Saturday, November 13, 2010

Good Grief

This blog has been stuck for some time now. You may not have noticed, but I have. I had some crap happen through work last September and since many of the people involved know about this blog, I shut it down. You'd never have noticed. I still posted, I just didn't share anything with too much honesty. I was angry and deeply hurt and it was all so overwhelming that I couldn't (and still won't) go into it here. Short version, a friendship ended. It was like a death. And I needed to work through my emotions.

Then came and actual death in my family. When my uncle passed away in March, I was going to say it "required me to grow" but that would be an unfair characterization. I chose to grow in such a way I had never anticipated. Seeing my dad in pain was not something I could ever have planned for. My mom is always the person in charge. This time, though she rose to the occasion, it was still bigger than her and it took an entire family of us to make it through together. Nothing in my life has ever been bigger than what my parents could handle. They stepped back, or maybe it was to the side, but they made room for all of my siblings and relatives to take their turn. To shoulder the weight they could not bear alone.

My mom always says that once you learn something, you are responsible for it. Though I willingly took that class in March, I was not ready for being responsible for this new knowledge.

As I look around my circle of friends I see a lot of them stepping up to learn similar lessons. And it breaks my heart to know the pain that comes with the lessons. I recently needed to sit down and write a note to share my sympathy with a friend who lost a loved one. I was stuck.

There aren't any words to make it better.

In contrast, just knowing someone else is caring for you and holding you in their thoughts can somehow still give so much comfort. No specific words can make it better, but using words to share your feelings can ease the pain.

I sat down and I wrote from my gut what I was thinking.
I wish I could give a big hug that would make it all better. I’ve sat before and tried to think of something to send, chocolates, flowers, a beef stew... anything to fix the pain. But as we all know, nothing seems to "fix" this neatly or simply.

I liken grief to a giant wave that washes over you. At first, that wave hits you over and over throwing you on the shore filling your swimsuit with sand. And it's very uncomfortable and really scratchy!

The only thing I’ve found that helps is time. With time, the waves come less frequently. Sorry to say, they don't stop coming. They don't even hit any less powerful. But they will slow down to hitting every ten minutes, instead of constantly. Then the wave will hit once an hour, twice a day, and so on.

I think it's healthy to acknowledge your emotions. The more you fight to keep them away, the longer it takes to process what is going on. I have found myself blindsided with grief at times and just sat down and bawled hysterically for five minutes. It felt horrible in the moment, but for me, it let all that "stuff" get out. I was able to stand up and get back to my day.
Sometimes when a person passes away, we step back and try to make the hurt go away by pretending it never happened. No one talks about the absent loved one, no wants to bring up a "touchy" subject. The person passes away and then "disappears." Before my uncle passed away he gave his car to my niece. After his death, his car sat in my parent's driveway waiting for my brother and his family to come and get it. My mom told me every day she would walk out the door and see his car and in her head she would be reminded, "Ed is dead." She was looking forward to the day when the car would leave and start it's new life so she could walk out the door and not be reminded. That day came and my brother and his family came and took the car home. The next day my mom walked outside and was surprised to be hit by her emotions. Now my uncle wasn't just dead, he was gone. And she went through her grief all over again.

After a my good friend Robb's dad passed away, we were visiting his mom. We were cooking dinner and I just turned and said, "I keep waiting for John to walk in. It's weird that he's not here. I miss his big voice. You must too." And then we started talking about what a powerful presence he had and then Mickey told us all sorts of stories. It was a really happy night. We’ve celebrated their wedding anniversary since he passed away. Every morning when I have toast, I can still hear Robb's dad saying, "I like my butter ALL the way to the EDGE." Every time I make toast.

Don’t let death take people away from you. Celebrate the times you had together.

And this is where I find myself once again. Trying to celebrate all the great times we had with our little Lola. I'd like to say that you get to learn this lesson and move on, but this is one of those lessons that never gets easier.

The only thing I have learned is perspective. I am holding on to the knowledge that we have made it through the loss of a pet before. We have had joy in our lives after. We have survived.

The hurt doesn't go away. But by acknowledging your pain, you give it a name, and you give it an outlet. At first it’s all consuming. But you will survive.

I can not stop my feelings. I need to live with my emotions.
I will experience them, and I will give them voice. I will set these feelings free.

When your friends need you, stop and be there. Listen to them and support them. By not "fixing" them, you can actually make it better.


Peter said...

Jim, thanks for this emotional reminder of what life, and death, means.

I'm sorry for your losses, your uncle, Robb's dad, little Lola but also the friend you had at work. All will be better in the long run.

My Blog said...

Great post, well put!

xoxo david

Jules said...

"I will experience them, and I will give them voice. I will set these feelings free."

This sounds like an exerpt from my favorite teacher, from the book "Tuesdays With Morrie". We can't move through the pain until we recognize and acknowledge our feelings. Only after we do that, and allow ourselves to be honest about how things make us feel, can we begin to move on.


Anonymous said...

good greif indeed. thx for sharing all that :-)

Sherri said...

Wow. I never put it that way in my head, although it feels quite true. My mom's been gone now...28 years? My dad, 10. What I miss the most is that there are few people left who knew my mom well enough for us to share stories about her, and only a few who knew my dad are in my life now. That's the hard part -- feeling like I must carry their memories on my own.

Hugs again. One day I hope to deliver those to you in person because I owe you.