Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Grief and Holy Days

Many who are grieving find the holidays to be treacherous and unholy ground.  Facing those traditional days without their loved one is just too much to bear. I was the exception rather than the norm when it came to this.  In my now dark and scary world where everything was changed I found the the holidays to be a relief because they were traditional. They did not change.  I was drawn out of my tiny, grief focused life and found refuge in family.

A few weeks before Leroy died in July we had spent a weekend at my cousin Carla's a couple hours upriver. It was a time of fun, freedom and family. We made memories. Following his death our extended family Thanksgiving was hosted by Carla as well.  We gathered there with family.  I brought the scrapbook we were creating about him.  On the coffee table was a candle lit in his memory, tucked in the flowers around the base was a small wishbone.  He always asked for the wishbone.  After other family members left we stayed for the rest of weekend.  It was a time of missing, healing and tears. We made memories. The Biker read a book about the death of a beloved son and cried. If you know him, he is not a reader and at that time tears did not come easily either.  In a drawer there was a small pad of paper. Imprinted into it was the letter Leroy had written to his Auntie Nunie.  If you knew him you would know that reading and writing did not come easily to him either.  Artist that he was, all around the edges he had drawn flowers and curly ques.  He was so proud of that letter. His eyes sparkled with excitement as he told me she would have to write back to him because he asked how the baby was doing!

Once again it is Thanksgiving. We are here in Virginia Beach to celebrate with our sailor. In his living room is a candle. Beside it is a small framed photograph of a small, brown eyed boy holding his baby brother.  Six years between them but they were good buds.  Twenty-two years later, we still miss him.

Holidays. Holy days.  How do we do this?

Find a way to honor your loved one as part of your celebration.  It does not have to be extravagant just meaningful to you.

Change a few things but do not change everything. Remember you are not the only one grieving though our grief fogged mind has made our focus that small.  Think about those nearest and dearest to you and what their needs may be.  Not celebrating at all may seem best to us, however, especially for children, losing the holiday along with their favorite traditions may be too big a loss to bear with the loss they are already enduring.  We can easily make those whom we are still blessed to have in our lives feel as if their life is no longer important to us because of death. Love them.

If others beyond your nearest and dearest do not like the changes you are making in your holiday traditions and celebrations, offer them grace. They do not understand.

Have a plan.  You may tweak it when the time comes, change it up or abandon it completely but have a plan. Death leaves us feeling helpless and out of control.  A plan that did not work is better than no plan at all which leaves you feeling more helpless and out of control.  Be patient with yourself.  You are finding your way through rough and rocky ground you have not traveled before.

Often the anticipation of the holiday is worse than the day itself. Anticipation of the pain is often worse than the pain itself. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to cry and miss and wish. It is okay to be happy and enjoy yourself in spite of it all.

May your season be holy and wear red shoes for courage - Pat

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Time - The Poem

Poetry has been and is a part of my healing process.
I did not write this poem.  It came to me.  I wrote it down.


God is all eternity.
He doesn’t measure time.
Here on earth  it pushes us
With steady, metered rhyme.

Time was running way to fast,
The years were flying by.
A week seemed but a day
An hour, the a wink of an eye.

One night in it’s headlong rush
Time crashed, it stopped, stood still.
A mighty hand had reached inside,
And stopped the spinning wheels.

Your little heart stopped beating,
My leaping, lively one.
Your little feet stopped climbing,
You had reached the highest rung.  

Time just stopped and stood there,
A heavy, crushing weight,
Holding fear, and pain, and anger
Inside it’s iron gate.

Slowly the wheels started turning
As if in agony.
The hours that flew so quickly by
Seemed to fill eternity.

Time hurry, go on, faster
Rush on past this pain.
Make the years go flying
Heal my heart again.

I am sorry, Time has answered
This has come to stay.
I can only ease your sorrow,
I cannot make it go away.

My little one, you’re off and running,
You’re  running on ahead.
No measured steps of pain for you,
Timeless freedom is yours instead.

Your little feet are off and running,
Climbing, leaping as before.
I am waiting . . . waiting to join you.
Where time shall be no more.

pja   1991 November 20

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grief and Time

It has been said "Time heals all wounds."  Time does not heal grief but it does take time for grief to heal. It is a process. It can be a long process. Each grief is as different as the griever. Each grief is as different as the relationship being grieved.

When we build relationships we build files of information in our hearts and minds each pertaining to that relationship.  The longer we know someone and more time we invest the more files we have.  When death ends the relationship the files still remain. As we grieve we open files and examine the contents. We remember and grieve what once was and what will never be.  Files that were once labeled "Alive, Active, Loved" are eventually labeled "Deceased, Missed, Still Loved". It is something that cannot be hurried. Each file is opened in it's time. We go through all those "firsts", first birthday, first holidays, first time grocery shopping alone. It is seasonal to the year, and also to the seasons of life.  We grieve each milestone as it passes.

In relationships that end almost before they begin as in miscarriage, stillborn or newborn death we cling to the small files we have. We grieve the milestones that never were, that never will never be. As each birthday passes we wonder who and what might have been.

When a relationship is rocky, rough or broken the grief process is harder. We not only grieve or regret what was, we grieve for what could have been but now will never be. Reconciliation is now something we must try to achieve alone.

Yes, grief takes time and you need to give yourself permission to grieve.

"You give yourself permission to grieve by recognizing the need for grieving. Grieving is the natural way of working through the loss of love. Grieving is not weakness or the absence of faith.  Grieving is as natural as crying when you hurt, sleeping when you are tired, or sneezing when your nose itches. It is nature's way of healing a broken heart."ᵃ

Give yourself permission to grieve and then give yourself permission to heal as well. Jesus asked the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-8) "Do you want to be well?"  If we want to heal from our grief we have to choose to be well.

"There must come a time when you assume responsibility for your own grief recovery. There is no timetable.  You will come to it when you are ready. When you get there your choice is to say 'I want to get well' or to say 'I can't'. If you say 'I can't,' growth will stop and wait for your decision to get well."ᵃ

Leroy died 22 years ago.  He is still gone. I still miss him. It still hurts. His death has defined me and who I am today but it no longer defines my life. It no longer consumes me, my time, my thoughts, my emotions and all my energy. I have chosen to heal. I remember and the memories are sweet. We pass those days and milestones and tears will still fall but I am healed.

Give yourself permission to grieve.
It takes time.
Give yourself permission to heal.
And wear red shoes for courage.

ᵃ Quotes from Don't Take My Grief Away by Doug Manning. (HarperSanFransisco)