In the past ninety days, I’ve lost two cats, a kitten, a dog, a large part of my lawyer-job.. and my mom. My grown-up brain knows that most pets have shorter lives than their owners, parents in their 90s probably aren’t going to be around another ten years, and lawyer jobs come and go. Of all these losses, my mom’s death is the one I could see coming the best, and it still wrecks me.
I’m weepy, irritable, restless, foggy, sad… you know the drill.
There is probably a gift in all this loss, especially in being told that the foster children in my county will soon be represented by somebody else. For nearly 23 years, that job broke my heart–not only for the children and families, but also for the social workers, and even for the folks in the state office. They were usually barking at me for this or that undotted i or uncrossed t, but I also know the program office was harassed by clueless politicians and nincompoop audit requirements. Their jobs weren’t any easier than mine–and they had to wear office attire and punch a time clock every day.
And in each case of loss, the patient wasn’t going to get any better. The job wasn’t going to ease up, Mom wasn’t going to ever dance again, Sarge wasn’t going to beat lymphosarcoma. Say bad words here.
When I’m not grumping and grieving, I’m left with the hope that I’m facing opportunities behind the grief. Travel to Scotland is easier when I have only three animals instead of seven. To be gone for a month is much simpler when I don’t have to mother-may-I every trip with the program office, and know–just know in my bones–that at 2 am on some fine Scottish night, I’m going to get a call from a foster kid who’s run off, and my number was the only one still in her phone.
I’ll have more time to write if I’m not lawyering–lordy, will I!–and as my first editor put it, when I have a bad day as an author, no babies die.
Now there’s a heck of a perspective.
And yet, I want Sarge, Petey, Button, and Besom back. I want my mom to have a few more good years. I want to be the one to say when the lawyering is done… and I’m not getting what I want.
I might be getting what I need, though. We’ll see. I still have animal friends, including an elderly horse in Florida. He’d better watch out for stray alligators.
How do you cope with unexpected losses? I’ve done some big de-cluttering, I’m walking more, and I’ll see more of my family later this year–all of my family. Any do’s or don’t occur to you? I’m all ears, and giving away a signed copy of The Virtuoso, a story about a guy who lost the one thing that he thought made him special. (He was wrong.)
Oh Grace, my heart aches for you. I’ve known those loses too. I don’t have any answers. Try to nourish you sense of humor. I can see that it is still there from the remark about your elderly horse and the alligators.
Laugh when you can and cry when you have to. I’m sending warm thoughts and prayers your way.
The crying part is easy–I get ambushed, but a photo I’d forgotten I’d taken, by something somebody posts on FB. The laughing part… when my mom died, one of my cats started having the Clazies every so often. She was quite dignified otherwise, so her antics made me laugh…. then it was her turn. GAH!!!
I was barely 13 when my mother died, she took her own life. I am the only child of older parents. Poor dad, left to raise a young teen at age 55. Small town our every step would be noted. Dad said, Well, we will just have to make the best of things. We cooked together,did our best and that was 67 years ago. Key words, you just day by day do your best. That “best” will vary, but hang in there. The job, perhaps it was time to move on, they will miss you. Should they ask for your’e return – – remember, no is a complete sentence ! Those beloved pets, they did their best, loving you. I have 17 yr old Dusty, a gray tabby, he keeps me on my toes we age together, I’ll be 80 in July – we are doing our best. I have the book (have them all) Bless you in this trying time.
My daughter said exactly the same thing you did Nola: Thank goodness the job quit you, because you were never going to quit it, and it wasn’t making you happy.
I just figured that in society, a certain number of people have to learn how to deal with child abuse cases. As long as I held that place, somebody else wouldn’t have to. And yes, the lawyer job also paid bills, and for trips to Scotland. Then too, I loved the children. You never met a more deserving, interesting, worthy legal client than a Child In Need of Assistance.
But the job also resulted in nightmares. So… as your dad so wisely said, make the best of it, and move on.
I can only imagine how you must feel. I have lost a parent, several dogs and dear friends over time. You have lost your Mom, the kitties, Sarge and a piece of your work in a such a short time.
I walked the beach with my corgi Bear when my Dad had his stroke and I had cancer. I baked bread and planted flowers everywhere. I knew my Dad wasn’t going to recover but in my heart I hoped he would. I reached out to a few friends for comfort and I read.
Be kind to yourself and take time to heal your heart.
Flowers! They’ve always been a great joy to me, and you’re right: Spring is HERE (despite the snow in the forecast), and messing around outside has always been one of my favorite ways to play.
Oh Grace, how horrid for you to have all these bereavements at once, and I do include the lawyer-job in that description. Do allow yourself to grieve properly; if you suppress it the feelings will sneak out and get you when you least expect it and probably aren’t ready for them.
I recommend treating yourself. Identify some things you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. Think of your favourite foods and indulge, maybe by going to a restaurant you’ve saved for best. Or buy lots of books — that’s what I do! and then read them in the sun, or in front of a fire. Making plans, as you’re doing, is also good.
Wishing you all the best.
Thanks, Hj. I have the trip to Scotland coming up later this year, and that’s towing my forward–planning the writer parts, figuring out how I’ll enjoy Scotland on either side of the trip. I’m also going to an enormous family reunion over the summer, and that will be wonderful.
I hate it when someone tells me ‘for every door that closes, a window opens’ BUT it does. The thing that doesn’t apply to with you is the death of your MOM…I’m still a bit of a mess after 18 months after the death of mine. You’re gonna be weepy; realize it, embrace it and let yourself grieve the way you need to.
The other things…..’for every door that closes, a window opens’ and it really, really does. Re-invent yourself. Enjoy the bit more freedom while occasionally looking back to the ways things were and enjoy the way things are.
I re-invented myself after resigning from a soul-sucking church job….and couldn’t be happier. But right after, I had doubts/twinges about the wisdom of what I did and it took me about 18 months to get my self together enough to figure out what I wanted. And it’s been a revelation.
Feel better, Grace!
I don’t have a hard copy of Lord Valentine’s story 🙂 and would certainly love to have one!
I can’t imagine what a soul-sickening CHURCH job must be like–awful, indeed. Glad you shucked the dust of that town and moved on. I will be inspired by your example.
connect with other people
Not my best, but it has a place, I agree. A place right here!
I reread everything in my comfort keeper bookcase and spent many a sleepless night with the Windham family. Scanned photos of the pertinent people and critters. Cried. Walked. Cried some more. For one person I wrote emails, updates of what was going on in life and sent them to a secondary email…closest I could get to a letter beyond the veil. Those helped as much as the comfort reads.
I journal daily, sometimes twice a day–a life long habit. It helps. I have pictures, and I have memories, and I have a mature kitty who after ten years has promoted herself to chief lap-sitter. Odd, how that works.
Oh, Grace, my heart breaks for you. So many losses in such as short period of time would make anyone “weepy, irritable, restless, foggy, sad.” But you sound like you have a good handle on things, and I hope that the job loss will prove to be a good thing (as it was for me a few years ago). Everything else just takes time to get over. Try to keep busy writing — your fans can’t get enough of your books, so you’ll make us happy. The trip to Scotland sounds great! And yes, spring is here, so get out there and dig in the dirt. Be sure and plant some spring flowering bulbs, so next year at this time you’ll have crocuses, daffodils, and tulips. I shall say a prayer for you to have strength and courage in this trying time.
I love the bulbs. They are so effortless. Spend one day planting, and the payoff is remarkable. I could bankrupt myself on flowers, but what a way to go. I’m also working on Christmas stories, and that’s just a cheering thing to do. We all try to be our best selves over the holidays, and it’s heart-warming.
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So sorry for your losses, Grace. Please take care of yourself. My thoughts and prayers go with you.
Thanks, Melanie. I’m getting more sleep now than I have in years… I think I need it!
With the exception of your daughter’s wedding, you haven’t had a good 3 months on the personal front, have you Grace? I can only imagine how tough it is to deal with so many losses in such a short time. My heart goes out to you.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your losses – ALL of your losses. Hiding the pain away will only make it harder to deal with in the long run. Don’t let anyone tell you that the death of a pet isn’t worth mourning. A rather large and unofficial part of my job is listening to people who have lost a pet. And yes, I usually cry with them. Don’t follow a set mourning schedule – we all mourn in our own ways.
Do remember the good and the bad. Nothing and no one is perfect and we do a disservice to those we lost by forgetting parts of their character… at least in my opinion. Do stay busy – which you seem to be doing. And you seem to be an expert at looking at the bright side and keeping your sense of humor as well.
I’m not a busy person, by nature. I like to work on One Thing at a time, though I might have several projects going at once. I’m trying to stay productive, and for me that means some writing time almost every day. When I’m writing, all the hard, bad, scary, difficult stuff is Somewhere Else, and I’m in the place where happily ever afters happen.
Thank heavens for the books!
I am very sorry for your losses and the changes that are being wrought upon you. May your heart be buoyed knowing that you have given so many others—beloved pets, family, and readers—the gift of your caring and dedication and love.
Thanks, Linda. I hope we all look after each other. From my perspective, my readers send me to Scotland, they feed my cats, they buy my plane tickets to go see my daughter… and I write the stories that help make that awful weekend with the in-laws less awful, or waiting for the grandbaby to show up less tedious.
I like this system. Nobody has to endure a hard day entirely alone–we have our damsels and swains, and each other.
I read this really good book on grief and loss. I think grief is easy to recognize, but loss can a be a little more subtle. I’ve had co-workers retire and quit. I am happy for them, but sad for myself, that is a type of loss. To be gentle with myself, am I eating and sleeping well? Saturday was a stressful day, exercising was helpful. Watching “Outlander” was nice, Diana Gabaldon did a great job, and so did the people who put the TV series together. I had coffee with a girlfriend on Sunday. It was helpful to talk about my concerns. Life isn’t easy, be kind to yourself.
Seems like you do a good job of a) naming the feeling, and b) doing something to make it less uncomfortable. Sam Heughan in a kilt is probably good for chasing off just about any kind of blues!
I lost my home to a fire almost 5 years ago. It seemed as if I cried for weeks. Packing up the remnants was just awful…………..what good is a waterlogged and smoky book? Well…………..it was my book and I wanted it! And don’t even ask me about the photos.
We had lived in the house for more than 30 years, but I now see the window that opened when that door closed. We moved into a bright airy apartment, and let the old house and its problams fade away. Do I miss the extra bedrooms or the neighbors? Of course I do. But I now have a bright sunny place to live, and someone else is responsible when the sink gets clogged.
It is not the way I wanted to pack up and leave that house, but I sometimes think that having the decision made for me saved me from having to decide to move, if that makes any sense.
One of my friends lost everything in a house fire except her husband and their dog (husband ignored every fire safety directive ever expounded and went back into a burning building to save the dog–and both emerged unscathed). Her experience made me more aware of how much I do have treasures here on earth–the recipe box, the photo album, the refrigerator art, the comfy slippers…
Hats off to you for seeing a bright side, and focusing on what you got to keep rather than what you lost.
Oh Grace, the only comfort I can offer is time heals all pain. And I found that sometimes it took a lot of time, and to this day the wound is still tender when seeing a picture or remembering a moment.
You said it. I get bushwhacked by the oddest things. Somebody quoting a line my mom occasionally trotted out, a feral cat that won’t let me near when all I want to do is BE FRIENDS, somebody snapping at me for a minor boo-boo… and then I’m fine. Until next time.
My sincere condolences on your losses. I too have had a number of losses in the last year, most especially a beloved older brother who made my life better every time I so much as thought of him. I want to talk to him about my tree, or my sons, or life in general. But he’s not here. Pets, too, are especially dear when they get older and the need to make those difficult decisions for them can be devastating. We have so much in common! I suppose that’s why I love reading your books. Piano, horses, dogs, thoughts on technology replacing real communication, past jobs in the field of law, and so much more. They all resonate with me on a fundamental level. I’m so glad you decided to publish your stories and look forward to many more. I believe I own every one you’ve written. Best wishes to you!
I’m glad you enjoy the stories enough to keeper them. I’m the same with at least a half dozen authors. I feel like they were my daughter’s honorary fairy godmothers, because without them, I would have been a much grimmer, crankier mom.
Nothing like a HEA everyday!
Grace, I am so sorry for your losses.
When I lost my cat a month after losing my Dad less than a year ago, a book that helped me on the loss of pets is by Jon Katz Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die. My sister passed it to me and it really gave me some peace. I’m still trying to deal with the loss of my Dad so you have my heartfelt sympathies. I just stopped looking at FB much for now too many ambushes. Time really does help some though as hard as that is to hear and be with friends. Get out and enjoy the new life in the Spring. Grieve first give yourself time to do that before making the big decisions on reinventing yourself. That will come further down the line. I was one of those too helping kids for 22 years til it was eating me whole and life took the job away from me because I also would never have walked away. where a door closes a window will really always open. you don’t have to see it yet just let others trust for now for that it’s true til you can do so for your self. hang in there. look forward to meeting you in Scotland.
I’m looking forward to Scotland this year even more than I ALWAYS look forward to Scotland. You will all in love with the place and the people, and we will have big fun even on the days when we don’t visit a distillery… promise!
My greatest condolences to you. What a great load of grief to bear — all at once. I guess if there is a good side, you are getting through all of it at once. I’m not sure that’s better than one-by-one though. I’ve had all of those losses in my life, but not more than one of them at a time. The one thing I’ve learned from the losses in my life is – don’t make any big decisions during the 6 months to a year. After that, you can more clearly evaluate where you want your life to go.
You would probably never have left that part of your lawyering — and it was probably a blessing in disguise that it left you. We don’t always do what is best for ourselves. Maybe this was just meant to be so that you can now evaluate where you want the rest of our life to go.
Losing your mom has to be the hardest part — I lost mine almost 20 years ago and I still miss her every day. I have regular conversations with her – especially when I see or hear something I know she would have loved.
Since I love your books, I’m glad you are considering writing more.
So sorry for all your losses. A very dear friend once told me she finds small pleasures where she can. I have tried to live my life with that philosophy, sometimes well, sometimes not. Be at peace within yourself, know that you loved all, worked hard for all, and treasured the time you had.
Know that your books have given me enjoyment and thoughtfulness, you have a lovely way with words when spinning the stories I have come to love. Thank you!
I wish you peace.
My mom died six weeks before the birth of my first child. A very wise friend told me that it took her about three years to be able to think of her mom and smile at the memories instead of feeling the grief. So I gave myself time and turns out she was right. And when the grief started easing I let it happen because I then understood that the last thing a mother wants is to be the source of grief for a child.
So when in time your grief begins to ease and the happier memories come to the fore embrace them. I knew I would be ok the day I laughed at something my mom would have found funny. And yes, it did take about three years, but it got a bit better every day as I went on.
Sending thoughts of peace, comfort and hope your way.
You cope with unexpected losses the same as expected ones. The pain of loss is part of life, but never easy to endure. I have grieved parents, aunts, uncles, friends lost to war and cancer and have lost my dearest and closed friend and lover, my husband. I have lost beloved and loyal pets as well. Each time I soldiered on and looking back I realize that I did it simply because there was no choice. Life is to be lived and in that living there is pain, some small some large, but the joys and loving memories sustain us. My babies were born in the hospital my father passed away in and in the eyes of my children and grandchildren I see my father, my husband, my grandfather and my mother. You cannot stop living and living unfortunately has a painful side. Embrace the love, embrace the joy and at times allow yourself to be maudlin and sentimental pouring over old pictures with your favorite wine at your side, but always establish an ending time for that wallowing. You wake up refreshed and ready to go on. I am sorry for your loss and if it helps at least know that there are others who understand what you are going through.
You’re so honest it’s Astounding.
Dear Grace, words can not express how I feel for you. Every loss is the worst. Be thankful that you can talk about your mom, pets, and job. I think talking helps. Please tell us more when you feel need. Friends can be a comfort even if it’s just listening. Thinking of you.