Love, Loss, and Leaning into the Injustice of Grief
Today, we should be celebrating Sarah’s 16th birthday. A milestone birthday, with the anticipation of her getting a driver’s license. Beginning to choose colleges or trade schools. Thinking ahead to prom and graduation. SAT tests. Hanging out with friends. Snubbing family events for friends. Teen stuff.
As I remember the conversation Sarah and I had on her last healthy day, we talked about her getting her learner’s permit. She had already calculated when she’d eligible for driver’s training. She was so excited. As a mother of four, I was both excited and terrified at the thought of my granddaughter driving.
Love, Loss, and Learning the Benefits of Witnessed Grief
It is no surprise that around the holidays, feelings of grief can kick into high gear. With the pressure of creating the “perfect” holiday, stuffing our feelings seems to be easier than dealing with them. Thankfully, the term, “Blue Christmas,” is being acknowledged, and several places of worship offer services and assistance because, well, it’s “a thing.”
Additionally, it’s no surprise that the longer we push uncomfortable feelings down, the more difficult they are to deal with, as they have a tendency to keep trying to be acknowledged.
There are so many story ideas I have written down during my journey of healing. My last post shared where I’ve been, which was recovering from a fractured femur and the surgery needed to repair it. I am so far behind in writing.
I also noticed that a lot of my grief writing has been sad. Because, well, that’s grief. I have been trying to make some meaning out of the grief.
One of the goals I am working towards now is incorporating what I have learned on my healing journey, recovering from grief and trauma, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. I have been attending workshops in an effort to combine all of my talents as well as my knowledge. I’m passionate towards helping others navigate the deep, dark waters of grief.
That said, one of the numerous things I have learned in my coursework is that grief and joy can happen simultaneously.
That is what I would like to share with you today.
Excuse me while I dust off my blog space! Hope no one sneezed from the dust – because I certainly did!
So, where have I been lately? Have I stopped writing and blogging? No.
I just… couldn’t…
I have been recovering from a fractured femur, and the surgery required to put me back into the game of life.
Last year, I wrote about the weight of grief that had me down for the count. Can I share that I didn’t want to tell anyone that I had even more trauma and grief added earlier this year, when I tripped on a step and propelled into the air, sprawling across an entrance foyer, and landing on the unforgiving marble?
The irony was, I had been in Texas to celebrate our youngest son’s graduation from Air Force Basic Training. As he was headed to his advanced training to become a firefighter, I had the opportunity to meet some of San Antonio’s finest firefighters, as they transported me by ambulance to the hospital. I had never been in an ambulance before, so I can now check that off any social media “have you ever” listicle…
The long weekend that was originally planned turned into three weeks of recovery and rehabilitation before I could fly home. I could not put weight on my leg for a few months. Recovery and rehab continued with in-home care.
It was hard to feel creative and sit long enough to write anything. I learned a lot from this experience, such as, I can hop on one foot – using a walker for support – the distance of 150 feet. It was a great skill to have, since I had to literally, and figuratively, hop on a plane to get home. I used the walker sideways down the aisle to hop to my seat. Trust me, I could write volumes on how air travel is NOT friendly for anyone with mobility issues.
Instead of writing for several months, I began art journaling. That really helped me stay sane.
There is a limit to how much one can watch TV, read or listen to podcasts. Going outside in a wheelchair was not easy. I was able to hop down a few steps to get outside. But to get back inside, I had to bottom-scoot backwards up the steps, slide on the floor to grab the counter-top, and with my spouse’s assistance, pull myself off the floor to a standing position. My arms became my legs. Thank God for the skills I learned in kindergarten – “crab” crawling, butt-scooting, hopping on one foot, and coloring. And napping.
The isolation of the injury was awful. At times, I sat in my wheelchair, looking out the window, watching life go by. I allowed myself to grieve, and then I was back to powering through the struggles and taking my life back.
There are so many parallels to my recovery from that physical trauma as well as the grief trauma I was already working on. New neural pathways had to be created in order for me to move – such as hopping – not much different from the new neural pathways created in my trauma therapy. And, neural pathways had to be dismantled, too. Such as, not needing to hop any more, when that was my first response. No different than dismantling the “I’m bad and not worthy” neural pathway created by that little girl who was processing sexual abuse. Basically, I was – and still am – learning to incorporate varying levels of grief, feeling them, and releasing them.
I had a lot of time to process and grieve what had happened – physically, spiritually and emotionally. Sometimes it was so painful, and other times, the a-ha moments made all “the deep, hard work” beautiful.
One of my occupational therapists told me that I be would stronger. His exact quote was, “You will be stronger and in better shape than before the fall and break.”
I cried when he said that. It didn’t seem true. Yet, as I look back, I believe those were the wisest words I have ever heard. Ever.
I may not be where I want to be yet, but I feel I am physically, emotionally and spiritually in better shape than I was before the fall. Not just in muscle mass and physical strength, but in my emotional and spiritual growth and strength as well.
What is the “deep, hard work?”
It is the grieving – the losses, the pain, the should-of, would-of, could-of. It is releasing the guilt that accompanies loss. Turning the “what if” into “even if.” And, it is in the happy tears of gratitude – the balance of the expelling the cleansing tears of grief and the experiencing the sweet tears of relief. It is learning how to incorporate grief and relief, and creating a new balance. It’s being kind and gentle with yourself on the days the grief is overwhelming, and embracing the days when it is not.
When I left the hospital, I grieved leaving behind the team that was so instrumental in getting me on the road to recovery. Yet, when I got home, I cried tears of joy when I saw our other three children and my precious dog, Sadie.
So, I am honoring both sadness and joy – and creating balance – as I continue on this crazy journey called life. So sad I was out of commission. So grateful to be coming back.
It had been months – over six months, to be precise – that I had been able to visit my sacred space – the labyrinth that I shared with Sarah, just about a week before she passed away.
For the past six or seven months, I have been recovering from a serious lower back/hip injury. I truly believe it was a manifestation of the grief and trauma surrounding her death, and other major significant losses.
Love Loss and Losing It All Under the Weight of Grief
“I’d rather be in physical pain than emotional pain,” I’ve quipped several times during my healing journey. My new normal seems to be a series of tidal waves of grief that keep knocking me down. Despair, loss and the pain of grief just didn’t want to let up. My assumption that physical pain can be dealt with using pain killers went right out the window when my emotional pain manifested into physical pain.
Be careful what you wish for came to mind echoed in my mind.
Love, Loss and Living and Grieving on the first Angel Day
One year ago, today, the unthinkable happened. My precious granddaughter, Sarah, passed away after a brave battle with myocarditis. Not only did her death send a ripple of shock and grief through our family, that ripple reached beyond what anyone could imagine. She touched the hearts and lives of so many people in our community, and the world at large.
One of the benefits of a warmer-than-normal fall in the Midwest is the opportunity to get out for a walk without bundling up from head-to-toe. It’s especially helpful for me, as walking is one of my go-to, self-care modalities as I process grief.
One of the pitfalls is, though, while the warmth and sunshine are appreciated, the storms that are trying to settle us into winter weather have definitely created havoc.