It's been a long time since I lost my parents - 20 years for my dad, 15 years for my mom, and still grief is a constant companion of mine. In today's episode I am reflecting on my own grieving process and what it looks like, so many years later.
Colorful words may be used. don't be alarmed.
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I'm going to open this episode up with a quick trigger warning. Um, I'm going to be talking about loss in this episode, loss of parents specifically, um, and. So, if that is something that you are not in a place to think about right now, then I will not have any hard feelings. If you choose to just move onto something else.
May I suggest a previous episode I had recently where I talked about my self-care stuff, because that could be a good thing to reflect on instead. Let's jump into it. My name is Cindy Guentert-Baldo. Welcome to the uncurated life podcast, where we talk about how we live our lives, both on the internet and off of the internet.
And one thing that I think hasn't changed in the age of the internet is great. I don't think it has fully changed. At least I'm sure it has evolved in some sense, but we as humans grieving as a part of life, because loss is a part of life. It, we are we're social animals, right? We don't, um, we're not meant to be in a complete silo on our own for our entire lives.
There are going to be people who come into our lives and go out of our lives. And when they go out of our lives, whether it is via. Just moving on, whether it is via breakup, whether it is via drifting apart or whether it. Death. When people go out of our lives, there is usually at least some amount of grief.
There's also grief that we have for ourselves. When like something changes. We evolve, we change jobs, we move there's a change in our lives. And there is often a level of grief that comes with thinking about. Your previous life, even if you're happy with your new life, there is sometimes a level of grief that comes with that new part of you today, specifically, though, I am going to be reflecting on grief and loss.
When it comes to losing somebody very important to you. For me, it was my parents and what it feels like so many years later, because. When it's immediate, it's not always easy to think into the future, how you might be feeling. And I want to speak to the perspective of that, especially for people who might be grieving right now, so that you can kind of hear about it from somebody who is farther down that path.
So to give you some context, um, my dad died 20 years. I was 21. He was 40. It happened right after September 11th happened. He died of a stroke. He had a brainstem aneurysm brought on by PK D, which is the kidney disease that I also have. And he, he had a brainstem aneurysm. He went brain dead and we had to take him off of life support.
Five years later. So 15 years ago almost to the day this podcast is going live, like it's right in this week, my mom died. My mom died suddenly in her sleep. We never found out what the cause was. The autopsy didn't show anything. She just died when they each time. When my dad died, I was 21 in a new relationship with my soon to be husband.
And then ex-husband when my mom died. Um, I was the parent of both of my kids at that point. My oldest was three and my youngest was just about to turn one. My baby sister was pregnant with her oldest. Right around that same time, we actually wound up having to move Becca's baby shower because my mom's funeral wound up being on the day of Becca's baby shower.
I didn't deal with my grief very well when both parents. Either of them. I am the oldest of three sisters and I very much went into mama bear mode. My mom, when my dad died, fell apart, she, he was her high school sweetheart. They'd been together for 21 years at that point. I mean, they've been married for 21 years at that point and she was not expecting to lose her husband when she was 40.
And then when my mom died, It was like, fuck, really? Like, we just, just did this, you know, so both times I kind of pushed my grief off to take care of others and then it came back and it hit me like a freight train later, especially when I had cat, uh, after my dad died, I had cat a couple of years later and, um, the postpartum depression hit me really hard with a bunch of unresolved grief.
It took me a good amount of time to really not be in like full blown meltdown, every few minutes mode. But as the years have gone on. It's evolved. Now, when I was doing some research for this podcast, before I started recording it, I actually learned about something called prolonged grief, which is not what I have.
I'm not going to suggest that I have that, but it is interesting. And if you are somebody who is, who is more than a year out from a big loss and it still feels real, like it just happened every single day. You may have prolonged grief, prolonged grief is an actual thing. So I'm going to read, I'm going to read kind of a description of it.
Prolonged grief generally presents as an inability to adapt the loss. You wake up and feel like it's brand new over and over again. Uh, it was added to the, um, diagnostic manual of mental disorders saying that it is grief that persists for one year or more. And according to the article I found, uh, prolonged grief.
One of the hallmarks of it is that usually. Usually the treatments that are used for like people with like severe depression, don't work on people with prolonged grief. It's, it's different than that. And it can actually bring increased health risks, but they are starting to work on it and work on specific treatments for prolonged grief.
Are more effective. So if you are somebody where the grief feels raw and fresh every minute of every day, even more than a year out, definitely seek help for prolonged grief because that's generally speaking when you lose someone, grief is not the same for everybody, but it does start to evolve. As time goes on and we adapt to it.
And that's what I want to talk about because that is where I'm at and where I've been for several years. So the best way I can describe being 20 years out from suddenly losing one of my parents and then 15 years from the other parent is that it's become my. It's become one of the many companions that kind of ride alongside me every day.
They don't, they're not very talkative. That particular, that grief companion is not talkative, does not stick, like is not constantly whispering in the back of my mind. Like some of my other companions are, you know, But, but it's there. One of the things I have learned in these past years is how to recognize the things, the triggers that will bring that little grief companion to the forefront.
Because what I have learned is that I have learned to live with it. It has not become over time. It is no longer the first thing I think about it is no longer at the forefront of my mind. But it's there. And when it does get brought to the surface, it hurts and it hurts in so many ways that are similar to the way it hurt.
When I lost my parents, even that pain has been blunted just a little bit. But rather than a constant low grade feeling of grief, it's more like, kind of quiet. And then every once in a while something will happen and it'll bring it to the surface and I'll have a good cry. And one of the things I've learned over the years is to keep an eye out for the things that tend to trigger it now, to be fair, there are often things that trigger it that I'm not expecting.
And then I get hit with an unexpected wave of it. But generally speaking, I can tell there are certain kind of specific things. One is certain Elton John songs. I've made no secret of the fact that I love Elton John and B. There are certain Elton John songs. I can't listen to without crying like a baby. I have I can't picture things in my mind.
I can't picture my parents' faces. My dad loved Elton John and he loved to play piano and sing Elton John songs. And when I hear goodbye, yellow brick road and Daniel, which are the two hardest ones for me, goodbye, yellow brick road and Daniel. There's a few others as well, but those two are like the top.
When I hear them, it's like, I can smell my dad again. I can, I can smell him. And it's visceral and it just sends me, I don't actually have something like that for my mom. I don't have something that just full blown Rex me the way, the way that that does. Well, that's not true. I have a recording of my mom singing Patsy.
Cline's. If I listened to that, that wrecks me. But I wonder if the reason that I am so, like my it's memories of my dad that really sent me because you know, my mom and I want up having a really closer, close relationship as adults as I started having kids, even though she moved away, I there's two reasons.
I think my, my grief from my mom is not quite as visceral as my grief from my. A I lost my dad when I, he was my first major loss. I had lost like great-grandparents and shit. And like a friend in high school, my aunt had had cancer, but survived it. But like, my dad was my first real loss and I was 21. And then I got diagnosed with PKD right afterwards.
So it threw me for a loop. So there's that, but also, and I think this one might be a bigger piece of it. I never got closure with my mom, my dad, we saw him in the hospital. He, we all got a chance. My, my mom, my sisters, I was living an hour and a half away. They came and got me. We went to the hospital, we all got to see him.
My dad's siblings got to see him before he died is still living ones. My grandparents were there. Like everybody got to say goodbye to him before we pulled the plug. My mom died in her sleep in Bakersfield, down in Southern California. We never even saw her body. We saw her after she was cremated. So there's a level of like unreality, I think.
Whereas with my dad, it was much more like in your face. And so I think that might be part of it, but I'm not sure. I guess that big, the reflection that comes out of this though, is I find it extremely important to recognize the things that, um, can trigger a wave of grief. Although I will also say that when I do cry, like there have been times I've purposefully put on Elton John songs to have a good cry because it's cathartic, you know, it doesn't send me into a deep depression the way you used.
So if you're a deep in grief right now, that might be something for you to hang on to, to know that grief might be horrifying to you right now and, and unwelcome. But that the way I see it now, when I grieve either of my parents or both of my parents, whether it's a super hard cry or whether it's just like a wistful thought.
It's a reminder of how much I loved them and having that strong feeling still bubble up even 20 years later. It's it's, it's a reminder to me that I. I loved them and that they were a major part of my life. You know, part of the thing I'm really reflecting on today when I'm recording, this is that I'm 42.
I was 21. When my dad died, I have officially reached a point where I, uh, have lived longer on this earth.
Well, I've lived as long, probably not longer yet because it hasn't hit his anniversary yet. But I'm at a point now where I've lived as many years on this earth without my dad, as I did with him. And it hasn't changed the things he taught me or the memories I have or the way I still think about him. I don't grieve my parents every day, but I think about them every day throughout the course of my day in natural way.
And that's also comforting to me
when I cry, when I smell. Cause like I said, the Elton John songs, another big trigger for me of grief with my dad is the certain scent. It's a mixture of like, like motor oil and pot, which my dad smell cigarettes too. Sometimes, especially when I'm doing, like getting my car worked on, I catch a whiff of that smell and it throws me.
But again, It's just a reminder. There were a lot of times with my parents where things were hard. We grew up in poverty, like lots of hard times, but the love I had for my parents and the love and the memories, all the hard things, they're still there. And I remember them and I think about them when I need to, but like, I'm able to reclaim a little bit of the joy.
And I think that was one of the hardest things when I was deep in the initial stages of. Was, it was very hard for me to really find joy in memories because all I could think about with my memories was how much I missed the people I lost. And now that that grief has evolved into being something I can predict a little bit more.
I'm able to really embrace all of the memories and even embrace the grief. You know, when I started to think about doing this podcast episode, I was thinking I could reflect on, okay, 20 years later, this is kind of where it's at. And I think as I've been sort of talking through this with you all, I think the thing I'm really reflecting on the most is that the best way I can describe losing someone close to you.
Suddenly, I don't, I don't know about with a long illness. The people I've lost in my life with long illness have not been as close to me as my parents, but I lost both my parents suddenly. So I don't know for sure about the feelings that come with like caregiving and survivor's guilt, but what I will say,
the reflection, I think that my biggest takeaway from this. Is that I welcome my little grief buddy. We've learned to live with each other. We've reached, we've reached a, a mutually beneficial relationship. We have figured out a way to co-exist and find some amount of benefit.
I welcome. The memories of my parents now I welcome the times I cry and I welcome the times when it's hard. And I remember them because again, it just reminds me of how much I loved them. Now I recognize. That grief does not always take that form for people that your grief might be complicated because he might've had a complicated relationship with someone.
And I recognize how lucky I was that the issues that we had growing up were not something that traumatized me to a point where, like, I couldn't wholeheartedly love my parents. I had phenomenal parents. They weren't responsible. They weren't great with. But they loved the shit out of us and taught us to be healthy and how we love people.
So I recognize that everybody's grief is different and that sometimes it can be more complicated than that, but I can't speak to that experience because it isn't the experience I've had, but I can speak to the experience of being 20 years out from a major loss and having it still cut down. But that those cuts remind me.
They bring me back to a time when I had someone I loved so deeply in my life and that I can be 21 years out from it. And still to this day. Remember how powerful that love was in my life. And that is the lesson I take from my grief. And that is the reason I'm fine with metal grief, buddy, hanging out in the car, even if they're quiet most of the time.
And I hope that if you're grieving someone right now that one day you'll be able to come to peace with your little grief buddy, too, but just know it's a process and that there's nothing wrong with. For being where you are. And then if you are struggling with acute grief, more than a year after the fact, talk to your doctor about potentially having prolonged grief, you don't have to suffer.
You can work. There are things you can do anyway, with all that being said, I'd love to hear from you about your experiences with grief. Let me know, and thank you to my patrons for sponsoring this episode as usual www.patreon.com/cindyguentertbaldo to find out more take care of yourselves. I love you.
Big hugs. I might go listen to goodbye yellow brick road now and give myself a good cry, but I'll be welcoming that good cry until next time, my friends peace out.