Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief

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The “Wow” Experience

Last weekend I started my first client managing/advocacy job. My initial meeting was in a hospital. It’s a large place with 16 floors, 71 rooms to a floor. As I found my way to her room, I had goosebumps. Out of the 1,136 rooms available, my client was in the exact same room my dad was back in December of 2017, 8 months before he died.

I’m not gonna lie. It was hard at first. I still miss him terribly. I’m anticipating Father’s Day soon and I know it will be hard. But I also had to admit this was more than coincidence. I was meant to be there. This is what I’m meant to do.

I was relieved because in my experience, this was one of the best hospitals I have interacted with. Now I have to take that back. It was an awul weekend and the worst was Monday (so you can’t blame it on the “weekend” staff).

The social worker, PA, secretary… virtually everyone we talked to with the exception of one male doc and one male guy at the desk, was nothing short of combative, argumentative, and downright wrong in what they were saying to us.

No matter how confident I am, when that many people beat you down, you start to question yourself. Thank God that night, my former spiritual director who was there with me, called to debrief. She said, “Wow! What WAS that??” I told her sadly, that was the typical medical experience. I was grateful to know she saw it as horrifying too.

That night I was in tears as Tim and I talked. Was this a mistake? Did I spend 18 months to get this job only to discover I didn’t have the guts to do it?

Thankfully, my client was transferred to rehab. I was nervous because it was the same company where my dad was at, but an entirely different location. When I arrived, it was clear that several mistakes had been made. Some insignificant, some more serious.

However, to my surprise, every person I asked to speak with showed up within 10 to 20 minutes. Every one of them- unit manager, physical therapist, aides, and especially the social worker- were respectful, listened, and appeared to want to follow through with what was discussed. (We will have to wait and see if things actually get done.)

I was so relieved. I’m not crazy. I can do this. I do know what I’m talking about. I’m not an agitating person. When you are dealing with folks who aren’t defensive and actually listen to what you are saying, it’s a peaceful environment. And that is certainly better for the patient.

Thanks to the staff. I can’t name you, but I pray your kindness will come back to you this week!


Father’s Day and Such

On Saturday, I had a book signing in Amherst. Someone came in and commented on the photo we display on the table. It’s the family photo that is on the back cover of the book. I said “Oh yea, that was taken on our last Father’s Day together. Oh my, I didn’t put that together. Tomorrow is Father’s Day.” That might not even struck you as odd, but it hit me for some reason and gave me goosebumps and wet eyes all at the same time. This woman went on to say it was her dad’s birthday but he has passed away. I told her she took the prize for tough weekends. Birthday AND Father’s Day. We hugged.

On Sunday, we went to my Dad’s house for a cookout. It was a relatively quiet day, but I found myself being pensive and angry. I had a conflict with a friend in the morning which didn’t help to start the day well. There were a few guys (family) at Dad’s, and none of them would toss a football or baseball around with Frankie. Frankie was disappointed, but didn’t make a big deal about it. In my mind though, I was very hurt. Doesn’t anyone remember that it’s Father’s Day and this ten-year-old doesn’t even have one? I know everyone was tired and full, but it would have meant a lot if they had spent a few minutes being that male person for Frankie.

On the way home, I started that bad record in my mind about how things aren’t fair. All of my nieces and nephew had both their grandparents til they were adults. They all still have both their parents. My son lost his Grandma at age four, and now doesn’t even have a father. It’s not right. But I learned a long time that life isn’t always fair. So why does it get to me on some days and not others? A wise friend reminded me that selling the camper last week probably opened a can of grief worms for me. (Summer is so smart.)

Then it’s Monday. Moving up day at Frankie’s school. I hate when I screw things up and I really did a good job with this one. I started out the day remembering that Frankie had to wear his yellow shirt, which was covered in mud and not washed. So that started a frenzy of activity to try and get it ready and a whole lot of self-blame for being a single mom for two and a half years now and I still drop the ball. The problem was, that Frankie was selected by his peers to read a speech on behalf of his class so he was going to be up front.

I rushed and got to the school. It is hitting me now that my son is going through a milestone marker. He is going into Middle School. Holy cow. That is a big deal. And I’m going by myself. If I had thought about it, I would have asked someone from my family to come with me. But I didn’t. He’s growing up. And then the fear starts. Only a few years left now for Social Security. Am I going to be able to keep the house when that money is gone?

By the time I walked into the building I knew I was in trouble. But true to the Bitter and Sweet mantra, I just prayed that Frankie’s second grade teacher was in the building. She was his teacher when Tim died and she has become a dear friend. Not only was she in her room, she was alone without any students. I walked in and collapsed in her arms. The sobs just came. I haven’t had days like this in a long time, but when it hits, it still hits like it was just yesterday.

I gathered myself and made it to the assembly on time. I videotaped it. When Frankie got up, everyone cheered for him. They didn’t cheer for the other two speakers. He did a smash-up job and I was so proud of him. He really is growing up. And he’s outgoing and a ham. Life IS still sweet. Just have to shed some bitter tears once in a while.