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I went to my work's Holiday Gala on Friday. I thought it would be nice to get out after the horrible ordeal I had experienced, watching my mother die slowly, painfully... coughing up blood and gasping for air, not to mention the trauma done to her spine by this cancer. The injury she sustained was something the body would experience as the result of a catastrophic car crash - three compressed vertebrae, permanent paralyses from the chest down - and yet all she did was sit at home and cough up blood.

I took care of her until she was transferred to her short stay in palliative care. And even there I stayed by her side as she remained bed ridden and back in diapers at only 59 years old. Day and night, I sat beside my trapped, energetic mother.

Repressed memories came back to her - of being molested by her uncle. The abuse began when she was still in diapers. She told me this while at the hospital, and it broke my heart. All these years I've wondered why the lack of affection from her, and with this new knowledge it explains everything. I wish I hadn't been so mad at her growing up now for being so cold because I now understand the why.

I'll never know if it was the cancer that got to her brain, or if it was her past that had come back to haunt her, but after she told me the story of her uncle, her lucidity slowly faded away. All that remained was the broken shell of a small child. Babbling things that made no sense.

But back to the Holiday Gala. I had a horrible time, and for such a stupid reason. The little rubber snowflake decals spread over the table reminded me of the little snowflakes on the hospital gown my mom wore during those last few weeks of her life. I had a panic attack and a friend drove me home. I haven't been right since. How can I be all messed up over snowflakes?

Last night I had a dream that I had a nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized. I'm scared that this was a premonition and not a dream.

Please someone tell me something that will make me feel better because I don't want to end up like my dad.

~ Novi

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Novi, dear, please know that you are NOT going crazy and you are NOT headed for a "nervous breakdown" (and I don't even know what that means; I think it's more a Hollywood phrase than anything). What you experienced with the plastic snowflakes is a so-called STUG (Sudden, Temporary Upsurge of Grief) better known as a grief attack, triggered by something totally unexpected that reminded you of your mother's death ~ like a flashback. These happenings are frightening mostly because they occur straight out of the blue, when we least expect them. But each time they happen (and trust me, they will happen to you again) you'll feel a little less frightened because you will recognize them for what they are. Notice the word Temporary ~ because these grief bursts are not permanent; they only last a minute or two ~ but they do indeed feel like panic attacks because the symptoms are so similar: heart racing, a compelling need to get away, confusion, anxiety, etc.

You might find these resources helpful:

Grief Happens: Taking the Risk to Bloom After a Loss, by Chris Mulligan, Open to Hope, August 21,2009, http://www.opentohop...m-after-a-loss/

What Does Grief Look Like? by Allison Daily, Open to Hope, September 23,2009, http://www.opentohop...rief-look-like/

Dealing with GriefTriggers after a Loss, by LouisLaGrand, Open to Hope, March 22, 2009,


Dealing with Those Darn Grief Triggers, by Harriet Hodgson, Open to Hope,November 6, 2008,


Coping with 'Shutdown Spells' in Grief,by Marty Tousley, Open to Hope, December 7, 2010, http://www.opentohop...80%99-in-grief/

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I just have to say that I feel you on those triggers, and yes they're normal and they don't care where you're at when they hit you. They just hit. I've had that crap happen to me in public triggered by a song that I hear and it's really hard to keep it together when it happens. It's embarrassing to me when I lose control in front of everybody.

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