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  • Emily Conley Baker

{three hundred and sixty-five}

Updated: Feb 14

January 31st, 2020, is day three hundred and sixty-five. That is exactly three hundred and sixty-five more days that I thought my heart was ever going to be able to handle.


Approximately three hundred and seventy-two days ago I began a journey, the type of journey that splits your life into two parts; the time before day three hundred and seventy-two, and the time after day three hundred and seventy-two. On the evening of January 21st, 2019, my dad was admitted into the hospital for what we thought was a simple upper respiratory infection. He immediately got better upon admission and then within forty-eight hours my brothers and I were making the hardest decisions of our lives, all while trusting God that he would carry us through. To this day, we have no answers as to why or what caused my dad to get so sick, so fast. After I helped my dad understand his advanced directives, his last Earthly decisions, and watched him sign them with terror in his eyes, I whispered my last words into my dad's ear, with so much love, I held his hand and told him, “You will be okay, and I will see you on the other side of this Daddy, I love you." This was all while he was being intubated, begging the doctor to just wait a few more hours until he could see his oldest son, my dad then slowly coded twice in front of my brother and me, and in those moments the second half of my journey started. Physically I was paralyzed, I couldn’t breathe, and the only thing I knew to do was to pray, I recited the Hail Mary over and over, saying the words mindlessly, and on a seemingly sunny Thursday in Phoenix my world had turned gray and I began living out my worst nightmare.


My dad didn’t pass that day; instead, our family was blessed with seven more days, that was filled with ups and downs, with love, with healing, and with prayer, and eventually, my father’s body made the decision that none of us children could stand to bear on our own. On January 31st, 2019, my dad was welcomed into Heaven.


Over the last year, there were days that I had to consciously make the decision to get out of bed, to go through the motions of the day, and to tell myself that I was not going to allow my grief to consume me. There were also days that I woke up with excitement, with joy, with happiness, and with hope, and regardless of how I felt that day, you would meet me with a smile because my heart was too hurt to ever share my pain. Here is the funny thing about grief; you won’t find a manual or a “Grief for Dummies” book. Your grief will not look like your spouses’, your children’s, or your siblings’. Grief can be consuming, it can be lonely, and it can be downright devastating, but that is only if you do not allow yourself the opportunity to grieve.


It took me months to work up the courage to process my dad’s death. Month eight, on the day before my birthday, I received a very random message from someone who had also experienced concurrent losses to tell me that it was okay to not be a superwoman; to normalize one’s right to grieve, and to also share with me the value of taking care of your mental health, and this is all while working as a nurse telling others to do the very OPPOSITE thing that I was doing. It took three more months for me to accept and consider the words that she was telling me. Eleven months later, on my dad’s birthday, I decided that I had two choices, I could continue to let month after month pass by with this gaping hole in my heart, or I could actively decide to care for myself just like I would recommend to a patient or friend in the same position.


On day three hundred and sixty-five, I am here to tell you that grief can also be a lot of good things, especially when you allow it to be. It can be the smile that no longer feels fake, it can be the belly laugh that you enjoy with your family as you joke about your loved one’s old habits, it can be the song on the radio that reminds you of a special moment in time, it can be the picture that froze a moment in time, it can be the little nudges from heaven in so many forms, it can be the happiness or sadness, the anger, the doubt, the questioning, or the gratitude. As a very wise therapist recently told me, the key to grief is allowing yourself to feel.


Today, on day three hundred and sixty-five, I am allowing myself to feel the sadness, to laugh with my brothers, to cry, to honor traditions, to be grateful for the many lessons learned over the last year, and ultimately to share my vulnerabilities in hopes that it can be the encouraging message for someone else, similar to my encouraging message that I received when I needed it the most.



When you are ready, here is how to start…

· I suggest calling the number on the back of your insurance card; ask for a list of in-network mental health providers in your area. Be persistent and know that you have every right to ask for this information to be provided to you and that you do not need to settle for the answer of “it can be obtained online.”

· If you prefer to look things up online, sign in to your health plan and do a provider search.

· You can also search on Psychology Today for a list of providers based upon your zip code.

Are your copays not in the budget?? Here are some suggestions….

· Ask your provider about any sliding scale prices they may offer.

· Look to see if your place of employment has an employee assistance program (EAP.)

· Visit The National Alliance on Mental Illness, this website offers a hotline, and an informational tab completely designated for finding support.

· I also suggest looking into support groups offered in your area. You can also search this on Psychology Today's website.

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