The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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What’s the Black Ribbon For and Other Ways of Dealing With Loss…

The loss of a parent, regardless of the relationship that you may have had with them is difficult in a way that can’t really be put into words.  When you aren’t close, it opens you up to a different type of grieving.  Maybe it’s the loss of possibility that I’m grieving now or the loss of hope – I can’t really describe to you what it is.  The reality is, that everyone’s experience is unique to them.  I can give you all of the tips and tricks that have worked for me in getting through this last month, but they may not work for you – everyone is different.  The one thing that I know for sure is that in death and mourning, there is no real right or wrong, you have to do what feels right for you.

Since this is a blog about taking Dr. Oz’s advice, I checked his website and found a video featuring Dr. Richard Smith.  He laid out the three stages of grief – these really didn’t apply to me, but I’ll share them with you anyway:

  • Stage one – loss of control, denial and a lack of reality…maybe even anger.  This totally didn’t apply to me.  In some ways, the death of my father has been easier than I thought, in some ways more difficult, but I’ve never, for a minute been angry or in denial over what happened.  Maybe, because it was expected, maybe because no matter how early it was, I did get to say a needed good-bye or maybe because there isn’t a one size fits all on death and mourning, but I never went through any part of this stage.
  • Stage two – persistent sadness and emptiness…this one, I’m not sure of.  It’s a complicated situation.  After the funeral, and when I went back to work, I could easily focus on the job at hand.  As time has moved on, there have been weeks where I felt numb inside.  I could even watch a sad dog video and not cry.  Just numb and in some ways, on auto pilot saying and doing the right things and what is expected of me. I have had a lot of other things that have needed my attention though, and maybe that’s why I feel more myself than I perhaps should.
  • Stage 3 – reinvest with other people.  It’s too soon for this one I think.

Sorry, I wish I could tell everyone that there is an exact process to follow, but there isn’t.  I’m not religious, but one thing that helped me, was taking part in some of the observances that Jewish people following the death of an immediate family member.  The practice of K’riah (literally ‘tearing’) just prior to the funeral, where the mourners rip and a black ribbon and continue to wear it for 30 days has helped me.  It is supposed to be symbolic of loss, and permanent scarring to your life at the loss of one so dear to you.  For me, it was a reminder that whenever I had any doubt, that my father was no longer here.  People would ask me what the little black ribbon was for and I’d explain that my father had passed away.  Each time I said it, it made it more believable to me.  I went to synagogue to say Mourner’s Kaddish (a traditional prayer for the dead) during Shloshim – the 30 days of mourning after the funeral.  I did this 3 times, and again, I’m not religious, but having a process to follow brought me comfort.

The one thing that was most helpful was going to the cemetery by myself a few days after the funeral.  I went because I didn’t have any time at the end of my father’s life to say the things that I needed to say and I wasn’t afforded the opportunity at the funeral.  I spent ten minutes there, but it made everything so much better for me.  I had the whole place to myself, and I just stood there and said (mostly in my inside voice) what I felt at that moment.  It didn’t take long, but for me it was time well spent.  Sometimes, it’s not about getting every question answered or “getting closure” that counts, it’s about taking the time that you need, for yourself.  I know that I may never really understand my father and I know that he likely didn’t understand me, but that’s ok.  I understood, in that moment, that I didn’t need either, I just needed quiet time to process everything and it helped.  What surprised me was how little time I needed there.  I knew that I wasn’t going to get a sign from my father that he was there with me, and I was also ok with that.  I went with no expectations, and I left with even fewer but being there helped a realist like me, in ways that I just can’t explain.  You will never get time back, especially time to deal with complex emotions – so take what you need for yourself.

Some people have gone above and beyond, and I know that I’ve thanked them for everything that they have done – make sure, no matter how sad you may be to do that.  Everyone deserves to be appreciated and when times are tough, and people go out of their way to help, let them know that you value them.  You will get through your loss whatever it may be and there will be days, which may come sooner than you think where you will feel exactly like yourself.  I know for me, that writing about how I feel about this has been cathartic, but I’m at the point now where I just want to write about fluffier, more enjoyable things.  Maybe one day I’ll want to revisit this time in my life, that’s the beauty of having your own blog – you can write about what you feel like, and when it’s time, you can let it go…

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A Eulogy for My Father

Dr. John Lawrence Schneiderman

March 24, 1933-June 10, 2015

Dad…

I don’t think I’m going to get to speak at your funeral tomorrow, so I wanted to do a eulogy in my own way.  In many ways, you were a stranger to me.  You were one of the fears that I had to face this year.  Seeing you so ill in February was so hard, but letting you know that I forgave you is bringing me peace right now.  I know you didn’t agree that you needed forgiveness, you didn’t believe that you did anything wrong.  I still needed to say it though.  As with most things, we had to agree to disagree.

I am sorry Dad.  I always felt that I was a disappointment to you.  I was never Daddy’s little girl, but my Bobbie’s soul mate and my mother’s daughter.  I wanted to look at you the way Mummy looked at her Dad – as a hero.  I know that you looked at him the same way as well and I wish that your parents were as wonderful as Bobbie and Zaidie.  I wanted to respect you and put you on a pedestal and maybe, I failed you in that way, and for that I am sorry.  I did respect your intelligence and I did have compassion for your shortcomings.  I did try to be the best daughter that I could.

I will try to remember some of the good things, Dad.  Like the time when I was a little girl and I was afraid that Frankenstein was going to take me away.  You and Mummy sat on my bed and explained to me that we had two big wooden doors that he would never be able to break into.  I remember how we always had the most beautiful garden in Boulderwood because you had a green thumb.  I remember how you loved to tell a dirty joke and you did it well.  I’ll remember how you snuck surgical scrubs out of the hospital so that I’d have something to wear on career day.  I’ll remember that you and I were the only two people in the house who loved Shakespeare and we’d trade quotes.  I’ll remember how you taught me to play gin. I’ll remember how you took me to meet your 99 year old patient so that I could interview him for a school project and the pride that I felt when he told me about how you saved his life.  I’ll remember how you let me give the pre-op orders over the phone once or twice…”Chest…ECG…BUN…Creatinine…Electrolytes…CBC and Sed Rate…Mogadan 10 HS…SS Enema HS…prep mid chest…” I still remember that to this day.

I’ll also remember the bad.  I won’t dwell on it.  I won’t be bitter because of it, but I’ll remember.  Again, I’ll try to be compassionate.  When we came to see you in February, I made the decision not to bring up the past to you.  I knew that there was no point in arguing with a dying man.  It was so sad for me to see you barely able to hold a paper cup of juice.  Your once steady, surgeon’s hands shaking as you tried to sip it.  It broke my heart to see your body covered with bruises caused by the blood thinners.  You were defeated.  Where Mummy can be so strong and fearless, you were always more timid.  When Mummy gets sick, I look at her, and she still has a spark – you didn’t have that spark when I saw you.  When I went to leave the room for a minute, and you said “Jill…Jill where are you going?” I was shocked because it was one of the few times in my life where I saw you vulnerable and where I thought you actually wanted me to stay.

I wish that you had been able to go and die with dignity in your own home surrounded by your own things instead of in a hospital room.  I wish that you didn’t have to die alone without your children at your bedside.  Dad, I wish that wherever you are, that you finally have peace and that you were able to forgive yourself.  I hope that you know that I never hated you and that I’ll be OK Dad, we’ll all be OK.