When is honesty to hard to hear?

While on hold, my “personal banker” closing an account that I’ve had since 1996 due to it being hacked looks over at me and awkwardly tries to cover the silence. “So what you doing this weekend?”

Without looking up from my phone I said, “Going to my dad’s funeral.” I could hear her gasp. I stopped reading, looked up and made eye contact. Her face was trying to morph back into professionalism all the while she began to fight back the uneasy tears. 

“Oh my God. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s ok. So what are you doing?” I’m amazing at deflection. 

 It’s funny how those who have “normal” social skills can read facial expressions to understand how your words impact others. I realized that I sounded harsh and cold. To be honest that brought a little smile to my face. That meant I was coming back. That meant my brutal honesty that I deliver with consistency is back. Sometimes I wonder is honesty to hard to hear?

Most think because I’m kind and empathetic that I’m emotional. I’m not. I don’t cry in front of people on a regular. I can say things that normally destroy people without emotion as if I’m ordering off a menu. I was taught to be honest above all. I am very literal and my honesty is often hard to hear. 

“I’m watching football.” Her mouth open gasping for the right thing to say.

“Oh fun!” I put my phone down, giving her my focused attention. 

“Were you close to your dad?” She looked at me absolutely devastated. 

I paused knowing in that moment I had the choice to be genuine or be the cold version that helps me survive. “Yes.” Deep breath. “Very close.” I decided to let my eyes fill with tears. A decision I haven’t had in a few weeks. During these last few weeks I haven’t been able to control that. The tears come like a sneeze, out of the blue or with a few seconds of warning and unable to stop. 

“Wow. I can’t even imagine.” She talked about health and her father’s refusal to take care of himself. I nodded appropriately and gave my therapeutic response of self-care and how we can make a difference in our generation. My tears never fell because I was focused on her now. Back in a very comfortable and neat box. 

She tended to the phone call to close my account. I realize it’s a double whammy. Closing an account I’ve had for almost 2 decades and emotionally preparing myself for saying goodbye publicly to the man I loved the most. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I cry. I just don’t do it publicly. In fact before I walked into the bank I had just wiped the uncontrollable tears. It’s nice though to know I can say my dad is dead with ice cold in my voice. That means I’m a step closer to being me again. 

As close as I am to being me again I am reminded that this has been a shitty week. A week full of tears. A week full of fetal position sadness. A week full of emptiness. A week full of me staring at my dad (or the box his ashes are in) and not knowing what to say. A week full of going through photos trying to create an album knowing that you don’t have enough photos of your dad because it just wasn’t his thing. A week full of pain realizing you wish you had made him take more photos. A week full of wishing you’d spent more time in person. A week full of realizations that you worked too fucking much and could have spent time sharing his air. Yeah I’m crying now writing this in case you wanted to know.

The hardest thing I’ve done was click create a slideshow on the photos I had put together for the person we are having create a slideshow. Like that with the press of play I was a sobbing mess. I cried for hours as I watched over and over and over. This week I have been perfecting the slide show as a tribute for me to have. The tribute to almost 76 years of life. The tribute to the almost 4 decades of my life with a man who was my sanity, my best friend, my Fixer of everything. Almost 9 minutes of memories and yet that doesn’t feel like it’s doing him justice. 

Unfortunately, much of my life we were too poor to even have a camera. That sucks ass and let’s be honest it’s ok because I spent most of much childhood in the moment as opposed to now where I spend most of my life trying to capture all the moments I can! 

Not many people could capture his smile like I could. Today I miss that smile. That smile that could be heard through the phone. That smile that shined every time I walked through the door. That smile that waved gently goodbye as I left the hospital the night before he died. That smile that would have shook his head at me for making that poor banker feel bad with my cold honesty. 

Today I miss my Popi. 


– run JKO run

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Grief is foreverĀ 

Wellness Wednesday: Having been a grief counselor I know so much about how grief works. For instance did you know that most people don’t truly begin to grieve until about month 4 but the average recovery time is 18 to 24 months? My personal belief which I have shared with many people is that grief is a never ending process because sometimes grief isn’t being sad and in tears, sometimes it’s celebrating, it’s sharing memories, it’s honoring that person in what you say and do. Grief will be with your forever. Grief is your personal response to your loss. No judgement. No right, no wrong. Just what you need to do for wellness.

– run JKO run

Happy 2017!

Two years ago today my dad told me, “Jamie, there are only 8 people out of 26 who are still alive on this drug trial. I’m one of them.” He told me very casually that he was facing mortality and for the second time he told me he was not going to live much longer. He lived two weeks short of another two years. 

All life has an expiration date. Sometimes you get a heads up. Sometimes you don’t. As you ring in the end of 2016 and celebrate the coming of 2017 know that each day makes a difference. Know that happiness is a choice. Live each day in a way that you are proud of who you are when you wake up because tomorrow is not promised. As you make your goals for the new year set them big! Shoot for the stars! Celebrate you! You are a blessing and every breath you take and every word you speak has the chance to make a difference to those around you. Don’t waste life on busyness. Be intentional about what it is important to you and schedule your priorities. 

Happy New Year!!!!


– run JKO run

What’s the best help you can give? Just show up!

Today I had a touching conversation with someone I highly respect about grief. I’ve been surprised at who has “shown up” in the past month since my father died and was sharing this with him. He shared, “One thing I have learned is that no matter how uneasy it can be or how awkward the conversation is sometimes it’s most important to show up! To sit with them through that awkward and get to the part where you connect!”

My thoughts and suggestion for you to help those who are grieving, bring dinner, bring coffee, call just to say I love you or leave a message that might make them smile, drive two hours just to give a hug, come sit with someone while they stare at the wall, come do laundry, come sit on the couch while you let them take a nap, bring over ice cream and a movie, send random texts to check in and to make them laugh, just sit there with them and share their air. There will be a moment when you get over the awkward “are you ok” question and you will connect. 

The test of true friendship isn’t saying the right thing in heartbreak. It’s showing up when you don’t know what to say, checking in when you know the pain is still raw, letting them share the stories they need to and calling them out when you know they’re being fake. Most importantly do not tell someone, “Let me know what I can do for you.” Someone who is grieving has no idea what they need. They just need you to show up.

– run JKO run

Love in action

I was practicing my smile because mornings are really hard for me. As I clicked the photo I started to tear up and he snuck in for a kiss. My husband has his own flaws but no one other than Popi has ever loved me in the way I need. He’s never made that more evident than this week. If I need to cry he holds me. If I need to laugh he makes jokes. If I need to be angry he steps back so I don’t hit him lol. I don’t know what I need but neither does he and that’s ok. This is just the beginning and every day is a little easier because of him. “Hey Jamieko do you think Jellyfish ever ask God why there’s not PeanutButterfish?”


– run JKO run

The Game of Coping with Death

One of my greatest skills is compartmentalization. You know, that skill that allows you to put everything in nice little boxes and put it right back on the shelf to deal with at a later time, if at all. Part of the reason I’m a good therapist is because I compartmentalize like it’s an Olympic sport and I’m shooting for gold. How else could I sit and listen to what I listen to daily and handle life at the level I’ve been doing for so long without going crazy?

Early on I noticed my ability to put things back in boxes was lacking. I had been trying to figure out what coping skills would work and nothing seemed to work. So on Wednesday, two weeks after dad passed, I decided to see a therapist. I mean any good therapist has a therapist. I thought why not? Let’s give it a try. Turns out Kaiser’s mental health program is tragic (but that’s for another blog). During our 25 minute session my  new “therapist” asked me what I’ve been doing to cope? 

“So it’s been two weeks. What have you tried to do to cope?”

“Funny you should ask because I have been thinking about that.” I then quickly shared things I’ve tried so we could move forward. 

1) Getting drunk, like really drunk. Straight from the Costco sized bottle of Vodka drunk. – I tried two days before dad passed. Took my first gulp (yes a very large gulp) and realized it wasn’t whiskey and I’m not a fan of vodka. That and I’m not a fan of sad drinking. It’s almost as if my intellect kills all the fun. Alcohol is a depressant. Why would I want to add a depressant to my sad mood? That doesn’t make sense to me so with two hands I put the bottle down and went back to watching television. 

2) Work, work, work! – I tried to go back six days after dad died. That was a bad idea. I have since worked three and a half days. The days were good and the half day was me seeing clients in my private practice. It was great to be back on the proverbial horse but I was exhausted and rendered useless after my client. The tears still come and I want to make sure I’m doing better before I see kiddos full time. I figure there’s a reason we have winter break. Why not just take a damn break?

3)  Shopping? Why not! – I am aware I have had an increase in apathetic shopping. I am big on budget and right now, not so much. I’m not going truly out of my way to spend (like retail therapy) but I am playing the “in the cart game”. This is where when I’m shopping things randomly end up in the cart. It’s a fun game kids play with adults. I have bought clothes (which I returned most of), bought stuff for the house (none of which stayed), bought gifts for people, I mean hell I bought a sweater for my dog (which will be returned lol). 

I may or may not have bought not one but two new cars the weekend after dad passed. (Those are staying). Not completely abnormal for me to do that.  I mean, I have bought a few cars over the last few years. When my last car began to struggle and I was in a rental for a month I fell in love and I figured why not buy a new car. We call these His and Hers. 

4) Drastic do – I get my hair done once a year. Quite different from the average 8 weeks most women do. When I do I normally chop a bunch off or get fun color. I went in for purple highlights and came out with 10+ inches less. I have chopped all my hair off once a year for the last 8 years (minus one year ). So once again not abnormal. 

5) We are family – I’ve spent a lot of time with family. Cognitively the healthiest thing I’ve done and by far the most out of character.  It was my aunt’s and my stepmom’s birthday and you know it was Jesus’ birthday so inevitably I would spend time. But I’ve gone up to see my mom just because. Not like me. Not like me because I work so much I just never have time. I’ve made time!!

6)  Write it out – it’s been cathartic to write. I have only written in my blog or really long Facebook posts (which will come over to my blog). I wonder sometimes if I should keep the crazy to myself but alas why should I be the only one to have fun? One goal I have is to write and post every Wednesday. 

7) Kicking the shit out of things – I like to hit shit. I mean when I was in high school I was that kid who punched walls. Not like your juvenile delinquent who punched a hole through their bedroom door but I hit the cement walls of the stockroom at Linens ‘n Things. Needless to say, I am familiar with the game bloody knuckles. So when I found kickboxing a few years back I absolutely loved it, why not try it again while I’m grieving?  It was awesome. So hard and just what I thought I needed. But I never got the energy to go back. 

8) Gab, Gab, Gab – I’m grateful for the friends who have truly and literally shown up. I’ve met with a few friends and re-lived what I wanted to. I’ve had fun when they told me to. Went to church because that’s what I’m supposed to do. And then cried when that’s all I could do. Having friends is a blessing. I’ll be honest and share I’ve been disappointed in a few of them but the people who have stepped up to play have been more than amazing and I am grateful. 

9) Date night – lots of date nights. Which let’s be honest have been dinner with me just in tears while David holds me. He has done an amazing job of supporting me. He lets me cry when I need. He hugs me when I don’t know I need one. He checks in all the time. So much so it’s annoying. 

10) Run JKO Run! – let’s be honest that’s the base of this blog right? Me running. Me running literally and figuratively. So I decided I needed to run. I’ve gone on 6 four mile runs since my dad died. Not as much as I’d hoped and definitely not as pretty as I’d hoped. Many of them were more walking than running. I haven’t hit the trail due to weather and my lack of commitment to freeze. I have however hopped on the treadmill. I have ran until my knees felt like mush. I ran until I realized my inhaler was no where near. I ran until I physically couldn’t run anymore. That felt the best. The exhaustion, complete exhaustion. However, when running didn’t work and I had to walk I was sad and lost all motivation. I have a half marathon to run in three months so this seems most effective coping skill. But alas that’s not doing it either. 

“Don’t you think those are impulsive?”

“Nah, like I said most are things I might have done without grief. But maybe you think they are.” I sat there listening to his how does that make you feels trying not to role my eyes and redirect it back to him. 

When I left I was annoyed by his flyers and feeling a sense of being brushed off. While walking to my car and thinking about my coping skills the one thing I’ve realized was that in the two weeks dad has been gone is that I am not a patient human being. All my coping skills had I tried for any length of time might have felt like they worked but like a game of chess I am thinking three steps ahead and not sinking in the moment. 

***

This blog took me two weeks to write and that has to be ok. A part of the grieving process that is most frustrating is lack of focus and my memory having holes. I have learned that has to be ok. As I continue to “cope” or not cope I realize it is a game that I need to slow down. I need to sit with myself more. I need to reach out more. I need to truly stop running and learn the things I need to learn. Grieveing is a tricky thing. I thought with all my education and experience with death and with supporting those grieveing this would be easy. Let’s be real, I had no idea what this would be like and this is not easy. 

What I do know is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I know that it’s been a month today and I’m back to work and I cry driving home from work every day because I can’t call my dad, a daily ritual, I know that it will only get worse. I know that at some point it won’t feel like I moved across the country and have been too busy to talk. I know that at some point it will feel like he’s gone for good. That the black box on my bookshelf is him and my heart is broken. 

The game of coping with death is not going to be won in the first year if it’s meant to be won at all. But it’s necessary I keep playing! I will find relief. I will find peace. I will find myself again. 
-run Jko run