Thursday, October 1, 2015

My losses

I've been reading about coping with loss, and ran across an activity. It's basically writing down all my losses. It totally blew my mind that Arthur was not my first suicide. So I began to list my losses and what I missed most about them. This really helped as El Dia de los Muertos is coming up, and I can make sure to remember everyone on my little altar. 

Activity: Get a pad of paper, a blank journal, or simply a notebook. (I’ve found that writing in a beautiful journal can be inspiring – but some people would rather use an inexpensive notebook.)Buy a pen you love to use – something that writes smoothly and effortlessly. It’s time to start chronicling your experiences. One reason grief disrupts so many aspects of your life is because your loss is not isolated – now is the time to reflect on the other losses in your life. In so doing, each will become an opportunity to experience grief, and release it.

"This helps you put things in perspective, honor your place in the process, and care for your body and mind in some other way. To help you “push the clouds away”, a bit at a time."

List all the beings (animal companions, childhood friends, lovers, or partners) and all the places you’ve lost. Take a moment to honor each loss, perhaps closing the ritual by lighting a candle – a time-honored action of reverence. What you’ll learn from this exercise is the recognition of your resiliency – you are strong, and you will survive this latest loss. Embrace the process, don’t resist it.

When I finished my list, I indeed saw I had been through a lot. It made me realize that I was a strong woman, dammit! And that I would continue to live and thrive.


  1. Roger, 1994-1996. I can't quite remember the date, but an acquaintance of mine, a person I partied with back in my younger days, passed away after being involved in a car accident. It was weird. I just remember thinking I should feel bad but I really had no feeling other than holy hell, I knew that guy.
  2. Oscar, 1996. Everyone knew Oscar. He was the nicest guy and talked to everyone. He played football and I knew him through  my cousin, Adrian, who played against him in a rival school. He, too, was in a car accident. This one floored the whole school. It was a my first real hit at a loss. What I remember most about him is his smile. 
  3. Baby Snell, December 1999. This was my first pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. I never got to know my first child, and that loss was hardcore. I was disillusioned with my body and life itself. My child would have been 15 had they lived.
  4. Carl Raffensperger, 7/23/06. He passed away during a lung biopsy. This was my ex's step-grandfather. We never made the distinction of step/half or any of that. He was a wonderful great-grandfather to my children. He retired from his own printing company that printed children's books. I remember what a proud man he was, and how we would come over and he'd be in a cranky mood, but the babies running around would have him smiling in no time. 
  5. Obi-Wan Kenobi Graham, 2007. Epilepsy complications. Our first dog, a black lab. My son used to climb out of his crib, go downstairs, and curl up with Obi in his dog cage. We would find him many mornings under a blanket down there. He was scary looking, but such a sweet dog. He would run out of the house when the kids got off the bus to greet them.
  6. Ellie Raffensperger, 01/07/10. She passed away from complications with pneumonia. My ex's grandmother. She was absolutely enamored with my daughter, Maya. They had this connection that I can't explain. She was a strong woman who outlived 2 husbands. Kind, but took no shit from anyone. I loved her for being who she was: a stubborn, loving woman. 
  7. Joe Rush, 03/13/10. Stroke. Mr. Joe, as he was fondly called, was a co-worker of mine. He loved his family and was always kind to my children when they came by to visit the call center. One time in particular, he gave my children lollipops and told them he worked for Santa. My kids ate that up!
  8. Jorge Chavez Duron, 07/18/10. Left in a ditch with multiple gunshot wounds, in the line of duty, in Mexico. Koki, my cousin, left behind a 2 year old little girl. He was gunned down a week after my grandfather died. This was a huge loss for the Duron Family. I remember playing with Koki as a kid and running around and getting into shit. Good times.
  9. Denisse Robles, 02/11/11. Suicide. Denisse was my middle school friend. I remember her crying because kids would make fun of her for not having a dad. I listened to her a lot. This one hit me pretty hard. I lost track of her until 2010 and then she called me out of the blue to catch up and thank me for being a kind soul. I didn't realize those were goodbye calls she was making. She left behind 2 little girls.
  10. Richard Graham, 08/12/12. Heart attack. My father-in-law at that time. He knew it was coming. He walked down to the park, sat on a bench, and died. I fully believe he did that so he wouldn't be found in the house. I loved that man. Poppy, as my kids called him, was always honest. He was sarcastic, loved to do puzzles, and every Xmas morning he would make English muffin sandwiches. He is missed very much.
  11. Leo Saavedra, 04/13/13. Asthma complications. My cousin's 5 year-old son. I never met him in person, but any child that passes leaves a hole. He had such a big smile and was always laughing.
  12. Arthur Guise, 07/02/15. Murder/Suicide. Too raw. For now I'll just write down bouncy balls, candles, and prom as my reminders.
  13. Victor Duron, 09/25/15. Stroke. My grandfather's brother. I remember wishing he was my grandfather instead. He would take me out as a kid with him to the horse races and let me pick horses for him to win. He called me his lucky charm. He would try to get me to call him "Uncle Beautiful" because he said he was gorgeous, except I couldn't say it so it came out more like "Uncle Bofo" - much to everyone's amusement. His kindness is what I'll remember the most. 

Other losses

  1. Sarah. My first neighbor in the boonies. She offered me my first cigarette, which I declined. My first friend that wasn't a relation. She moved away when I was in grade school.
  2. Johnny, my high school BFF. When I left to join the army, I didn't know at the time I was never coming back. I miss having my friend down the street.
  3. My dad. Being estranged is hard.
  4. Fernando, my first love. Oh, how puppy love hurts. Part of the reason I joined the army was to separate myself from him. Crazy!
  5. Diego, my cat. Asshole ran away.
  6. My marriage. I can't even write down the amount of hurt I've gone through this one.
    • My car, my home, my cat, my dog: I hope repossession, eviction, and loss of pets are things no one ever experiences, along with divorce. When you are blindsided with these things during these proceedings, it breaks a lot of trust.
  7. After marriage boy. I wasn't ready. 
  8. Audrey, my PA BFF. When she moved to Michigan, it was a big loss for me. We couldn't hang out all the time anymore! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What does grief feel like?

You know those dark, rainy nights? Where it's so cold out that the chill seeps into your bones. You bundle up under the blankets and you can't get warm. No matter what you do, layering, blowing on your hands - the numbness just doesn't let go? 

This is what my grief feels like. 

It's this ever present weight that I can't shake off. My one friend likes to remind me that it's still relatively early in my grieving process, "It's only been 2 months."

When I think about it like that, it makes sense. The shock still hasn't worn off. I cry a lot. I want answers that I'll never get. I want to understand the inexplicable, the incomprehensible. 

But there are no answers.

My friend's actions that night don't match who I knew him to be. I'll never know what triggered those events. But I can choose which memories are in the forefront of my mind. Instead of remembering his last act, I can remember what a great friend he was. How warm, kind, and giving he was. Perhaps in time I can be rid of what seems like this permanent burden and my grief will turn into only fond memories. 

One can hope.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My World Will Not Be The Same Without You

These last few days have been incredibly rough. I don't know how much I can really say, as the pain has been mostly unbearable. A dear, close friend of mine has left this world of his own accord, and in the process has taken another's life. And it all just breaks my heart.

Arthur, enjoying some dinner, wine, and conversation.

He served two tours in Iraq, and they seem to never have left him. Soldier was not the only title that defined him. Friend. Brother. Son. He was a kind soul who gave all he had to others without asking for anything in return. He was truly there for people, whether to counsel, listen, or just be a shoulder to cry on. He cared deeply and wanted to ease suffering.

Which is what makes his last act so horrific. 

With so many people, including me, ready to drop everything to be by his side, it still was not enough to defeat his demons. I believed he was getting better. I believed the help he was receiving was enough to reduce the weight of his burdens. That he felt so alone among so many that cared for him is beyond tragic. 

Arthur, you didn't have to fight this battle alone. I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you when you really needed me. I'm sorry I couldn't reach you in time to pull you out of that darkness. I'm sorry you were so beaten down that you thought your only option was to leave this world. I wish I could have been the friend you needed, so I could see your smiling face today.

Like all who knew you, I have many emotions to work through: grief, anger, denial. I have to accept what has happened, but I can't today. Or anytime soon. I'm going to miss you so much, my friend. So, so much. My world will not be the same without you.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bad things happen to good people, children

Having a large extended family is great on holidays and birthdays.  The horrible part of having such a large extended family?  Their deaths.

My dad has 8 siblings, and my mom has 13.  Each of my aunts and uncles have healthy amounts of children of their own, who in turn have 5+ children each, like good procreating Catholics.

Leo Saavedra, 4-years-old
This morning, I received a 5 am wake-up call that my 4-year-old nephew passed away from asthma complications. He had fluid in his lungs and they couldn't do anything to save him.  Over Easter, my 25-year-old cousin kicked the bucket suddenly.  These things come in threes, so I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Who's next?

Sometimes, I wish I didn't have feelings.  It would make going through life a heck of a lot easier.  Maybe then events such as these would not affect me so much.

When bad things happen to good people, it makes me sad.  When bad things happen to children, I just lose hope.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A day in depression

When you have a mental illness, it is difficult to tell others when you are suffering.  It is incredibly nerve-wracking, as you never know what reaction you are going to get.  With depression, not everyone understands that on the outside you might look okay, but on the inside it’s a sad, sad place.

Sometimes, I can’t get the words out of my mouth.  I suffer in silence.  I escape from reality and want nothing to do with the world.  I do everything in my power to avoid people – I don’t get up, answer the phone, or interact with people.  I barely eat, sleep, or talk.  And listening to someone?  That takes too much effort.  

Since entering college, I have had to tell many professors when my depression spikes so they know I am not just cutting class.  I hate each and every time I have to do it.  In my head I imagine all the responses I could possibly receive, and my stress level skyrockets.  It makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide, which is the opposite of what I need.   

The worst part of the cycle is the feelings of inadequacy, of weakness for not being able to handle emotions.  Then I feel worse for falling into that trap (again) and I feel like a piece of garbage.  I fall deeper into the depression the more it goes on. 

Wednesday I hid.  I did not go to class.  I avoided as much as I could Thursday and Friday.  I lay in bed all weekend, until my husband came home from work and made me get up.

Today I had to make the decision of going to class or not.  I did not want to, but there was still something that forced me to go and attempt to listen for two hours.  I was nowhere near 100%, but trying to be.  And you know what happened?  Even though I had to leave halfway through it for a break, I was still able to pay attention. 

And telling my professor why I missed class?  It was not the horrible nightmare I envisioned.  I do not know if he could sense how uncomfortable I was or if he just saw the sadness in my eyes, but he was beyond kind in his response.  So kind in fact, I cried.

Not because I was sad, but because I knew he was one of the few who understood.    

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Writer's Block

I hate it when I can't write.

It is not the lack of ideas either.  There are too many thoughts running around my head on a regular basis.  The problem comes when it is time to extract and organize these ideas so that they make sense.  Whenever I can't do this, it is frustrating.

I can go through multiple drafts, mainly with only a couple words scrawled on paper before they end up in the garbage.  It is worse if I am working on a computer.  I just type and delete, type and delete, and nothing gets done.  It always happens with the writing I care about most.  

Maybe it is time for a break.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's only a failure if you let it be

Finals have ended and grades are in.  The semester is over and there is nothing left to stress over, right?

I wish.  

I am disappointed I did not receive the grades I wanted, especially with all the work I put in, but my husband has a great way of always putting things into perspective for me.

"You passed. Concentrate on what's coming next."

He's a man of few words.  So I'm taking his advice (for once) and looking at all the things I was able to accomplish this last semester.

I learned that five classes is too big a load for me to carry, and four is my limit.  Four is how many classes I signed up for next semester, and one is a de-stressing class.  Power yoga anyone? Yeah, that's going to kick my butt!

I rocked my speech class, which I never expected.  I enjoyed and understood astronomy and economics more than I thought I would.  I kept trying to understand my math class, though my professors comments sometimes made me want to quit, and I am ready to try again with someone new.  I have a support system in place to help me pass with a transferable grade this time.

I grew as a journalist.  I joined the paper as a way to challenge myself to write in a different style. And what a challenge!  I was sucked in immediately and somehow became the Editor-in-Chief.  And though some deadlines were not reached and had to be pushed back, I am proud of what we were able to produce and now have a plan of action to not be so last minute.  Even though I will admit, that last minute stress is a major high.

I became more involved in campus life, which was not in my plans when I returned to college. All of a sudden I have a better understanding of what the Student Government does (sometimes), how the college makes decisions, and how Student Life activities come about.  

Most importantly, I learned that when you're the boss, you have to stay late to get stuff done, and sometimes that is killer.  Midnight is a cake-walk when other deadlines have become overnights.

So even though I got a D in my math class, it's not a failure, it's a learning experience.  While I let that class stress me out ALL semester, I am moving on to understanding what I was unable to grasp the first time around.  

And that stress? I would make a New Year's resolution to combat it, but then I wouldn't, so let's just say that I have a plan to take care of it.  To the best of my ability anyway.