Write What You Know: Grief

 

Every time I think or say the word grief, Charlie Brown appears in my head.

I literally can hear the exasperated version the cartoon character says out loud and then I am reminded of my father because he loved PEANUTS comics.

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If you know me personally, you know I attempt to keep to a “happy go lucky” mentality however the last four mouths have tested my capacity of keeping to that day-to-day lifestyle.

With my most recent move to Nashville, I promised myself that I would try to share as much as possible into this blog. What I have realized, is that my stress has caused a case of writers block and I have been struggling to finish content on a topic of what I love the most… music. #smh

A wise friend once told me to “write what you know” and “write everyday”, to which this segment was cultivated in my mind to help share everything beyond music… to get back to the music. 

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My Grief… Good Grief – 2019

Everyone will always tell you that “you can never be prepared for the loss of a loved one.” Which I cannot argue with everyone, but I can say I was prepared for that day.

Bear with me because this may be difficult to understand but I thought about my dad passing away all… of… the… time.

My father was diagnosed with polycythemia vera circa 1999 and had been a medical anomaly ever since. Most people that are diagnosed with this blood cancer are in their 60’s… my dad was 40 at the time.

As a child my understanding of this was that dad had A LOT more doctor visits than most and that some day he might be REALLY sick. I was in 5th grade when he was diagnosed and as I got older it was not at the front of my mind until the pain really begun for him.

Being a hardworking, ex-hockey player, restaurant running man his body went through physical battles each day. He was always up on his feet. Majority of the time he would have normal energy and then other days he looked like a very tired and sick man.

Fast forward to 2014 there was discussions of him inevitably needing a bone marrow transplant and hip replacements. To which I could go into a whole other blog post about how long that took for doctors to agree on timing but he had both of his hips replaced in early 2015 AND his bone marrow transplant at UCSF on December 2nd of that same year.

It was an extremely tough year pre and post procedure especially during the holidays.

Because he had been sick for so long, it was not uncommon for me to think to about him passing away. I would always become extremely overwhelmed and distraught. I felt so helpless with the thought of losing him that I knew that I had to I map out in my mind what I would do on that specific awful day.

I had to figure out how I would help the family; thought about my needs, my mother’s wishes, my brothers’ capabilities and with those thoughts I was able to prepare to what I could handle and not handle.

Morbid I know but planning, making lists and fine tuning a process is how I cope with stressful situations.

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I would give ANYTHING to have him still here… but I know that our last few months together and that specific day would have been 100x more awful if I didn’t know what I was capable of.

What I had planned…

Before that day, I knew that I would be the one to call family members & friends with the blessing from my mother. I knew that I would be calling my Uncle first so he could inform the rest of the Hinde family, my dad’s best friend, his old boss/mentor, my Mother’s sister… etc…

I knew that I would be the one to share on socials (because that is a thing now people), I even knew which photo (that wasn’t as premeditated till that weekend)…

I knew that I was going to be the one to plan the details of the service, where to find the photos, what kind of music playlist to create, and who I was going to get to help me…

I knew that I was going to be the one to speak at the service, what I was going to mention and even how I was going to respectfully add in a few jokes (because that’s what he would of wanted) …

Lastly, I knew that despite my dislike to hugs… I was going to have to get over people entering my personal space.

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I am pretty positive I was prepared as I could have ever possibly been for April 8, 2019.

I now understand what most people actually mean when they say “you can never be prepared for the loss of a loved one” … which is the delayed aftermath.

Although it is difficult for me to share the struggles I have had, I am hopeful that it will let others know they are not alone through the trauma, kindness, memory loss & sadness.

Despite the fact it has been four months… this is the aftermath of grief I am experiencing.

 

Trauma

What is trauma? A traumatic event is an incident that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. … Examples of traumatic events include: death of family member, lover, friend, teacher, or pet. divorce. physical pain or injury (e.g. severe car accident).

Thanks Google.

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I have accepted that the loss of my father has been a traumatic event.

This is the first time I have written, addressed or discussed that day… some details may be blurred and quite honestly vague because a play by play account would be too graphic.

So… those close to the family know that he was on life support for four days prior to his final heart attack in the ICU at Mercy Medical Hospital in Redding, California.

Those 15-hour days in the hospital prior to the 8th were grueling but we had close family and friends visiting with prayers, puppies and good thoughts.

The morning of Monday, April 8th my father was showing progression after being in a rotoprone bed for three days.

For those who are not familiar with a RotoProne bed it is an automated system that combines Kinetic Therapy with prone positioning for up to 62 degrees. Basically, he was in a medically induced coma rotating face down towards the floor for 6 hours then flipped to the other side. This assists with breathing because there is not as much weight on his lungs rotating upside down. (I am sure there is much medical reason behind Kinetic Therapy but I will leave that to the nurses.)

What we had not shared with a lot of people is that our family was VERY hopeful that morning. In fact, when we arrived early in the AM he was back into a regular hospital bed. As my mom and I were both in the room wearing full scrub gear due to him having a very contagious flu (on top of the heart issues) the night nurse had mentioned that we could wake him if desired, but we needed to know that he was heavily sedated.

With that in mind, after his heart surgery and being on life support for three days, we felt that it was not the time to wake him. Especially without a doctor present to assess his cognitive abilities after a a few life altering days.

My mom and I both additionally agreed that we wanted to keep him resting, mostly because he still had the ventilator tube down his throat.

I would be lying to you if I didn’t share that this medical contraption has always frightened me. I had heard that having a ventilator tube down a patients throat can feel like they are drowning when woken up… and I didn’t want him to experience that.

After those decisions were made we began to evaluate plans of where he might need to go next . With our voices carrying through the room there was a brief moment that he began moving his arms in attempt to get up. The night nurse settled him, so no tubes would come undone, and so he could drift back off into a deep “sleep”.

Mid-conversation I shot an email to my work letting them know that I would likely be out a few more days and at that same time the night nurse confirmed with us that she would be going on a short 15 minute break.

As I began to answer a few additional work emails – to help the hospital minutes pass by – I noticed his blood pressure drop and heart rate began to rise on the monitor.

If you have ever been in a hospital with someone who is very sick, you know that observing the beeping monitors is an unfortunate habit. Even if the nurses tells you to not be discouraged by numbers, the curiosity of what should be normal and what is not good… never leaves your mind.

With both rates drastically changing, I encouraged my mother to grab the breaker nurse. This specific nurse checked the numbers and had said that it was nothing to be alarmed about until the heart rate sky rockets above 100. She did not feel the need to grab a doctor.

Within the next few minutes of that conversation, the original night nurse rushed back in after noticing his levels in the ICU hallway and asked how long had this been happening. She then checked his pulse on his neck with her hand and then rushed to grab help.

Immediately four to five other nurses were in the room and the morning shift doctor came swiftly asking “Who’s this guy” without knowledge we were still wide-eyed and in the room.

We answered “Jay Hinde” and then knew from the look in his eyes that it was time for us to leave as they began to go to work to save his life.

I have a great respect for nurses and doctors especially those in the ICU.

My father no doubt had some of the best care possible over the past few years during his bone marrow transplant at UCSF and during the handful of visits to the Mercy Medical Hospital in our hometown. 

I also do want to convey that I do not fault the nurses on staff. The situation occurred so quickly that I know the outcome would not be any different… but I will forever be scarred by the “Who’s this guy.”
Was I offended in that moment, sure. Still am…

I had to let that angry emotion immediately subside and quickly called my brother to race to the hospital. For the next twenty tormenting minutes, they fought to save him while we waited. Every five minutes the “Who’s This Guy” doctor would give us brief updates and the likelihood of recovery. It was grim from the start…

Unfortunately his heart could not pull through.

With support from a friend who is also a nurse in the ICU… my mother, brother and I walked back into the ICU room.

He was there, the same bed as before, tilted up in the hospital bed. Draped over him was his Green Bay Packers quilt my mom had made him for Christmas that I literally brought that morning. He was stone cold and it was the most chilling and helpless moment of my life.

Calm and with despair I waited to began my premeditated plan of capabilities.  The mortuary had been called and we respectfully waited together for an hour or so until they arrived. Within that time frame I began making phone calls outside of the room where my mother and brother began to mourn.

I had made multiple calls and many answered with disbelief, immediate despair and prayers. Collectively my mother made sure I made calls to lead family members that would inform other “need to know” parties, lifelong family friends and previous employers that helped him through his medical journey.

It took every ounce of respect and love for my father and mother to ensure that anyone he would want to know, knew that day.

Ironically it was raining that day in Redding. A heavy, dark gray sky, BIG cloud kind of storm that I will never forget.

It seemed to have rained a lot this year… and living in Nashville the rain never seems to subside.

The next few days were filled with visitors, food and a lot of loving support. I quickly realized that every happy moment within my life, would now be a little bit sad because I would not be able to share it with him.

The month of April was the most excruciating minute-by-minute time frame of my entire life. The amount of loss, sorrow and disbelief lead directly into planning a very “Jay Hinde” celebration of life.

Although others have experienced other kinds of trauma in their life, this is one of mine.

My dad was my closest family member that I respected and loved and I have been having a really difficult time encountering this next chapter of my 30s without him.

 

Kindness

What is kindness? The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

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If you know me, I have always had a bit of morbid humor when it comes to death. Perhaps because I knew it would be something that would hit me sooner rather than later with my dad’s impending illness…. OR because I like to find awkward humor in really really sad situations.

My dad had a long winded lecture during one of the many ER visits. He wanted me to put forth effort on two things and to not allow his sickness or death to influence them.

First was pursuing the future I wanted to build for myself and second was not to allow his situation make me too hard. That I should allow his sickness/passing to make me be more empathetic towards others and that I should always attempt to use kindness, even when angry.

Kindness is an everyday effort. Whether it be with strangers, new friends or old… within my grief I am attempting to understand everyday that we all have our battles. This mantra has since changed my entire approach in a lot of situations and I work through not being as judgmental of others choices.

 

Memory Loss

What is memory loss? Memory loss (amnesia) is unusual forgetfulness. You may not be able to remember new events, recall one or more memories of the past, or both. The memory loss may be for a short time and then resolve (transient). Or, it may not go away, and, depending on the cause, it can get worse over time.

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It was not until my visit with a Dr. here in Nashville that I realized the severity of my memory loss. I wanted to get evaluated because I was having issues with names of people I knew, passcodes/passwords and recollection of events that had previously occurred.

For a few weeks I thought it might be absentmindedness but when it began to have issues at my real life job and consideration of others feelings I know that it was something I needed to understand.

I now know trauma can initiate memory loss and am working towards healing this issue.

 

Sadness

What is Sadness? Sadness is an emotional pain associated with, or characterized by, feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, grief, helplessness, disappointment and sorrow.

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Have you ever been sitting on your couch and then all of the sudden an emotion creeps through your veins like an anesthesiologist is shooting you up with pain killers before a surgery? All of the sudden, for no reason… a cold chill of overwhelming sorrow seeps into your body creeping its way up to your mind to remind you, that you are sad.

I personally have not read descriptions of depression but I can imagine that is an early sign of it.

Now I am doing my best to not add shame on my sadness because that would guarantee a one-way ticket to a depressing launch into my 30’s… but I felt that it was necessary to share.

Accepting that I am sad while I am living in a new city, meeting new people and enduring new experiences is important for my mental sanity.

Sharing this vulnerability on a medium that makes it accessible to whoever has a desire to read it, has not only lifted a weight off of my shoulders but it has allowed me to articulate what next steps I need to cope with my grief. It also allows an opportunity to share some similar emotions with people that trying to cope as well.

 

Now the “productive” part of this post…

GOOD GRIEF… and how to cope with it

What is Grief? Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions.

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Express Yourself! 

Do not huddle up on a corner waiting for someone to ask you what is wrong.

If you do that you will end up crying your way to work four days in a row and finding every excuse possible to avoid the entire world. Tell your family, your friends that you are having a bad day or that you are simply grieving in that moment. The right people will stick around and find a way to listen or distract. Mostly it is just helpful to communicate how you are feeling and what you might need. 

If talking to others is not something you think you can do right now, write in a journal, blog post or some sort of outlet. Maybe even express yourself with some sort of artwork. Either way you should try to not keep it all inside

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Work Out

“Exercise gives you endorphinsendorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!”  Ok – ignore that last part, but whenever I think of working out… this scene replays in my mind from Legally Blonde circa 2003. But it is entirely true.

While angry or incredibly sad, getting your blood pumping might just be the right remedy. So go find a playlist… schedule an activity you enjoy AND DO IT.

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Know Your Social Environment 

This world is going to test you. Especially when you move 2,000 miles away, start a new job and live in a city with one really good friend and a bunch of acquaintances.

SURE it could be a hell of a lot worse but you have to try to understand your environment and learn to not testing your limits. If there is a day you need to decompress and unplug DO IT. If you are overwhelmed in a new environment, voice it and find a solution. If people are causing amplified anxiety, then change the situation.

Protect your surroundings by knowing what you need socially. 

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Be Understanding

Know your situation and also be understanding that others may have endured something similar.  I know that I have not had worse case scenario of losing my mentor/father/best friend but I do have empathy that others might be battling something different or similar. It will only make your grief worse if you choose to not be understanding of others feelings. 

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Do Not Let Your Sadness Define You

You can be sad each day but that does need to identify you as a sad person. It is crucial to find things that you enjoy with people you love and to divulge in it.

It is okay to have sad moments, days and weeks but it is not your permanent state of being. Remember that. 

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Try To Find Your GOOD In Grief

Grief sucks. Its tests your patience and kindness to others. GOOD can come out of it if you are able to give yourself some grace and GROW with it. Grow with what is good about your current situation. Make lists of what you love and like… along with a list of the things you want to remember and are sad about.

It is about balance with grief and I have faith if I can handle it… you can too. 

and if your having a real bad day with grief… go get ice cream with a friend. 

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Thanks for reading.

XOXO

Megan

 

P.S. Since I always share a playlist with every post – here you go!

In loving memory of Jay Hinde…

APPLE MUSIC – Celebration of Life – Jay Hinde

SPOTIFY – Celebration of Life – Jay Hinde

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