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.
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.
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.
While many people look forward to their first cup of coffee in the morning, I truly savor my second cuppa Joe. It’s like a reward for getting up, showering, exercising and adulting. Anything to motivate me to get the day rolling.
My second cup is great because I love to sit outside and journal. Now, this all works great when the weather is nice. However, I start to panic in the fall, knowing that outside journaling is going to come to a cold and snowy end.
Last December, I wrote about the promise I made to Sarah when I took her to the labyrinth towards the end of November. We had planned to go many more times, but her untimely, unexpected passing changed my life – my entire family’s lives. This is what I wrote:
“But I will make good on the promises I have made to her. So, Sarah Boo, this blog is for you. I know you can read it from the other side. I promise you, I’ll keep writing and doing my art. And, I’ll be taking you back to the labyrinth – all four seasons, with pictures. You’ll travel in my heart instead of in my car. You’ll be in the center of my heart instead of the center of the labyrinth. And I’ll whisper “I love you,” knowing that you can hear me – whether in the labyrinth or in my heart.”
And now, a difficult promise is fulfilled…
Well, I did it. Just like I promised you, I returned to the labyrinth and took photos so we could see how it looked in the winter, spring, summer and fall.
There were so many days I wanted to go to the labyrinth – but I was missing you so much – I just didn’t have the emotional strength to head out there. Yet, on other days, I’d feel you nudge me. I’d see heart shapes. I’d feel a pull to the labyrinth. This message you sent to nudge me, well, all I can say is, “wow!” When I found your perfectly-formed “S” after my morning exercise routine, I knew I had to go. So, the fall photos happened later that day. (See, I do listen! LOL 😊)
I love that you leave me messages – in the shape of an “S,” or a cloud or a heart or an animal. My camera is filled with images that I know you’ve sent.
While I know you are around me all the time, I miss that physical connection we had. I miss seeing you and hearing your voice. I want you to know, almost every photo I take, it’s because I see you in it – or feel you in it.
This fall, the colors have been so amazing and vibrant. I know it was one of your favorite seasons. The red has been so very vibrant – you’d absolutely love it.
It may be my imagination, but I swear, since you’ve transitioned, I have seen more amazing sunsets, cloud formations, hearts, vibrant colors – more than I ever remember. I feel that God is just giving you the most amazing art supplies so that you can keep reminding me – reminding all of us – you are still with us every day. Especially when you paint the skies in the evenings.
Enjoy the four seasons of photos from the labyrinth, Boo. I know that you helped me take all of these, because you caught my eye with the beauty of nature. A beauty that you are so excited to share as a reminder that you are always there.
Love you so very much, Boo Bear. Thanks for the continued inspiration and signs of love. It means so much to me.
The three-year adoption anniversary of my little buddy, Remington, has come and gone. Unfortunately, in complete compliance with the surreal of crap that is the year 2020, our three-year-old pup passed away over the summer.
Sometimes, I just sit back and scratch my head. The question “Why?” pelts me at all hours – day or night.
I was completely shocked and devastated when Remi died. He got me out on walks on my darkest days. He made me laugh on my darkest days. He brought me pure joy on my darkest days.
How was I going to manage the grief and trauma I was already working through, when I now had to add the grief and trauma of losing him, too?
I’ve added this post to my “Love, Loss and …” series, because so far, the year 2020 has been a “big T” trauma. Our entire world is learning to live with grief and trauma on so many levels. And as I know, trauma healing begins with someone who will listen. Trauma healing also needs one to listen to one’s self and to self-reflect.
When this Facebook post hit my feed the other night, I wanted to hit “share,” add a heart emoticon, and send it into the virtual world. (link here)
Something stopped me. I felt I needed to say more, and I took a few days to realize that, yes, I needed to do more than just share. It took me a few days to gather my thoughts about this interview with Blake Hairston.