Sunday, February 19, 2012

{On Grief & Grieving | Personal}

{If you are new to my blog - you will find that from time to time I talk about the loss of my sister. Jess was 28 when she died. She was killed in a car accident in October 2008. You can see my tribute to her here. Please understand that my blog posts in regards to Jess are very much written towards my own healing. And from time to time people who have experienced loss, often relate. Sometimes shared relativity in life is all we need to keep moving forward.}

My friend Mary had a post on her blog about grief. I read it and related to it so much. And I just wanted to share a few thoughts about it. 

Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, in her book “On Grief and Grieving,” said, “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” 

I think when we lose someone we berate ourselves for feeling loss and allowing it to pull us down.  We feel like after 3 years, 4 years have passed - we should be moved on and managing the grief with no effort. 

And naturally - time does make things a little easier. But only in a small way. Loss - in any form -  can represent a severed appendage - living handicapped for the remainder of your days. You can either accept it or allow it to debilitate you. Loss isn't just losing a loved one too early in life. It's the heartbreaking setbacks we face. The fears and rejections that count as our losses as well. Some losses greater than others. And you know them by their no expiration date. They stick around. They never go away, but you do learn to live with them. Life can be good, even when your heart hurts. Even with your losses.

Some days are harder than others. I feel like loss and grieving is viral. At first it literally takes over your entire body and renders you almost incapacitated. I think for a good year after Jess died, I didn't enjoy the things I took pleasure in. My depression was an illness. If you can believe it, I didn't find joy in photography anymore. I still did it, but I was just a stone. Numb and walking through one day to the next questioning everything I ever believed in. I do mean everything. I can imagine that when someone dies too soon and you feel their life was taken out from under them, you question what you know. The shock is too much and nothing makes sense anymore. You have so many irrational thoughts in your head. It's as if you are completely uprooted. What held you in place now lies sideways on the ground. 

But that viral grief eventually dissipates to the point of being able to remember joy. You get a little better. You start feeling a little better. I may have a weekend or a few days of dealing with that sadness. But eventually grieving moves from daily to weekly, then monthly. Sometimes two or three months can go by before I try to remember the sound of her voice or the way she'd laugh - and at 1a, I may sit and just have a good cry at my desk. 

That's why I loved that quote so much. It tells me everything I know and couldn't say. Almost as if you don't know what the rules are to grieving, you think there are rules, but there are none. Instead of it feeling like a viral affliction, I have to remember that I can't be and shouldn't be expected to just get over it. The only way is through. You don't ever just get over it. And that's ok. I will never be the same. Life will never. But I can still live.

I am finally starting to read a book called "The Empty Room - Understanding Sibling Loss" {By Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn.} I couldn't read it the first few years after my sister died. And I still haven't been able to go through her boxes though they sit in my basement. Memory, though beautifully cathartic, is just as equally painful. I think you have to get to that point where you are ready to deal with that half of pain in memory, to enjoy the beauty in it. We long to remember good things even if it hurts to do so.

After loss we are trying to re-form our identity, with our appendage missing, with the permanent hole in our heart. It's irrational to expect myself to ever be the same identical person after great loss. We become changed people. But it's appropriate to admit that every day I rebuild around it to become an enduring and compassionate person. Some of the strongest, most amazing people I have ever met are those that are handicapped.