Important grief lessons
4 ½ years into my grief and happy to report I teeter on an edge that is most times easy to balance. It’s a good thing because if one is new to this experience one never believes it is ever going to happen. Not to say that even at this stage one doesn’t fall off the wagon once in awhile. It seems to take just a small negative nudge to over throw me and send me down the “crazy” path of tears and indigestion. I just hate when that happens because it consumes me and is a huge waste of emotional time and energy. Those negative Nellies sure got me this week and I sure vented plenty about it. The Lisa b.g. (before grief) would have been meek and mild and tried to make nice. These days Lisa a.g.(don’t make me explain it) faces the conflict with a full on bad-ass, get er done attitude. Certainly, one learns to fight for oneself in the grief process. It’s a tough necessary lesson.
Looking back on the journey I would love to be able to wrap all the things I have learned into neat little packages. Like preparing meat for the freezer, I’d wrap individual pieces in white paper and label with a black sharpie. Each meaty lesson signed with a date and a buzz word like denial in 2011, depression in 2012 and anger in 2013. Unfortunately, it is not how grief works. It’s not a one size fits all experience and anything but neat. I suspect, however, that all humans are born with certain common instincts that carry us through both good times and bad and labels like acceptance and those already mentioned do provide a bit of loose framework.
Take denial for instance. In the beginning of my grief I would have described myself more like someone who was numb and under anesthesia rather than in denial. It felt like I was a robot going through the motions. I don’t have much memory of those first months. I imagine the amnesia is the result of a built in natural defense mechanism that helps those going through this assault to survive and slowly take it all in. Without this human condition it would be too overwhelming of a battle. I do remember my mother telling me at William’s wake that I reminded her of Jackie Kennedy. I know now that what she saw was the kind of grace that comes from denial. It is what allows one to bury all the feelings and greet visitors with some sort of blank composure.
Eventually the anesthesia wears off and all those sad feelings begin to surface. Year #2 is rough. I encourage anyone in this stage to gather all that depressed emotional energy and turn it into something positive to celebrate your loved one. That built in strength is there. Use the support of those around you (bless you loving people) to bring it out. Hold onto the hope of better days and honor your person by moving through this hell one step at a time. These are important grief lessons.
For sure the anger package is messy. It’s your pain and it has to be released. It’s ugly, but the more you vent the more healing takes place. Be mad at whoever you need to be mad at including your loved one and God. They forgive you and want you to travel this necessary path.
Acceptance eventually finds you. It doesn’t mean the grief is over. It means you have found a new place in your heart that allows joy to seep back in. You’ve learned the meaning of love and gratitude like you never thought you would. You know you would not wish this journey on your worst enemy. You’ve learned that you are courageous and stronger than you would have ever believed. And most importantly what you have learned is that the person you thought you lost is always right where he or she has always been….safe in your heart.
Thank you, Lisa, for so eloquently expressing the complexity (and the simplicity) of grief. We always hear about the rollercoaster metaphor that grief is, but I have come to think of grief in terms of a different amusement park ride analogy. My grief has been more like a carousel … you circle around your grief and depending where you are in the cycle, you find yourself focusing on love, anger, denial, confusion, joy, frustration, inspiration, depression, devastation, hope …
I have even found myself trying to embrace the darker moments (though I have to be careful at those times because one can get sucked into “grief addiction”). When I do embrace the anger, the sorrow, the sense of loss I try to remember that those are just part of the ingredients that go into what is my love for Meghan. After all, when our child was alive, we could still feel anger, irritation, frustration with their actions or behavior without losing the essence of our love for them. And so, in losing them, all of those feelings still express our grieving love (though now those feelings are not directed at them but at the circumstances of their deaths and, as time moves forward, the consequences of their deaths).
The bottom line for me (at least at this stage of my journey) is simply this: as long as our love for our lost child endures, so will grief. Happily, over time, it no longer covers our love as it felt during the first days of our loss, but becomes woven into love’s intricate pattern.
Keep sharing, my dear, keep teaching.
Truth be told I was hoping that you would jump in and add to the experience.
You teach in such a beautifully written way and from a male perspective that adds a perfect balance to the discussion.
I’ve experienced grief, but never the grief of losing a child. Your words say it all and are healing and tender in all the right ways. Love to you forever.
Every grief experience teaches us something. No matter where the grief comes from the lessons of the heart are always valid and important. <3 back at ya girl-friend
Love u Lisa❤️
thanks for teaching me to have a little faith
So beautifully written and I hate when something negative pulls you back. It is hard and as I watch and read… you are one gentle lady with a heart filled with love! HUGS!
See you soon to give and get HUGS in person. <3
Peace and Hope…and now you Rock On!
YUP!! Onward and upward
I think I’d probably still be numb. Acceptance sounds like a serene place. I love seeing the pictures of your beautiful boy.
There are still days I wake up and feel a little paralyzed wondering “did this really happen”? So happy I took these photos all those years ago
Lisa – this is so well-written (and I love the pictures !); i have a neighbor who needs your blog – don’t know how I get her to it. Don’t want to appear “pushy” but I think it would help her so much as she just lost a son to a DUI driver this summer. Any advice?
Very sorry to hear about your neighbor. I would bake her something from the blog and wrap it up with a note including the blog URL. Be honest and tell her that I am your friend who also lost a son in an accident. She might find comfort in knowing she is not alone. You are a good friend!! <3
I have pondered this all day. The hazy blur that I seemed to live in during the first 14 months after Aidan’s death seems to have started to lift recently. I’m learning that’s not necessarily a good thing. To be honest, the harsh reality that life keeps going forward weighs on me. I feel like I stepped out of the into someone else’s life. The pain is even sharper now than it was at the beginning. For me, right now, the hardest part is the struggle with the bitterness and anger I feel. I am also exhausted. Pretending that life is wonderful once I leave the four walls of my house saps all of my energy. Finding a new path is a struggle when I just want to go back to the same old road I was on before. I dont remember anymore what it’s like to not feel broken. I know it will never be fixed, but I pray there is a time where at least it will be somewhat put back together.
You describe year #2 perfectly. It is so painful and hard and the year I did not think I would ever make it because yes, “so broken”, but I did and you will too because your love for Aidan is greater than anything else…any pain that you are enduring now—Aidan’s love for you and you for him is greater and you will honor that and get through it. Don’t pretend and find those who love you so much they are willing to help you fight and hand you a pillow to punch and a shoulder to cry on…and I am going to send you my phone #–you call me when you feel like it is just too hard. There are so many days when it is just too hard, but the days are going to end….I promise <3
Thank you Lisa. So moving and perfectly portrayed. I love this and your words which describe my journey after losing Lydia so well. The result: We are stronger than we ever imagined and wear our hearts on our sleeves, forever changed. What a handsome son!