(Ep. 23) Grief and Motherhood with Caity

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In this “very special” episode, we talk about grief and motherhood with someone who has a pretty heavy story about losing her own parents. With lots of dark humor and openness, Caity speaks out about what it’s like to parent without your own parents in hopes that others dealing with loss amid motherhood will know that they’re not alone in the bittersweet messiness that is grief. Just so you know, we laugh quite a lot and we also discuss other important topics such as Chick-fil-A vs. Raising Cane’s. Caity also talks about agreements she unknowingly made following the death of her mother, how grief has affected her physically, and the destructive way she was allowing herself to have emotions (which I’d never even considered). We explore what it’s like to make (or not make) mom friends while carrying such a huge emotional burden, and feeling like you’re too much for people. Join us as we put some pieces together, and shine some much-needed light on a topic that’s not often talked about.  

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Brandy:                   Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners! Today feels like a “very special” episode of the podcast as we talk about grief and motherhood with someone who has a pretty heavy story about losing her own parents. Today’s guest, Caity, has such a sharp sense of humor and beautiful openness that I think we can all gain something from her sharing. She wanted to speak out about what it’s like to parent without your own parents in hopes that others dealing with loss amid motherhood will know that they’re not alone in the bittersweet messiness that is grief. Just so you know, we laugh quite a lot (and yes, sometimes it’s at super dark things), and we also discuss other important topics such as Chick-fil-A versus Raising Cane’s. Caity also talks about agreements she unknowingly made following the death of her mother, how grief has affected her physically, and the destructive way she was allowing herself to have emotions (which I’d never even considered). We explore what it’s like to make (or not make) mom friends while carrying such a huge emotional burden, and feeling like you’re too much for people. Join us as we put some pieces together and shine some much-needed light on a topic that’s not often talked about. Onto the show.

Brandy:                   Today on the podcast I’m joined by Caity, and Caity brings a unique story and situation that I felt like you, the listeners, might benefit from hearing and maybe excavating with us. It’s a topic that I guess I fortunately don’t have a lot of experience with in terms of parenting, which is grief and motherhood – and specifically related to losing your own parents. What does it look like to become a parent without parents? Before you turn this off because you think it’s too heavy, please know that Caity is a fan of gallows humor, so there may even be more laughing than usual. Welcome, Caity, welcome to the podcast.

Caity:                       Thank you. That kind of humor is not always appreciated in this topic.

Brandy:                   Right, and we’re going to get into that and maybe some of the walls that that puts up, but like you, I find humor to be a coping mechanism, and personality trait. Where the two crossover, I don’t know. But I’d love for you to just give us sort of an overview of your story and tell us a little bit about your situation.

Caity:                       Well, I am a 30-year-old mother of an 18-month-old. I lost my mom when I was 16 years old. I was coming home from church and came home to an ambulance in my driveway. Had a stroke, and she passed away two days later.

Brandy:                   Wow.

Caity:                       Between then and now I have lost all four of my grandparents and I just recently lost my dad, January 1st, 2018, which also happened to be only a month and a half before my daughter was born.

Brandy:                   Yeah, so you really entered parenthood with nobody parenting you.

Caity:                       Yes. To kind of add a little bit of complication, if you can even say that with everything else that had happened, my dad had been sick for 15 years with cancer, and so I had already been taking care of him, on and off, throughout those 15 years. He was actually pretty healthy considering. But for a long time it felt like we were just in a partnership and not in a father-daughter relationship.

Brandy:                   Got it. This idea of you being parented or being care-taken, even by your dad who was remaining like that wasn’t a thing, you were the parent in that relationship as well and in the end there, is that right?

Caity:                       I mean, that’s what it felt like.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       I’m sure if we had my dad on here, he would feel exactly opposite because he definitely still worried. He still cared for me. But it was more that I felt like I needed to take on that responsibility, that I needed to take on the things that… And not in a weird way, let’s just put that out there. But-

Brandy:                   Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Caity:                       Take on the responsibility of what a wife would do, help care for him and help clean his house, make sure he was getting things done because he really didn’t have anybody else to help him.

Brandy:                   You have no siblings, is that right?

Caity:                       Well, I have a half brother, but “brother” is very loosely used. He is 22 years older than I am. He was my dad’s first child in a different marriage. So-

Brandy:                   So you guys didn’t grow up together. Your age difference was so different that you really weren’t even a part of each other’s lives, I would imagine.

Caity:                       Right. On top of that, he has bipolar disorder. When I was younger, I didn’t really understand what that meant. All I knew was he would just get into these fits of rage. I was really confused, “Where did that come from?” I kind of backed off and kept my distance. I know a little bit more about bipolar disorder now and I know that it’s not all his fault, but we just never created a relationship.

Brandy:                   Man, that’s a lot. Yeah. I mean, I feel like how are we even going to tackle this? How is it possible to talk about the ins and outs of this in just sort of a shortish podcast? But dang it, we’re going to do our damnedest. But before we do that, what is something that you think the listeners need to know about you?

Caity:                       I feel very deeply. Some people think that’s similar to bipolar where you have these huge mood swings. I’m very compassionate. Those highs are very high, the lows can be really low. Of course, it’s hard to know how much of that is shaped by grief since it’s… I mean, it was during my early developmental stages that I lost my mom. So-

Brandy:                   Right. How do you know who you are with and without grief?

Caity:                       Right. Would I even be who I am today if I hadn’t lost all these people?

Brandy:                   Right. Okay. So will you walk us through your journey? I remember when we first talked about this, I believe the words “hot mess” is what you had used. It was really interesting how you just kind of gave me this overview of where you had gone. I think that that piece is really fascinating and I think people could find it really helpful. Will you walk us through like when… Well, gosh. There’s so much here and it starts so far back. I guess my specific question would be after the birth of your daughter, will you walk us through what that experience was like and maybe some of your choices on how to cope and then where you are now and how you’ve kind of gotten there or whatever of that feels comfortable to talk about?

Caity:                       I’d say it probably started a little bit before she was even born because my dad died a month and a half before she was born. I had been working through the grief with my mom passing for a very long time and I put that off for two years after she died. I didn’t even cry, at least not in front of anyone because Dad needed to be strong, and I needed to be strong for Dad.

Brandy:                   Wow.

Caity:                       I knew that when Dad died that I needed to find a way. (voice cracks) Sorry, my voice gets really crackly when I start talking about emotional things.

Brandy:                   Yeah, yeah.

Caity:                       Unfortunately it’s another part of grief is that it affects me and my vocal chords. So-

Brandy:                   Go for it my friend.

Caity:                       Sorry about that.

Brandy:                   No, no apologizing.

Caity:                       So-

Brandy:                   Wait, real fast. Can I stop you? When your mom died, how did you know that you had to be the rock? How did you know that you couldn’t fall apart and that your dad would take care of you? Was that something that you had kind of been raised to be a caretaker, or how did you know how to do that?

Caity:                       My dad’s health issues started when I was in middle school. I mean, seriously, if you had a medical dictionary of all the things that can afflict you, he’s had most of them. He almost died from a car accident, he almost died from quintuple bypass surgery. I mean, you name it. He went through it. At a young age, I felt like I was taking care of my mom and she had a very stressful job. I don’t think that they ever laid this responsibility on me consciously.

Brandy:                   Okay.

Caity:                       I think it was just part of my personality that I felt like, “Sure, I can save them, I can fix them.”

Brandy:                   Well, yeah. I would imagine having at least one of your parents that had health stuff, I think puts you in a different category. The only reason I say that is because I have chronic health stuff and I notice my son… I don’t know if it’s by nature that he’s just really thoughtful and empathetic and wants to caretake. But definitely I notice that when I have a health crisis happen, he’s always the one that’s like, “Mom, what can I do for you? What can I get you?” There’s a part of me that just hates that he has to do that. And another part of me that’s like, “Well, I mean, it’s at least teaching him some empathy and all of those things.” I can understand what you’re saying about… it’s not like they overtly told you that, but just by being who you are and having a parent that sometimes needed extra support, like you know how to jump in and help.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   I feel like I can get that, yeah. Okay. Sorry. I derailed you. Keep going.

Caity:                       When my mom died, at the time, she was the only breadwinner of the house. My dad had been let go of his job because – I’m sure there were reasons, but it was because of his cancer and he was constantly needed for treatment. When she died, I saw him crying multiple times and I had never seen him cry before. My dad was such a strong man and seeing him cry just broke me. I thought, “Maybe if he doesn’t have to take care of me, he won’t cry as hard.”

Brandy:                   Wow.

Caity:                       I think something just clicked and I thought, “I’ll just take care of him. It’s fine.” To be totally honest, saying all these things makes me sound like a really great human. I just also didn’t want to deal with the feelings because they’re really shitty.

Brandy:                   Yeah. I mean, gosh, it’s just so tough at 16 to make an agreement for yourself that you don’t even really know that you’re making.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   It’s not even in your… No 16-year-old should really have to basically sign subconsciously on the dotted line, “I’m going to do everything I can to never see my father cry again because I don’t want that hurt for him.”

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   Even though maybe from your point of view it’s like, “Well, maybe that’s a little avoidant of the feelings.” Gosh. It also just comes from such a real place of wanting to be a good daughter and a good person.

Caity:                       Yeah. I mean, our family unit was small even when my mom was alive. There’s only three of us. I never felt like a family, so to speak. Only because I have friends who have four siblings, three siblings. That’s a family because it’s huge, right? So when Dad – when Mom died, sorry, it’s hard that I have to keep track of who died and when they died. (laughs) When Mom died it felt natural to become more of a partnership between Dad and I.

Brandy:                   So, did you start therapy those two years after she died?

Caity:                       I wish I could say yes. No, I didn’t start therapy or counseling until I actually moved to Colorado, seven years ago. So, not until much later. Again, it’s kind of hard to know how much of the emotional outbursts were grief related when I was younger or how much were just, “Hey, I’m a teen and my prefrontal cortex is not fully developed so I’m just going to have an outburst right here.”

Brandy:                   Right.

Caity:                       I didn’t even think it was a problem that needed to be fixed. Actually, what made me decide I needed to go to therapy was when my husband and I met. I started realizing that I was laying a lot of heavy emotions on him. In fact, red wine is often a joke for him because he knows that if I drink too much, I’m just going to be crying on the bathroom floor.

Brandy:                   Oh shoot. Yeah. You’re probably not alone on that.

Caity:                       Right, right. But it was the only time I’d cry, was if I drank too much red wine. I realized, “Hey, that’s probably not a healthy coping mechanism.”

Brandy:                   Yeah, good for you. Yes.

Caity:                       Yeah. So, I found a counselor and I had been working with him up until a few months ago when I had another wave of just terrible grief hit me. I lost my voice twice in two months, got really sick and the doctors… they had no idea what was going on and all the tests came back negative and I started going to a new therapist and haven’t had as many issues. So, cool. Grief can fuck with your body.

Brandy:                   Man, there was something when we were talking earlier that you had said about how you felt like you could numb out and that was sort of your coping strategy for a while, but then you had a kid and then you felt like, “Shit, I can’t numb out anymore.”

Caity:                       Yes. When my dad died a month and a half before Kylie was born, I knew in that moment, that I needed to deal with this shit head on, but not like fully deal with it because as a eight month pregnant woman, you can’t really deal with that much emotion, especially when my body started contracting and I ended up on bedrest for a month and a half. I knew I couldn’t fully work on the grief, but I also knew I couldn’t just shove it down. As we’ve talked before, I feel like grief is a little bit like having a one liter of diet Coke and every time I don’t want to deal with it or I don’t want to drink the diet Coke, a Mentos gets dropped into the diet Coke and if you’ve ever put a Mentos in a diet Coke, oh man, that shit explodes.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       I knew that if I didn’t deal with it, I would explode at some point and it would probably be unhealthy. It wouldn’t be safe for me and it wouldn’t be safe for baby. Caveat, no suicide thoughts, just very emotional, just very deep-seated emotions.

Brandy:                   Well, and I would imagine too, all those years of that agreement that you didn’t maybe know overtly that you signed about having to be the rock for everybody. You don’t just all of a sudden one day turn around and go, “You know what? I’m going to just be a totally different personality. I’m going to feel all the things.” You need to find that part of yourself that allows that. It’s maybe even like being a baby yourself again, having to reteach yourself. Tell me what did the hot mess era look like? When was the hot mess era? Maybe we’re still in the hot mess there. I mean, I feel like we all to a certain extent are in the hot mess era, but when you were talking about it with me, where do you think that timeframe is?

Caity:                       There are a lot of hot mess times in my life, but the most recent one, the one that has led me to talk more openly about grief and to want to get this message out there that it’s okay to talk about it, that it’s not taboo to talk about grief is over Father’s Day. I was on a trip with my in-laws and my husband and we were having fun. I started to get sicker. I was already a little sick before that. I had kind of lost my voice, but then I started to get really sick one day. My throat started hurting really bad and I was just exhausted and I couldn’t talk and I just laid down in our room and I just cried and cried. I talked to my husband finally about it, which we have a really good open communication about my grief. Unfortunately, I just don’t think he fully understands. Not that you can if you haven’t dealt with that.

Brandy:                   Right.

Caity:                       But I realized something’s not right. I don’t think I’m addressing this problem as well as I thought I could and something needs to change because none of the medicine I was given was helping. My inhalers weren’t helping. They thought it was asthma that wasn’t helping. I normally work out to stay above the anxiety and I wasn’t able to work out. Then everything was just piling on and it was just getting worse. As much as we wish there’s an answer at the bottom of a wine bottle, there is not.

Brandy:                   So is that part of your coping strategy?

Caity:                       Not drinking excessively, but I did enjoy a glass of wine and I don’t think it was a problem. But again, I used it as kind of a pathway into feeling the emotions.

Brandy:                   Oh, interesting.

Caity:                       So I don’t want to cry now, but if I have a glass of wine then people will just think, “Oh it’s just the glass of wine.”

Brandy:                   Wow. Interesting. That was like your gateway to allow yourself to cry. “Well, I can’t cry when I’m sober because maybe that’s like I’m not stable or I don’t want to feel those feelings when I’m sober. But when I’ve drank a little it’ll be a little bit murky for people and maybe even myself, but I can at least have the release.” That sounds like that’s how you were getting the release.

Caity:                       Yes. I think it’s because I’ve pushed down the emotions for so long, but I can’t cry in front of someone, not even my therapist, and I fucking pay them to cry in front of them.

Brandy:                   I’m not trying to therapize you, but I’m just curious. Do you remember a time when you were younger where you cried in front of an adult or a stranger and you were made fun of or somebody said, “Oh, look at you,” or you were humiliated. Do you have a memory of that?

Caity:                       (laughs) Yes. It wasn’t necessarily crying, but I had a panic attack and at the time I had no idea what a panic attack was.

Brandy:                   How old were you?

Caity:                       Eighteen, maybe. It’s right after Mom had died and I was with my ex’s mom and I had a panic attack and it scared the heck out of me, of course. I mean, if you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’re not in control. Things happen to your body that-

Brandy:                   You think you’re dying. Yeah.

Caity:                       Yeah. Well, my panic attack kind of looked like a seizure from the outside and I was sat down and my ex’s mom said, “I think you’re depressed. I think you need medication.” Now, of course, she said that after she had just yelled at me for having the panic attack. I don’t know if that was the point that made me want to just, “Okay, let’s just not feel these things,” because apparently people don’t understand this. But it was definitely… I mean, it still makes me feel crappy inside when I think about that situation.

Brandy:                   What a shitty response that she had to you to not be just compassionate but to immediately try to fix you or tell you what was wrong or any of that, especially in such a scary moment, that the panic is. Goodness. Do you notice from that moment, if you can kind of like look at your life from maybe like a bigger perspective, like you were above it a little bit and could see like a timeline – do you notice that after that moment, you clammed up even more than you had before? Do you notice that moment as a real shift in your coping mechanisms or your ability to cry?

Caity:                       I’ve never thought about it. I think it was just so many little things that led to it.

Brandy:                   Yeah. We all have such fears about… all of us do about who we are and what it means about us because X, Y, Z happened. I wonder in that moment when you were being reprimanded for having feelings that were absolutely… I mean, a panic attack, you can’t control that. It’s not like you were acting a certain way. It’s just this rush of adrenaline overcame you at an overwhelming rate. Also, then couple that with the loss of your mother and also being the rock for your father and all the other complicated stuff. To have somebody judge you in that exact fucking moment is just so harsh that I can imagine your brain went to a place where it was like, “Because this happened because of this person told me that I was depressed or I needed help or medication or whatever I am… fill in the blank.” Whatever that thing is, that’s like a negative self belief of some kind. “I am a mess or I’m a failure or I’m broken,” or whatever it is. I don’t know if any of this resonates with you, but it’s like once we have that negative self belief about ourselves, then we start living it. Subconsciously that dictates our actions about things and we sometimes don’t even know it, which is why it feels maybe minor, but it’s like it’s so not minor when it’s in the foundation. In that moment, did you believe something to be true about yourself because you’d been reprimanded like that or because somebody had seen you at this really vulnerable messy place?

Caity:                       Yeah. You kind of create this image of the person you think that the people around you want to see. That person that I was listened to everyone and was very easily manipulated.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       When she told me that, I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m totally broken. I need to get fixed.” I don’t remember when the point was that I decided, “Fuck this. That’s not who I am.” Especially not like that, you don’t get to tell me I’m depressed by forcing it on me. We can have a conversation about it. You can bring it up if I seem to feel confident in our relationship or if I’m comfortable with it, but you don’t get to tell me that I’m broken and that I need to be fixed.

Brandy:                   Yeah, and when they’re not taking into account the loss that you’ve been through.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   It sounds like it was just like, “Oh, you’re depressed,” but it’s like… Wait, a minute. Where is the space for the real grasping, and empathy, and compassion for like… girlfriend, you have been through some shit that no 16-year-old should have to go through. That piece seems like it was missing, clearly.

Caity:                       Definitely.

Brandy:                   Also, then moving past this moment, which is just interesting how then you find yourself years later not feeling like you can fall apart in front of people. I would imagine there are some listeners out there, they’re like, “Oh my God, that’s my story too.” Personally, I had never thought about people drinking as a way… and not necessarily like overindulging a ton, but just drinking as a way to allow themselves to feel emotions but being able to have something to blame it on that wasn’t them being a weak mess. “Oh, but I was just drunk.” Right?

Caity:                       Yeah.

Brandy:                   I can totally see that and get that. So then that night where you were just crying and crying, was there a shift that happened after that, that you felt like, “I can’t do this,” or did something change after you said you had that experience on Father’s Day?

Caity:                       Yes, there was a shift. I almost felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders.

Brandy:                   Did you get that in that moment on the floor or was that not until the day after?

Caity:                       No, it was within the same day, but I had been texting… I have a few friends who have also been through therapy and some extensive therapy. I had asked them, “What do you think? Do you have therapist that could help me?” I got on the phone that day, got an appointment for when we got back from a trip and that is when the weight was lifted and it just felt like this breath of fresh air.

Brandy:                   Oh, good for you. You were doing something about it that was like a healthy step forward?

Caity:                       Yes.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       As weird as it sounds, I get really excited about therapy. I feel like, “Oh, you’re going to solve all of my problems today.”

Brandy:                   Well, I was going to say sometimes it feels like part of what’s great about therapy is just even knowing that you’re going to do it, it’s like 50% of it is just knowing that you’ve set it up and that there’s hope for something, and then the other 50% is the actual like really fucking hard work that you do.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   But there’s something about having something scheduled and knowing, “I’m doing something, I have something to look forward to. There is going to be help.” Then you don’t have to question, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I not?” You’re like, “I already have it set up, I’m moving towards it.” I think that’s a huge… That can feel like therapy in itself.

Caity:                       Yes.

Brandy:                   After you started getting that therapy, has that been like a different path away from the hot mess path? Do you feel like you’re making big gains once you sort of had that rock bottom moment of crying and realizing, “This isn’t healthy.”

Caity:                       Yeah. I still feel like a hot mess, but it’s not always grief related. It might just be the hot mess mom express that we’re all on. And there are days when I said going to therapy, I feel like, “Oh she’s going to fix all of my problems.” Then I leave and I think, “Well, what the fuck? What did we even talk about?” But as I move on from week to week, I can tell that something is changing. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m definitely moving in the right direction. I’m not saying my previous therapist who is awesome, I’m not saying he was bad, I just think we weren’t going about it in the right way. Having almost like a change of scenery, change of pace helped.

Brandy:                   Right. It sounds like even if he was the world’s most amazing therapist sometimes until we hit rock bottom on something and really realize it, that’s where the change happens. Kind of like what you’re saying. Like, “I feel like this person’s going to fix everything.” Then the moment that you realize, “Oh my God, I’m the one who has to fix this. I can’t give this to somebody else.” I mean, call me crazy, but there’s probably going to be bigger changes when we really realize that that stuff can be in our hands.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   We haven’t talked much about how parenting came into this equation and I’m really curious about that. How becoming a mother, and then just the daily duties of motherhood, like the things that it brought up for you in terms of grief and then how you coped with those or didn’t cope with those. How does your daughter and being her mother fit into all of this?

Caity:                       To start it off, I firmly believe that children have a very strong connection with the spiritual world. I know that sounds woo woo but-

Brandy:                   No. I’m on the same woo page as you with that.

Caity:                       Same woo page, good.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       I feel like my daughter knew my mom and I feel like she met my dad before she was born. We call my mom Oma and my dad Papa. There was one moment, it gives me chills just thinking about him. My daughter was sitting in her high chair and I was standing in front of her and she points behind me and clear as day says, “Papa.” I just started to cry. I got the chills and I asked her, “Is Papa in the room?” And she just smiled. Even though she’s never met him on this side of death, I feel like she knows him. She also recognizes him in pictures. She’ll smile and say, “Papa.” That’s very sweet.

Brandy:                   I bet it’s both things, right? I bet it’s comforting in a sense. Then also super sad and I would imagine that’s… is that like much of your experience is both of those things?

Caity:                       Oh, yes.

Brandy:                   … like the bitter sweetness of it. Because I would imagine all of this mom stuff that brings back memories of when we were kids or you think, “Oh, my mom would think or my dad would think, she’s so cute right now.” That’s such a warm feeling, but it’s got such a cut in the middle of it.

Caity:                       Right. Daily basis I think about grief, I think about death. I think about parenting with those things. I really enjoy parenting and there are times when I would love to ask my parents, “Hey, what did you do in this situation? Hey, was I like this? Did I do that?”

Brandy:                   That’s like such a part… Like a visual I’m having where it’s just like a hole in information. There’s all this stuff and it happened. I don’t even want to say this because I feel like it’s rubbing salt in a wound. But it’s like you’ll never get that information, but it exists.

Caity:                       Right. Right. Then on top of that, I have a really hard time pulling memories from my brain. That kind of symptom can occur with a lot of grief from forcing down memories and keeping them at bay and you can ruin your memory that way. I mean, you basically have amnesia. But so I really struggle with that because I can’t remember things. People ask me what my parents were like when I was younger. I remember death, I remember some fun times, but I remember my mom dying. I do remember a lot of time with my dad, but I also had 28 years with him. Most of my memories are after my mom died.

Brandy:                   Do you feel like a pressure to make the most of every single moment with your daughter?

Caity:                       Yes, and it’s terrible.

Brandy:                   Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I can imagine. When someone parents off of a wound or something that they’re like, “I will never let this happen. I never want my daughter to feel about me, how I felt about my mom or have this sort of experience.” What it does to the parent is it gives you no options because if that’s always your MO, then when you’re parenting, you can never take a second away. You can never step back. You can never call the babysitter because every choice you’re making is put through the strainer of, “Am I making the most of this moment?” That’s so much pressure and energy to do that. Most people who don’t come from a loss don’t have to think about that. They can check out as a mom for a little bit. But do you feel like you can not check out?

Caity:                       I actually don’t feel that way.

Brandy:                   Okay. Okay.

Caity:                       What I feel is what most people say when they lose somebody is, “Oh, just don’t take life for granted. Love every moment.” I say that really sarcastically because I do believe it, but it’s also one of those cliche lines like, “God has a purpose in all this.” Okay, well if you say that to my face one more time, I’m going to punch you in the face.

Brandy:                   Yeah. Can we just have a disclaimer that if anybody loses anybody, you never say that like, “Well that’s how God intended it.”

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   Never, ever. I mean, I don’t even know why we have to say that so overtly and that people would even do that, but just anybody listening, if you’ve done that before, just pretend you never did it and never do it again. Okay?

Caity:                       Or my least favorite one…

Brandy:                   Oh, no.

Caity:                       “God never gives you anything more than you can handle.” OKAY.

Brandy:                   (groans)

Caity:                       Well, then he thought I was really fucking strong.

Brandy:                   Well, I mean, I think a good reply to that is – this is just awful and dark, but I think a nice reply to that is like, “Wow, so Robin Williams. What happened there?”

Caity:                       Oh geez.

Brandy:                   Just start naming suicides and then just see where we go with that.

Caity:                       Great. Look where that ended up.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       Geez.

Brandy:                   Okay. Any who, but I mean, I do. I wonder, do those people not know? Do the people who say, “God doesn’t you more than you can handle,” do they not know about suicide? Are they just like, “Well, that’s different.”

Caity:                       Right. I think it’s just a cliche thing that you don’t know what to say. I wish I could be here to tell you, here are the magic words to say to people who are grieving, but honestly, there’s no such thing.

Brandy:                   Oh, but that right there, even just what you just said. So anybody out there who does find themselves saying, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” you just gave them something else to say, which is, “I wish I could tell you magic words that would take it all away, but there’s nothing.” Just that.

Caity:                       Right. But I will say on the flip side of it, I hate it when people tell me that phrase, but there are times when I kind of live by it of like, “Okay, I’ve lost my mom, I’ve lost my dad, I’ve lost both sets of my grandparents. God wouldn’t give me anything else to handle because I’m not strong enough.” So I almost subconsciously live it.

Brandy:                   Interesting.

Caity:                       But only that side of, for instance, “He wouldn’t give me a miscarriage,” which I feel like that also comes down a whole different line of thinking that is also maybe a little fucked up.

Brandy:                   Okay. But then if you think about it in terms… If you live your life like that, I mean, what are the odds? Okay this is getting… Everybody who’s listening is like, “You guys are so depressing. Oh, my God.” If you have that thinking though, that like, “God surely wouldn’t give me anything more,” do you think you’re going to get through the rest of your life without something else?

Caity:                       Oh God, no.

Brandy:                   How does that belief help you? Because then if something were to happen, then wouldn’t you just be in a deeper hole because you believed that hole was never going to be coming for you?

Caity:                       It’s a bandaid, I’d say.

Brandy:                   Okay. Okay.

Caity:                       Because I know even leading up to my dad’s death, I thought, “Okay, dad’s going to die. He’s been sick for a long time.” He was 75 when he died. He was 47 when they had me, so he was older already. I knew there wasn’t much time left and I always had the feeling it would suck, but I could survive and I still feel that way. But right now when I’m in the deep shit, it’s not even been two years yet since he died. I just need temporary bandaids-

Brandy:                   Got it.

Caity:                       … to make it through because I’m not willing to sit in the… Sure, my husband could die tomorrow. I would make it through, but it would suck.

Brandy:                   Yes. Okay, so then going back to your daughter and how she fits in this picture of what parenting looks like.

Caity:                       The living in the moment that we were talking about a little bit where I said, “Don’t take life for granted,” makes me feel like I can’t be mad at her ever or I can’t ever discipline her, which I said earlier. I feel things strongly. I also feel anger very strongly and I do believe strongly in discipline. I’m not honestly sure what that looks like just yet. She’s only 18 months old, so we haven’t had to figure that out quite yet.

Brandy:                   Right. Don’t worry. You’ll get plenty of chances.

Caity:                       But it almost sets you up for this – you can’t make a mistake because life is so short. Just let her eat the candy. Just let her break the rules. Just let her stay up a little bit later and it kind of goes along with marriage. Best advice I think I got when I got married was, “It’s okay to go to bed angry. You don’t need to just push your emotions under the rug and just forgive easily and go to bed just so you don’t go to bed angry.” Now I’m not saying like, “Harbor this anger forever.” You need to talk about it definitely.

Brandy:                   No, I get it.

Caity:                       But just being allowed to feel anger is okay. All emotions are okay and they’re all justified because you are feeling them. But acting upon them is a whole different story.

Brandy:                   That’s such a challenge in parenting. But Caity, as I’m putting your pieces together, I’m seeing that you come from a place of, “I have to be strong. I can’t fall apart. Basically, I can’t be human. I can’t be human because I have had to be the rock and I continue to do so.” But so that’s like where you come from. Then here, moving forward with your daughter, you have the same… is prison too hard of a word, which is you can’t be human on this end because you want to enjoy every moment because life’s so short. Where in this puzzle of life do you get to feel uncomfortable feelings? And I don’t mean just uncomfortable feelings for you, but feelings that might be uncomfortable for other people. Where do you get to be a human who falls apart and cracks like an egg if you need to? Not that it’s like you fall apart and then that’s it, you’re just falling apart for the rest of your life, but when I’m saying this, do you see how on every angle you have to still be the rock?

Caity:                       Definitely. That’s why I want to start this conversation of grief because I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. If I’m not the only one, we have a lot of broken people out there who are trying to hold themselves together with scotch tape. I want the world to be a place where we’re all comfortable talking about this shit. It’s heavy. As you were talking earlier, you said people out there probably thinking, “Wow, this is some dark shit.” I get that, and I agree with that. But I also live this every single fucking day. For you to sit down for 45 minutes and listen to it is huge because it allows me time to take it off my shoulders and slowly unpack it.

Brandy:                   Oh, I love that idea. I love that. Just being heard by people who may not even have any sort of personal connection to this, but just you being able to share your experience and be listened to is therapeutic and healing for you.

Caity:                       Right. And to not be told what’s wrong or what’s right. Obviously, within the bounds of being safe to yourself and others, emotions are not bad things. They’re not something we should hide. They’re something we should embrace. We should understand. We should be able to call out, “Hey, I feel like shit today and I’m super angry.” But it’s actually because I’m really sad and I haven’t had a chance to let those tears out in a safe place.

Brandy:                   Right. Let’s just hypothetical question. If you were in a safe place – and I don’t know what that looks like for you. Maybe that’s being alone. Maybe that’s being with a really close friend, maybe that’s being with your therapist. If you were hypothetically in a situation that you felt safe enough to fall apart, what would you allow yourself to do? What would that look like for you?

Caity:                       It would look fucking ugly. No makeup because I cried it all off. I probably be grabbing my stomach because I don’t know if you’ve ever had these tears, but you cry so hard. It feels like you’re going to throw up and you’re just curled up in a ball and sometimes screaming. I like to scream into a pillow because I don’t really like loud noises and maybe that’s because of where I’m at emotionally. I get very triggered very easily. My safe space would actually be, this is kind of weird, but a bathroom and you make it like a steam room. You sit on the countertop, turn on the shower, full blast, have the curtain closed and part of that comes from when my mom was still alive. She would get ready in the morning and I would sit down on the floor and I would wear those big t-shirts to bed. I would like attach it to the register on the floor so that the heat was coming like directly at my back.

Brandy:                   Oh my God, and put your knees up so that it was all enclosed!

Caity:                       Yep. Then I put a blanket over top so like no heat was gonna escape and that was my safe space. I feel now, even though mom isn’t here and has not been here for a very long time, I can go into a bathroom, doesn’t matter where, turn on the shower, shut the shower curtain, and I can feel like she’s there. I can embrace the comfort of knowing my mom’s there.

Brandy:                   So is this something that you do or have done?

Caity:                       Yeah. When I was pregnant with Kylie, I did a steam room every day before I went to work. I wouldn’t cry every day. I would just sit in there and I try not to bring in technology. I try not to bring in a book or anything that would distract from me just sitting at my feelings.

Brandy:                   At the beginning I was thinking that when you were talking about being… the whole Mentos in the Coke and pushing down your feelings thing, but now I’m hearing that it actually kind of sounds like you have a hard time having these feelings in front of people. But it sounds like you really know how to get yourself in an environment where you can have these feelings safely. That’s amazing.

Caity:                       Yes. It’s taken me a very long time to find those things. I’d say probably within the last year. I love to write, I have a blog, I’m working on a book.

Brandy:                   Awesome.

Caity:                       Honestly, just talking about it with people, which… There are certain people I feel very comfortable talking about grief with and then there are other people that kind of look at me and for no reason, other than they just haven’t shared experiences similar, it’s very uncomfortable. You can tell they’re uncomfortable, so then I can take it on as well like, “Oh maybe we shouldn’t talk about this. So the weather.”

Brandy:                   Right. Yeah, “Let’s talk about something lighter.”

Caity:                       Yeah.

Brandy:                   That has me then wondering, because we’ve talked a little bit about this, what has your experience been in trying to make friends with other moms? You’ve got a lot of this heavy stuff going on, but it’s interesting too because your personality is so fun and you’ve got a great sense of humor that maybe people don’t know that you have this stuff with you. But then it’s also got to be like if you can’t really talk about this stuff with people and have them sort of be able to handle it, then how can you be with people? So what has your experience been trying to make mom friends? How has that gone?

Caity:                       It’s gone both ways. I found some really great friends who are very helpful and then I found some other people who… Honestly, I think, I just want to be so much more intentional about my relationships. If you can’t get to the nitty gritty, the shitty part of my life and still love me and let’s say within the first date really, I don’t really have time for it. I don’t have time for our friendship and I don’t have energy for it. Some of the things I’ve encountered are probably just my own bias and my own self conscious feelings of, “Oh they probably don’t want to hear it.” Or that feeling of, “Man, I talk about grief a lot.Maybe it’s too much. Maybe it’s too much dark shit. Maybe there’s not enough like laughter in this.” And of course not everybody gets the gallows humor like you and I do.

Brandy:                   Yeah, for sure. And you know pretty quick who doesn’t.

Caity:                       Right, right.

Brandy:                   It doesn’t take you very long to figure out, “Oh, I shouldn’t probably have a conversation with that person.”

Caity:                       Right. Like when I joke about how terrible my parents are at being grandparents, like, “They never call, they never send gifts. What the fuck?” And people are like, “Excuse me.”

Brandy:                   Here’s what I say. I say you get in a Mommy and Me group and you just open with that and you just see who’s still standing after that. Then those people, you hunt them down and they’re your best friends.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   Go intense, right off the bat, and then you’re not dealing with bullshit people. Go for it, and then report back to me how it goes.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   Video would be preferable, if possible.

Caity:                       On the other side of that though, there is a little bit of me that feels like I’m just too much for some people because I lost most of my family within the last five years. Even before that, I already felt like a lot to some people. I’ve actually been told that like, “Wow, Caity, you’re a little too much.” Which that sucks for them. But of course, it’s easy to say if somebody doesn’t want to be around you, they don’t deserve to be around you.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       But then there’s that fear of, “Boy, what if I end up alone? What if I scare everyone away because I am like this and I am too much? Maybe it’s me.”

Brandy:                   Yes, that’s such a real thought and then my mind goes to, “You just haven’t found your freaks yet.” I mean honestly you haven’t gone in the room and made a really dark joke about your dead parents and see who was laughing!

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   But there’s always somebody to laugh at the darkest joke. We usually just haven’t found them yet. It’s possible, but I know what you mean about that self consciousness about is this really… I can joke away that they don’t deserve to hang out with me. But really when it comes down to it like… I mean, gosh. Doesn’t that come back to the thing that we were talking about earlier when your ex’s mom reprimanded you or said you were depressed, that feeling, that agreement about being broken?

Caity:                       Yeah.

Brandy:                   Right. It’s just interesting how sometimes those agreements come through. Same agreement, different scenario.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   Do you actively seek other mom friends? Your daughter’s at an age where she’s probably really active and you could be doing classes and going to the park and stuff like that. Is that something that you seek out or do you automatically go, “I think I’m going to be too much for people. I don’t know that I can go out and do this. Let’s just stay home.”

Caity:                       It’s a daily battle and part of it I think is just depression too. I mean, it’s the picture of depression. I don’t want to go out. It’s too much work and especially with an 18 month old. Well, with all of her stuff that she needs and then making sure I’m prepared and making sure I’m prepared for me, I almost talk myself out of it, majority of the time. It’s a daily battle, but I’m working on it.

Brandy:                   That’s that thing too, which is like, who are you with grief and who are you without? There’s plenty of people out there who don’t have the grief aspect, but who also have that it’s hard to get out for the day and all of the things that you have to get in place so that people aren’t melting down, and so everybody has what they need and all of that kind of thing, which I think is an anxiety thing.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   I only know this because I’ve been there and I understand that because of some of my stuff. It’s a hard thing to figure out what is motherhood and what is your grief? I would imagine that, that too, with the feeling broken piece, maybe there’s a certain amount of the stuff that you feel and that you struggle with, which is just… not just, but is motherhood.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   I would imagine it would be easy for you to think, “Oh, this is part of my grief.” It’s almost like you judge yourself even harder on that, therefore reinforcing the broken piece more than somebody who didn’t have it, who was just like, “Oh yeah, this is the hot mess express.” But for you you’re like, “Oh, but what part is this?”

Caity:                       Right. And to some extent, because I have lived in that caretaker role for so, so long and I’ve recently realized how crushing it can be, really, because it can take over my life. And so to some extent, I avoid relationships because of that because I don’t need to care-take for another person. There are some days when my burdens are already heavy enough. I can’t even imagine trying to take on somebody else’s because as much as I’d like to say that I can listen to somebody’s story about a crappy coworker or a really terrible experience they had without taking it on, I can’t. I take on a piece of that and I hold it. There are some days when I’m so crushed by all of those pieces I’ve taken on that I just need to stay home. I need to stay home with Kylie. I need to only focus on the two of us and then when my husband gets home focus on him, but that’s it. I can’t spread this love out anywhere else without losing it.

Brandy:                   Good for you for knowing where your limitations are and not going beyond that.

Caity:                       But it’s hard finding the balance of, “Okay, is this me just being lazy? Is this me taking on too much and I need to step back? Is this my depression that’s holding me back? Who’s at play here?” One requires me to stay home because I should stay home. The other two require me to get the fuck out of home and go do something.

Brandy:                   Yeah, I was going to say does it really matter what’s at play? Could it just be that you have that sensation and then you feel that sensation and where it comes from doesn’t matter or doesn’t change what you do? But then I hear what you’re saying, which is, maybe if it’s a depression thing, well, then maybe better to get out because that actually feels better. But no, you know what I go back to? No matter what it is, whatever your body and mind in that moment think would be the better thing for you to do. Not the better like, “I should do this,” but what do we want in this moment seems like the way to go. But I know there’s the mind game and the internal dialogue that we all have as mothers it seems to be a common theme that it’s constantly for a lot of us just like a revolving door. You just have like a really extra layer to it that gets thrown in there.

Caity:                       Right. I would say getting outdoors or even just moving, regardless of which one is at play is the best action to take. But it’s whether I do it with people or do it just on my own.

Brandy:                   Right.

Caity:                       Because if it’s depression or laziness, I should find a friend. I should get somebody to go walking with me. But if I’ve carried too many burdens today, I just need to do it with Kylie. Otherwise, I’m a really terrible human. I get hungry really fast.

Brandy:                   Yeah, I’m one of those too. I’m a terrible human as well.

Caity:                       Right. You just get triggered so fast and it’s like, “I am going to explode on you and I really care for you.”

Brandy:                   My friend has said to me before, I think I’ve said it here on one of the podcasts, she says that I have narrow margins and it’s because of a lot of my health stuff that makes it so that I don’t have a lot of reserves for energy. Sometimes you need energy for patience and just minor things like that. But knowing where your margins are and trying not to live your life so that you’re so slim to the sides that any other dip in there, that there’s like an explosion. But again, living our life, trying not to explode or have our humanness be seen by people is also a paralyzing experience in itself. Again, I feel like every podcast we talk about finding the fucking balance on things, which just seems to be… it’s like “What is the meaning of life?” I feel like it’s very clearly finding an impossible balance. Just that.

Caity:                       Definitely.

Brandy:                   Are there things that you wish your friends would do or say? How would you guide a friend in how to deal with a friend who’s been through loss?

Caity:                       I wish I had the answers, I don’t.

Brandy:                   But what have you liked?

Caity:                       I think the first step, the most important step, is to just be there and know that there are legitimately no words that can make the situation better. Depending on how well you know the person, if there’s something that really brings a smile to their face, maybe it’s a cup of coffee, maybe it’s going on a walk. You could ask them if they wanted it. But forcing it on them, I wouldn’t encourage that.

Brandy:                   Right. I’m always a fan of stuff in situations like this where you don’t involve the other person having to answer you for something. When people are like, “Oh I want to bring you dinner, what do you want me to make you?” No. So I always think in situations like this to give something like a gift card for a restaurant that the people love. I mean, stuff like… And I don’t know, maybe you’re like, “No that’s not good.” But I feel like anytime the person on the receiving end has to do work to receive it, it’s like you’ve just put a burden on them and maybe they don’t want that. If you can give them something that’s like, “Here’s money to go have Door Dash or something like that,” and I’m going to give you the money for it and you can do it however. Or like you said, if it’s something that you know that somebody likes and you can just have it show up and the people can take it or not, I feel like those things are maybe a little bit easier to receive than really having to get into a whole conversation with somebody about something.

Caity:                       Right. So with that being said, let me take back what I said earlier about don’t force it on them because it also depends on your friend and honestly it depends on where they’re at in their grief stage. I mean, if you would have tried the exact same thing 100 days in a row while I was grieving, maybe right after dad died, I probably would’ve said no to you majority of the time and said yes a few times. The same thing might work sometimes and might not work the other times. But I agree with you. I think anything that would not require an answer from the person is great, but it can’t be… forceful is the own only word coming to me. Like, “You have to eat, you have to do this, otherwise you’re not going to take care of yourself.” There are some times when during grief I would forget to eat and not because I was trying to lose weight, not because… I love food, but I would just forget because I was so caught up in the emotions or whatever was happening that day that unless somebody put food in front of my face and didn’t allow me a decision of like, “Oh, do you want Chick-fil-A or do you want Raising Cane’s?” I wouldn’t have been able to choose, but as long as something was in front of me, I’ll eat it.

Brandy:                   Okay. Yes. So, where do you stand on Raising Cane’s versus Chick-fil-A? I need to know this right now.

Caity:                       Raising Cane’s, hands down.

Brandy:                   Cane’s Sauce is the nectar of the Gods.

Caity:                       I’m a honey mustard fan, but the Cane’s sauce is really good.

Brandy:                   Wait, Cane’s has sauces other than Cane’s sauce?

Caity:                       It does, but only a few. They don’t even have ranch.

Brandy:                   Oh, do they shame you, do they make you ask for it?

Caity:                       Yeah.

Brandy:                   Oh, interesting. This could be a whole podcast episode in itself of just the merits of the different breading styles. Also, what I don’t like about Chick-fil-A is how they hate gay people. But in fact, actually somebody the other day was telling me that it’s on like a local level. We had a young man in a town near us who was killed, who was gay, and the Chick-fil-A in his neighborhood did a huge fundraiser for him, for his services. Somebody was telling me that everybody hates Chick-fil-A, but actually how shitty they are as dictated by their localness or each branch. But anyway, what I appreciate about Chick-fil-A is that when you go up to order at their drive through, they just say like, “Hi, what would you like?” They don’t say, “Chicken, chicken, whatchu pickin’?”

Caity:                       Okay. Those make me laugh every time though.

Brandy:                   But then you’re like, “Duuuuuuude.”

Caity:                       I’ll take it.

Brandy:                   What are some of the times that you’ve been blindsided by… I would imagine holidays are tricky, or at least that’s what people who I know who’ve been through grief talk about the holidays being hard. What has been your experience?

Caity:                       I want to say yes and no to that statement. Holidays are tough, but so is every other day. There are so many firsts that happen after a death. Of course, within the first year, a lot of them occur. But also my mom died in 2005 and she wasn’t there for the birth of my first child and that just happened in 2018.

Brandy:                   Right.

Caity:                       The firsts are still happening even though my mom has been gone over a decade and that’s hard, and they hit me at random times. It can be hearing a song. It can be… This is weird, but I was… So I have my dad’s car and I remember when he would turn the wheel, he would turn it with only like two fingers. There was one time I turned the wheel and for some reason that image of him turning the wheel just flashed into my head. It was totally random. It was just a memory I had that I’ll never have again.

Brandy:                   Right. So literally, it can be any little moment?

Caity:                       Yeah. My mom loved holidays. My mom and I loved Christmas together. My dad, however, was a Jehovah’s Witness, and so he did not celebrate holidays. He also did not celebrate birthdays, which for a long time made me really mad. But as I got older, I realized, “Hey, he strongly believes that he shouldn’t celebrate this holiday and he’s standing firm and that’s awesome.” I think that’s really strong of him, so I understand it. I’m not mad that he didn’t anymore. I was for a long time. So holidays, I actually don’t miss him because he wasn’t really a part of holidays.

Brandy:                   So maybe he did you a solid and didn’t even know he was doing you a solid, right?

Caity:                       Right. Yeah. Yeah. But he didn’t quite get it right because he died right before my husband became a father. The first year my husband could be celebrated on Father’s Day, I was mourning the loss of my father. So-

Brandy:                   So he got the last laugh on your husband, it sounds like.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   Strategic man.

Caity:                       “I will win.”

Brandy:                   Gosh. So if you had to give any sort of tip or one piece of advice for other moms who are mothering with this heavy grief, what would that be?

Caity:                       I think the most important thing would be finding time to allow yourself to feel these things. Because even if you allowed yourself to feel the shitty emotions of grief in front of a kid, there’s something that holds you back in front of your kid regardless. You’re not fully allowing yourself to sit in the shit. Or maybe it’s a really happy moment that you want to remember. I feel like you need that time to yourself so you can sit in it, think about it. You can share it with people definitely, but I think that time alone is so important, especially as a mom because we don’t get it very often.

Brandy:                   Right.

Caity:                       I mean, every time I go to the bathroom, my kid’s at the door, all of a sudden, even if Dad’s home.

Brandy:                   Oh, yeah.

Caity:                       Can I not go to the bathroom for two seconds?

Brandy:                   No, you can’t. That lasts-

Caity:                       Great.

Brandy:                   … till like age 12, sorry.

Caity:                       Yeah, cool. So finding ways to have somebody else watch your kids, if you’re a single mom, if it’s possible to find like a drop-in daycare or maybe somebody from your church to just watch the kids for an hour even. I mean, of course a full day of pampering and spa and coffee and wine would be awesome.

Brandy:                   Right. But sometimes that stuff is so out of our reach that then we don’t do anything.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   It sounds like what you’re saying is to moms who are going through this is to give yourself permission to feel the feelings because you are inevitably holding back just because of being a mom and just the momness of not wanting to lose it in front of your kid. But then also that moms going through this grief maybe need a little bit of even extra time to themselves because of the complicated nature of it. It’s like all moms need time to be with themselves, have autonomy, be away, but then moms with grief need some extra time to really be able to explore their feelings, whether that’s the joy, whether that’s the sadness. Because I wonder if some moms, when you say, “Be allowed to feel your feelings,” I wonder if some moms are like, “Oh my gosh, I’m feeling my feelings too much.” People who have sort of an opposite take, which is they’re losing it all the time in public and so I think even what you’re saying, even for people who are at that other extreme is just having the time. Maybe if they had the time to lose it, like in their own time and whether that’s time to go to therapy or to do things that fulfill them and are healing to them, then maybe even their losing it all the time would maybe be less. It sounds like what you’re saying too is having the time where you’re just you and you’re not care-taking somebody because it sounds like even just being you with grief, you’re care-taking yourself like all the time.

Caity:                       Right. Yeah. 100% agree. Yeah. Both ends of the spectrum. I mean, if you feel like you’re constantly losing it, I feel like there’s, and I hate this word but, self-care.

Brandy:                   I knew you were going to say it.

Caity:                       There’s just not enough of it. Like you said, it’s not just for moms grieving. It’s for moms everywhere. If you don’t deal with your shit, it’s going to come back and bite you in the ass.

Brandy:                   Yeah, it’s funny. I have a friend, she’s probably listening right now. I want to wave hi to her, who lost her dad and she said that she hasn’t wanted to even open that box. She knows it’s there and she knows it’s waiting for her. I would imagine it’s a part of her life in a daily way somehow. But it’s like she’s waiting for this time to sort of deal with it. So, gosh, I would imagine there’s a lot of other people out there feeling like it’s inconvenient, right? I mean, you can attest to that. It’s inconvenient to deal with your grief especially in parenthood where you are so busy care-taking all the time to then take on this really huge thing. But it sounds like from your experience like, “Oh no, it will find you.”

Caity:                       Right. And who knows if my experience is like anyone else’s? But I started to become physically sick because I was not dealing with my emotions and I honestly thought I was. But I also feel like dealing with grief with what we’ve talked about so far, it just sounds negative. If you’re talking about grieving somebody, you don’t always have to talk about how sad you are. Talking about the happy memories, the joyous memories, the wonderful things that happened in that person’s life that you remember and that you loved about them are just as important and are missed most of the time, I feel like. I don’t know if it’s just a comfort level or what, but I’ve really had to have sit down talks with my husband about, “I want to be able to talk about my dad. I want to be able to talk about my mom.” And not just that, “Oh, this sucks. They’re not here. But here’s a memory that I just remember.” It’s not all him. It’s me too that I get stuck in how sad I am. But being able to focus on the happy notes of everything as well is just as important, I think.

Brandy:                   What’s one of your favorite memories of your mom?

Caity:                       I’m from Minnesota and our amusement park is called Valleyfair. I think my mom went with us, I’m not totally positive. I got this outrageous top hat that was blue with smiley faces on it and I remember we were out on the deck one night and she was wearing the hat. She was playing guitar on a Reese’s peanut butter cup wrapper and we were just laughing. About what? I have no idea but we were laughing so hard. And her laugh was one of the things that people remember most about her, that she just had this contagious laugh, that the moment she laughed, everybody else in the room was laughing. There’s no importance to it other than it was awesome.

Brandy:                   Having moments of laughing with your kids or your parents, that’s the greatest thing ever. It’s like everything is all right. It doesn’t matter-

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   It doesn’t matter how stupid the thing is. Sometimes when I go to movies with my son and he’s laughing at some parts so hard, I just look over and it’s like, “I want to bottle this. It’s my favorite thing.” So, okay. What about your dad? What’s a favorite dad memory?

Caity:                       See, that’s harder to talk about for me because it’s so much more recent and I’m just so blinded by… I mean, I saw my dad in the hospital. When he died, it was sudden and we were talking about discharging him-

Brandy:                   Oh, wow.

Caity:                       … and the next day he died. That image is still so burned into my brain that it’s hard to look past it. But my dad officiated my wedding and he called me out. Oh my gosh. I have my Doctorate of physical therapy and I was talking to him about his speech and he said something about fingers like putting the ring on the finger, whatever, in the speech. I said, “Well, they’re digits.” I don’t know why I said that. So he calls me out at my own wedding. He said, “No wait, my daughter just told me that these are not fingers.” I was like, “Dad, they are fingers.”

Brandy:                   You said that at the wedding??

Caity:                       Yeah.

Brandy:                   You guys were arguing about this?

Caity:                       Yes, in the video you can see us arguing and I’m just laughing because I’m like, “Dad, what are you doing?” He said, “Yeah, you said they’re digits.” So anyways, and then he just keeps going and everybody laughed. I mean, he had been so stern in the beginning that, “This is your wedding. It’s serious.” Then he laughed like every other line.

Brandy:                   Oh my God, I love him.

Caity:                       Yeah.

Brandy:                   One last thing I want to just come back to you real fast is in that moment where where you were called out with a panic attack, since then, do you think you’ve updated that belief that you had about yourself, about feeling broken?

Caity:                       Yes, but I think I’ve embraced that I’m broken and that it’s not a bad thing because it’s not. We’re all broken. We’ve all been fucked up by this world, but it’s okay. I am doing healthy things to make sure that I’m taking care of myself and so I’m just not worried about it anymore.

Brandy:                   Yeah.

Caity:                       I’m probably going to butcher this because, again, I have terrible memory. But I was in a Bible study and we were talking about some ancient time.

Brandy:                   Some “Jesus time,” I don’t know.

Caity:                       Yeah, right. Jesus-

Brandy:                   Jesus, et cetera.

Caity:                       Yes. There was some piece of porcelain that every time it encountered a crack or a dent, they would fill it in with gold. The broken pieces became more beautiful than the complete vase itself before it was broken.

Brandy:                   Yes.

Caity:                       To me, broken isn’t an ugly word. Broken is a beautiful thing.

Brandy:                   I believe what you’re referring to is called kintsugi. I know of this as well. Yes. The idea that the breaks are what make it beautiful.

Caity:                       Right.

Brandy:                   Caity, it’s hard to hold it together because it’s so beautiful, but I just so appreciate you being really vulnerable with me here and discussing this. I’m hoping that somewhere there’s a listener who’s just feeling really connected to it or validated by it or now knows something that they didn’t know about it. I just so appreciate you coming on here.

Caity:                       Of course, thanks for being willing to do this.

Brandy:                   As you may have noticed, there is a pattern with guests on my podcast. They are all super vulnerable. That’s a must, but I just wanted to take a second to acknowledge the bravery that it takes for people to open themselves up like this. For some, it’s not a huge stretch and for others it really is. In a way, it’s like standing naked in front of a bunch of strangers. So thank you to Caity and all the other podcast guests who so bravely come here and show themselves to us. Thank you.

Brandy:                   If you want to check out Caity’s blog, “At Least My Feet Still Touch the Ground,” you can go to www.caitysblog.home.blog and that’s Caity spelled C-A-I-T-Y. You can also go to the podcast website where I have show notes and links to all sorts of things. Of course, for anyone who wants to discuss this topic and episode further, you can find myself and other listeners like you on our Facebook group, the Adult Conversation Podcast Discussion Group. I’ve added questions to vet you guys and truthfully, one of those questions is just for my sheer entertainment (please humor me).

Brandy:                   If you are enjoying this podcast, please subscribe or leave a rating or review. If you want to show your love in a deeper way and would like to support a mom on her side gig, which sometimes feels more like a main gig (hi, me!), go to patreon.com/adultconversation. That’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N slash adultconversation. Thank you to all my beloved Patreon peeps who help keep this podcast alive. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.