Grief and Loss

copyright Karen Larsen photography

Well….it is time….time for me to write. I have been AWOL on the blogsphere for quite awhile. That is because for the last two years I have been doing some serious grieving. I haven’t known how to talk about it, without talking about IT. So I have just quit talking, and brought everything back into my little cocoon, to go through the grief and loss metamorphosis.

What happened to me? That is not necessarily significant. It is just a deep, deep loss that involves other people, who are still living, so it wouldn’t really be fair of me to drag all of the details out into the public arena. It isn’t even really new…..although, I am experiencing new grief associated with the old issues. That is an interesting phenomenon. And I will talk about that in a little bit.

I guess today, I just want to talk about how I have changed because grief has been a pretty constant companion for the last two years. It has been very private. I have eluded to it here and there. But even most of the people who I interact with every day? They don’t know. I haven’t told them. It is so very private and personal. My husband knows. God knows. And I have a couple of close friends who I have shared bits and pieces with but most of them do not know the entire picture or how deep the sorrow and sadness really are.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to attend a Time Out for Women. One of the speakers, Virginia Pierce, spoke about grief. She said this, “Only you will know when it is time to peel yourself up off of the floor.” For some reason, her words really hit me and I wrote them down in my notebook and put a star next to them and then I thought, that is really good. Now when I need it, I will have those words. I had no idea I was just days away from needing them….days. I have been hugging the floor. I have not been totally down and out. I am still extremely functional….but that is because I learned to shut my emotions off a long time ago. When I need to, I do that. But for the last two years, I have been trying to process the grief instead of stuffing it. I have shared bits and pieces of these thoughts in other posts….how I use food to stop feeling, how I have been learning about myself and stuffing my feelings, and how Heavenly Father has been trying to teach me that is not a healthy way to live. Then when all of this hit, it was like He was saying, OK, now you know the skills and you know your preferred patterns of behavior… apply your new learning…..GO!! And I hugged the floor….because the pain was so deep and severe I didn’t know how to manage, even though all of the theory was running around in my brain. The application was a LOT more work. And now, the instructions are to write….process…..stick it out there. Ugh!

I have a friend whose mother became terminally ill….about the same time this all hit with me. We were all supportive of her in our little group. A year into things, her mother passed away. Now it has been a year since her passing. My friend was going through all of this while I was managing my grief, but at that point, she didn’t know. At one point when she was really struggling, she called me and said, Hey, can I come over and talk to you? I don’t really know why, but I just feel like I should talk to you. Definitely, come on over! She did. As she was expressing her grief and sorrow and the difficulties she was having, she said, I really don’t know why I needed to talk to you, except you are so easy to talk to. It was then that I told her…..I know why. It is because I am experiencing the same grief you are but for different reasons. Heavenly Father knew we needed each other. We talk pretty regularly now. We share stories of how we are managing. We recognize some days are good. Some days are bad. We have shared how we cry in the middle of the night and wake up our husbands because we are trying to sob quietly, but we are shaking the bed. Then they roll over and hold us until the sobbing stops.

Here is an amazing experience I had with that friend. We were at a social gathering for our church. She came to sit with me and started talking about something she was learning about managing grief. Another woman who was sitting with us started sharing the grief she had been experiencing because her best friend had passed away. I was aware of her friend’s passing, but was not aware of the relationship between the two women. And then a fourth woman started sharing the grief she had been experiencing because of the passing of her sister three years earlier. When I chose where to sit, I was completely unaware of the grief of the other two women, and if my first friend had not started discussing grief, I would have never known! But here we were, all four of us, unaware of each other’s realities and all struggling with the same emotion! It was definitely a blessing for each of us to be aware of and share with each other our feelings……one of the Lord’s tender mercies in our grief.

This year, I have had two sons get married. I LOVE the women they have chosen! They are good people! My boys LOVE them! And they are so happy together! At both weddings, I am suppose to be happy, celebrating this momentous event in the lives of my people. It is suppose to be full of joy, happiness! I know that. I am happy for them. I really am. But the major life event (the wedding) is reminding me of the grief I am experiencing. I am so full of sorrow and sadness that I have to try to hold back my tears until after the ceremony and the celebrations and then when it is all over I come home and I just cry and cry and cry…for days. And I was crying before too. Does that happen to anyone else? It is so strange to have happiness and grief occupy the same space. Each wedding has been a little bit different in that I have cried about different things….nothing really related to the wedding itself—just different things that remind me of my grief. It is all just old stuff. Because of my super compartmentalizing skills, I can usually put my tears away to manage the events but if I am really trying to be true to myself and my feelings, I have to allow myself time and space to express my grief. So weird.

Here is what grief has done for me:

  • It refines the feelings of the heart. I am more sensitive to others, more willing to reach out to help those who are hurting.
  • It causes reflection and timeout. I have slowed life waaaay down. I use to pack my day full. Now I intentionally leave it open. I spend time sitting and doing nothing but thinking and feeling. That has actually been some of my very most productive time in helping me to define who I am and what I want and where I am going.
  • It refocuses priorities. All of those things that I once thought were so important and HAD to be done. They aren’t that important. They can wait….even if that means other people are not happy with me. The important people have my time and my energy, my children and my spouse, my family. All of the other things other people would like me to do to accomplish their agendas? I don’t have time for that.
  • It enlarges perspective. I see more–more people, fewer things; more light, less darkness; more joy, less worry.
  • It realigns desires and purposes. I evaluate why I want to do something and how important it is to me in terms of the happiness and joy it will bring to enhancing my relationships. If it doesn’t make life sweeter? Why am I stressing about including it in my life? I don’t need that.
  • It makes life/decisions more intentional. I live life much more intentionally. I spend less time doing the things others wanted me to do and more time doing things that matter. I spend time smelling flowers, watching beetles, enjoying the sunrise or sunset, helping others, talking to my kids, spending time with my spouse.
  • It draws my heart to God. I am so very thankful for the gifts and blessings he gives me! I am grateful for the people in my life! I like living!
  • It exposes my weaknesses (per my friend). I can see where my priorities have been out of line with where I wanted my life to go and how I wanted my relationships to be.
  • Grief touches all aspects of my life. It is everywhere!
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