Tuesday, September 16, 2008

chaos and panic

I don't know what's wrong with me. I went to the first support group meeting for people and their children experiencing trauma and met some other young widows. Liv met other children who have gone through similar experiences (loss of a large magnitude...not exact experiences, but similar). It felt good to see what other widows looked like. They don't look like they have black holes for eyes sockets as I feel I do at times. They don't look as lost as I'm sure they feel. I would pass them in the grocery store and be unaware that we are part of the same awful group that no one wants to be part of. I didn't think I'd cry or feel overwhelming emotions. But I did.
Now, I'm not sure if it is the cold that I'm fighting that is causing me this difficulty or if it was the resurfacing of fresh wounds but I spent the night and some of today fighting off panic attacks. Waves of terror. Feelings of losing control and fainting. Heart beating like a drum at an african dance. I am not liking this new transition. I feel scared to go out today. I am nervous of being alone. I am scared.
I keep hearing about the five stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I feel that I have felt all of these at various times in this journey. But I keep feeling them again and in different orders. Who made up this list? I want to ask them a few questions? Like, how do they think that grieving can be such a cut-and-dried process. Can you go backwards? Can you feel a multitude of these things in this confusingly simple list?
I hate this person. I hate this situation. I hate all of this. I want to be free of it, this goddamned stupid backpack of fucking pain, for just awhile. I want to sleep and rest and come at it fresh faced in the morning. But there is no reprieve. No break. Just varying waves of varying heights.
Just when I think I have things slightly figured out, they fall apart worse than before.


Tricia Moran said...

I am a first time commentator. I know what I say probably won't help, but I did want you to know that I think you are amazing. You are so right, whoever put the book in order had never gone through grieving, had they? It is a seemingly endless process of ups and downs and highs and lows. It is not cut and dried, nor black and white and nor should anyone going through it, have to feel that it's supposed to be a certain way.

I can only say from my heart that I am truely so, so sorry that you lost your true love and husband and father. That is almost too much to fathom. There are no words, but saying nothing is not good either. You need to be supported, acknowledged and accepted. You are doing the hard job of having to go on for your children and be the wonderful mother that you are. In the midst of all that pain, cling to the fact that these beautiful little children love you with all they have. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to be sad and scared and panicky though. Who would expect otherwise.

I came across your blog when I was reading Matt's. I felt an instant connection with you. You share my passion for giving your children soul love and letting them be the people that they were born to be. That's especially hard in our society. I love the Waldorf methods and as a teacher, wish that I could apply them all to every child. Unfortunately, we could not afford Waldorf school either but did put my little girl in Montessori for a few years. I struggle every day with having her in regular school. I yearn to homeschool, but she loves school and doesn't want to be home with me. I think my Micaela and your beautiful little girl are very similar in spirit. They are emotional beings and feel things deeply. It was such a wise choice to keep your little one close during this painful time. You both need that.

Please don't think I'm an expert on anything. Least of all grief. I have not lost a husband to death, but my family unit was broken up. I know that my grief has been deep and intense. I can't even imagine what yours feels like. I just wanted to share a little bit of my heart with you. I know that often, well-meaning friends who say nothing to me about my situation actually cause pain inadvertently. People are fearful of grief. And you are too. It is an all-consuming process.

I hope that you can have some peace in the next week. You take such beautiful pictures. That must be cathartic for you. You sound like an amazing person - mother and I know your heart aches like it will never stop.

I would just love to be of some encouragement and probably am not doing anything of the sort! If you ever need to talk I'll add my email onto the bottom here.

Hold on there jackie. You are so brave and courageous to write down your feelings. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you feel you need it either. I had panic attacks that were severe after post-partum depression and when I was finally treated, I felt such relief.
Like you, I love natural remedies, but in my case it was necessary to take medication for a while.

I hope that you have a better day here and there. I hope that you find a reprieve from the exhausting grief. I know that your children are so loved. You should be proud to be able to do that right now. They are totally precious.

Sorry this is so long, my heart just broke for you when I read about your pain.

with love and prayer,
Tricia (Mom of 2) N.Virginia, USA

Tricia Moran said...

Sorry, my blog is irishsamomspeaks.blogspot.com !

PB and Jazz said...


I have no words that I feel can truly help. I am thinking of you, praying for you and pulling for you.

Anonymous said...

Another lurker from Matt's blog. My heart goes out to you. I think of you & Matt often, and shake my head as if to come out of some 'unreality' back to a reality where neither of you experienced the tragedies that you experienced. And I am just a stranger. I can't imagine what it feels like to be going thru this. But just know that there is a community of people thinking of you and praying for you & your little ones. I hope that writing today's post was therapeutic for you. My heart breaks for you.

Just remember, you are doing an awesome job. Your children are so lucky to have an amazing mom like you. So keep putting one foot in front of the other.

cara said...


darcie said...

creepy darcie here with nothing to say that will make you hurt any less ~ but I wanted you to know that even though you feel alone - you are not.
I know a place you could show up this Sunday where you and your young un's would be mobbed by more creepy stranger friends than you could count...
hang in there Jackie - it will get better - it just HAS to!

Rach said...

Darling Jackie,

I now know a little bit of what you are going through. Of course no-one ever wants to know what it is really like to suffer such a enormous tragedy. I have been having panic attacks too and at times have wanted to punch complete strangers in the face. Like really want to punch them and hurt them. I know I never would but the guy at the gates the other day nearly got it and I treated my lawyer really badly over the phone (I did call and apologise for this one). I can't see that I will ever feel the same again. I don't think either of us will but we will just learn to 'cope' with it I suppose. I know our losses are different - a husband and a baby but our grief can be all consuming. Its still very raw for me and I spend a great deal of the time in a fog.

I too wish you were just down the road...Rach x

Sol from Argentina said...

You are more brave & strong than you believe!
Besos y abrazos

Anonymous said...


You've been surrounded by grief now for over 5 months. Can you trade your grief back pack in for a comedy filled one? Try looking for the absurd in every situation. Rent or watch tons of comedies. Read the comics in the newspaper, go to a comedy show, surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Ignore this if it all sounds stupid to you, but I think being able to laugh will help pull you through.

leigh in the sav said...

there are no rules. i am so sorry that you have been panic stricken - i can't imagine a more uncomfortable, frightening feeling. you ARE doing things right and well - so if anything don't beat yourself up about feeling anger after bargaining, or whatever - just let it out. even it means screaming and punching inanimate objects (although - i caution you not to hurt yourself:) ) but all the while - through all of this pain - please know - that it really will be ok. you have too many people looking out for you... and you have the right outlets (your photos are beautiful, as are your kiddos).

we all love you so. (hope that doesn't sound too stalker-y - just a simple truth)

Anonymous said...

Panic attacks suck beyond belief, I speak from experience. If you aren't already talking to a professional I would suggest it. They can't take away the pain but they can help you to learn breathing/coping mechanisms to help at least defuse the panic. I know its difficult but when in the midst of one try to remember that they're temporary and they will pass and that your body and mind are just working through the pain and unfortunately rebelling against you. You're doing awesome! Be kind to yourself, you will get through this!

Molly in Minneapolis

maureen in the pa said...

Jackie-I just read an article, and I can't remember where, that said exactly what you decribed... that grieving is not a linear process. That people can move back and forth between stages, or feel all at once, or "regress" tp earlier stages, etc. There are no rules...you are entitled to feel any way you want, and thats perfectly normal...
I so wish that there was an answer to this. Panic attacks are very scary. Maybe seeing a pro would be beneficial, if for no other reason than to have a "sounding board" to vent, etc. I'm not saying you need to, just that some people find it helpful...
I know it doesnt make anything better, but know that the Creeps love you and would do anything we could to help you...

indybarb said...

Dear Jackie:

Today I am sending you huge PEACE vibes to help settle your soul. My heart aches for you, and I am crying with you. My life experiences are different from your, but those panic attacks are totally nerve racking. It's hard to grieve and carry on with life at the same time. It just seems to be too much, but as mothers we have to keep plodding along because little ones constantly remind us how much they need us. I wish I was there to take over your heavy load today so that you could just grieve and deal with one thing at a time, instead of many things at once. I pray that there is one sparkle of hope in your day today.

Big hugs,


Sol from Argentina said...

HOLA Jackie
I Don't have "english" words to express how sorry I am.
I have suffered for panic attacks and it is a "feelings" that ONLY people who has felt it could understand.
Please try to stay CALM (I know it is no an easy task) and when you start feeling like "dying" (sorry if the word is "hard" but I think it is the way that I used to feel when panic attacks started) TAKE big breaths (inhale/exhale slowly) and THINK you are NOT HAVING something wrong)
Hope my english translation of what I did during MY attacks is GOOD enough and could help you.
Sending you GOOD VIBES from down here

P.S. I was under a treatment called emdr & helped me a lot! here is the english link...just in case.. http://www.emdr.com/

Crash Course Widow said...

I guess as a woman who was widowed at 27 with a small child, I *can* say I've been where you are. Obviously not identical situations, as I'm not you and you're not me, but I've been there. And I remember that panic at being around other young widows, other people grieving, all too well. Because seeing THEM was what forced me to start to realize that this was real, that Charley really did die, that he wasn't just away on an extended trip or something rational.

I remember, very distinctly, shaking and trembling as I had to talk to the grief counselor who runs our widowed support group that very first time. The first time I went to a social gathering (a brunch) with some stranger widows from the YWBB, at which I knew none of them, I couldn't look at anyone. I couldn't make eye contact, could barely speak, could barely keep from crying the whole time. Because seeing them made my horror real. Around 4 months was when I stopped being so acutely numb and when the grief started really hitting...and everything you describe sounds pretty darn normal for 5 months out. You're in a really bad stretch right now, after the initial numbness has worn off, people have started going back to their regular lives, and as you're facing down the 6-month mark. Where you are right now is very, very hard.

And those five stages of grief are utter crap, by the way...IMHO. But even the author of them (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) said they were never intended to be neat, tidy, linear buckets either. They're useful in a vague sense, but they've gotten so warped and misinterpreted by the public over time that they tend to cause more anxiety rather than helping to feel a sense of relief and normalcy...or at least that was my experience and my opinion.

Hang in there, Jackie. Sending you many, many, many hugs and support from Portland.