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    “White or pumpernickel?” My dad died by suicide over 40 years ago and all I’ve got are these 3 words on an old cassette tape to remember his voice.

    “White or pumpernickel?” It’s a short and ridiculous-sounding sentence, I know, but those are the only audible words that exist of my dad Jim’s voice. There is nothing else.

    It was the summer of 1978 when my dad swallowed a bottle of pills and took his life, two weeks after my tenth birthday. There was no drawn-out illness. No warning. And no explanation. He just disappeared from our life. Just. Like. That. And because his death was so unexpected, we had no chance to think ahead and to create more keepsakes like videos or recordings or letters to help preserve his memory and our connection to him. The suddenness of his suicide wouldn’t allow for that. So, all we had was what we had. Three little words. And I’ve always begged the universe for more.

    And until recently, those words lived on an old cassette tape that I’d used to record family and friends the summer my dad died. Now, over four decades later, I’ve been struggling to decide whether that simple sentence is just a big fat tease, or, if it’s one of my greatest possessions.

    See, my dad died back when capturing something as intimate as someone’s voice wasn’t easy for the average person. Not like today, when most of us have that technology in the palm of our hands. And I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t jealous of how easy it’s become to protect that one-of-a-kind sound of someone we love.

    Sadly, in my case, the rise of consumer camcorders didn’t happen until the mid-80s so all we had to document our life together as a family was this brand-new technology called a Polaroid and a basic 35 mm camera. Even my parent’s wedding video from 1960 was more or less a silent film because sound just wasn’t an option in those days. And since my dad was almost always the guy behind the camera, he was only actually in a small handful of pictures, making the recording of his voice even more valuable to me.

    The truth is, I’ve beaten myself up over the decades for not being more purposeful with my little Panasonic cassette recorder from Radio Shack. My rational mind knows I was only ten years old and I had no idea his death was so imminent. My irrational mind, on the other hand, well, it continues to kick me in the throat that I didn’t record more of him when I had the chance. I have tons of footage of my mom and of the neighborhood kids, but next to nothing of my dad—just three choppy words on a frail old tape. And it sometimes just doesn’t seem fair. More than sometimes if I’m being really honest.

    It’s been almost 45 years since my dad suddenly ended his life. And since that day, when my world was ripped out from under me, I’ve often fantasized about discovering some long-lost steam trunk filled with more dad artifacts—things like letters addressed just to me or videos or oversized sweaters I could wrap myself in on snowy days. But my logical brain knows there is nothing else. Because there isn’t.

    I remember sitting on my bedroom floor in those early days after he died, surrounded by the small stash of things he left behind, just praying I’d uncover more. Even then, I remember feeling like I was stranded on an island and I was going to have to ration out what little I had to make it last forever. I also remember how sickening that feeling was.

    The strange thing is, the older I get, and the longer I’ve been without my dad, the more my heart and mind ache to have more. Growing up as a child of the 70s and missing the technology curve left me with mostly one-dimensional photos or letters, with the exception of a handful of tangible things like his comfy orange sweatshirt, his wallet, and a few solid-colored cotton t-shirts. And I just can’t help but wish more of him existed. More for me. More for my husband, Dave. And more for our daughters. Because layering my dad’s voice on top of my small archive of his things would just help to deepen their connection to him—especially my girls—and give them another way to help them know the beautiful man he was.

    Ever since Anderson Cooper launched his new podcast earlier this year called "All There Is," an exploration on grief and loss, I’ve become acutely aware of how little I have of my dad to share with my girls and with the rest of the world. I mean, sure, I’ve got his old hiking backpack and denim bucket hat and an envelope of grainy photos, but what I don’t have—and what I truly crave in the absence of his physical self—is the sound of him. For my sake and for the sake of my family. And I often find myself in a sad headspace because my husband and girls will never know the sound or inflection or tone or nuances of his voice in the way I do. And all I wish is that they could.

    For a while now, I’ve been toggling between a place of gratitude and a place of deep longing, living in a space of wanting to be satisfied with what I have while also aching for what I’ll never have again. And it’s only recently, though, thanks to my friend Anderson, that I’ve come to realize that I actually don’t have to choose after all. I can be both of those things as often and for as long as I need to be. Because there are zero rules attached to grief. In fact, grief is one of the only emotional states where anything goes, and everything is valid. And it’s taken me over forty years to figure that out. Better late than never, as far as I’m concerned.

    My daughters have grown up in a world where everything is captured on film. Every milestone in their life has been chronicled. Every big moment lives in the Cloud and can be retrieved with a click whenever they’re feeling nostalgic. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a little envious of that because I don’t have the same ability to re-live the big moments from my life, like birthdays or hikes or moments that my dad was a part of, because those memories live only in my mind. But I’m realizing now, the longer I sit here reflecting (and writing), that it’s wasted energy to covet what I don’t have. So, instead, I’m choosing to be grateful that my girls will have such a rich stockpile of videos and I love yous and handwritten letters and notes from both of their parents. Actually, it’s a strange kind of comfort to me to know that they have such a deep footprint from the people they love most.

    What I’ve come to appreciate is that I have the ability to choose how I value those three little words my dad left behind. And it’s a matter of whether I choose to consider them a gift or a tease. That’s why I’m choosing to be grateful that I have something at all. And grief affords us that choice because anything goes when you’re dealing with loss. Also, thanks to a gentle reminder from Anderson about the importance of preserving the mementos we do have, I made it a priority to digitize the recording of my dad’s voice so there’s no chance of losing it over time. And it felt good, really good, to take control of that. I guess you could say that I’m learning the art of making more out of less.

    So, here I am, making the intentional choice to keep myself in a place of gratitude for what I do have instead of growing bitter and angry that I don’t have more. I’m choosing to accept that I can be both sad and grateful all at the same time, which I think is the real essence of grief right there. Because, when we lose someone we love, we need to give ourselves permission to let our sadness and gratitude co-exist. We just have to because that’s how we find balance.

    Now, the sound of my dad’s voice lives on my phone and in cyberspace and I listen to it almost every day. And I think that makes me pretty damn lucky. Because even though that’s all there is of his voice, it’s not all there is of him. I know that now. The best parts of him are in me and in my girls and with my mom. He lives in all of us now. So as long as we’re here, he’s here too. And I can live with that.

    #Suicide #Grief #Loss #allthereis #AndersonCooper #Gratitude #Memories #recordingalovedonesvoice

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    How do you grieve the loss of a parent who is still alive?

    This beautiful story by Maya Lorde caught my attention today:

    Dead to Me, but Not Dead: How to Mourn the Loss of Still-Alive Parents

    As someone who is completely estranged from my dad and mostly estranged from my mother, it resonated with me. There's so much grief, shame, anger, frustration, and loss associated with being estranged and yet there's no space in our society for people like us to have those feelings without intense judgment. I've struggled myself to stop explaining to others why I don't engage with my parents because frankly, they won't understand. They won't know how hard I tried, how much I sacrificed of myself to become what my parents needed. In trying to hold onto them, I lost myself. I'm not willing to do that anymore.

    Have you experienced parental estrangement? How has this affected you? Share your thoughts below.

    #Trauma #PTSD #CPTSD #Estrangement #Loss #Grief

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    The Autumn Of My Years

    Frank Sinatra famously sang in “It Was A Very Good Year”—a survey of his life of sorts—observing that it was a very good year when he was 17, and again at 21, and 35. Later the days grow short and he finds himself in the autumn of his years. Frank doesn’t share with us what age he is, but it’s 2022 and I’m 42, and I feel that I have reached the autumn of my life.

    I am rooted in my bed. I can stretch my limbs as far as downstairs maybe once, twice, a day. I manage to water myself about twice a week, but even then, my trunk groans and creeks with the effort. Most things that I enjoyed when I it was in the summer of my life, have lost their lustre. And like the autumn tree, I have begun to shed my hair.

    My branches held onto my leaves as long as possible. For that I cannot fault them. The rings of decay from the physical—and emotional—stress that were forming unseen inside me just become too many, and without my awareness. I saw countless doctors, all of whom failed to identify the rot that had set in, declaring me a mystery with my inverse T-waves, shaking limbs, falling leaves, and general failure to thrive. Finally, after two emergency room visits, a hospital stay (2 out of 5 stars, do not recommend), I finally saw an endocrinologist after a two month wait. He was confident that I had most likely gone from a state of hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism without knowing it, for at least a year. With all the stress this imbalance of hormones placed upon my body, my hair started to break and then fall out.

    So now I am in the literal autumn of my years.

    The forecast is hopeful in that with the right treatment, most of my hair will grow back. And, after having weathered an unrelenting storm for the better part of the past year, my body just wants to hibernate. I am grateful that we are approaching winter, which makes sleeping all day feel like less of an indulgence. But I think about my hair loss and how for the past two months I have been lost for the right words to talk about it… particularly in the absence of a diagnosis.

    There are things I can tell you though.

    I can tell you that even though I couldn’t walk, developed alarming peripheral neuropathy, and needed a wheelchair, the thought of losing my hair scared me more. Despite developing what the doctors repeatedly referred to as “concerning” cardiac symptoms, my concern remained with the loss of my hair and with each parting strand, a part of my identity felt at risk. I can tell you that after being admitted to hospital for observation, I became even more afraid when my body hair started to fall out. Making each trip to the bathroom into a turbulent storm of anxiety, grief, and depression, as my body continued to shed more leaves.

    This being a major outward sign of my condition, every day of increased hair loss made me feel like I was ever closer to being visited by the famed hooded logger, and thrust into the great wood chipper. And no Friends like Pheobe, Monica, and Joey to save me.

    As I fixated on my hair loss, I learned many things.

    I learned that there are all sorts of potions that you can buy, that promise to help regrow hair. There are wigs… so many wigs. But the choice really only comes down to two questions. “Can I pull off this radical new look?” Or, “if I cut this wig in a certain way, will it make me look like I did before?” Thyroid related hair loss apparently means any hair that does grow back, might not be the same colour as before. So that’s kind of like a present to look forward to, only it’s unlikely to arrive by Christmas. A full head of medium length hair apparently takes two, maybe three years to regrow. In that respect at least, I feel like I will be like a sapling again, with literal tufts of juvenile hair sprouting between what remains of my established leaves and locks.

    I can tell you that in addition to the emotional pain, hair loss hurts, quite literally. It hurts to pull on it, and my hair band falls out often—I just don’t have enough to bunch together anymore. So I’ve invested in cancer hats. Only I don’t have cancer, so I also feel like an invading alien species. And of course derogatory as the term is, it is accepted that cancer patients are “brave”. The only thing worse than this enforced bravery is that there is no accepted lexicon, or field guide for what I am.

    But I can tell you how I feel.

    I feel like the lonely tree in a forest that doesn’t look like, or feel like, I belong with the others. I’m not quite sick enough to be offered any support to help prop me up, even though every day is a struggle just to hold myself upright. Being my kind of sick is to be that lonely tree in a field that people are happy to shelter under in a storm, but quick enough to cut down at the first sign of disease.

    And I do not know when it will be spring again.

    But I hope that when that day finally arrives I will rush out into the wilderness and hug every tree I see. Even more so in winter—for I will know what it is like to be bare, and suffer from a lack of kindness or care.

    #HairLoss #Hypothyroidism #Hyperthyroidism #GravesDisease #Grief #Loss #Depression #Loneliness #ChronicIllness #Alopecia #MyCondition #Anxiety #Stress #MentalHealth #MightyTogether #SpoonieProblems #Selftalk #Selfimage #Selfesteem #PeripheralNeuropathy #Neuropathy #WritingThroughIt #Disability #Homebound #ChronicFatigueSyndrome #Spoonie #Hope


    Cyclical, Cynical, Pain

    I raged tonight.
    I cried.
    I hurt.
    I vented so much.
    I still cannot fall asleep.
    I still think of everything I have left inside.
    I am still hurting.
    I am still feeling
    I am still reeling
    I speak my truth, repeat the same story.
    I am honest, know and own my mistakes
    I am still not okay with this
    And I am infuriated
    I hate that I meant nothing in the end.
    I hate that I gave space but none was given to me.
    I hate that I loved with everything and was thrown away like trash.
    I hate that I sacrificed, bled, injured, and loathed myself based off of someone else's idea of me.
    I hate that in the end, promises are always broken, and friendship is forever forsaken
    I hate that I still love, and give space, and wish well, and hope
    I hate that I do not hate
    So I rage
    I cry
    I hurt
    I vent
    I scream
    And every night, the hole where my heart was is filled with tears, sadness, anger and loneliness
    #Selfharm #Suicide #Depression #Grief #Friendship #Loss #emotionalpain

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    The year is ending…and all signs are here

    As the year draws close…we have festivities. In India the Hindus celebrate the festival of lights -Deepavali. It is the most important festival for us - lights, lamps, candles, sweets, gatherings, togetherness. The sound of crackers, its flare and luminous fury that lights up the night skies…of people visiting friends & kins…exchanging hugs & greetings. Like any other festival which too are defined by such sounds, lights and sights. Not very different from Christmas or new year. Last many years these have been occasions when my grief, loss and loneliness gets so painfully amplified. These are occasions I dread and I better be dead. There is nothing to celebrate but more to despair and nurse my bereavement…and there have been so many 😢
    #lonelinessoffestivities #Loneliness #Grief #Loss #seperationgrief #Shame #failure


    Dealing with much.....

    Fed up of feeling like rubbish.
    Constantly fed up with no one understanding why I hurt and can't do everything u use to do.
    My mood has dived down so bad since the loss of a wonderful grandma who I cared for.
    Life isn't the same and it hurts to not be able to share things with her.....
    It's just pants to try and carry on...
    Other family member ls are not so bothered by it as they wasn't close to her.
    Trying to carry on living will grieving is just awful. I can't see very far ahead, mainly 1 day to the next.
    Really feeling heartbroken and down
    #Depression #Loss #Feelingshit

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    Grief defines me…

    I came across this - ‘sometimes in grief rock bottom so feels like home than a place of discomfort & joy is the scarier emotion.’

    So is one’s sense of reassuredness obtained more in our seeming gloom, grief & misery? Is pain and anguish the overarching and more truer condition of our living? Not sure which philosopher it was - Schopenhauer or Spinoza or Kierkegaard who had a similar premise but speaking for myself, all the loss, defeats and shame I have endured, suffering has been more determining of life’s trajectory. Even as i cannot but acknowledge few moments of exaltation, joy and contentment, the larger narrative of misery and despair renders me deeply suspicious, indeed dread whatever seeming moments of happiness that objectively speaking is on hand. For example I should be elated today for my book has finally been published. But the occasion has only made my deep sense of loss more pronounced, absences of folks I hold very dear more acute and my grief so apparent.

    The existential crisis - of loss of meaning, of no emotional peg to hold on to, the hollowness of positive affirmations, emptiness, the very collapse of hope, the uselessness of faith, sacraments & prayer - is so permanent, structural, so default that the so called affirmative, hope inducing path not to speak of so called moments of celebration & joy, appears so misguided & pathetic.😕

    My ex is descending into vegetative state and i’m unable to provide any succour or reassurance to her…😢I love her so deeply…being with her was much more than being with a person…there was our house, our beautiful garden, our soul enriching dogs…it was elevated living in every sense of the word all coming together in her. In her presence, company I grew, my soul nourished and my spirits soared…But her ailments consumed her reducing her to an existence of excruciating pain (people can’t even begin to comprehend how debilitating her illness is) and agony. Yet she braves it all. She doesn’t want to give up. i still can’t & couldn’t deal with her suffering. And she couldn’t deal with my suffering me & she insisted on separation . I failed as a care giver. I felt so then and I feel so more now. Is it my love morphing into something evil that is causing her to suffer? To love is to suffer as someone said. The painful poignancy of it all. The appalling conditions of existence with its ordeals, misery & aches being showered on few in unrelenting flow🤦🏽 if my condition is such, imagine what she is undergoing saddled with both excruciating mental & physical condition.

    The free who may have been following my posts here would probably figure my drift. Most may barely comprehend what i’m babbling about. I often don’t comprehend it myself. Figuring all these in isolation & loneliness is all I have for attempts at reassuring me by few (maybe well meaning) with bare cognisance of such travails, shame & suffering has been more damaging… most don’t even bother or attempt anymore. They have had enough of my moping & lament and my seeming inability to get over for many years now. But this grief is my own and overwhelming and i won’t allow anyone to trivialise it.

    For as things stand i’m my own best friend, counsellor, confidant even as I’m my own critic & enemy. I dedicate the book to her - the endearing, bravest soul I know notwithstanding being rejected. The research, the writing, the readings, the visits, my work…all that the writing of the book involved her presence was constant. But it was no therapy. Today the despair and anguish has only flared up. What satisfaction or contentment leave alone celebration or joy when the most dear to me not around…?!!😢 I do want to be cherished, hugged and in the least desire quality time of deep conversation, over food, drink and drives -things which did transpire between us for sometime but alas ! Very voodoo of life undid it all and in certain viciousness! 😔 #Grief #ComplicatedGrief #Pain #Rejection #Shame #despair #Depression #Loss

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    Just Breath #Loss #Depression #Selfpreservation

    Just breath…I tell myself. I lose myself in thoughts of everything that has happened in the past several months and the pain I feel over losing my Sister in March. I take frontage roads and admire the beauty of my world. I tell myself to breath in and try to let these emotions rest. I know I have the power inside me to heal my mind, to find ways to calm my soul and still acknowledge the struggles that rage inside of me. I know that Im not alone, although so many times I feel lonely. And so, I Just Breath…