What is Normal?…

         I had survived the first everything and I was still breathing and for the most part I was still standing. Looking back the first year seemed like a blur and I did not remember much of anything from those first few months. I knew that was the shock portion and finally the shock was gone and the reality that Heather had died was beginning to sink in. I was not sure if I felt better or worse to be quite honest.

I did not realize that over the past year I had surrounded myself with people I felt most comfortable with. I did not do it on purpose, it just happened that way. These friends continued to call and come see me. We had lunch dates and I felt very at ease with these people. I felt like I did not have to explain my sudden quiet mood change, the tears that ran down my face at an unusual place in a movie or feel funny about mentioning Heather’s name. These friends had become my close inner circle. I was recently taken out of my comfort zone and placed with people I did not want to be around. It was a very stressful time for me. I could not relax and I certainly did not share my feelings or Heather with them. That was reserved for special people only. This made me feel very defensive and I realized then that I really did not want to be with people who were not accepting of the new me nor did I want to meet new people.

I also had a near panic attack when I had foolishly planned to hold a bridal shower in my home.  The idea of people I did not know in my home, looking at my memories and Heather’s things was suddenly overwhelming. It dawned on me that this was my private space and I found it very intrusive to have outsiders enter into my sanctuary. Maybe someday I could go to parties, have parties and not feel panicked by the idea of being out of my comfort zone. But for now, I would keep my inner circle of friends very close and maybe with their help I could breathe again someday. When a child dies the simple task of breathing was painful. You suddenly felt like all the air had been sucked out of your lungs. So I was still breathing each day.

(Confessions of a Grieving Mother Blog)Monday, June 28, 2010

It has been recently shared with me that Heather has been dead for a year and I should be over this “thing.” I have very shocking news for everyone...I AM NEVER GOING TO GET OVER MY DAUGHTER HEATHER DYING!!!! There I said it. I have been told I am stuck in the bondage of grief and I need to break the chains of bondage to move forward with my life. I have news for everyone again…I will grieve for my daughter for the rest of my life. It will always be in my heart and mind till my dying day. Having a child die is not something you “get over.” I can live my life and move forward in very, very small steps, but I will never “get over” this.  It is out of the natural order of life and there is nothing like it. I am convinced that no other grief can compare to the mother’s loss in the death of a child. If you have not given birth to a child and then had that child die in your arms before your very eyes….YOU DO NOT GET IT!!! The grief of a mother is unlike anything else on the planet. I know this first hand. You can sympathize and you can try to imagine how horrible it might be…but you don’t know till you have walked the road I have walked…personally. Knowing someone or being a friend with someone who has had a child die is not the same thing.

I am in no way trashing or bashing my dear peeps. My inner circle of friends. I could not have survived without you. I need your support and love, now and for many, many years to come. You allow me to talk or be silent, and hug me when I need it. I don’t need to explain the tear in my eye at a crazy moment. You come along side and try to understand. You allow me to be me. I can joke and laugh one minute and be in tears the next and I don’t have to explain why.  For those few people who have allowed themselves to come with me on this journey I will love you forever.

I am hurt and angry for many reasons. There are people who expect me to get over Heather.  I am using Heather as an excuse to not attend parties or be with people. Saying that my blog is sick.  But mostly for people talking about Heather when they have no idea who she was. They have no idea what I am going through and they have never tried to understand. They stand on the side lines and judge me and the way I am handling the death of my daughter. I understand that they are not worth my time and trouble. But it still hurts to hear those words. The eerie silence that follows my mention of her name breaks my heart. The day Heather died she simply vanished completely as if she never lived to some. They cannot handle the loss. I am so sorry this is tough for them. Just imagine how difficult it is for me. Heather Nicole Coombe lived…she was amazing…and then she died…and I need to talk about her. I need to share her life and my memories. I need to surround myself with people who allow me to talk and share and do not judge.

Grief is like living in a constant downpour, with isolated moments of relief–like driving a car in the rain, the water pours over you and you need with wipers on high to see where you are going. But you go under a bridge and there is a split second of blissful peace where it is quiet and no rain pounding down. Then back into the constant downpour.

I have a few more “under the bridge” moments now than I did in the beginning. Last year, I felt like I drove for 1000 miles before I hit a bridge for relief and then it lasted for only a second. Now it feels like driving 995 miles and the bridge lasts for about 5 seconds. But I think this is improvement. Someday, the miles will be less and the bridges will last longer, but not today, and tomorrow doesn’t look good either. I had my precious Dolly Girl for 21 years. I loved her, took care of her and shared her life for 21 years, 4 months and 10 days. So, I think it is only fair that I be given at least 21 years, 4 months and 10 days to grieve before anyone begins to ask me if I am over this “thing” yet.

I am reminded on a daily basis that “normal” is only a setting on the dryer. Something that we switch on to dry a load of clothes. Otherwise it does not apply to anyone’s life. If your life is “normal” give it a few days, weeks, months or years and it will not be normal. I promise that one. I had a “normal” life. I live in a normal house on a normal street in a normal neighborhood in Mesa. I have normal furniture on normal carpet and tile in normal rooms in my normal house. I have normal family photos hanging on the walls and normal knick knacks scattered throughout my normal house. I have a normal dog, cat and 3 bunnies, although everyone else in my normal family would beg to differ with me that the pets are NOT normal. I had normal daughters wearing normal clothes and doing all the normal things that kids and teenage girls’ do. I had normal meals, holidays and birthday celebrations at my normal house with my normal family.

I had a normal life till one day a small little normal blood cell, so tiny you have to see it with a microscope…decided it didn’t like to be normal and it became abnormal. This tiny microscopic cell had a huge effect on all the normal cells around it. Soon all that was left was abnormal cells and these abnormal cells suddenly impacted Heather’s normal body and it was invaded with Cancer. There is nothing, absolutely nothing normal about cancer or anything that goes with it. The treatments are not normal. Losing all your hair is not normal. The weird looks you get from people when they see your daughter go out with her bald head is not normal. My life was normal or so I thought. A tiny cell decided to go abnormal and my so called normal life disappeared forever on April 10th, 2008.

Then when we all thought that life was normal again, something else abnormal had to come and shake my world at the very foundation it was built on. Not so normal things like immune compromised, pneumocystis pneumonia and ARDS came into my normal life. I began to learn the normal terms of doctors and nurses. Normal people talking to me thought I had a medical degree. Normal people do not know about ICU, mechanical ventilation, blood gases, PEEPS, arterial lines, chest tubes, and many more things that are in my normal vocabulary now.  My once so called normal life disappeared forever and I have to find my “new” normal life with all my same surroundings, but without my Heather. Things can never be “normal” again…

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