Plunging Through Grief

20 Apr

I lost two greats within 6 weeks of each other, my dad who I wrote about in my last blog, and then my dog, Moose. Both were diagnosed with cancer out of nowhere and both passed away quickly after diagnosis; my dad 11 weeks after and my dog, 5 days after-just a little over a week ago. It has been a lot. There are moments the sadness overwhelms me, sometimes without warning. Losing Moose was the tip of the iceberg, and I honestly wasn’t sure I could bounce back from all the grief I’ve collected over the years. Moose was my comfort after my Stage 4 diagnosis, through Alex’s stroke, the global pandemic and lockdown, my sadness over being an empty nester and missing my kids who are all so so far away, my dad’s diagnosis and passing, and all the times in between. Moose was the loving, always present, positive thread throughout the most difficult times. His sudden illness and death was the pin prick that finally popped my already stretched balloon full of grief. 2023 has been rough but SLOWLY I’m feeling life come back without tears attached.

Two things happened this week that helped me a little, the first was a quote I read a few days ago and it impacted me so much that I wrote it on a sticky note and stuck it to my laptop, ‘We live daily and die once, so we must make the most of the time we have.’ ~Dr. Howard Tucker, the oldest practicing doctor alive at 100 years old (he’s in the Guinness Book of World Records). Take a pause right here and repeat, ‘We live daily and die once…’ One thing I remember my mom saying in her grief just moments after my dad passed, ‘We still had so many plans.’ As hard as it was to hear that, it was a reminder AGAIN that life is so brief and we need to steal those moments of joy, but not just that, we need to REMEMBER and make the most of them.

The second thing was an interview on Kelly Corrigan’s podcast with author and journalist, Michael Lewis whose high school daughter died suddenly in a car accident. I resonated so much with his insight as he processed through his grief. First he acknowledged that we all want easy stories, and of course, who wants a life complicated by grief and sadness? But spoiler alert, fairy tales don’t get a happy ending without all the crap in the middle. Next he used the phrase ‘radical gratitude.’ I have heard the phrase ‘radical love’ from therapists and I get it. Radical love to me is loving someone ‘despite’ or ‘even though we don’t agree’, or ‘even though I’d rather not be in the same room as you, I still care.’ I believe in Jesus and I believe his life and death were examples of radical love and I try, I really really try. I’ve never heard the phrase ‘radical gratitude.’

Radical gratitude (to me) means the act of taking all your circumstances, good or bad, and consciously choosing gratefulness. It is the exercise of being completely devastated but still actively searching for one thing, one tiny thing to be thankful for. It’s hard but it’s the magic sauce. In 2008 after years of singing at church, on tv, on the radio, at events, I got cancer in my neck that cut the nerve to my right vocal fold. What once was what I was known for, my identity, and also what I LOVED to do, was gone, but after that surgery and radiation, the cancer was gone too. I was grateful to be alive. In 2009 and 2010 when cancer came back again and again, they took it out without harming anything else even though both were high risk surgeries. And then in 2017 when the cancer traveled to my lungs, well, I’m still here. I have had LOTS of practice, too much practice in my opinion, being devastated and having to focus on things to be grateful for (and not just from having cancer). I’ve learned that grief over what’s lost never goes away, you just build your life around it. Life is NEVER what we expect and most things we can’t control. Grief transforms us and it’s radical gratitude that keeps us soft and hopeful for another day.

I came home tonight from a couple days of travel and broke down. It was the first time in 7 years that I’ve come home from being gone a couple days and my 90lb Moose was not bounding after me, happy and longing for pets and hugs from his human. Ugh, I was so sad..and then I saw a box. It was a care package a friend sent to let me know that she was thinking of me after the loss of my dad and Moose. I cried harder. It was my fairy tale happy ending to the day. That is life, brutal and beautiful. Sure, fairy tales are not real but happy endings happen all the time in the in between. We get to narrate our story, we get to react and grieve how we need to, but practicing radical gratitude is perspective changing. Grief can make us hard or soft and I choose soft because life is too short and too difficult to walk around with that heavy coat of armor. I’ve heard time and again that I don’t look sick. Not everyone who is sick or sad or struggling internally has that on their face, they just carry it in their bodies and hearts. EVERYONE carries some form of hurt and grief from an imperfect life, is it possible to start looking at people from that lens? Yes, and hopefully it changes you and allows for more grace, patience, and understanding. I will caveat this by saying there are still jerks, abusers, and those who cause harm or pain–try to understand where that came from for them and leave it at that; forgive, let go, and radical love them from afar. I’m no expert.

I am still sad, I will be for a long time and it’s ok. I have carried grief around like a siamese twin for years and it has continually broken my heart but I refuse to let it harden my heart. There is still magic. There is still love. God has been so good to me.


3 Responses to “Plunging Through Grief”

  1. Judy Baumhauer April 21, 2023 at 3:39 pm #

    DEAR ANNA, Your words are ALWAYS so inspiring. I feel your grief. Life is NOT FAIR. On April 23, 2021 our precious ELVIS passed away. He had been sick for 1 day and found out that his gall bladder was full and as I held him that night he took his last breath. He had been our “child” from our second marriage. He was the glue that made us a “family again”. He was 16 years old on January 8, 2021 (ELVIS PRESLEY’S BIRTHDAY) and had never been sick before. Dick and I were remarried after our divorce. We knew that we needed another dog to fill our lives and our hearts after ELVIS passed away. Each time we thought that we have rescued a fur baby – someone else got them first. Our niece called us from Clare, MI to say that there was a litter of puppies at an Amish Greenhouse and she had spoken for 1 or them. The mom was a miniature Aussie Shepherd and the dad was a miniature poodle. She sent photos to us and we were on our way to see them. There were 4 puppies, 1 female and 3 males. The female was already spoken for and our niece wanted the all black male puppy, that left 2 other little males. Dick and I each held one of them. How do we decide??? Dick said we would take both of them. We went back the next Saturday and paid for them and brought them home with us. Dick had already picked out the names – BEAU – handsome and TOBY – from Tobias from the Bible. We were so blessed to have these 2 little guys. On Monday our niece called from RO Beaumont Hospital with COVID. Dick got tested and was also positive so he kept himself upstairs away from me and the “boys”. Several days later he wanted to see about getting the antibodies but had to have his blood checked. I took him to a Beaumont Urgent Care and he never had a chance to have anything done because his oxygen was in the 50’s and they sent him immediately to Troy Beaumont by ambulance with the lights and sirens going. We were not able to even see him for days and then he was put on a VENT which meant he was worse and had no hope of recovering. I was there when they took him off of the vent and he was gone. Dick and I had known each other since 2nd grade in Ferndale. He kissed me in the school lobby in about the 4th or 5th grade. My family moved to Royal Oak in the beginning of my sixth grade and I never saw Dick until we were in high school at a Christmas Eve service in a little Methodist church in Ferndale. The rest is history – we started dating and got married right out of high school in 1963. We had our son, Richard II, in 1967 and our daughter, Beth, 1971.
    We had moved from Royal Oak to Clawson where Dick had a new job. I also got a part-time job at the elementary school and actually retired from there after 27 years – lunch mom, safety patrol and service squad leader and then the secretary.
    I am so blessed to have my “little guys”. They love me so much and I love them beyond words. My life will never be the same without Dick here. He had a mid-life separation – divorced after 29 years married but were remarried after much counseling – for 16 years before he died. I was tested for COVID and was positive with no symptoms and was able to get the anti-body infusion.
    I don’t think I will ever get over the loss of Dick and Elvis but I am so BLESSED to have Toby and Beau – they are now 2 years old. My heart goes out to you and know that GOD is with us both.

  2. Joey Fritz April 22, 2023 at 2:18 pm #

    Brave and courageous grief- we must let it happen or we never will be able to heal but it will always be with us . Deep love = Deep grief

  3. Jennifer Mendoza April 23, 2023 at 2:29 pm #


    div dir=”ltr”>❤️ Another gre

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