Hello, My name is Whitney Lyons and I would like to share my
journey of grief. I am a 37 year old woman with Cerebral Palsy and
Mental Illnesses living in my first accessible apartment which is surrounded
by elderly people. I was totally shocked by elders' reaction towards me
when I suddenly lost my unique Dad of five years. You will understand why I
think he is special as you read this true story.
I was given up by my biological parents at birth and placed in a
foster home at age two where I was continuously abused until seventeen
years old. When someone died, the foster children were badly scolded for
showing emotions. I was glad when I was kicked out for telling my Social
Worker the situation. I was then placed in a facility for Mentally Retarded
The facility was the only place for a person like me at the time. I was abused
by males there too. I moved into my first apartment at twenty eight, but
here didn't look promising. The Manager, her husband, and elderly
residents tried to kick me out for being a young disabled person. This
added salt to my many wounds. When the Manager announced that she
would be going to another facility, I had mixed emotions. My opinion of
people wasn't very good because their mistreatment caused
my Mental Illnesses such as: Anorexia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,
Anxiety Disorder, and Major Depression.
The day that the replacement Manager showed up at my door I was
in the midst of enjoying french fries. What I remembered most was the
sense of humor she has. As she read my communication device, her
laughter instantly captured my attention. Though the fear of being kicked
out continued to lurk deep in my bloody soul. Every time I was around her
I had a Panic Attack. The next week my refrigerator quit.
As I approached her office I thought, "She is going to get angry". Instead
of becoming angry, she helped transfer my food to the lobby refrigerator.
I decided to write her a note about myself and that evening we sat outside
talking. I tried not becoming attached to her, but I'm glad I did because
today she's my Mother. I describe her personality as this: hilarious, serious,
intelligent, caring, a natural Mama, over-achiever, strong, a healer, and a
soft touch once she allows you into her soul. She plays a big part in helping
me heal from the abuse. I met her significant other a few weeks later after he
almost died from a kidney infection.
My first close encounter with him was when Mom trusted
me to walk him to the pond. He promised me that if I learned to use my
hands more efficiently he'd buy me a puppet. He kept his promise and bought
me a monkey for my birthday which brought my imagination to life.
Our relationship became Father/Daughter after I heard his laughter for the
first time. Dad was a man who invented better lives including mine by
just being himself. He loved animals, kids, my Mother, teaching, boxing,
baking bread, skating which he won a medal for, learning, nature, teasing,
and laughter. He loved to chase me with the lawnmower and spray my bare feet
with the garden hose. Also hiding from me just to see my expression.
My main learning and playing spot was in the yard with my Father. He
also helped me overcome my Eating Disorder by reminding me of
dinnertime and teaching me correct nutrition. I discovered
that one of the joys a Daughter gets is making her Father proud. That type
of joy is unexplainable. Today, I appreciate life because of him.
It was like my new parents erased my life and rewrote it. One important
thing that my
Daddy taught me was that there is a better place than Earth. On
February 10th 1998 he suddenly went to this place.
I awoke like any other day except for a strange feeling. I heard my
Daddy say his cheerful hello as he passed by my apartment. I went
to see my Mother complaining of a headache. The next thing that I remember
is hearing fast footsteps and sirens. I intuitively knew it was my Daddy who
needed the ambulance. I tried fooling myself thinking he would be OK, but in
back of my heart I knew he wouldn't be home. At approximately one thirty
my Mother and her family returned without my Father. My supposedly older
sister informed me that Daddy died. I remember the constant scream which hurt
my ears and being left alone which made me realize that I really didn't have
a family. My best friend, Barb came over to help me. (Thank goodness for
friends.) The next afternoon, I ran into an elderly person and her exact words
were, "You have to keep eating so your Mom won't worry about you".
Another person informed me that I needed anti-depressants to control my
moods!!! The elderly people sent someone to my door because I was crying
too loud. This made me feel as though I was being punished again for
emotions. The thing that hurt me most was everyone who lived here consoled
my Mother and neglected my feelings. This provoked anger like I have never
experienced. When my Mother tried to comfort me, someone stepped in to
distract her. An elderly man meanly said, "She favors Whitney" I was even
accused of being anti-social and scolded for not smiling during this time.
My Mother even said, "You've endured far worse than this". I couldn't
believe my ears, but then realized that she was grieving too.
My Mother returned to work the next week and shortly looked for
another Maintenance person. "This business must go on" she said. Half
of me comprehended this and the other half didn't want anyone replacing my
Despite her efforts to convince me that Dad wasn't this job, my heart broke
every time a man applied for the job. I sobbed endlessly while begging for my
Father back. At one point, I actually thought that my Mother hid him in
the office closet. To complicate matters, the Maintenance man that tried to
kick me out trained the new one. I was proud of my deep anger
towards this creep because it meant I finally realized that I don't deserve
My grief worsened to the point where I stopped eating and began physically
harming myself. I began thinking of ways to kill myself to be with Dad.
Such as, rolling down a flight of stairs, taking pills, going out in traffic,
rolling my wheelchair in a pond, and cutting my wrist. I remember this
uncontrollable urge to beat the Paramedics up for not saving Dad.
Everything inside me wanted to give up. Through this I'm closer to Mom and
We tell one another that we love each other because we've learned that
life has no guarantees. I'm here to tell you that death of a loved one makes
people grow up quickly.
I have begun to heal by writing, reading, allowing myself to cry,
socializing with my best friends, buying myself roses, redecorating my home,
drawing, painting, seeking beautiful sunsets, reaching for safe hugs, playing
in the shower, dancing, getting away from elderly people who constantly tell
my their troubles, making silly faces at Mom or my favorite Attendant,
and listening to the sounds of nature. When I have Panic Attacks due to
Paramedics coming to help someone, I quickly remove myself from the scene
by taking walks. These activities are stress reducing which enhances my
enjoyment of life.