Badge of honour


It is the silly season. The season of madness. It’s the time for holiday merriment with its relentlessly upbeat expectations, sometimes forced, especially for those of us grieving the loss of a loved one.

No matter where I or what I am doing, there is always one thought that is in the forefront of my mind: “My child is dead”. That thought can never be erased. It has become a part of my soul.

I sense an impatience in some people for me to “get over it”, “put it in the past”, “stop dwelling on your loss”, or “move forward”

Yes, I have moved forward, but I can never forget. There is an aching in my soul and a hole in my heart. There is always a part of me that is always aware that “my child is dead.” I will never be complete again. Nothing or no one can fill the place my child had in my life and heart!

Like a drowning person I am grabbing onto symbolic things – an angel garden, burning candles, a memorial light in a tree of remembrance, a Hospice….. These symbolic things simultaneously provides solace, searing pain and anger.

On Friday night the Tree of Remembrance was lit at the premises where our Hospice building is. I was filled with such immense sadness that I was unable to contain my tears. I know that I was not the only one moved by the lighting of the tree. I was flanked by a dear friend who lost her husband nine months ago and a colleague who lost her mother a year ago. Gentle tears ran down their cheeks. Jared, my eldest grandson who stood behind me, put his arms around me and whispered “I miss Mommy too…”


Many bereaved people will pretend this is just another holiday season. It isn’t. I refuse to pretend that it is.

This will be my first birthday, our first Christmas, Jared’s 17th birthday and New Year without Vic. My birthday I hope to ignore. Christmas Eve we will spend at Lani’s house with a lot of people we don’t know. I know there will be no room for thought. There will be a lot of food, gifts, talking, laughing…. Christmas Day I will go to a squatter camp with Reuben and the children in his church. We will provide the poor with a meal. Jared’s birthday – we will all make a huge effort to make special… New Year’s I will remember knowing last year that Vic was dying. That it was her last New Year.

Dick Lumaghi, bereavement coordinator for Hospice of Ukiah says “The depth of a grief is exactly proportional to the depth of attachment; from one perspective, a deep grief is a badge of honour, a big love between two people.”

I do wear my grief as a badge of honour. My precious child was gentle, kind, compassionate, beautiful, loyal and loving. She earned every tear I have ever shed. She earned ever tear I will ever shed. I wish people would understand that it’s total impossible for me to “get over it”, “put this in the past”, “stop dwelling on your loss”, or “move forward”.

I love my child. I miss my child. I want my child home with me.


Grief Intelligence: A Primer


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For the past 25 years, I have worked with thousands of grievers. I have sat with widows and widowers, the young and the old. I have offered tissues to bereaved parents in their inconsolable grief. I have normalized, educated, listened to and championed those grievers who, through tremendous pain, still engaged with life.

In the decades since my book Transcending Loss was published, the grieving process has not changed. As I interact with grievers from around the world, I am reminded of the universality of grief. And though each person has their own journey, still they share many common experiences.

Yet, still, I see and hear so much misinformation and confusion around grief. Principally, this comes from the widely-held myths that grief should be easy, that grief should be short, that grief has closure, that people should get on with their lives unchanged and that ongoing connection with the deceased is somehow pathological.

So, in trying to set the record straight, I’m offering seven principles in this primer on grief intelligence.

Most people don’t learn these lessons until life thrusts them onto the roller coaster of major loss. However, if we can get the word out, then perhaps a new generation of individuals will feel more supported and understood when it is their time to grieve.

1. Grief is a normal reaction — Grief is the natural emotional and physical response to the death of a loved one. Although our society desperately wants to avoid the messiness of deep sorrow, there is no way out except through the pain. Typical numbing techniques such as medications, alcohol and food are only temporary distractions to dull the pain.

Letting oneself grieve by going directly into the pain — in manageable doses over a long period of time — is healing. Avoiding the pain simply forces it to go deep into the heart where it subtly affects emotional and physical health.

2. Grief is hard work — Grief isn’t easy and it isn’t pretty. It involves tears, sleepless nights, pain, sorrow and a heartache that knocks you to your knees. It can be hard to concentrate, hard to think clearly, hard to read and easy to forget all the details of life that everyone else seems to remember. Grievers frequently feel that they’re going crazy and they sometimes wish to die. This doesn’t mean that they’re actively suicidal, it just means that they’re grieving.

3. Grief doesn’t offer closure — Closure is an idea that we like because we want to tie up our emotional messes with a bow and put them in the back of a closet. But grief refuses to play this game. Grief tends towards healing not closure. The funeral can be healing, visiting a gravesite can be healing, performing rituals, writing in journals and making pilgrimages can be personally meaningful and healing. But they will not bring closure. Closure is relevant to business deals but not to the human heart.

4. Grief is lifelong — Although we all want quick fixes and short-term solutions, grief won’t accommodate us. Many people want grief to be over in a few weeks or a few months and certainly within a year. And yet, many grievers know that the second year is actually harder than the first. Why Because the shock has worn off and the reality of the pain has truly sunk in.

I let grievers know that the impact of grief is lifelong just as the influence of love is also lifelong. No matter how many years go by, there will be occasional days when grief bursts through with a certain rawness. There will be days, even decades later, when sadness crosses over like a storm cloud. And likely, every day going forward will involve some memory, some connection to missing the beloved.

5. Grievers need to stay connected to the deceased — While some might find it odd or uncomfortable to keep talking about a loved one after they have passed, or find it disconcerting to see photographs of those who have died, it is healthy to keep the connection alive. My heart goes out to a generation or more of grievers who were told to cut their ties to their deceased loved ones, to move on, almost as if they had never existed. Such unwitting cruelty! It is important to honor the birthdays and departure days of deceased loved ones. Their physical presence may be gone, but they remain in relationship to the griever in a new way beyond form, a way based in spirit and love.

6. Grievers are changed forever — Those who expect grievers to eventually get back to their old selves, will be quite disappointed. Grief, like all major life experiences, changes a person irrevocably. People don’t remain unchanged after getting an education, getting married, having a baby, getting divorced or changing careers. Grief, too, adds to the compost mixture of life, creating rich and fertile soil. It teaches about living and dying, about pain and love and about impermanence. While some people are changed by grief in a way that makes them bitter and shut down, it is also possible to use grief as a springboard for compassion, wisdom, and open-heartedness.

7. Grievers can choose transcendence — Transcendence has to do with gaining perspective, seeing in a new way and holding pain in a larger context. Seeing one’s grief from a larger perspective allows it to be bearable and gives it meaning. For one, transcendence might mean reaching out to those who suffer. For another, it might mean giving to a cause that will benefit others. Grievers who choose transcendence recognize that they are not alone, that they share a common human condition, and that they are amongst so many who have experienced love and loss. They use their pain in a way that touches others. The pain is still there, of course, but it is transformed.

So I invite you to reflect on these grief principles, how they might be true for you and how they might be true for someone you know and love. Share and share again so that we might spread grief intelligence far and wide. Perhaps we can effect a change so widespread that grievers will know what to expect. Hopefully, we all can be comforted, in small ways, by that knowledge

Reblogged from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ashley-davis-bush/dealing-with-grief_b_3716013.html

 

What am I doing?


This is one of the most heart wrenching posts I have read in a long time.  I read a lot of blogs written by grieving mothers.  Why did this post affect me to this extent?   I don’t know.  Maybe because this mother’s grief feels as real as my own grief.  Maybe it is because I am doing the same.  Writing and desperately trying to keep my Vic alive…hugs and tears Gatito.

My Bright Shining Star

What am I doing Kaitlyn? What am I trying to do by my endless blogs about you, the photo albums, the posts on Facebook, the printed out version of my blog, the printed out comments by your friends after you died on your Facebook, in my private messages and by email, the posts I made on Student Doctor Network warning them of what could so easily happen if they don’t heed the warning within them of depression, for posting about you In the off topic sections of forums I belong to that are about motorcycles, RVing, and cats. Posting on suicide survivor forums. Posting every video and song that remotely has to do with what you were and I am going through. Making DVD slides of you. Going through all you music CDs, going through all your recent things, old things, things I put up long ago, things that are…

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When a child dies…


“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for which has been your delight”. ~ Kahlil Gibran.

At times the pain and feelings of desolate loss is overwhelming.  I know it is because I loved Vic so much.  I am grieving because I miss my child, the mother of my grandchildren, my friend.  I miss drinking endless cups of tea…. sometimes laughing and sometimes weeping.

I have grown used to not constantly checking my text messages when I sit in meetings.  I have actually forgotten my phone at home on two occasions.  I miss the countless phonecalls, finding little notes everywhere…. a soft kiss on the forehead.

When a parent dies, you lose your past; when a child dies, you lose your future. – Anonymous

 

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“Time takes us farther away…”


I have battled to blog. I feel that my words are rehashed from one post to the next. My emotions are the same.

My DiL and the three girls have spent 3 weeks in South Africa. It has been amazing hearing the patter of little feet down the passages, shrieks of laughter and anger… I will always cherish the little arms around my neck, the warm little bodies in my bed. I cherish the time I got to spend with my DiL; the chats into the early hours of the morning and the countless cups of tea. It reminded me of when Vic was still alive. I dread leaving England on Monday to return to my solitude and grief.

I feel guilty about posting my same tearful stories of grief and I feel guilty that I have become embarrassed by exposing my soul to the world – friend and foe alike.

The past four weeks life has been easier. I have laughed and smiled. I have had fun.

In 8 days’ time it is Vic’s birthday. I am filled with trepidation as to how I will cope. The second I think of Vic, tears well up in my eyes and there is this stabbing pain in my heart. I have decided that I will not move Vic’s ashes into the garden. Vic will remain on the sideboard where I can see her and run my hand over her little casket. Vic will not be exiled into the garden. She is part of our lives and she will remain exactly where she is.

I am wondering whether I should bake Vic favourite chocolate cake… The boys want to send up Chinese Lanterns we actually wrote messages on, on New Year’s Eve 2010. Vic was desperately ill in hospital and moved into ICU on the 1st of January 2010. She was devastated. The staff allowed us to spend the evening with her.

Vic being moved to ICU on New Years Day 1

At 12 O Clock we went outside to send up the Chinese lanterns. It rained and we undertook to do it when Vic was home again. Somehow we never did. When we returned to the ward, the staff had assembled in the visitors lounge. Someone had conducted a Mid-Night service. The staff sang beautifully and prayed for the patients. Many of them laid hands on Vic. Vic cried. Jon-Daniel was inconsolable. We all cried.

One of my blogger friend’s sent me this email “Oh, Tersia. You are held tight in the grip of horrific grief. Simply knowing that someday you will wrench free from such a suffocating grasp brings no relief at this moment. You already know you cannot fight it. Flow with the “ocean of tears.” A great deal of the horror is behind you, but you are reliving it. I distinctly remember that the WORST time in my grief came at six months and followed me until the end of the first year. Like an amputation without anaesthesia – you are deeply suffering and so many people feel your pain. Keep writing, crying and feeling. The ocean of tears will take you to a new shore. Time takes us farther away from our loved one. That is the agony and the anaesthesia. Such conflict that creates! Feel my hug because I’m with you.” http://judyunger.wordpress.com/

Another one of my blogger friends, Julie, is taking a sabbatical from blogging. She wrote “Just until my heart catches up with my voice. So much is happening, and so much is not happening – argh!”

I wonder whether my heart will ever catch up with my voice…

The whimper


I am in such a bad place.  I have been trying to write a post for 4 days.  Words elude me.

Very dear friends of ours lost their son and two granddaughters on Thursday.   It is a family murder/suicide and my heart is breaking for the family.  Our friend, the father of the son who committed suicide (and murder) phoned on Wednesday night to hear how I was coping with Vic’s 6 month anniversary… On Thursday – on Vic’s 6 month anniversary I sympathised with him and his wife on their devastating loss….

I am in shock (as is the entire community) and heartbroken for our friends, his parents and the grandparents of the two beautiful girls.  I fear for the mother of the girls.  Her life is out of danger, but I cannot imagine her pain or imagine her recovery and healing…

I have been thinking about how different our grief is but I will write later.  Now I have to cry.

Reposted from http://reneejulene.com/2013/07/11/the-whimper/                                                   There is a sound that somehow I had forgotten.  I don’t know how I forgot it because it is a sound that I am all too familiar with.  It is the sound of a broken heart.  It is the sound of the leveling of the soul.  It is the sound of exhaustion.  It is the sound of anguish.  It is the noise made after there are no more tears.  Losing a child is not loud, forceful and superficial.  It is quiet, deep and profound.  It is the saddest sound of all.  It is the whimper of a mother who has lost a part of her very being, her child.

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http://www.toms-travels.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/3candles.jpg

 

From the diary of my precious child…


I found these words in Vic’s diary. It was an entry towards the end of her life. I believe it is a message from my precious angel child – not only to me but to her friends and family.

I found a web source when I did the plagiarism check. The poem was written by Karen Vervaet. Vic changed some words by never finished writing what she started.

These are the words my beautiful child wanted to share with her friends and family…

Goodbye
I turn my head and look towards death now.
Feeling my way through the tunnel with the space of
emptiness and quiet.
The shimmering silence that awaits me.
This is my direction now; inward to the green pastures…
The cares of the world concern me no longer.
I have completed this life. My work is done, my 
children grown.

My loved ones are well on their hero’s journey. (original text – My husband is well on his…)
I have loved much and well…
Those I leave behind, I love.
I hope I will remain in their hearts as they will
in mine…
Thank you for taking such good care of me…
And all of you who have been my friends, thank you
for teaching me about love.

Karen Vervaet