I thought was helping me through, was sending me on a fast track to disaster. I knew I was on a slippery slope and that something needed to change. I needed to change.
Thank God for my family and friends. The bond I have with my children and their partners is something I cherish beyond any words I can write. I am humbled and proud, and I don’t intend to take those relationships for granted. We’ve been through a lot together. My kids. My Cubs.
I have also been enriched by the women in my life, especially the one’s I’ve met through work. I’ve known these beautiful women long before Jillian was diagnosed. They were with me through all of it. They never wavered, not once.
In November, 2017, Sheryl and I took one of our trips to the Bahama’s. With our toes in the sand, we contemplated on how we were going to change the world. We decided that signing up for a 5K race was the best place to start. As soon as we got back home, we signed up for training.
That was my fork in the road.
We changed the world all right. It changed mine in way’s I’d never expected. I found my magic bullet. Running and healthy choices have saved my life. It has helped me to keep my “Jillian Days” at a minimum.
While I was on my long run last Saturday, I was thinking about my girls. I ran through a segment in the road filled with acorns. I almost tripped and fell, but I was able to catch my balance and continue on. I wanted to turn back and gather some of them, but I kept going with the thought I would circle back later. As I approached the 6 mile mark, I was feeling tired and wanted to stop. But I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be able to gather the acorns scattered in the street. So I kept going. The acorns kept me moving.
My friends are like those acorns. They are strong and resilient. Their roots of friendship are planted firmly in my life. I am so thankful that they stood tall over me, providing me with shade when I needed it most.
And with my friends on my mind, I have my handful of acorns.
I am grateful.