Tag Archives: #dad

Bah Humbug.

Yes, that’s how I feel this time of year, and I don’t even feel bad saying it. As much as I try I just don’t see the holidays as the same joyous time as everyone else, and it is really challenging when you feel like you have a heart made of coal when everyone else is rocking a heart made of candy canes and sugar plums.

November marked the second anniversary since we lost my father, and since his death came right around Thanksgiving, the holidays that year and ever since have changed for us. That first year I refused to acknowledge the holiday, and I did not put up a tree or any decorations. The gifts I purchased were wrapped in paper that could pass for a birthday present. Last year, I kind of tried….I did the tree thing, baked a little bit, and still refused to send out Christmas cards or wrap in festive paper.

This year I am trying a little harder. I put up two gorgeous trees in my house; one a frosted pine that has all of the ornaments given to me by my parents over the years, and the other a glitter tree that is Kate-tastic with a capital K. Our mantle is decorated, and I will be baking like crazy in a few weeks. Wrapping…..well, let’s just say I found Christmas doughnut wrapping paper, so that’s the theme of this year. I ordered Christmas cards, and if I ever finish addressing them they will be in the mail. Im trying.

From the outside it seems as though I’m into the holiday this year, but don’t be deceived. I am actually struggling more this year than I did that first Christmas, and I’m not sure why I am stepping back in my grief journey.  I was talking to some people in my grief support group about it and don’t know if it is because since my dad’s death I have lost both my grandmothers, one just a few months ago, and this entire time of year is laced with dates tied to their passings, funerals, or memorials, or if it is something else.

As I sit here and try to deal with my own grief I often think about how insensitive I was before my family suffered these losses. I remember giving friends grief when they told me they hated the holidays. I remember trying to push certain friends into partaking into holidays traditions with me, even when they made it clear they didn’t want to. I just couldn’t get that people could hate such a beautiful time of year.

Now here I am, one of those people. Nothing is worse than someone saying “Are you excited for the holidays?” and answering with “No”, then given either a dirty look or a hard time because of your answer. It’s also the time of year where there are parties and events going on constantly, and I struggle being able to go to any of them. To me, I am that Grinch in the group that doesn’t want to participate, and I am always afraid if I attend I will be the Debbie Downer in the group that will ruin the fun for everyone. It’s not a good feeling. And, unfortunately, I have many friends who have recently suffered significant losses that are joining me in the “Eff the holidays” club.

For those of you struggling this time of year, here are some things that I have found are somewhat helpful, at least to me:

1. Incorporate your loved one into the holiday in some way. 

This is probably the hardest thing to do. For me, I struggle with family gatherings and the traditions we used to do because I sit there the entire time and can’t help but think about the empty chairs at the table and who is missing. And yes, I know that our loved ones are there with us in spirit, but that doesn’t make it easier. An important thing to do is decide what traditions you want to keep and what you want to change, then add a new tradition for your loved one(s).

Last year my mom and I learned about The White Envelope Project, and we decided to make that a new tradition in honor of my dad. I supported a pet rescue last year and will be doing the same this year, as my dad was a huge dog lover.

Every year my dad would request I make him a batch of anise pizzelles when I made the basic ones for the family. I continue to make him a batch now. I cried the entire time last year, and I guarantee I will this year, too, but making these cookies that he loved makes me feel a little comfort.

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The White Envelope Project

2. Try to maintain your usual routine.

For me, that includes getting in my workout every day, completing the basic business tasks that I do daily, and acting like the holidays are just another day. I need that routine to keep myself from falling into a deeper black hole. Doing things that make you feel normal will help.

3. Be honest with your family and friends. 

It’s challenging for me sometimes to tell my friends the reasons why I don’t want to attend certain holiday functions. I know that just because I am dealing with grief doesn’t mean they are, but you need to open the lines of communication. Let others know you are needing support and a little extra love this time of year. There’s no shame in saying “I need help” or “I can’t do this” in relation to a certain event, and your loved ones will understand.

4. Connect with a grief support group online or in your area, or seek assistance from a counselor. 

DO NOT feel weird about talking to someone about your feelings and issues this time of year, or any time of year to be honest. I do it regularly, and I have found a lot of comfort from individuals in these groups. Sometimes just talking to someone who has gone through the exact same thing you have gone through helps.

5. Do not feel guilty if you do something that brings you joy.

I’ve struggled with this one a lot…..how can I have a good time when a huge part of my heart is missing?  Your loved ones want you to continue living life, so do things that may make a dark time a little lighter. Laughing and spending time with friends and family doesn’t mean you don’t miss them like crazy. I do my best to still talk about my dad if I am having a good time or hanging out with people who maybe didn’t know him because I feel like he is still a part of things if he is in the conversation here and there.

6. Always have an exit strategy. 

One thing that has happened to me since losing my dad is that I have moments that hit me where I go into a complete emotional meltdown without warning. Sometimes a song comes on…..sometimes I just see something that reminds me of him and it hurts my heart….I never know. But when it happens, I need to get the hell out of dodge, and I need to get out fast. Since this happens a lot, especially this time of year, I always drive separate so I can make sure I’m not stuck where I am and can get home or out of the crowded area I’m in fast. Have a plan in case this is something you are experiencing. For me, it helps me feel as if I have a little control over those moments.

7. Minimize gifts. 

I feel all too often people go overboard with the holidays. Do we really need ALL that stuff? I used to be one of those overboard people….I just loved buying and getting gifts.  Ever since my dad’s death my thoughts have changed. I don’t need things. I just want to be around those I care about and spend as much time with them as possible. Things are just things……but people and memories….those are what matters. Focus on the important things instead of trying to one up someone else with a bigger, shinier, more expensive gift. In the grand scheme of life it won’t matter.

8. TRY not to eat/drink your feelings. 

As someone who used to do this all the time, I know how tempting it can be. I’m not saying to not #treatyoself here and there, but don’t sit down in front of the cookie table and inhale dozens. It won’t help things, and you will end up feeling worse about it in the long run.

9. Volunteer and do good. 

I feel good donating for The White Envelope project, but I also try to get involved volunteering or helping others in need. There are soup kitchens needing help with holiday meals for the homeless, people who don’t have jackets to wear during the cold, animals who need shelter, children who won’t have any gifts to open on Chrismas day….do something that can help them but also make you feel good.

10. Give yourself grace.

Not everything has to be perfect, you don’t have to have it all together, and it’s okay if you cry. Focus on the things and people who make you happy and can’t help you get through these challenging times.

And for those of you reading this who may ask things likes “Are you excited for the holidays?” or “Why don’t you like Christmas?” etc, think before you ask….and if you do ask, don’t give someone a hard time if they don’t answer how you think you should. And DON’T call us Grinches, Scrooges, Assholes, whatever…..we are doing our best to get through the holidays and not ruin yours.

Thinking of all of you who are doing your best to get through the holidays and sending you peace and comfort.

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame

As I sit here writing this blog we are minutes away from the first game of the 2016 World Series. I can’t begin to share how excited I am for the Cubs and Indians to battle it out for the title.

I am excited for the city of Cleveland and for the Indians…they have had an amazing year and Cleveland is such a great city….I like that good things are happening here and that the fans who have suffered many disappointments over the years have had some reasons to celebrate. I root for the Indians 99% of the time…..

The 1% of the time I don’t is when they are against the Cubs.

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Cubs Hat, Wild Thing Shirt. Baseball Balance. Until now.

I have to be honest…the moment the Cubs won the National League pennant I became extremely emotional. How incredible that after years and years and years of baseball heartbreak they would be heading to the big dance! I could watch this moment over and over again.

I was so excited they were heading to the World Series but was so brokenhearted that the #1 Cubs fan ever would not be able to see the game.

My dad.

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My dad at Wrigley Field in August 1999. 

This week I was called a bandwagon fan by more than one person. It irritated me. I understand any championship creates a plethora of bandwagon fans, I do. My family and I….yeah, we don’t fall in that category. You want to call me a bandwagon fan? Go ahead. But I know that if you do you don’t have the slightest idea who I am or anything about my dad, and that makes me kind of sad.

My brother and I were raised on the Chicago Cubs. Our basement was a Cubs fortress…the epic man cave. My dad not only loved his beloved Cubs, but baseball in general, and anyone who walked into our house knew it. There were so many unique pieces in my dad’s collection….from legit seating from Municipal stadium to autographed home plates to statues of baseball icons. So many wonderful memories in that space of my dad’s…..Christmas mornings (he even had a Cubs tree)…..laughter….runs on the treadmill my dad had positioned to still be able to catch the Cubs games on the tv….so many memories I miss more than I could ever say.

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When our two golden retrievers had a litter of puppies, the bulk were named after Chicago Cubs players….Ryno was named after my dad’s favorite, Ryne Sandberg….Gracie was after Mark Grace, the Cubs first baseman at the time….Sammy after Sammy Sosa. My brother and I each got to name one puppy, but we opted for the basketball route because at the time we were obsessed. Mine was Pippen, after my favorite athlete of all time, Scottie Pippen, and Zack named his Barkley after Charles Barkley (yes, my brother was a Suns fan….his room was once purple and orange).

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Man, we look sweet here. 

The majority of my dad’s wardrobe…..Cubs clothing. His tattoo: the Cubs logo. He lived for Cubs baseball, and because of his love for the team, we all grew up loving them, too. His tombstone even has the Cubs logo etched in it because they were that important to him.

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My dad lived his entire life waiting for this series. Even though he loved the Cubs, he always respected Cleveland teams and enjoyed watching and cheering on the Indians as well. I remember watching the fireworks at the Indians game with him last year the night before my wedding. The hotel we all stayed at provided the best view of them after the Indians won. I remember telling him this year we had to make time for a game. This series would have been the ultimate for him to see. I wish this was the game we were going to together.

This series will be as painful as it will be exciting. It’s exciting to see your team get to this point….but it is another sad reminder that the person who would enjoy it the most isn’t here to watch the games with us. I will forever cheer on my Cubbies…not just for me, but for my dad as well. Even though I selfishly want to be watching this with my dad, I can’t help but think that he had a front row seat watching it with Babe Ruth and Harry Caray and all of the other baseball greats that he loved.

Saturday is my dad’s birthday, and I’m hoping for a Cubs win to celebrate it. In my mind there couldn’t be a better way to honor him that day.

Bandwagon fan? Hell no.

I’m just a Daddy’s girl who grew up wanting to be like her daddy and loving the things that he loved.

Let’s go Cubbies….this series is for DSS!

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Cheering on the Cubbies!

 

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Rant of the Week: Not my problem.

There are some things in my life that I will always, always do.

I will always shower and wear deodorant.
I will always talk in a baby voice when I see a puppy.
I will always turn the radio off in the car when I get lost.

And I will always, always, ALWAYS talk about my dad.

A few weeks ago I had an acquaintance on Facebook private message me about the loss of my father. Initially I thought she was coming from a kind place , but I quickly realized that the message she sent was more about HER than about me or any pain I was going through. In her words, me talking about the loss of my father and my grief made her uncomfortable, and she felt that discussing things like that on a social platform was not appropriate. She encouraged me to keep my feelings to myself.

I can honestly say that when I feel attacked I am an extremely defensive person, and those who know me in real life know that I welcome any confrontation, so upon reading this message my instinct was to verbally annihilate this individual. I mean…..who does this person think she is to tell me how to handle MY grief. Thankfully, some part of me said to hold off on a response until I felt I could respond rationally and not based off of emotion. Way to go, Katie. You are growing up.

I’ve thought a lot about that message since, and I’ve come to a few realizations that I felt I needed to share.

Grief is a personal thing. I know that prior to the loss of my dad I didn’t really understand grief. Yes, I had lost people in my life, but never had I suffered a loss like I did in November. I don’t think I ever truly realized how sensitive a death in the family was or how different it is to each person. How I handle grief may be different than how you handle it. That doesn’t make it wrong or weird….it means I am handling it in a personal way that is best for ME. There isn’t a manual on how to handle these kinds of things, even though sometimes I wish one existed, and it is extremely unfair to think grief should be approached in one cookie cutter way.

Since losing my dad I have unfortunately learned a lot of hard lessons. I’ve learned that some people who I thought I could count on to help me through the dark times weren’t really the friends I thought they were. I’ve learned that people who I never thought would be there for me would show up and be more present in my life than individuals who I thought I could always count on.  I’ve learned that strength comes from the strangest places. I’ve learned that it is okay to ask for support….for hugs…for a shoulder to cry on. And I’ve learned that we all have to find our own way to becoming right in the head after a tremendous loss.

You know how I handle my grief? By talking about my dad. I talk about him every single day because I miss him EVERY SINGLE DAY. Is my intention to make you uncomfortable? Absolutely not. My intention is to make myself feel better and to never let the memory of the greatest man I have ever known die. He may not physically be here with me, but that doesn’t mean that 34 years of memories died with him November 20th. He will always be a part of my life, and I love sharing that with other people, especially those of you who know me and love me and never had the opportunity to meet him. So much of who I am is a reflection of my dad….how could you not want to know about someone who helped shaped me into the person I am today?

If that makes someone uncomfortable, I don’t really think I am the problem….I think the problem is something a little deeper within yourself. Maybe read some personal development? Maybe do a little soul searching? Or go talk to someone about WHY a person who is grieving is making you feel the way you do? But I hardly think that me talking about how I emotionally can’t handle running a race that my father and I did for years is the catalyst for your feelings of discomfort. Something else is going on there, and since I’m not a shrink, I’m not even going to pretend to know what that may be. But I do know one thing….it’s not my problem.

A huge part of my life falls in the public realm, which I believe many think should mean editing what I share and what I keep private. I don’t care if me talking about my sadness or struggles with this chapter in my life make me seem like a weaker human being. I’m a real person going through a really difficult time, and that is my reality. I’m not going to sit around projecting some image of perfection. I’m going to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly. You never know….the ugly times I am going through could help someone else with their struggles….or give them a person/resource to come to when the time comes that their life isn’t as sunny.

So……I’m going to keep doing my thing….which means finding ways to accept that my life is different and finding ways to keep my dad’s memory alive in my soul. If that makes you uncomfortable, then I definitely encourage you to take a step back and think about what really is the driving force of that emotion.

Remember….everyone is fighting their own battle. You may not be right now, but someday you will be. And trust me, you won’t want anyone telling you how you should be handling your grief then either.

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Medium. It’s not just an option for cooking steak.

For the last month I have been patiently waiting for today to arrive. Those who know me know that patience is a virtue I definitely missed, so the wait was difficult to say the least.

Today was the day that my mother, aunt, and I would visit a local medium and have individual sessions with her.

Now before you dismiss this topic, let me be the first to tell you that I went into today with A LOT of trepidation, nerves, and skepticism. I have watched shows like The Long Island Medium before and while I loved watching them, deep down I always wondered how real they were. I mean seriously…can you talk to someone who has crossed over? I was anxious to find out.

I have been very open about my struggles with grief since I lost my father three months ago. I’ve gotten criticism from some saying I should keep my grief to myself since it is a private thing, but I refuse. The loss of my dad is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with and talking about it not only helps me, but I like to think it may help others who are struggling with grief, too. The thing about grief that no one tells you is that it is different for everyone. Some may accept their loss quickly, while others, like myself, struggle with it every day.

I’ve been approaching grief in what I like to think is a very proactive manner. I’ve been reading a lot of books, running for my dad, and becoming a part of organizations like The Dinner Party. I also took the advice of a grief counselor and got a seasonal job working a few hours a week styling brides at a local bridal salon. It’s been a true blessing being able to run my own business from home, however, I needed something to get me into a routine that FORCED me to stick to a schedule, shower, and get dressed up, so doing something temporarily was a nice change of pace. Honestly, these things have helped me so much. I tell myself everyday that I will not let my father’s death destroy me, but instead, it will help define me. I’m doing the best I can, and right now, that’s good enough for me.

The day after my father passed away I felt compelled to sign up for Teresa Caputo’s wait list. I figured if I would give a medium a shot, it would be her, but I wasn’t too excited about the five year long wait list. Oy vey.

My mother found a medium not far from us that she had heard about from individuals who had previously seen her and suggested we go. Like me, my mom was a little skeptical about the whole thing, but was openminded to the idea. In our minds, if this woman could give us a little bit of comfort, it would be worth it.

So I did all of the things you do when you go to a medium. I wrote a letter with questions for my dad and also for my aunt, who had passed early in 2014. I talked to them both out loud like I do daily and begged for them to come. I knew from trolling the internet that there was no guarantee anyone would come, and I knew it was a possibility that others could try to communicate with me, too.

As I drove to meet my mom and aunt today I had a million expectations while having absolutely none at the same time; it really is difficult to describe….hoping for so much but expecting so little. I was just very…..hopeful. When I told those close to me that I was going to speak to a medium, most people asked me the same question: “What do you hope to get out of it?” My answer was simple. I just wanted to know that my dad was with me. I would find a lot of peace and comfort knowing that.

When I met up with my family my mother was already meeting with Kathleen, the medium, for her reading, so I waited in the car with my aunt. We had opted for individual readings instead of a group one since we had a variety of people we were hoping would come through for us. After her half hour was up, my mother emerged and told me I was next. I had no clue how her reading had gone and was overwhelmed with nerves. Kathleen had me sit down in her meeting me and immediately told me that my father had come through for my mother, and that he was sitting next to me and was there for me, too. At this point I was still riding the skeptical train pretty hard, but just her mentioning that brought me to tears….mostly because I thought I’d flip out big time if she was messing with my head.

Within minutes the information Kathleen was telling me that my dad was saying made me a believer. There was no way some of the information she told me anyone could have known. In fact, one of the things was regarding our house hunt and the fact that we had made steps this morning toward that….which was true. We had emailed our realtor to submit an offer early this morning, so early that I hadn’t even told my mother or anyone yet. After about 10 minutes sharing with me things my dad had to say, Kathleen let me know that two others were with me in the room, the first being a woman, and the second, a young man. Based on what she had shared with me, the woman was quickly identified as my aunt and, similar to what my dad had shared, my aunt communicated with me topics that this woman could have no idea about. It was comforting and made me feel a sense of relief.

Kathleen then told me that the young man who was there to speak to me had died as a result of a car accident. If you remember from some of my previous entries, my good friend Andy had been in a horrible accident in December of 2012, an accident that had left him hospitalized until he passed away August of 2014. I had a difficult time with his death and had tried to do everything I could during his hospitalization to help him and let him know how much I cared about him. My visits to him always left me frustrated, as I did not know if he knew it was me or if I was even there. Due to the injuries sustained in the accident, he did not communicate other than blinking and was not able to move, and I always hoped that he knew how much he was loved, especially during that time. Kathleen gave me validation that he knew who I was and what all had happened during the time in the hospital, as well as some additional information that, again, were topics that weren’t common knowledge.

As we were wrapping up the session, Kathleen brought up my business, as she had earlier in the reading, only this time she told me that my dad was using the word “exponentially” when describing what we were discussing. This word is not one commonly used by anyone….that is, anyone but me. I use this word probably a little too much, and my dad would always make fun of me for it. It was the final piece of validation I needed to know that what I had just experienced was real.

After my session ended, I was able to talk to my mother about hers. The great thing about Kathleen Moore is that she lets you record the whole reading, so I was able to let my mom listen to parts of mine as my aunt was inside having her reading done. Once we were done, the three of us grabbed lunch nearby and shared what she had told all of us. The medium had told my mom and aunt things that there was no way she could know, much like she did for me.

Am I now a believer in mediums? Yes, yes I am.

I do think there are probably a lot of wannabe mediums out there, but after talking with Kathleen, I 100% think she is legit. Talking with her gave me some much needed peace and comfort, which makes the whole experience worth it.

Do you have to believe in mediums? Not at all. In fact, you could think what I did today was downright silly and ridiculous, and that’s ok. There was a time I thought it was rather dumb myself. My biggest piece of advice that I can give anyone who is going through the seasons of grief like I am is to find peace and comfort in whatever way helps YOU. We are all different. We all need different things to make us feel better and stronger.

Will I still miss my dad and cry about him? Absolutely. Every day for the rest of my life. I find a lot of happiness knowing he is around me and is still a part of my life in some way. It took a medium to help me realize that, and to me that is something I will never forget.

I miss you, dad……exponentially.

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Teary eyed but happy after an amazing experience.

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