Yesterday as I was walking my dog, I took a shortcut and stumbled upon a small memorial garden in the woods with a marker for a 19 year old who had passed away one year ago. This garden stopped me in my tracks and immediately I felt an overwhelming deep sorrow and compassion for a family whom I have probably passed several times but have never met. Surely I would have recognized those devastated eyes had we made eye contact in those early months. Then it dawned on me that I rarely look up in a friendly neighborly manner anymore; but who knew 8 months after our tragedy there was another family of broken hearts so close to our home.
Then I found myself wondering, during the 10 years I have lived in this neighborhood, did he ever knock to ask if he could shovel my sidewalk? Did I ever stop at his lemonade stand on a bright sunny day? Did he ride by me on his bicycle? Was he in that line at the ice cream truck when it stopped at my corner? And did he and Amy ever meet here or “there”… So many questions without answers. The story of my life now.
Had I known, would I have reached out to his family to offer comfort or would my battle wounds over the course of the 8 months of living in my own nightmare have frightened them. I admit, even at 8 months out, I was a sponge who took everything in and acutely tuned into other grievers’ journeys desperately searching for a way to survive.
About two weeks ago, my husband and I attended a grief class. The first time we participated in this 13 week grief class was only weeks after Amy had passed away. Looking back, we probably were not ready for this arena but the facilitator was so compassionate that she was the primary reason I decided to return for most of the sessions.
Each class started with a video addressing a different topic of grief. One of the early sessions addressed getting rid of personal belongings. Of course, I ignored their suggestion but the mere thought knocked me for a loop. In hindsight, I now realize I was not ready to go “there” even in my mind. It may have been on the course’s timeline but it wasn’t on mine and quite frankly, still isn’t.
When we attended this recent session, I felt compelled to speak up that while the course has a structured timeline, there is no concrete timeline for anyone’s grief. Our hearts are our guides. We can’t base this so-called journey as dictated by any professional timeline or even on a fellow griever’s journey. As I continue to learn, grief is unique to who we have lost, our individual life, our own network of support and how much of our identity has changed. I admit that those sessions did shine a flashlight on the different aspects and challenges of grief, but at the end of the 13 weeks, there was no graduation ceremony.
Personally, I have found I need the support which only other grievers have been able to offer to me. I need to connect with their knowing eyes to be reminded that my family was not targeted or did anything to warrant this life sentence. Yet, I continue to balance that network of knowing support with the few compassionate friends who have stuck around. They offer a comforting connection between my two worlds.
In my case, I have also needed weekly private counseling to deal with the PTSD, anxiety and inevitable grief depression. Yet, I will never ever profess to know the way and when I read frightening predictions or warnings of the gazillion feelings you will experience it infuriates me. We carry our own grief 24/7. This blog is the only place where I am comfortable pouring my heart out. It’s impossible to lead and confusing to follow. Please don’t try to scare me out of my grief in an effort to reset me. Trust me, that kind of tough love only sets me back.
When someone boasts about how well another griever is doing early in their journey, I grow concerned. However, it’s not up to me to assess anyone else. Everyone who reads my blog knows I am broken and angry because I have to live in a world without Amy. So what. I own it. I may never totally recover from losing Amy and the anger will dissipate when I am too exhausted to carry it any longer. The forever gaping hole in my heart is mine to carry as you skip back home to your untouched life. If my grief makes me sick or I end up friendless, etc., well I know I have done the best I could with the coping tools I own.
Confessing you are worried about me no longer phases me. They are just words based on limited interactions with me. Depending on which moment you catch me in, you could declare me all better and the next moment find me in the deepest corner of despair. One minute I could be chatting amicably with a young man about installing an expensive electric awning and the next minute I could be crying hysterically after a phone call which reminded me how my family is not immune to any future pain.
It’s inevitable that over time others will grow weary of my grief. Excuse me, but I am grieving as fast as I can. As I have said before, no one is nominating me for the grieving mother of the year award nor am I willing to play that role so you will admire me or to protect anyone other than my two children. To thine own self be true or something like that … Initially people worried about the broken version of me. However as more time goes by, based on their expert timetable, they will become irritated and impatient that I am not over the death of my child. Has the numbness returned or do I honestly care less and less whether they stay or go?
My dear tender hearted fellow grievers: please don’t allow anyone to push you to quickly get over your loved one. Listen to your own heart and body. If you need help, please get it. Allow yourself the space to grieve and take the time you need. It’s not a race. There is no prize for being the fastest griever. You earned your right to be angry, jealous, disenchanted with others who have let you down, to feel sorry for yourself and your family because the natural order did not prevail and has left you injured to your very core. You also do not require me or anyone else to remind you that your broken heart is also worthy to receive laughter, music and glimmers of joy as you mourn your precious loved one.
Please don’t allow unsolicited warnings and frightening predictions to plug your grief and dismiss your reaction to losing someone so key to your well being. It’s your life. If some of it is spent in sorrow, so be it. It’s the price we pay for love, but over time, I hope, we will all find light again. It is my sincerest prayer that the universe is indeed large enough to contain this unnatural loss. I admit I still wonder. Time will tell. Just don’t push me.
Always remembering Amy.