Monday, March 9, 2015

My Twelve Steps to Tackle My Grief

     Several people have suggested to me that I write a book, a memoir, about my personal experience with tragedy and grief.  I am not sure if I am ready to do that.
     I believe I have moved forward some in my grief.  I suppose I question if I have moved forward far enough to write my whole story.  Somehow, it seems like going back in time--- back to an extremely painful time by reliving and re-examining all the details stored in my heart and mind.  I would have to re-visit, in depth, all these memories of my darkest days.  Maybe it is best to leave the memories of pain, numbness and paralysis stored in the Pandora's Box of my inner being.
     I often think, too, I may not have that much to say.  To paraphrase Dr. Phil McGraw, "Life's problems are complicated.  The solutions are not."  Below are my own personal Twelve Steps I went through and continue to address my grief.

                                                      Twelve Steps to Tackle Grief

          1)  Early on, somehow I realized in the depths of my depression, I had to go on with life or let grief destroy me.  I chose to live rather than cause myself or those around me more pain.
          2)  I sought spiritual guidance from my pastor.
          3)  I prayed and prayed and did not sustain my anger against God.
          4)  I joined a pastoral care bereavement support group at a local church.
          5)  I sought individual counseling for grief therapy.
          6)  I wrote and wrote in copious journals about my memories, versions of events, my feelings and I began to design and make jewelry.
          7)  I pray for those involved in my son's death and try to forgive them.
          8)  I memorialized my son and husband's lives in my children's books which I dedicated to them.
          9)  I refused to isolate myself and accepted well meaning invitations to get out and about.
        10)  I returned to work so I would have another focus besides myself.
        11)  I reached out to help other parents through writing this blog, my web, bio and publicity.
        12)  I give myself permission to go to a dark place and grieve and climb out the next day.

     It doesn't seem so involved or complicated.  Was it easy to do these things? No.  Was it a straight line forward?  No, life always has one or two steps forward and then a couple backward.  I had to re-trace my steps sometimes.  Did I get frustrated and angry somedays?  Yes, but  I gave myself permission to go to a dark place somedays with the intention of coming out of it the next day.
     My grief journey reminds me of the words of my late husband's cousin.  He was a fighter pilot in the Navy.  He would say, "Don't look back.  Someone could be gaining on you."  That "someone" could be "life" and it can pass us by in the time we have left.
     A child's death can often signal to us as parents the end of our lives.  Years can be spent waiting to die.  Is there life for us after the deaths of our children?  I believe there is and I believe it is a choice for us as parents.  We can take steps to re-kindle a life for ourselves and our families.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Getting Through Tough Times

     I discovered during my recent surgery and continued recovery that grief is not something I could go alone.  I had some misgivings preoperatively as to how I would ever get through surgery without my husband, Fred and my son, Chris.  I was feeling very alone.  How could I be strong with no one really special there for me.  Now I admit, family is not always the support we think, but we like to believe they will be.  But, times of stress are when I miss Fred and Chris the most.
     I prayed for them to be with me.  To watch over me, to protect me, to give me strength and courage and to guide my doctors and nurses.  And they came through for me.  The surgery went well. I was able to stay in the hospital. I had the most wonderful nurses and the surgeons did an excellent job. Still, I did have pangs of emptiness where I missed Chris and Fred.  I just wanted them to be there in the flesh for me.  Something, I am sure, you can relate to.... not having a special person there.
     How to fill the void?  I remember very early on in my loss, (Fred and Chris died within six weeks of each other) I was determined that I wouldn't be an angry bitter person who pushed away the very people who could support me.  Having to walk my dear little dog, Amber, got me up and dressed each day so that was a start.  From there, even though I had to put on a brave face, I went to see friends and family.  I went out with whoever offered to take me anywhere.  Nothing big with large numbers of people.  Just lunch and dinners and very small gatherings.  Many times I felt like Mary Lincoln.  As if everyone was staring at me and waiting for me to completely lose it.  But, I had made the decision not to let these losses destroy me.  It was hard, but people admire courage and rally round. Every part of my being screamed isolation, but I fought it.
     Anyway, this strategy came through for me in my recent troubles.  I could compensate because I have a wonderful network of good friends and neighbors and some extended family. One friend stayed with me the day of surgery and another when I first got home.  Others visited me, drove me and shopped and cooked for me.  They are all truly blessings in my life.
     Today, I am grateful I didn't let my relationships die with my son and husband's deaths.  I was fortunate I had a few people I felt I could talk to.  Friends who did not judge, who did not sermonize,  and who didn't put me on a timetable to be over my grief.  They didn't give up on me so I didn't give up on myself.  I fought staying forever in my son's room, my bedroom and my house.  I learned it's peoples' hearts and intentions that matter more than what they might say.
     Grief is a time for needing people more than ever.  A time to grab onto a hand when one is extended.