Well we survived another holiday and survived another “first”. The first of everything is tough in grief. You know it’s coming so you start to brace yourself. You plant your feet slightly apart to maintain your balance and wait. It comes like an easy sprinkle of rain, you feel it, but it’s ok, you’ve got this. It starts to rain harder, now soaking your clothes, your shoes, and most of all your spirit. You patiently await the thunder followed by the lightening bolts that finally cause you to lose your balance and stumble to right yourself. And then the storm is over leaving you disheveled, unsure and wondering how you survived.
This is an example of everyday life in grief, not just holidays. In the last week, I have been asked “How is Rick?” more times than I can count. The girls hear “How is your dad?” Some know nothing, some know Rick was sick. Every experience is a first. It is the first time you have seen them or talked with them. It may be the first time you’ve seen them since the funeral home or service. It could be the first time you have seen someone in years and they know nothing. You become a little gun shy and may try to avoid these situations. How do you accomplish that? You isolate.
Isolation can be helpful at times, but it can also hinder your grieving process. If you don’t face the challenges, the world has a way of placing them in your path anyway. Many have to return to work and where they were once so confident, may feel very vulnerable. Some find solace and immerse themselves in work, probably because there they feel like they can make a difference. Dealing with loss you feel like a top spinning out of control. You can’t help yourself and you can’t help your family and on top of that, you can’t fix it. It is a helpless feeling.
My reaction to taking on the world is often reflective of what role that person has played in our lives. Some of my medical family I have worked with since the 1970’s. They knew Rick, watched us grow our family, may have even been present at their birth, or Rick probably cooked for them at one time. Many saw us start a business, watched us become grandparents, and maybe watched us flounder after losing Lindsey. Some we have vacationed with and are part of my most treasured memories. There is also the fact we have lived our entire life in this area, so seeing people we know is commonplace for us. I cannot leave my house without colliding with a barrage of memories. At first, that can be tough, but eventually I found that to be a comfort. I’m sure it will be the same for me this time around because Rick is everywhere in my world.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about these “first” is this, you can only do what you can do. Some things work and some things don’t. One of the rights of grievers is to be free to make a choice. It doesn’t mean they will make that same choice forever, but for now they may need a little room to breathe. Maybe doing things the way you always did before doesn’t work for them this time. You can change things up to make new traditions or they get a “pass” and everyone tries to understand. Where you are in early grief is not the destination, it is just the path you take looking for your destination.
Whatever happened to change your life and cause you to embark on the grief journey, is going to change you and everyone around you. You may not like the changes you see, but as you grow, it will become more apparent than ever that you are a survivor. You are still here and you are learning to live without someone you love. This, my friends, is not an easy task.
For me, I felt like I had to make a choice to try to find some form of “happy” or to stay in the place of sadness. I personally hate the “new normal” because there is nothing normal about it. Living without my daughter is far from normal. Living without my husband, there is nothing normal about that. Thing is, “not living” is not normal either. Being sad and not enjoying the many things we have left is just not a viable option to me. It would mean that what I had left wasn’t as important as what I lost. It could give those I love the impression that they weren’t worth fighting for and that is far from the truth. Besides. someone told me, “normal is a cycle on the washing machine”.
As you travel the grief journey, heavy laden with the pain and the missing, you will start to unpack. I found as I accomplished even the smallest task or one of those “first”, I could then lighten my load. It was gradual and deliberate the first time around. I remained in the maze a long time after Lindsey died. I took steps forward, I took steps back, I stumbled, I fell, but I always got back up and kept seeking that exit, but I wasn’t sure it really existed.. This time around, I’ll stumble, I’ll fall, but I’ll never give up because I know how good it felt to find that exit before, so I will keep trying for those I have left to love and love me.