02 August 2017

Feel Good Lost: Things That Helped

After my dad passed away, everything made me sick.

The morning afternoon (or afternoon, since no one fell asleep until well after the sun, was up) my mom sent Ben out to our family's favorite bagel shop to get something for us to eat. She hadn't expected guests and now the house was full. I sat in my usual spot in our sunny dining room and stared at my warm, handmade chocolate chip bagel- my favorite breakfast in the world- and my stomach only felt dark and empty.

"I don't want this," I whispered and got up to walk around the house.

Almost everything happens the way it does in movies. People bring a lot of food: big bowls of pasta, loaves of bread, plastic dishes of salad. People came in and out throughout the week, but I also remember the house being empty. I wish I could say I remember exactly how it was for sure, but it always just seemed like the morning. I remember the sunshine everywhere. I think it had been cold.

After the funeral, I went back to my apartment and lay in bed for one more week. My company had been generous with my time off and two weeks seemed perfect: one week to be hysterical. One week to be quiet.

But my quiet week was met with a storm of desperation. All I wanted was to feel better, to fix my crumpled stomach and broken heart. Smooth it out and put it back to the way it was. I traced through my memory to self-care videos on YouTube; British girls with Lush hauls and makeup store binges. There seemed to be answers out there and I just needed to land one.

so here are some of the things that actually helped

a hot water bottle in a sweater


My sweet friend Catie sent me a care package that timed up with the week I went back to work. And I was really hurting. My first week was a blur filled with all raw emotions. Genuine breakdowns, moments where I couldn't hold tears back. Running to the bathroom, grabbing a girl I hardly knew to ask for comfort behind a filing cabinet. I ended up working out a schedule that broke up my week with time to work from home, but that first week I did all five days and right in the middle of it I came home in hysterics to a package addressed to "Lisa Lilac" (her nickname for me). 

Inside were her beautiful prints, pouches filled with herbs and stones specifically chosen for grief, but most all a hot water bottle in a little sweater. I don't know if I have ever loved on something the way that I have loved that bottle. I cradled it in my arms while I watched TV and I slept with it every night for probably the first two months. If there is one thing I could tell anyone dealing with grief it would be to buy yourself (or someone else!) this. It brings immense comfort, literal and emotional warmth, something to physically nurture your broken heart with. 

rereading harry potter



One of the first things I started asking people after my dad died was what I should read. I am a lover of books and I was specifically looking for literature, not self-help, to get me through this. I was recommended Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, but after a couple of chapters, I found it too on point and someone identifying my feelings before I could to be very off-putting. I look forward to a season in my life when I am ready for her always guiding words, but I couldn't read about grief head on. 

Instead, I started tracing through my memory to find a hero who had lost a parent but still went on to lead a happy, adventure-filled life. Live a life after grief. After a couple of days of googling and staring mindlessly at my bookshelf, my eyes landed on Harry Potter. I immediately turned to Ben (who rereads the entire series once a year) and said, "Harry misses his parents right? That's a thing!" 

Ben looked at me very seriously. "Yeah, he does. He misses them all the time and struggles with it consistently throughout the series." 

So there I went. My mom actually read all of the books too (though she is much quicker than me and it took her about a month), but we both found such profound comfort in revisiting this classic. I think the natural reaction to death is to surround yourself with materials and information, but I found that to be very suffocating. My life was already surrounded and truthfully, I wanted to swim up for air. I chose to dip my toes into other worlds where death and heartache are real and present, but where characters choose to move forward, choose to face their pain and also live beyond it. I haven't thought of many books beyond Harry Potter (I am still finishing up Prisoner of Azkaban so I still got another few months with it), but if you have a suggestion that is similar, please let me know. 

my plants


I don't know if I would recommend going out and buying new plants if you're dealing with extreme grief, but I have a steady green thumb and took a lot of plants from my dad's wake to join my home (PSA to funeral attendees: send plants, not flowers. Flowers are great, but plants can be taken home and loved. My brother, my mom and I have filled our homes with greenery). At the end of the funeral, we divided up what could be realistically taken and having new life in my home forced me to get out of bed to water and clean leaves, as well as learn about new species I wouldn't have necessarily picked up on my own. 

My home has become a jungle of sorts (just like the home I grew up in), but now all my plants have stories and are beautiful and sweet and fill me with such joy. I took care of them and they took care of me.

things that did not help, but I spent money on thinking they would
- an oil diffuser 
- expensive pajamas (like, really expensive)
- new candles 
- an earring from Catbird 
- Two tops from Madewell
- bath bombs, bath oils, anything for the shower really (though I have found that sitting in a shower for an extended amount of time is very triggering-I struggle a lot with intrusive thoughts, which I hope to write about later)
- an Italian bathing suit 

I ended up spending money here and there with the thought of "treating myself", but I really don't think it's a time to treat yourself. This is a hard truth, but nothing will make you feel better in the beginning. You are in the ocean now and the waves will come. Save your money, go through the pain. Lay in bed in your regular pajamas with your usual candles going and watch TV. Take normal showers. Don't try and buy the pain away. It will hurt, but it will also ease up. Just go through it; the hours are long, but the days are short. 



If you have any additional comfort tools, please share them. I'd love for people to be more of both what to get for themselves and also what to give. You can often times feel so helpless both in watching and experiencing and I think being able to send helpful gifts is wonderful (though, genuinely anyone who reached out in any way at all has a place in my heart. I remember everything).

Thank you for reading, as always.  

6 comments:

  1. This was wonderful to read. Thank you for sharing.

    When my mother died, I found unexpected comfort in making beds. It gave me something to do when I wasn't sure I could get moving. I would tell myself, "Just make the beds, and then see how you feel." This simple thing got me through many days.

    Also, warm drinks. Lots and lots of tea with milk and sugar.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading. I'm a big believer in a nice, made bed as well :)

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  2. Thank you for this. As tears run down my cheeks on the birthday of my father who passed five years ago I want you know you're not alone. It truly takes time, never goes away completely, but is important to find solace in small comforts like you've mentioned. I've found plants, nature, and getting outside help me get grounded and feel grateful. Mediation, yoga, and things I would have previously rolled my eyes at (aromatherapy, listing gratitudes, books on wisdom), but are now a part of self care are great. Spending more time with family and being a little more forgiving of others has also been helpful. Sending big hugs - Katie

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    1. Same girl. I feel like everything I used to roll my eyes at is what I'm yearning for in this season. <3

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  3. I just found your blog, and want to say I am sorry for your loss. What helps: spending time with pets and/or babies (I don't have any of my own, so other people's work fine) whom you can hug and don't require a conversation. Reading poems. I spent a lot of time on this site http://modernloss.com/, reading other people's stories.

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  4. hi Sasha- I totally agree about pets/babies. Some of my cousins brought over their babies and at first I was worried I'd scare them, but they did bring a lot of comfort. And I've never heard of that website, but it looks really interesting. Thank you so much for sharing.

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