“I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.” ~ Sophia Loren

JS Sargent Repose_Nonchaloire

John Singer Sargent’s “Repose” (Nonchaloir), oil on canvas, 1911: This is how I felt yesterday 

“Sadness is always the legacy of the past; regrets are pains of the memory.” ~ Author Unknown

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ” ~ The Wonder Years

Well, yesterday was an eventful day, so to speak. We found out that one of the avenues of employment that Corey was pursuing is unavailable. Big disappointment there. I really thought that that part of the plan was going to work. Perhaps that’s why I shouldn’t be optimistic: It always ends up smacking me in the head.

Speaking of being smacked in the head, have to say that so far, the massive doses of magnesium are not helping with the usual morning headache. Each morning when I awaken, I have a headache, not a migraine, just a tightness. I don’t know if I am grinding my teeth, but I don’t think so. Corey would have told me by now if I am grinding. So each morning I get up and take 800 mg of ibuprofen and two Sudafed. This usually helps somewhat as I think that part of the reason is my fall allergies kicking in and causing sinus pressure. Oh well.

Another interesting not good thing that happened yesterday is that I had a minor breakdown. Let me explain.

Hand-painted Bear Hampelmann from Germany

I was looking for something for Alexis that I had been keeping for her. I had thought that it was in the small lockbox in which we keep our passports, birth certificates, etc., but it wasn’t there. Then I thought that I might have put it with her stuff from when she was a baby. I pulled down everything in the top left of my closet as that is where I store the things from the kids’ earlier days.

For example, I have a huge Raggedy Ann that Alexis’s Aunt Ann made Alexis for Christmas one year. The handwork on this doll is amazing. I kind of feel sorry for all of the grandkids, nieces and nephews who came along after Alexis. Everyone was tired of making handmade presents by then. I mean, for the first five years of her life, Alexis was it in the family, so she received handmade Christmas ornaments, dolls, cross-stitched pictures, you name it.

Anyway, Raggedy Ann and a much smaller Raggedy Andy are stored in that part of the closet, waiting for the day if/when Alexis has her own children. I also have a bag of puppets from Germany. They are called hampelmann, which are hand-painted puppets of sorts. Alexis had about seven in all, and they used to hang over her changing table. I would use them to entertain her, and then later, her siblings.

(Aside: Today when I got home from picking Brett up from school, the Pluto hampelmann had been eviscerated, torn limb from limb. I’m pretty sure that Tillie did it as she was the only dog that was hiding from me.)

“Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” ~ Willa Cather

Sock Doll
Example of a handmade sock doll

Back to the closet. I have kept just a few pieces of clothes from each child, favorite shirts, etc., and I have a bag for each one. There is also a plastic cubed storage container in which I have put several things that belonged to Caitlin. Well, in pulling everything down from the closet, this container also came down.

I made the mistake of opening the container and opening the box that was on top inside of the container. This box holds several things from that hospital, including a sock doll that slept with Caitlin the entire time she was in the hospital.

Let me back up. I’m not a craftsperson. Never have been. But while I was teaching at ODU during that semester in which Caitlin was in the hospital, several of my students brought in things for her. My most cherished gift is a sock doll that one of my student’s mothers made especially for Caitlin. These sock dolls have been around for centuries. They have been called hush-a-bye dolls because mothers used to give them to their babies to keep them quiet in church.

Anyway, I took the doll in my hands, and that was pretty much as far as I got for the next hour. Corey walked in, took a look at the things spread on the bed, and immediately knew what had happened.

“Love lost is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food our tousle their hair . . .But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end. Love doesn’t.” ~ Mitch Albon

I came across an article about two weeks ago on a syndrome that some psychiatrists and mental health care researchers are trying to have approved for insertion into the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association). The disorder is called prolonged grief disorder, or something like that. PGD is a disorder in which the individual simply cannot get over the loss of a loved one within the “normal” time periods.

PGD is different from depressive disorder, and currently grief is not included in the DSM. In one article, researchers contend “that PGD meets DSM criteria for inclusion as a distinct mental disorder on the grounds that it is a clinically significant form of psychological distress associated with substantial disability.”

Apparently, PGD occurs when grief following lingers and become a serious health problem.

I wish someone would have asked me. I could have told them that years ago. I know that my grief is not normal. I have known that forever. It manifests itself unexpectedly, sometimes mildly, sometimes to the point at which I am completely paralyzed. Granted, I do not have these hour-long crying jags everyday or even every month. But I can count on having at least one Caitlin/Dad related episode in a year.

I really don’t need a psychoanalyst to tell me that my bereavement periods are longer than most people. I do not need confirmation that the pain should not be as acute as it still it. And I will freely admit that even I am astounded by just how severely I am affected when it happens.

I also know that a lot of the reason that my grief has hung around for so long is directly attributable to my feelings of guilt over both of their deaths. I had to make the decision on whether or not it was time for Caitlin, and I don’t know that I will ever be able to view that as not being questionable: Was it time? Should I have waited? With my dad, the guilt arises over the fact that I wasn’t with him when he died, even though I had promised him that I would be there.

“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” ~ Cicero

Logically, you don’t have to tell me that I should have let go a long time ago, or point out my inability to let go. I know all of this. But holding that small, soft doll I could swear that it still smelled of her essence. I know that that is not possible, but grief and despair do funny things to a psyche.

I did look a little more in the storage case: I found the blue smocked dress that I have talked about, which was a real surprise as I have believed for many years that that particular dress is with Kathleen, along with the other dresses that I sent her. I also found the dress that Caitlin was wearing when she had her one and only portrait taken.

Black Patent Leather Mary Janes
Black Patent Leather Mary Janes

Eventually, I was able to put everything away, and Corey put the box back in the top left of the closet. The rest of the things that I pulled down are still in a pile in front of the closet. My accidental encounter with the past left me depleted, bereft, numb.

Too much at once. I’ll get to the rest soon. I think that I am saving it until I can actually enjoy the contents of these bags and boxes. After all, they are filled with items that recall good memories—like Alexis’s tiny Virginia Tech t-shirt. That made me smile.

So I’ll go through the rest, probably tomorrow, refold, repack, and replace on the shelf. I’ll take the time to bring to mind some of the good memories that are associated with these things: Brett’s baby blankets, the various humpelmann, Eamonn’s little cap from the National Zoo, Alexis’s Mary Janes. I find myself smiling inwardly even now as I type about these things. And that’s a good thing.

At times, I can balance with unbearable with the wonderful, the heart-wrenching with the endearing, which only proves that I am human after all. And even if it’s a lie, I will try to believe that it will be all right.


More later. Peace.



9 thoughts on ““I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.” ~ Sophia Loren

    1. Oh, I kept looking for it in my post, and it was in my comment. I really have to use that phrase in a post, or better yet, in a poem.

      (Yep. I’m a dork for not even remembering if it was mine, but I was pretty sure that it was mine. Hey, it’s 2:20 in the morning…)

  1. Hi Lita,
    Coincidentally, at class the other night , we were discussing the inclusion of PGD in the DSM, as part of the Grief, Bereavement and Suicide component of the course I am doing. It is very real and and should be acknowledged as such.
    I have no way of understanding your pain and overwhelming loss but you will always have my support, friendship and an ear , whenever you want to talk about your beautiful daughter Catlin.
    Big hugs

    1. Maureen,
      What a coincidence. PGD is very real, and not the same as being depressed. I know only too well how paralyzing it can be. Thank you for being such a wonderful ear for me, even though you are thousands of miles away.

  2. Hey- Great post and thoughts. Grief sucks. I still have my moments when thinking of my Dad causes me to lose it. I too, was not there when my Dad died but I wasn’t expecting him to leave. I figured they’d give him a Nitro pill, slap the oxygen mask on him , keep him a week or so and then he’d be home. It was not to be. I still cringe when the phone rings after 9pm. It took me a year to go to the gravesite. My mother chided me but it was just too much. Oh, I tried, but just could never make that turn off Granby street into the cemetary. Finally, oneday I went. Cried the entire time. I go now ,mostly with Mom who views visiting gravesites as some proper cultural thing “one must do”.

    I can sit in his chairk, hold the sweaters I have he wore and visit his grave. The worst place? The worst memory? The place I have a hell of a time being??? The church – Azalea Baptist. I sometimes go with my Mom on Wednesday nights. No matter how many times I go in there, I see that damned coffin and my dad. And I cry each time.

    I am with you- I don’t need some ass with multiple degrees to tell me how I should or should not grieve or feel. It has to do with the heart not the head. And you can’t analyze the heart.

    1. So true. I am sorry about your dad, especially sorry that I didn’t know that he died and go to the funeral. That just sucks.
      For a while, I went to see Caitlin everyday after I finished teaching at ODU. Then, when I changed jobs, I went less. Now, I don’t go often enough.
      Weird part is that I cannot go to dad’s grave. I’ve only been a couple of times, and alone only once. I think that it’s still too raw. But I dream of him all of the time and still talk to him in my mind.

      Grief is much too personal to be analyzed, categorized, or judged. I love you. me.

  3. Probably one of my top 5 all favorite songs.

    It all comes crashing down on you, doesn’t it? You’re walking through room, look in the mirror and see the parent looking back at you. Stand up next to your child and realize you’re both eye to eye.

    Everyone always says it moves so fast…it doesn’t. Not really. I can accept my kids’ growth, their independence, they’re moving away from me. No, what flows so quickly down river is the connection, the faith, the unconditional love. That, that I miss terribly. That moved down river far too fast.

    At least, that’s my view of it all.

    1. The loss of the unconditional love–that is probably the hardest to bear. One day, you are everything, and in a blink, you aren’t. It’s one of the hardest parts about parenting. The time moves too quickly in on part of your world, and not at all in another part. Treading water in a waterfall.

      In my top 10, definitely. Listened to it five times today, not counting trying to find the right vid to go with it. New I had to include it with the post.

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