I am not a therapist. I am not a doctor. I am, however, a daughter of a stroke survivor, and I am learning every single day what life is like post-stroke, for my father, my family, and myself.
I am writing this post because when my father had his stroke at the end of July of 2018, I turned to the internet to answer questions that I had, and to find a community that could help me understand what steps I could take next. And I wanted to have a place for people to convene, to talk and understand what it's like. To commiserate, and to empathize and sympathize. I hope this brings you a sense of comfort and relief.
How it all began
It has been almost 6 months since my father's unfortunate stroke. The timing couldn't have been any worse. I mean, there is never a good time to have a stroke, but it just seemed to have been the most inopportune time for me... That sounds super selfish, but hear me out.
My rehearsals for an opera I was in at a company in St. Louis was starting on July 29th, a Sunday. And we would be rehearsing for two weeks straight, with two weekends of performances. The night I had my first rehearsal my father had his stroke. And I didn't find out about it until the following day in the evening after I had gone grocery shopping for the week. I had a missed call from my brother and a text saying, "Call me when you get a chance."
I knew something happened. My stomach dropped when I read that text. I just knew something happened. And if you don't know, my family is in Atlanta, so it's difficult to pack up and see them whenever I want. What's even worse is that I talked to my mother right before I had gone into the grocery store, and she acted as if everything was beautiful. I was mad, initially, when she didn't tell me that day, but now I know that my mother was trying to keep me focused on my singing, and that she is the strongest woman I have ever met. I honestly don't think I will ever meet a woman stronger than my mother in my lifetime.
So, I called my brother back and when answered the phone, he was holding back tears, and he rarely cries. He told me everything, and I cried, asking so many questions in the middle of my tears. I realized I couldn't visit him for three weeks because of rehearsals, and I had to step away at times during rehearsals to collect myself.
Luckily, my father was with family, and when the stroke happened my mother knew exactly what was happening, and the ambulance was there before she hung up the phone with 911.
My father also knew what was happening and that something really serious was unfolding.
If my mother didn't act as fast as she did who knows what state my father would be in today.
How life has changed since...
In the grand scheme of things my father's recovery is going relatively well, and quickly. He is determined to get better and can walk (albeit slowly), and he is gaining more movement in his left arm. His speech is significantly clearer and he is more and more like his old-self every single day.
He was in a rehab center for two months post-stroke, and we cannot be more thankful for the quality of care this center gave to him. The physical and occupational therapists did such phenomenal work and they made my father feel comfortable and confident to keep going with his therapy.
Now, I understand this isn't the case for every stroke victim. We are extremely fortunate to be where we are, and I don't want to diminish anyone else's experience with a stroke in the family. I am simply coming from a place that I have personally experienced.
But, going on to have life has changed since.
My father still hasn't been able to go back to work, but luckily he gets his social security payments every month. It's not a lot, but it's better than nothing. My mother has a full-time job, and comes home to take care of him, my grandmother, and the three pets. I will say, though, my father is becoming more and more independent as time passes, so that is a light we reach towards with hope. My brother and I have gotten so much closer because we realized how important our family is, and how precious and finite life is. There is so much love between all of us and I couldn't be more thankful. It's strange to think that a stroke is what it took to have us all feel this way, but it's the truth.
How did I deal?
We all deal with grief and trauma differently, but these are some of the ways that I dealt with my pain, leading me on a road to understanding and patience:
I called my boyfriend and just talked through it, crying and letting it all out. I have to be able to talk about what I am going through and to understand what's happening in order to heal. Luckily, he got his degree in music therapy, so he was able to comfort me in a way I didn't know he could
I found some groups on Facebook that understood what I was going through. It was a sort of support group where family members of stroke victims could read others' experiences, and empathize.
I called my friends to come over and hang out the night that it happened. They came equipped with wine and pizza, and we talked for hours about family and love. Thank you both (you know who you are) for that. I really needed that.
I made sure to let my mother know that she can talk to me. She may be the strongest woman I know, but everyone has to cry and let things out. Owning our emotions makes us strong.
Where are we now?
I am in Saint Louis, pursuing my performing career, and my parents are still in Atlanta, moving forward with life. My mother got a promotion at work (and a raise!) so this helps them out financially since my father still hasn't returned back to work. But he can walk up the stairs and he's been cooking again. We talk almost every day, and I try to make it a priority to speak with my parents as often as I can.
Yes, my father is not in the same physical state he was in 7 months ago, and that breaks my heart at times, but life isn't easy. And we must be able to deal with things that are thrown at us at the most inopportune moments. And I can't forget that progress takes time.
Please reach out to me!
Seriously, I am here for you. It meant the world to me to talk to those who have been in similar situations. You might feel like you're the only person out there and that no one could possibly understand how you feel, but there are so many of us out here to comfort you and help!
Leave a comment below or reach out to me here.
I am here for all of you, and want to help the best way I can.
With love and sincerity,