The hidden part of grief

Okay, maybe it’s not so much hidden as it’s me just now realizing it… 

Sometimes a year seems like a very long time. Sometimes it just flies by. The past year has done both.
When I think of my daughter’s anxiety, depression, psychiatrist, psychologist, counseling, medication, fears and experiences, the year has passed by like a snail on the German autobahn!

But when I think of my dad and last summers long hard walk from hospital to hospice, watching him in agonizing pain despite extremely high dosages of morphine, to the phone call the morning of august 16th that it was over, to the funeral and the immediate grief that takes a hold of the heart when loosing a loved one – this past year has flown by faster than a Star Trek warp drive!

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It feels like it was just the other day that my brother and I went with the pine tree coffin, because dad loved nature so much and I simply couldn’t imagine him in the usual white one. We selected a natural stone and picked the duck, the fish and the stag for decorations on the stone for his burial site.IMG_3201.jpg

 

The grief has come in tidal waves. Some weeks were a lot harder than others. But after a year; grief is still here. I don’t believe we ever get over the loss of a loved on. But in time we learn to live with them being gone. I’m still learning. Every day it gets a teeny tiny bit easier.

There are different kinds of grief. We grieve when losing a loved one, but we also grieve when we learn that our child has anxieties/depression or some other debilitating issue.

That is a devastating grief too and anyone who has lived it, will know it.child-sad.png

I have help from above because I know Jesus is with me. But being a believer does not by any means except anyone from experiencing pain, sorrow, grief and sadness. Jesus experienced all of that too, so that we could have a high priest who understands our weaknesses.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Grief isn’t an illness. It’s a condition of the heart in which weakness is present for the time it takes to process the grief. 

A weakness I can’t handle without the Lord’s help and here’s why: This past year has taught me that grief leaves me vulnerable to temptations, fear, anger, irritability, indulging etc. In other words; It leaves me weak. In the natural process of grieving, I actually sin or do/feel things that can lead to sin.

No’b, I’m not proud of it… But I now understand that Jesus indeed knows every one of my weaknesses. So I can come boldly before His throne and find Grace to help me when I need it the most and that is the light in the middle of dark grief.

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Dear Dad – a throwback (sort of)

We are getting closer to the date that will mark the 6 months, or half year, of your death. I still remember the month of August and the hospice where you spent the last 6 weeks of your life. I remember your ups and downs and I remember my gratefulness of being so richly Blessed to be able to spend the last months of your life with you. The Lord was more than merciful to us, giving us such Blessing when there has been 10.000 km between us for more than 10 years. I remember vividly your smile, your hugs, your room… and your pains. I remember holding your hand when you drifted off into the merciful morphine haze, crying my tears while asking the Lord if He would shorten your suffering. The cancer was in your bones and spreading fast.

Despite your pains dad, you hung on to life. You had such a love for life itself, for the nature around you. You always took pride in knowing the names of the birds and you could whistle like most of these birds. You grew up in the forest. You knew every corner and tree in the deer garden north of Copenhagen because that was your playground. The amusement park down the path there were many friends and friends meant free rides in the rollercoaster. Oh dad… I have heard your stories many times over. You even pointed out the trees grandpa, your own dad, had planted in his job as a so-called lumberjack, when we took a walk through the forest. I loved our walks dad and I will never forget those. They were the highlight of my childhood Saturdays.

As a little girl you meant the world to me. As a teenager you were controlling but generally on my side during my battles with mom. As a young woman you turned to the angrier side, didn’t you. Was it too painful for you to let me go? I sometimes wonder why you became a grumpy one during the years before I found myself a good man. And just when I did, mom passed away. That was some blow wasn’t it!? Just 6 months before that your own mom had passed away and that was hard on you, I remember.

Last year around this time I spoke to you on the phone daily. Sometimes you were sad and cried. Sometimes you were positive and uplifting. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t do more… I wish I could have taken away the pain. You were no whimpy kid – or man. But you suffered during that time and I cried many tears feeling alone and far away. I somehow know that you did too, though you never told me.

We had our arguments in life. But blood is thicker than water. I will never forget the day I had to tell you that your life was coming to an end and that it was okay for you to let go. It wasn’t okay dad, because I didn’t want you to leave… But you had to. We both knew that.

Since you passed away dad, I have carried with me my sketchbook and pencil and tried to draw my way out of the grief. I can tell you that it helps a little to put strokes on the pain of grief I felt and though I had no shock, there was a lot of grief – and now the “missing” part. I will never stop missing you dad. And though I probably will always have a tiny bit of doubt in my heart if you indeed went to be with the Lord Jesus, I take comfort in knowing that you wanted to believe and trusts God that He honored your wish.

I have painted my way through the pain dad and I hope you like it. This is you – your big broad shoulders, wearing your hunting clothes, walking across the field toward your sunset.

I will never stop loving you. I will always be your daughter.

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Happy birthday dad

Dear dad

I have been determined to post a letter to you here on my blog on your birthday. I begin with “today, September 27th, you would have turned 77 years old…” And then I stop and stare and tears well up. I just can’t write this letter yet. I know you are gone and I accept that fact but I’m still learning to live with it. It’s hard dad. So hard. I give myself time to deal with the hard parts – the grief. And yet I push myself to write you a letter on your birthday… Sulking in self pity… Just as I think I’m okay, just as I think I’m back on my feet, grief comes like a tidal wave. I’m sorry dad, but I can’t yet write you the letter I wanted to.

I miss you dad. Clinging on to the hope that heaven is celebrating you.

3 days

It’s been 3 days of something I’m not sure what to call. Putting words on what has happened feels a bit pointless but utterly important. On the inside I’m angry and sad and fearless and brave and a tiny baby who just wants to curl up and forget there is something called “a world”. Confused.

When I went to the hospice 3 days ago to see my dad, I found him in a deep sleep. Well, maybe not so deep but I couldn’t wake him and didn’t make much of an effort to try anyway. The nurse came in and sat down to talk. Nothing really important, but she asked if I had a job I needed to get back to and when school would begin etc.

After she left my dad came to and turned his head towards me asking what I had talked to the nurse about. I was a little surprised he was that conscious… but told him what I had spoken to the nurse about and then said “your life is coming to an end…” but didn’t get further because the look in my dad’s eyes changed into shock and I grabbed his hand holding on tight, telling him “you know that already, dad”. But he began crying saying that he didn’t know. I have no idea how I remained calm in the minutes that followed, but I kept talking to him; “You have lived your life. You did a good job. You made your mark and both your kids are doing fine. We treasure the joy of life you taught us. We are grateful. But it’s okay to let go now, dad. Just relax and breath… just breath. It’s okay…”. Thankfully he then fell back into a deep sleep and I could slowly let go of his hand and walked out.

I was baffled that he didn’t know. I know that he knew. I know that he had been told several times both at the hospital and hospice. I know my brother had asked him some “hard questions” etc. I know that he knew!! Was he in such denial that he simply refused to face it? Did he just forget? Without thinking further I went out to wait for the nurse and when she came, she took one look at me and knew I needed to talk. Inside the reflection room I told her what had happened. Tears just streamed down my cheeks… Even now I can’t grasp the knowledge that I told my dad he is going to die. I know it’s a process for me too, but his reaction was just more than I could take. When I came back into the room I couldn’t make contact and we left shortly after.

Yesterday I came to see him again and he hung on to my hand. His eyes are taking me in, like I don’t think he’s done ever before. He makes the huge effort it is for him to lift his arm and gently touch my cheek. The longing in his eyes to tell me something is just too hard to bear when the man can barely speak. So I told him that I know; “I know, dad. I know you love me. I love you too. Just relax and rest and breath. Nice and easy”. That’s what I tell him. The look of him looking into my eyes… is a sight that will stay with me. But in my heart I wish he would be able to say “it’s okay for me to die now”. But he clings on to life and to me and it’s not that he’s afraid of death. I don’t believe that. But he’s afraid to let go of life. Yes, you can argue it’s the same thing, but I don’t think it is. He fights for the joy of living, not because he fears death. It was really hard to leave him yesterday but he got extra pain relief and fell asleep. Afterwards I talked to the nurses about his need for rest versus the need to have visitors and they suggested a sign they often use on the door that says “I’m resting. Please contact staff”. So let it be written – so let it be done.

Today we arrived and he was in a deep sleep. He hadn’t eaten anything or had anything to drink all morning. We arrived early afternoon and while we were there, the nurse just carefully gave him some club soda on a sponge and with it tried to clean his mouth a bit too. He got a little something down but he can barely swallow. I gave him more later on. He came to life as I read a letter from his cousin, who had sent him a mail via my email. He listened and cried… I guess old memories will do that to anyone. I just keep telling him to relax and breath. Don’t worry about anything, just take it easy. I simply can’t think of anything else to say. He reached his arm out, barely, for a hug and I hugged him the best I could reach. He wouldn’t let go, so it was a long hug. He is so so sad and it makes me so so sad too. I pray I one day can go into death with joy in my heart! For my own sake, but certainly also for those loved ones whom I may leave behind.

The anger I have inside needs to come out somehow. I’m not good company these days! I snap at people, finds all the wrongs and want to blame anyone for anything and even worse, I want to think about all the things I might be able to blame others… Not a good Bible for others to read I can tell you that, but I have no idea how to deal with it.

Pray, Pray, Pray… Thankfully my Lord can handle anything I bring Him. Right now it’s anger and despair. I get angry at my dad’s neighbor when he says he thinks about visiting my dad’s ex-girlfriend (come on, really???!? my dad and him are great friends… couldn’t he at least wait until my dad is gone and buried?!) – and angry at my brother when he says, he’s beginning to understand atheists. He is currently a lot more likely to embrace atheism than Jesus right now. Not that my brother is Christian in any way and in fact often ridicules religions. But he is right when he says “what’s the point of a good man having to suffer like this, when there are horrible criminals dying a pleasant death”… I gotta say – I wonder that too. But like I said in my last prayer “God, I do not understand this!!! But I MUST believe you know what you are doing. But God… it’s really really hard right now”.

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A good day

Today my dad had a good day. He was able to communicate even though he still had trouble speaking and couldn’t really remember many things.

But he had a good day. He ate an ice cream and drank a beer. After days of not getting anything but some fluids to swallow his pills given for his pneumonia.

He had a good day. He was rolled outside to the park in his bed and ate his lunch in the fresh summer breeze.

He had a good day. He is tired and everything happens in slow motion. He must think about things before he does them – such as swallowing. But today he had a good day.

It makes me both happy and sad. Impossible to describe. But he had a good day.

Signs of the time

Last week I woke up in the very late evening after a few hours of sleep. I got out of bed and went to the winter garden, where the summer night sky was still bright as the sun was setting and the moon was high in the sky.
The days before I had been at my dad’s bedside asking and pleading with God how much longer my dad has to suffer. When he is awake and clear minded he is in mental agony knowing that he will never do all the things he wants to and physical pains I can’t even begin to imagine.
Once more I looked up feeling rather numb at the otherwise very beautify sky and I saw two blackish clouds. One behind the other. The one behind was big and shaped like a hand with 4 fingers and a thumb pointing upwards. The cloud in front was shaped like a sitting baby-like shape and it was moving towards the hand, slightly turning as it went.
My mouth made little sound but my lips tried to form the word “GOD!”.
It was an incredible and tear-jerking feeling.
An interpretation? God speaks in a million ways and this was one of them.

This week, my dad had a great day Wednesday. He felt better than he has in weeks and so they lifted him into his wheelchair and he was taken outside for a walk in the park with my brother, then he attended a short worship with communion with some visiting friends and then we came and took him out to see his car and sat with him outside. It was nice to see him in such a state and clear minded too. When it was time to leave the nurses wanted him back in his bed, but in his stubbornness he continued to say no. I can’t blame him… but he ended up being in the wheel chair for about 8 hours.
Thursday, the day after, he was in what we in Danish call “archery-bow” pains.
It describes the way a person will twist and turn in pain without any rest or relief. They ended up giving him a so-called “hammer”, which means he got drugged to the point of complete sleep. Friday he wasn’t given any extra pain relief and though we could make contact with him, we couldn’t actually have a conversation. He had trouble speaking, forming the words and basically drifted in and out of sleep.

Friday morning I found a dead adult hare in my dad’s vegetable garden (where there are no vegetables this year of course). It was removed and tossed in the forest nearby as we do with dead animals here. Saturday morning I saw a cute tiny hare kitten, sitting next to my dad’s car. His beloved car. It tried to hide under it, but couldn’t and ended up running away. I stared into my daughters eyes and told her how amazing God is!
I have no doubt that it was another sign from my Lord that death will come, but it’s not the end. I even wrote my (still unbelieving) husband about it and he saw the symbolism, though not the One Who is behind it.
Still – what an amazing God I love.

I often doubt if my dad truly is saved. I’m only human… My dad told me he believes back in May. Who am I to judge… but I haven’t seen much evidence of His spirit in my dad so far and keeps reminding myself that the walk with Christ begins with baby-milk. I believe God has shown me, answering my prayers, that my dad is saved. Though I may doubt still I must believe that.

Yesterday we took a drive to the viking ship museum. My daughter has been wanting to go since last year. It’s a museum mainly having 5 viking ships exhibited. it’s small – but they have many work shops for kids and my girl made her own necklace hammering in her own design on a “Thor’s hammer”. The ancient northern mythology warrior-god’s hammer.

There I saw how the vikings, who were cruel survivors in a part of the world where literally only the strongest survived, lived and worked and fought. But even the vikings submitted to God’s word… and I bought myself a cross designed by vikings. It’s a part of my own history. Gone from being raised in a culture where I should “fight my own battles”, to be a “warrior” in my time but always feeling empty and in need of more inside – to submitting to the love and strength of Christ. Something I’ll never regret. I too was once a viking… but now I belong to the Lord.

And one day soon, my dad will be with Him in heaven. Not in Valhalla, hell or in nothingness. But in God’s presence.

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Life – keeps going on

I’m having a hard time trying to catch up on emails, texts and phone calls. But I really want to keep this blog up to date and I’m behind “schedule” on this… My dad has been in the hospice now for about 3 weeks. His condition is naturally getting worse, but the hospice is great at handling his pain. The cancer is spreading and is now in his ribs as well as spine and leg bones.

He made it home last week. Monday and Tuesday was excruciating for him and the doctor and nurses recommended against a visit home because of the pain. But just as my dad has lived his life, he took on the responsibility on himself and ordered them to send him home. And Wednesday the nurses sent him off very nervous, but he had a goal: home! Everything went very well. He was tired, but the pain medication worked and he saw his home and garden. He didn’t say anything about returning home once again. All he said was that he was surprised his home was not more razed by the long gone girlfriend. They drove him back and he slept for nearly a day.

He have had visitors we never expected. His younger brother has been there a few times, after not meeting for several years and only at party events. I was told he got a shock when he learned his older brother is in hospice. A cousin drove all the way from northern part of Jutland, one he hasn’t seen since his youth. He have had many “closures” in a sense… and yet – my dad hangs on to life! Despite knowing his condition, knowing he will never walk, hunt, ride a bike, drive, cook, hike, fish, do his garden etc. Despite all this, he still hangs on to life. I wonder if there are other things he needs closure with, but his speech and thoughts are no longer comprehensible. Most of the time he is very unclear. He sleeps more than he is awake and yet still eats pretty well. His morphine dosage was just raised last week and is given through a 24 hour pump, and then he gets a good dose before they wash and clean him.

I pray daily for the Lord to end my dad’s suffering. I know that when the day comes, I will fall to pieces. My heart and my mind are torn.

Not looking at my dad… I’m in a world of non-believers. And in case you wonder how that feels, I can tell you that my opinions and perspective is different and often opposite of what I meet in my daily socializing. Considering I’m not really all that much of a social person… (no, really – I’m not), I have to polish my own glory in a sense and say that I think I’m doing pretty okay. But in the darkness of the night, the few hours it lasts here in the northern hemisphere, the Lord shows me how many ways I have failed Him the day before… It’s just really painful and tough in every way. But I try. I try.

As far as my brother is concerned then he and his family has been very open minded and outgoing, not counting the faith part. He is very fair and keeps his word. For once in our lives we have actually been getting along. Partly due to the circumstances, but he even suggested that they might want to visit Japan one day…. my jar dropped when he said that, but it’s nice to sense an interest in the life of my family and me from their side! Very unusual feeling to put it mildly. There is one thing though that really has been puzzling my mind and that’s my brothers openly resentment towards our mom. Considering she’s been dead for more than 12 years I find it puzzling. He even compared her resemblance with my dad’s long gone girlfriend… which was something that just twisted my insides and curled my toes in surprise. I do hope it’s just a reaction to the circumstances, because if anyone hates dad’s long gone girlfriend, it’s my brother!

The last thing I want to jot down before I close this post, is about my dad’s car. It’s a constant reminder of him. Painful and yet a symbol of his life; The design, the power, the 6 gears and clutch… I’m driving his car at least 1 1/2 hour pr. day and every time I look out the window I can see it. It’s just “My dad!”. It fits him in every way.

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Thou shall not murder

God’s 6th commandment telling us not to murder – or kill, depending on translation – is a temptation I’m very close to these days.
Wait – what? Did she really write that?
Yes, I did.

There is a person whose life I would like to end.
Not in anger but in despair. Not in bitterness but in mercy.
But the Lord’s commandment rings in my ears…

My dad had a great start on the hospice. He likes it there and they are doing a good job keeping him pain free and he can enjoy coming outdoor, in the wild-flower park-like area they have around the 12 rooms, in either wheelchair or in his bed. They will make the food he feels like eating and they are very sweet and caring nurses. It’s a great place with a wonderful relaxed atmosphere and no less than 40 volunteers who comes and bakes, talks, shows movies, sings, plays music etc.

But the past few days my dad’s pain has increased greatly and his mood has gone down again. The mere fact that his girlfriend ended their relationship is taking a big toll on him because he obviously feels let down. After talking to several people I have learned that she was the one provoking the break up and he responded with what she needed to get out of the relationship without carrying the blame of leaving a dying man…

He cries when I give him a hug, he sheds tears if we talk about his death, he is in no way accepting that his life is coming to an end… but the worst part is to see him in such excruciating pains.
The nurse was quite blunt about it: advanced prostate cancer gone to the bones is the most painful cancer to have.
I want to keep my dad alive. But my mind wants the Lord to end my dad’s life.
I’m very tempted to give my dad an overdose – anything that will end his life sooner. In Denmark that’s not allowed and even if it was, it would be against God.

My mind knows it’s very wrong and I’m not allowed access to any medicine that possibly could end his life, so I wouldn’t be able to actually carry it out. Thankfully. But it’s in my heart and thoughts, and – truthfully it’s scary as that’s one commandment I never thought I would battle face on like this.
I’m not talking about the deeper meanings of the commandments like killing someone’s spirit, but the cold hard fact of taking a life. That’s God’s job. Not mine. But my thoughts… and my heart…

Would it be a sin to pray for the Lord to take my dad home soon?

With love in Him

Today is the day – the Lord orchestrated

Today is the day that my dad was moved from the hospital to the hospice.

What I’m feeling is a little hard to describe as it’s a mix of feelings playing on all the keys of my emotional piano; Relieved that my dad will be in a place that’s right for him. Happy that my dad is happy about the move and feels at peace with it. Sad that my dad is in such condition that a hospice is needed. Thankful for the existence of hospice care. Concerned if my dad will not get his wish and come home one last time – and if he does, how will he emotionally respond to it. Happy that my dad and those of us who love him will have experienced and educated people around us to talk to about this ordeal. Sad, happy, sad, happy…

My dad had an emotional day all day. He said goodbye to his nurses at the hospital – with hugs and kisses and tears… had a transport to the hospice (at that time unknowing of what to expect)… was introduced to his doctor there and nurse – and asked some hard questions about life and death that left him in tears… then left to his room where he began calling everyone he knew telling them where he was and how nice it is… then we came and enjoyed the afternoon there… we left around dinner time and my dad was close to his “old self” meaning joking and at times lashing out. Well… I have a feeling that if the pain medication will work, he will sleep quite well tonight.

And so will I.

In Jesus,

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Swept off my feet

If I told you the past week had been a ride beyond description it would be just about accurate. The week began with the hospital starting to talk about sending my dad home. Since I’m here and in his house and since the hospice would prioritize people who are cared for at home it sounded like a great idea.

My concerns were many: Could my dad’s home care helpers handle his pains? They come sudden and strong and frequently. Could my daughter handle his groans of pain? Could I? What would it take for me to care for him at home?… As the week progressed and we reached Thursday, the nurse came and sat down asking what kind of helping equipment was present at home etc. I expressed my concerns and very calmly the nurse told me it wasn’t my concern, but the responsibility of the home care team. Well… if you are the person handling daily things in the home, then “not your concern” rings pretty hollow!

I prayed. I asked my prayer warriors around the world to pray. I cried and begged God to do something, to help me through this, give me strength, patience, endurance, peace of heart…
Well, the Lord did more than that! In a Blast from the Heavens I was swept off my feet: I walked into the palliative care unit room where my dad has resided the past month and found him on the phone –  and a nurse who informed that he had been offered a place in the hospice from this Monday! Praise Him!!…

What is impossible with man, is possible with God!
This is beyond a shadow of doubt the work of the Lord and His answer to prayers. So Amazing that I’m still rather shocked and pretty choked up about it.
The Joy is Amazing. Though it’s a sad time in life and it won’t get easy, He is surely here!

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