Tag Archives: mourning

A Challenge

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I’ve been down and out for a long while now.  Depression, mourning, and simple hardships can really wear on one’s soul.  But today a thought crossed my mind–I have the choice to be positive about life.  It will be my challenge to find beauty in the piles of ashes.

One thing I have started doing is listing three things daily that I am grateful about.  I already have two for the day:

  • I made it to work on time/arrived safely
  • Nicholas is representing his school in the Geography Bee

And maybe one day soon, the tide will change for me.

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Men @ Work

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No, I’m not talking about the Australian rock band, I’m alluding to the many men who have seemingly come out of  thin air to attract my attention.  I have been completely overwhelmed by the number of men vying for it.  Some, I’m sure, don’t have the purest of intentions.

A vast majority of my would-be suitors are people I work with.  I’m sorry, but I find this incredibly tacky considering that they know my situation.  It has only been four months for crying outloud!  I am really disturbed by their lack of decorum.  I am not interested in being pursued or going on any dates.  I know that I am not giving  them any signs to appraoch me; but  it hasn’t deterred them yet.

Here are a few of the said men who make their interest obvious:

  • The Headcase: If the world is indeed  a crazy place, then Eliza’s brother is the commander-in-chief!  How he would even have the audacity to think that I’d have him beats me!!!!  His arrogance is offensive!  In the words of Cher from the movie Clueless “As if!”
  • The Head Custodian: He is a handsome older man (mid 40’s) whom I have worked with the longest.  I am not interested.
  • The Substitute:  The female students and teachers alike describe him as gorgeous.  It’s crazy the reaction that he gets because I don’t find him good-looking and he is annoying to boot.  He is also a masseur.  I like “manly” men, not androgynous metrosexuals. I am not interested.
  • The Special Ed Teacher: Married, no need to say anymore (but if you let him tell it, he’s not happy at home, no sympathy found here!) I am not interested.
  • The Former Coworker: He is fair looking, but too intense for my liking.  He heard through the grapevine about  my husband’s death and attended the  funeral.  I am not interested.
  • The Neighbor: Married, no need to say anymore! I am not interested.
  • The School Police Officer: Older man, not my type.  He looks like Ving Rhames with a Caesar.  I am not interested.
  • The Mechanic: An older guy who seems nice enough. I’m not interested.
  • The Sheriff’s Deputy:  Another older guy (late 30’s early 40’s).  He is the same one who gave my battery a jump when my car wouldn’t start.  My husband and I knew him from our frequent appearances in family court.  He’s weird. I am not interested.
  • The Reverend: He is an older man who looks much younger than he is (66 to be exact) and was the same clergyman who baptized my husband as a child! He has not directly stated his intentions, but his actions (I relunctantly admit) do.  My friend Kara calls me “Shocked and Appalled” because some things that shouldn’t surprise me just do! I mean he is way too old for me, he knows my inlaws, he is a man of the cloth—-it’s too much for me to even ponder!  This one makes me the most uncomfortable.

 The bottom line is I am not interested!  I want to use this time to heal.  If I am meant to have another person in my life, I believe it will happen naturally.  At this point I am not seeking nor do I want to be saught.  Some men are disgusting creatures!

Black Girl Grieves

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At my grandmother’s repast, someone with a camera snapped a picture of me that perfectly captured the face of grief.  Over the years I have worn that visage many times.

Today is the one year anniversary of my mother’s death.

Today marks three months for my husband, too.

I miss them so very much!

Men and Grief

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My first encounter with men and grief was at my grandmother’s funeral.  My uncle, an imposing figure sheathed in dark sunglasses sat solemnly.  I could hardly contain myself and screamed like a banshee periodically throughout the service.  That was until my uncle slowly turned to me and said No more outbursts in a slightly menancing tone.  I knew he had had his own private spell the night before as I overhead his wife telling my mother and her sisters all about it.  I cried silently for the remainder of the service. 

Over the years I’ve observed the males in my family and the way they handle grief.  Some avoid funerals.  My cousin did not attend my mother’s and when I inquired why, he shrugged and said I can’t do it–too many in this family.  Other cousins missed funerals I guess for the same reason. 

At the hospital when I talked to my siblings about the severity of our mother’s illness, my brother (Jazmine’s father) immediatedly asked that someone take him to the store.  By the time they returned to the hospital, my mother had died.  His responded to the news by walking the halls taking long swigs from a fifth of gin.

The night my husband died three of his very closest childhood friends met me at the hospital.  I knew there would be tears but I was surprised by the depth of emotions emanating from them.  All I could hear were loud, heaving sobs coming from the trio.  One of my coworkers who attended the funeral said that she was astounded at how many of my husband’s friends were openly crying.  That’s what broke me down; seeing all those young guys crying like that she said to me days later.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

So why is it uncomforatble for his friends and male family members to hear me grieve?  They call and check on me and stop by on occassion.  But I can tell they can’t handle the tears.  They don’t know what to say to me.  Last night his friend Corey called but I didn’t bother to answer the phone.  I don’t want to pretend that I am okay to spare anybody’s feelings.  Why they would even think I am okay puzzles me.  I want to scream to them all–NO, I AM NOT OKAY–SO STOP ASKING!  IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE ME NOT BEING OKAY, THEN DON”T CALL TO SEE IF I AM OKAY!  But I know that they mean well and I appreciate that they are even checking on me at all…

My SIL texted me last night to see how we’ve been getting along.  She said she was doing okay.  I replied that I was glad she was because I wasn’t and I let her know how I was REALLY doing.  She seemed relieved and responded that she wasn’t doing well either, but she didn’t want to upset me.  I feel more comfortable sharing my true feelings with the women that I am close with because they can handle it.

I know males are reared in a society in which they are often told that men don’t cry.  This has always been silly to me because most beings with tear ducts cry.  Crying is cleansing.  It is a way to purge the soul of toxins such as sadness. 

While I try not to cry too much in front of my son, I do let him know that it is okay to cry and that some things are worth crying for.

Be There

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Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep..For none of us lives to himself…

Romans 12:15,14:7

As death is apart of the life cycle, it is bound to happen.  This is the one fate we all have in common.  I’m sure many of you have been in the seat of mourner.  During my period of mourning I have had some great support.  Death leaves a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.  Sometimes you don’t know what you can do to help the person through their period of sadness and loss.  Here are a few things that I think are helpful to consider when helping those you are close to are grieving:

  • Silence is for Lambs: Always acknowledge the loss of the mourner’s loved one.  This can be done without words in the form of a simple hug, a greeting card, or a heartfelt smile.  Pretending like nothing has occurred is rather callous.  My own brother (Jazmine’s father) did not bother to attend the service or even acknowledge his death.
  • Practical Makes Perfect:  It was so helpful (and much appreciated) when friends, relatives, and coworkers provided me with meals!  Cooking is the last thing on your mind.  And of course, this is really a time that you need to nourish your body with good food.  Nicholas, Jazmine, and I were often invited to breakfast and dinner by family and several coworkers bought my lunch everyday or prepared it themselves.  If it wasn’t for these people, we would have starved! My cousin also volunteered tireless hours driving me around.  She made the roundtrip so that I could talk to Evan about his dad, too.  Another practical form of help is to assist in addressing thank you cards.  This is something that I didn’t feel like doing but my good manners would not allow me not to.  I even had several babysitting offers when I needed to take care of business.
  • 21 Questions is a Game Not to Play:  I say this because I have been asked some rather insensitive questions, such as was my husband overweight (no, he was not), did I cook healthy meals, (mostly) or was he ill (no again).  Allow the mourner the opportunity to grieve first.  They may or may not feel like divulging details of the death, and if  they don’t, then that’s okay, too.
  • Lipservice is Not Service: “If you need anything, let me know” is a common one.  Now I know people mean well and  hate to see a person that they love or care about hurting.  But only offer services that you are  truly capable of or are willing to lovingly provide.  One day, someone just might take you up on your generous offer which could create an ackward situation for both parties.  Also don’t offer simplistic platitudes such as “God needed him more.”  Even if it is true, that’s not what a grieving spirit wants to hear.
  • Rose-Colored Glasses Don’t Look Good On You:  One of my coworkers who is a wonderful man, is determined that I will not be sad.  He does everything to try and make me laugh.  However, it’s annoying.  I’m sad–sadder than sad and will be for quite some time.  But I have every right to be.  I don’t feel like laughing even when others think I should.  It is totally alright for people to experience a wide range of emotions while mourning.  Please give them this gift without the pressure of feeling that they need to “get over” their loss and be happy again.  I will be okay again one day in my own timing.
  • Disappearing Acts Are For Magicians: This is one of the most lonely and vulnerable times of grieving.  I imagine one could really lose their minds without proper support in place.  So don’t “go missing” after the service!  Grief is not something that ends with the funeral.
  • Use Your Ears for More Than Hanging Earrings:  I am so thankful to my friend Stacy, whom I met through blogging.  She listened to me cry and babble one night for over three hours!  I am grateful that she cared enough about a perfect stranger to sacrifice her time to make me feel better.  My friend Angela was wonderful as well.  I can’t stress how important it is to be a listening ear. 
  • Jumping to Conclusions is Not an Olympic  Sport: Don’t assume that a person grieving is “okay”  because they may appear to be fine. I am a perfect example of this because I hide my emotions very well.   Tears of a Clown is my theme song at the moment!  Check often on the person via email, text,  personal visits, cards, voicemail, or telephone calls to let the person know you are concerned about their wellbeing.  Also, don’t forget to include the mourner in on activities that you normally would.  It is eay to make the false assumption that “they won’t feel up doing anything.”  This is hurtful and not always the case.
  • Uh Huh…Okay…Shut-up: I have had several people tell me that I am “young and will marry again” or “you’ll be fine after a few years.”  Sometimes the best words to say are none at all.  Our society is so used to idle chatter that people are under the false impression that they have to say something when they don’t.
  • Be Clueless:  Feel free not to have a ready explanation as to why their loved one died.  We don’t know the answers to God’s many mysteries of life.  Just be there, your presence is enough.
  • Don’t Tiptoe Through the Tulips:  It is okay to talk about the deceased.  I’ve had a few of my coworkers look in horror when my students discuss the many times they saw my husband and I out.  He was alive once and it doesn’t bother me when people remember him.  Our family talks about him all the time.
  • Lace Up Your Nikes:  Don’t ask IF the grieving person needs something because you know they do!  Even if it is something as simple as a hug.  If you notice they haven’t been eating, buy them lunch.  Invite them to your home, baby-sit for a few hours, offer to run errands for them.  Most people are too shy/proud to admit that they really need someone to lean on.  Most mourners won’t interpret this as being intrusive.  I view it as people wanting to do something to help ease my pain.  The point is don’t wait for a vulnerable person to make a request because that may never happen–just do it! 
  • Orisons Are Awesome: This is the most beautiful and lasting form of support.  I know many of you have sent up prayers for me and I am in awe.  When I feel so low, which I often do, I can only wonder how much worse off I would be without the prayers of family, friends, fellow bloggers, perfect strangers, and coworkers to help keep me afloat.  I am so very grateful for all of the comments and warm thoughts left on my postings!  Thanks to all who have been  grieving with me.

Left Behind

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I feel like we have been abandoned, me, Nicholas, and Jazmine that is. 

The very same day of my husband’s death from a heart attack, Eliza’s brother came knocking.  I saw him approaching the walkway and became anxious.  His arrival portended evil.   He was his usual pompus, surly self.  Luckily my aunt and cousin were home with us so I didn’t have to face him alone. 

When my aunt answered the door he demanded to speak with me.  She informed him that I was not feeling up to seeing any visitors so he asked to speak to my husband.  She told him that my husband was not available.  He then asked if he had passed–not your logical follow-up question.  My aunt acknowledged that he did in which he replied, “When he die, a month ago? Did he committ suicide?” 

I was stung by his indecency and began screaming and crying for him to leave.   He yelled that Ethan was his blood and that he carried his last name (he doesn’t).  My cousin ushered him away from the door.  I grabbed the phone and called the police.  I wanted him away from our house ASAP.

When the police arrived he stood outside attempting to manipulate them into believing that he was only there to console his nephew.  He claimed he had no idea that my husband had died.  Two big, burly guys joined his side.  The police  didn’t buy his story especially after eyeing his bouncers and wrote up a trespassing report.  They also put extra patrol in our neighborhood.  The rest of the night him and his sister called without ceasing.  She left many ridiculous messages stating that she only wanted her nephew because I was not “family.”  Wow and ouch was all I could think.  Just a stepmom…

I also received calls from Eliza’s aunt and cousin, who both said that they felt the boys rightfully belonged with me as did the rest of their family.  I asked why the aunt and uncle were behaving like vultures.  Her cousin replied that they probably wanted the money that the boys would draw from his death.  This thought never occurred to me.  The aunt also felt that they were probably carrying out Eliza’s wishes–another troubling thought.  How could Eliza not know how well I cared for the boys?

Monday morning I called the court and informed them of our situation.  The clerk expressed her sympathy and told me that she would do all she could to help keep the kids with me.  She felt that the judge would not want to move them anyhow.  The clerk also told  me to quickly file a document with my intentions.  I had an appointment with the funeral home so I figured I had time to go on Tuesday.  How wrong was I!

Later that evening I got a call from the residential facility saying that  Evan’s aunt and uncle were on their way to discharge him from the hospital.  According to the director, they had valid court papers.  They had went to a probate court judge and was issued an emergency order.  I was dumbfounded, especially considering that our particular case was only to be heard by one judge because he was so familiar with it.  When I broke the news to Evan on Sunday, he was so broken that it was obvious that he was in no condition to leave at such a crucial time.  Evan had asked me to take him home immediatedly, but I was able to convince him to wait until they adjusted his medicine.  I promised that I would pick him up in two weeks.

I called their uncle and pleaded with him not to take him out because he was not at all stable.  He finally relented.  A few hours later he called so that Evan could speak to Ethan.  He lied and had discharged him despite my pleadings!  He then demanded that I hand over his other nephew at almost 12am.  Again, I begged him to wait for a decent hour.  He hung up on me.  A few hours later I heard a lot of banging on the door and saw bright lights  shining into the house.  I became very afraid and called the police.  The operator checked to see if it was the police and determined that it was.

When I opened the door I recognized one of the officers who had been to our house frequently for runs regarding Eliza.  He greeted me and showed me the paperwork.  He seemed bothered that he had to do this particular task.  I had Ethan come out of his bedroom and he looked very scared.  They walked  him down to his new guardians.

I considered fighting them in court, but decided against it.  The probate judge who issued the order died two days after signing the paperwork.  I have been threatened so much that my family and I determined that for our safety I should not.   Their uncle told my SIL that bad things would happen to me if I tried to fight for the kids.   And I know that my husband would not want me living under such fear and pressure. 

It was and still is a difficult decision that I have yet to come to terms with.  I really wanted them here with us.

Two days after the funeral their uncle had the nerve to call and offer his condolences because he said he “liked me!” Once again I became undone as I heatedly inquired why the boys were not allowed to attend their father’s service.  He offered a few lame excuses and I hung up midway through his glib speech.

I have not heard from the boys or  Eliza.  I suspect that they may be in another state with their aunt.   

It’s been a long, hard, mournful month.  Jazmine constantly asks about my husband.  Nicholas has kept pretty quiet.  I don’t think any of us understand, but I do know that we sorely and surely miss all three.

Her Final Gift

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When I was in junior high my mother would often speak of wanting to donate her body to science.  She worked in the medical field and was very conscientious about the need for medical research.  However, I didn’t place too much stock in her desires.  I was certain that it was just wishful thinking on her part.  After all, I had never heard of anyone who had actually done this before.  Plus it was too weird to consider.  It sounded like something that a character would do in a 1950’s B movie.

A year and a half before my mother’s death this very conversation surfaced again.  I was visiting her at home when she asked me if I was okay with her donating her body.  It still felt creepy but I told her that it was fine with me if that was what she really wanted.  I could see the look of relief on her face.  I didn’t like the idea but I didn’t want to tell her that; I just wanted to change the topic. 

A few weeks later she asked me to write down a number.  She said “When I die I need you to call this number.  Put it somewhere safe because it’s important that IU receives my body in a timely manner. (She held up her small Anatomical Will card) I even have to keep this on me at all times.  Feeling very chilled to the bone I replied, “Mommy, don’t say that, you are not going to die!”

I programmed the number in my cell phone with dread.  I didn’t ever want to have to dial that number!  I knew that my mom was pretty ill but I didn’t want her to be so accepting of it!  I didn’t want to think about her dying.  I had to choke back tears.   I knew my sadness would worry her.  I wanted her to think that I was stronger than what I really was.

The day she took her last breath and gave into death I thought of her instructions.  I hesitated briefly to make the call.  I felt horrified at the thought of both students and instructors discussing her in impersonal tones and dissecting her diabetes ravaged remains.

A little while later I managed to compose myself enough to make the call.  The people at the IU Anatomical Gift Program were very kind.  However, they were appalled that the hospital staff had allowed me to make the contact–asserting that they should have made the arrangements.  It was a difficult call to make but I remained encouraged by the notion that I was carrying out her final wishes.

It was strange not having her body at the service.  I knew many people were wondering if she had been cremated.  On her program I made note of my mother’s contribution.  I was undone with emotion when the funeral director read the statement. 

I felt so blessed to have had the generous, gracious, and thoughtful mother that I had.  She wanted to help advance the research for diabetes, a disease that has all but annihilated our family tree. 

Three weeks after her death, I received a letter from the IU School of Medicine.  It read: “The generous donation of Mrs. D. Cooper is much appreciated.  Human bodies used for teaching are obtained entirely through donations.  This gift has contributed significantly to the advancement of health science education programs in our state.  Teaching and research programs at the IU Schools of Medicine and Dentistry rely on these generous body donations to teach physicians, dentists, physical therapists, nurses and other allied health professionals.  Those who decide to bequeath their bodies to the health sciences have made a significant contribution that benefits the quality of life and care for the living.”

I was simply overcome with admiration, pride, and solace.  I could not stop my tears from flowing or my smile from forming.  I realized that my mother was beautiful in life as well as in death.  It was a bittersweet yet triumphant revelation.

I know that my mother cared enough to carry out this final act of grace in hopes that her children and grandchildren won’t have to suffer the same fate as she did.  Or her mother, baby sister, only brother, and great-aunt did.  Not only would we benefit from her selflessness, others would as well.  My mother, the giver, had one final gift to share with the world–herself.