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Signs of grief |


Signs of grief

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
Signs of grief

I have been in a miserable state lately. For the past three weeks I have been almost unable to move out of bed. I force myself to eat breakfast — a small bowlful of oatmeal or an egg. Spoonfuls of kangkong and pork from sinigang for lunch. Six lenguas de gato and half a tangerine for dinner. Or around 10 potato chips. I can’t eat any more.

In between, stirring myself from bed to kitchen, to dining room and back, I have to be very careful not to fall because my knees feel weak and I seem to sense a dizzy spell threatening to descend all the time. I hold on to walls to make it to the bathroom. Last Sunday I took a turn for the worse. I woke up so weak. My heart was beating wildly. I had difficulty breathing. Furthermore, I now live totally alone. And because I hadn’t been feeling well, I had told my weekend driver not to come in.

Almost in a state of panic, I called my son, who lives in Alabang. I also called my driver, asked him to get a wheelchair from the lobby and take me to the hospital. I knew I could not walk the short distance from our apartment to the elevator. My dear driver, Crispin Vinoya, who has worked for me for more than 20 years, drove me to Cardinal Santos Hospital Emergency Room, the hospital closest to home. My son Gino followed.

Their Emergency Room (ER) was newly renovated. I showed them my IDs, they wheeled me into a cubicle with a comfortable bed. They asked me if they had adjusted the back rest correctly. Was I comfortable? That immediately put them in sharp contrast to the Medical City Emergency Room, where I had been in January. A doctor asked what was wrong with me. I told him. He said they would give me an electrocardiogram (ECG), a blood test including blood sugar, and an x-ray. The ECG was wheeled in, soon followed by two young girls to take my blood and blood sugar. Then an x-ray machine was wheeled in. All very quickly.

A lady doctor, an internist, interviewed me again. She said to wait a little for the results of my tests. Maybe I lay there half-asleep with my precious son beside me for around two and a half hours. Then the internist came in and told me my vital signs were all right. Nothing was physically wrong with me. “Except maybe your sodium (salt) levels are very slightly off. Normally they should be 135 and yours are 134.”  That is so insignificant. “I think you are just going through a stressful period,” she said. She was a young doctor.

“You want a better word for ‘stress’?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said smiling patiently at me.

“Grief,” I said.

Three hours later I was back in the car being driven home. They prescribed appetite-building capsules that I bought on the way home. I was relieved to know that my vital signs were all good. My son — whose parents-in-law had both passed away recently and who has been more than my partner in grief — told me that he, too, sometimes feels there’s something wrong with his heart because he feels his pulse racing at the back of his head but when he takes his pulse it’s normal. That must be a sign of stress. Please don’t be alarmed. One day soon, you will get over all this.

Back home I forced myself to eat for two days because I had a seminar to attend the following Wednesday. I was afraid I would not last the whole day. So I tried to make myself stronger. I tried to eat more. I ate longganisa with rice. Please, God, please, Loy, let me make it through my seminar.

Wednesday morning, friends picked me up. We walked into a roomful of friends. This seminar was organized by a collection of old friends, new friends. I guess you could look at us as the Carl Jung Fan Club, just a group of women interested in getting to know ourselves better and to laugh and eat together. We are a group of kind women who have sensitive broken or whole hearts, who share lessons that life has taught us. Sometimes we revisit things we learned around 10 or 20 years ago to track our growth, to explore how we have changed.

Surprise! I didn’t faint, get dizzy, or anything sick, convincing me that all the ridiculous things I feel are related to grief. I stayed the whole day! So my friends have asked me to talk on grief, on my personal experience. I will be joined by Gerardo Jimenez, a wonderful painter, who will probably talk about painting as a capsule for getting over grief.

If you want to come listen, please let me know. I can get you tickets.

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