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My dear mother in law left this world on August 31st of this year. My grandma is under hospice care with terminal lung cancer as I write. Both became critically ill at the beginning of 2016. I love them both. I have not had a great deal of experience with grief so close till now. Some things I expected; the feeling of something missing, a hole, a void of sorts. Sadness, lack of enthusiasm, and a general pondering of what matters in life are all presumed consequences in my mind. Yet, I am blindsided by the aspect of grief bothering me most; there is a real sense in which I have lost those who remain alive.
How can this be? It is clear to me how much my husband and father in law miss my sweet mother in law. They will often comment on how they miss her. As a rule this happens during unrelated conversation and neither of them has commented for some time. In other words their minds have wandered far away from the topic at hand; they have not been listening for quite some time. When this happens my first thought is always how much I miss her too, yet my thoughts continue beyond where theirs end to missing my husband, my father in law, my mom, my dad, and my gram because they are all so diverted they are in essence absent. I feel alone; as if I am invisible.
How do you cope? There are several ways I have sought to cope with what I hope to be a sabbatical from life on the part of my living loved ones. I am not a grief expert. Nor do I recommend or suggest all these to be healthy or effective ways of coping. They are just my attempt to share my experiences, in hopes someone is listening. First, you cry alone. If something needs done, just do it yourself. Take charge of affairs you can do. Don’t ask questions as you are unlikely to receive an adequate answer anyway. Take advantage of friendships and associations outside of family. Spend time doing something you love. Find what provides you with a mental and emotional escape and immerse yourself. Be it music, horses, knitting or any number of other activities requiring focus, let yourself get caught up in it. Find a way to laugh. Serve others with acts of kindness. Try to be a “yes man” for just a while, even if it isn’t your nature. Avoid conflict as much as possible. Have never ending patience. Forget about self, knowing they cannot focus on you now. Trust they will return someday.
How do you think this will end? I expect a punctuated return. Periods of time where they are able to focus on life and on others will become more frequent and longer in duration. Until then, I will continue to love them all, those gone and those still here, I will miss them, and I will wait.
I often use the phrase, “Press on” as a salutation. I have found it to solve just about every situation presented to me. I think it will fare well in this one as well.
Press on my friends. Press on.