Sadness and Summer Time Blues
How many people think their dad is like superman, invincible, and will never leave? I don’t care how old you are, I thought my dad would never die, and neither did he! So when it happened, despite efforts of doctors, and nurses and me and my family’s care, it is an understatement to say, it is devastating, especially because he was living with us. I was and still am, a bit in shock and emotionally paralyzed. That is why it has taken me a while to be able to write, paint and live again. I stumbled through the aftermath, paperwork, legal estate issues and his memorial service, my art commitments all the while trying to support my husband’s coaching career. But, it was surreal, I was numb and went through the motions like a robot, crying and laughing sometimes in the same sentence. Here’s what I have learned and I hope it helps others.
A Dozen Ways to Cope with Death
- Allow yourself time to grieve: carve out a space and place. Personally, I was afraid to admit the reality of his death. I didn’t want to believe it even though it was smack dab in my face. But, my best friend, Janice Zeman, who happens to have her PhD in psychology, advised me quietly, to simply grieve, cry, be sad and that this will heal my emotions slowly.
- Spend time meditating: Yes, break away, with no distractions, cell phones, computers, or television and close your eyes, sit quietly, let your mind be still. I have a difficult time with this and there are people to help in the Bangor area. Here are a few suggestions: Maine Center for Mindfulness and Comtemplation, 584 Hammond St., Om Land Yoga, 6 State St., Maine Holistic Center, ww.maineholisticcenter.com
- Choose how to handle your pain, cry, laugh with memories: I chose to sort out dad’s memorabilia, old photos, and trophies. Yes, my father was a public figure as former U Maine baseball and football player, and later a high school and a college coach. I had a larger assortment of things to organize for his memorial service and to distribute to my family, but it was comforting to touch his awards and hold his pictures in my hands.
- Get away: easier said than done with jobs, etc, but, during summer time most folks have some sort of vacation planned. Perfect. My husband and I went to Monhegan Island. This was a trip I had reserved last January, and was highly anticipated throughout the winter. But I was reluctant to go and drop things, because I was afraid to face my feelings. We went anyway, and that change of scenery, change of routine, and meeting new people, truly helped me realize life goes on.
- Be with family and close friends and pets: I am grateful for my son Darren, my sister Schari and my brothers Danny and Brian. They all dropped everything and literally flew to my side. My sweet sister-in-law Sharon and my toddler niece Sylvie from Mexico brightened our lives immensely. All the family, cousins and dear friends, classmates and Dad’s former players, colleagues who traveled from out of state, or sent flowers, cards and food. Wow we all need their support. Even the dogs, Jake and Lu Lu were comforting. Let them all help, it will be trans-formative.
- Listen to Music: My dad’s favorite songs, that he surprisingly put in his Will, to be played at his ceremony, are The Maine Stein Song, Sweet Caroline and The Orono High School Song. We full filled his wishes. I know he played all the music from “The Jersey Boys”, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. One song of theirs is “Sherry Baby”, same name as my sister. Dad took me and my Aunt Mildred to the theatrical production of Jersey Boys in Ft. Myers a few years ago. He also loved Frank Sinatra and anything from the “50’s & ’60’s. I listen to these frequently and even grab my husband to dance with me as I sob.
- Immerse yourself in your art, (or work you enjoy) and color: It took me awhile, but, I made myself pick up my paintbrush. Seriously, I forced myself to get back doing the things that I love to do. It’s my work, my job as an artist. Even writing this blog is therapeutic. I was committed to paint a friend’s daughter’s wedding at the Lucern Inn not long after dad had passed. I went and was teary-eyed sometimes but, it’s OK to allow yourself to be passionate about the things you love. Lately, I have found that I am drawn to the color blue, and my latest work shows aqua, cobalt, ultra marine, baby blue and navy tones predominately. They match my tears.
- Show kindness and help others: To take your mind off your sorrows, I have found doing things for others works magic. We gave out balsam fir saplings to everyone who came to dad’s memorial. I have written thank you notes to my family and friends trying to ease their pain. Calling distant friends with whom connection is rare is worthwhile. Babysitting children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren or walking someones dog for them can make new memories. I enjoyed showing my friends’ artwork to potential customers at Art Space Gallery in Rockland and at Southwest Harbor Artisan Gallery.
- Take care of yourself: As Tom Brady said the day before Super Bowl LI, “Get some rest and stay hydrated,..” Believe it! Older folks, my dad included, did not drink enough water. Do it. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Exercise and also get enough sleep. I got a massage from Sharon at the “Sanctuary” in Orono, several days after dad left us. My friend Lainie Beede, Reiki Master helped. I went to Monhegan Wellness Center where Tara Hire showed me Thai Yoga bodywork that was great stretching and an ancient form of hands on healing.
- Read and look for good things: I just finished “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living A Good Life” by Mark Mason. I listened on Audible, (an app you can download on your smart phone or laptop,) as we were driving dad’s car back from Florida. I learned we all have to deal with our own mortality to be able to live our lives freely and let go of certain problems. As Mark put it, “We all have just so many f*cks to give, make sure you pick yours carefully.” His words were thought provoking and at times startled me into the truth. It was a different approach that jolted me out of the doldrums.
- Celebrate victories with others: My husband is a teacher and coach at Orono High School. He played football for my dad at Colby College. Dad was Donnie and his twin Ronnie’s baseball coach in American Legion in Waterville in the 1970’s. In 2000, when Donnie and I first married, dad hired Don to coach football with him at OHS. Then, four years ago, dad was Donnie’s assistant baseball coach at Orono. Things had come full circle. This year with dad in cardiac ICU at Tampa General Hospital, Donnie would ask dad’s advice about different baseball scenarios and strategies, while I held up the phone to his ear. After the hospital ordeal, dad even made it to a few of Orono’s games sitting in the truck behind home plate. But, he couldn’t make it to the playoffs. Dad died June 7th one day before the northern Maine semi-final baseball game, between OHS and Bucksport HS. I was the scorekeeper as I had done for my dad during those legion games in the 1970’s. Orono beat Bucksport in a close game that day. And they kept winning. Everyone felt that the wind blew the Orono balls fair and that Dad was there somehow, a part of it all. As the team captain, Jackson Coutts said, as he gathered the entire team around him with arms extended upward touching hands over their heads like a pyramid, “Wally on three!” They posed in front of the scoreboard at Mansfield stadium with their fingers forming “W” when they won the Class C State Championship on June 17th. I thank those young men for winning and helping me deal with this huge personal loss!
- Leave a legacy: It was my dad’s last request to start a fund for athletes in a town that he went to college in, where his grandparents lived in and where he coached in the ’60’s and 2000’s, the town of Orono. We are developing a “Wally Covell Legacy Fund” through our friend Nancy Cobb at Camden National Bank, 1127 Union Street, Bangor. Donations may be sent to that address. We are working on non-profit status and by-laws for an LLC. This legacy fund will be more than a yearly one person scholarship award. I know my father helped so many young ball players in the past, that he would want his legacy to be a perpetual charity that assists many. Details will be announced as they are developed.
Use Color as a Soothing Summer Response to Stress
I love color and try to augment my world with as many bright hues as possible. Therefore, at times of stress revert to your favorites. Look for calming water sheens and cool forest tones. Breathe deeply and enjoy your life. My dad loved the green grass of athletic fields and the Red Sox, so those colors are always in my mind when I think of him. What are yours? Please tell me about your favorite relaxation colors and techniques that help with a personal loss. Thank you for taking your time to read my stories.