Just Breathe… Especially When Confusion Sets In

Sometimes life hits us. And then it hits us again and again. And just when you think you’ve had all you can take, it hits you one more time. This is exactly how I feel right now. I figured it would end after the very weird holiday season, but life wasn’t finished with us and decided to hit in a very big and confusing way. A way that I am still trying to understand, but understanding has been hard to grasp as we pick up the pieces of the knock-out-upper-cut life threw at us. I am having to remind myself over and over to just breathe, especially when the confusion sets in.

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve wanted to, but I knew I needed to wait and try and get even a semblance of understanding before I did. Writing while angry is part of all I am trying to do here. What I mean is I want to show you everything I am feeling at any given moment. I’m not trying to sit here and paint the perfect life picture that is often painted by us on social media. All is always well, but it isn’t always that way. This is the truth I want to show you as I unfold my life for you while I continue to discuss my mental health and my dealings with mental illness.

We made it through the holiday season, however strange the season was this year. Not all of us made it and this is the just breathe moment during the confusion that sets in. At least I keep trying to say that to myself.

I mentioned that our Christmas with my wife’s family was put on hold due to Covid. My father-in-law was admitted to the hospital and was there before and through Christmas. He never left the hospital.

My father-in-law died due to this pandemic and the fact that his immune system wasn’t strong enough to destroy the viral process going on in his body.

He was a 20+ year battler and survivor of cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma over 20 years ago and he always fought hard. He was all about diving into whatever treatment his doctors told him was next. He did it with the best attitude I have ever seen from someone dealing with such a devastating diagnosis and I was an oncology (cancer) nurse many moons ago.

He stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park each and every time he needed to. He did this for over 20 years. He never gave up. Giving up was not something he knew to do. He always fought. And he kept winning.

He kept winning even when told the cancer had moved into his bladder. He kept winning after multiple surgeries and procedures. He kept winning through all the chemo and radiation therapy. He never was really ever free of the chemotherapy. Even when the cancer markers were not jumping through the roof, he ended up being on what I will call “maintenance” chemo which he received throughout this whole time.

And he battled and he fought. He never gave up. And then the f**king Covid entered his system.

We had hope through the entire process. There were times he was improving, but there was mostly the times he didn’t improve. Then came the day we heard he had to be intubated and placed on a ventilator. Never what anyone wants to hear when your loved one is fighting what would become the battle of and for his life.

It wasn’t the cancer. It was the Covid that ended up being the battle of his life. It was the Covid that took him from us. It wasn’t the cancer. Nope. He knocked that out of the park, but he was helpless when Covid entered his immuno-compromised system.

Yes, all of the treatments and battles with cancer left him extremely immuno-compromised. His risk for catching Covid and not being able to fight it off was extremely high.

In the end, he died of Covid. Basically, a month long battle with Covid erased the 20 year survival and battle with cancer. Yes, his immune system wasn’t as strong as ours, but come on…this wasn’t how it was supposed to end.

If it wasn’t for this lingering Covid pandemic, my father-in-law would still be here today battling his cancer with the attitude of a warrior. Instead, he spent the last days of his life in an ICU bed all by himself without even a chance, similar to so many before him.

We dropped the ball with Covid. People and their opinions are dangerous especially when they are so readily available on the internet and social media platforms. We dropped the ball.

We sat on our hands. Let’s see how it plays out. It may not even be anything. We were told it wasn’t anything, that we’d be through it in a couple of months, and then it was everything. This is how it played out in my head or at least what I felt like I was being told: We’d shut down for a month or so and then we will be through it. I can handle this, so I thought anyway.

I really don’t care where you stand on the political spectrum. No matter what, we all have a hand in how all of this plays out and we really suck at doing whatever is needed to take care of this pandemic.

I don’t have the answers. Believe what you want (I may not agree with you and you may not agree with me), but really look at what you are doing and saying and ask yourself before and even after, “Is this helpful? Is what I am relaying or practicing or whatever-ing going to be helpful and aid us in getting through this?”

I know with all of my heart that if it wasn’t for Covid, my father-in-law would still be here.

Now my wife and her family, including myself, have to come to grips with this somehow. My wife and her family did get to see him during his last let’s say 24 hours. They were fortunate to get this opportunity as a lot of other families didn’t get this chance at the end.

Due to the restrictions though, not everyone was in the room when he passed. When do you say “let’s make an exception and come see your dad during his final moments on earth”? When do we say this? We follow the directions we are told from the hospital, because we don’t want to put anyone else at risk, but when do we say “it is OK to come see your dad. Wear this, this and this and come in” Covid got in the way of every important moment near the end.

Again, my wife and her family were very fortunate to be allowed in to see him at the end. I wish everyone was afforded this opportunity, but it didn’t happen for a lot of people with everything flipped on it’s head. No one should have to live their last moments alone.

It all is really hard to swallow.

My mother- in-law is really struggling with the fact that he was alone in the hospital. No one should have to suffer alone. Sure there were phone calls made, but when he was so short of breath, the phone calls didn’t last more than a couple of minutes. It’s just not the same. All she wanted to do was be there when he needed a drink of water and help him out with those basic needs.

It really is hard to swallow and I do not disagree with my mother-in-law’s anger over this. I understand her anger as it relates to Covid in general. I even get when any one of us says, “I’m done with all of this Covid crap”.

The services were great. So many people came to pay their respects. My wife gave a great speech which summed up his life perfectly and in such a positive way that hopefully someone was able to draw some strength from it. It was amazing to see all of the lives he touched while on Earth.

And now he’s gone and we have to pick up the pieces. It’s difficult to do especially when I find myself shaking my head in disbelief that I will never see him again. I say this as I should be able to see him the next time we visit. He, of all people, deserved to win his battle with Covid. Anyone who has tackled cancer with the ferocious and positive attitude he displayed does not deserve to have Covid be his reason to leave those he loved the most.

When he passed, my wife said she saw a tear leave his eye. They lightened up his sedation so that he knew they were there with him. I know he knows they were there. And he died with a tear. A tear saying “I don’t want to die this way”.

I can’t stop thinking about this. I am so confused by the whole thing. I’ve made some sense of it since it happened, but I’m still confused. I’m still angry. But what do we do?

We have been trying to pick up the pieces and make some sense out of all of this, but it is so hard when all you can think is that this isn’t fair. This was not how it was supposed to end for him.

So we go through the motions. We do everything a family is supposed to do after losing a loved one. So many people have lost loved ones to the pandemic, but damn this hit way too close to home. I know there is a lot of confused people around the world. There has been a lot of loss with the pandemic. There has been a lot of loss that shouldn’t have been if we were living in normal times.

But here we are regardless.

And I have to tell myself to just breathe. I tell my wife to just breathe. We have to. We can be as angry and confused as we want to be, but the fact is he is not returning to us. We have to try and figure out how to move on from this.

Sometimes the only way we move forward, this includes every aspect of our lives including our mental health, is to stop…step back…and just breathe. All of this has been confusing and I’ve been extremely angry about all of it, but we need to prepare ourselves to move forward again.

Take the time to grieve. Take the time to be angry. Take the time to laugh and smile at the great memories you have of your loved one. Take all the time you need.

This is true in so many aspects of our lives and not just the loss of a loved one. We all have had things in our life essentially explode in our faces. It is natural to want to give up even. It is all so much to carry when all we want to do is hide.

We have to take time and breathe. Take whatever time you need. Even with loss, it is OK to not be OK. Be not OK. Let it all out, but remember to breathe. Catch your breath again and get back on the road. This is true with every setback we endure no matter what it is. Sometimes these things make absolutely no sense and are full of confusion. Take the time you need to get to the point where you can take that step again and begin to move forward again.

I know my father-in-law would not want us to dwell on this terrible time. I know he would want us to celebrate his life versus mourning his death. This is the breath I take. The breath knowing this is what he would want for us. Take the breath you need for whatever you might be dealing with. With rest comes renewed energy and with renewed energy comes the strength we need to make it through anything and move forward again.

Please stay on your road. Please pull over and breathe if you need to, but always get back on the road. I know my father-in-law would want it that way.

And now my wife and I have been dealing with Covid for the last couple of weeks. I’m not going to complain. Not in light of the bigger picture and all that has occured. The punches keep coming, but we are still here and we must keep going. Life is so precious. We have to keep going.

You got this…I got this…we got this! Lets’s keep walking this journey together!

Have a great day!


The new Rocking Mental Health website will be going live February 18th! I am so excited to launch the main part of my not-for-profit endeavor. The website will feature blogs, podcasts, videos, books, art, music and more. All of the content will be made by others who are also walking their own personal journeys through mental health and mental illness and want to tell their story for others to benefit from. If you would like to be a part of any of these areas, shoot me an email at jason.kehl@rockingmentalhealth.com, and I will give you additional details and get you added to the new website.

Feel free to visit my current website: rockingmentalhealth.com. Everything I am working on is there and will give you a general idea what the new Rocking Mental Health website will be like.

Published by Jason Kehl

Nurse, artist, musician. One I have done professionally and two I have not😉. I enjoy creating art and music as a hobby. I do it mostly because it helps me to feel better or express something that I feel inside. I am a believer in Mental Health Awareness. My goal is to throw myself out there in hopes that someone sees it and can gain the strength to seek help or keep working on themselves. We are an unfinished product! That's OK!

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