I haven’t written for a while, because quite honestly, I’ve been lost in grief. In October my “Gifted mother” (GM) went home to my dad in heaven. So, not only am I going through the grief of losing her, but also because we need to sell their family home, I’ve been feeling like I’m losing him all over again. I have to say goodbye to a home that offered so many loving memories, when truly I so desperately want to hold onto it. I’m financially not in the position to do it. My dad, GM and I talked about me having the house many times because it was my dream home for the kids and I to live. I have pictured them growing up there a million times. So, not only have I lost them, I lost a dream of a life. I know in my heart if I was meant to have the house, a way would have presented itself, but it hasn’t. I have to believe its because that is not the direction I’m supposed to be going, but right now that reality is very hard to swallow.
Every day since I found out my GM was dying has been a struggle. So many thoughts and feelings have been eating at me. I’ve been endlessly spinning. My life has paid the price for being out of balance as I’ve watched my children suffering in their own ways and I’ve watched my joy be tainted with so much questioning. I’ve been watching myself, thank GOD with awareness; I haven’t been able to stop the thoughts from coming, but at least knowing that my natural childlike defenses are on heightened alert.
I’ve been keeping myself endlessly busy, which is very easy to do as a single mom during the holidays. My goal was to get through the holidays and get a fresh new start in 2017. On December 28th, my 98-year-old grandmother died. She is the last of my grandparents and her and my grandfather have lived in their house since before my dad was born. So, another door closes and once again the house needs to be sold. All the memories of the house will be left to my head and heart. My kids and I visited her on our road trip this summer. Her humor was still fully intact and her love for us was abundant. She was an amazing example of a life well lived. I feel her loss to the core of my being.
In my Intro to Human Development course in college, the book Life-Span Development by John W. Santrock said, “Grief is the emotional numbness, disbelief, separation anxiety, despair, sadness, and loneliness that accompany the loss of someone we love.” Grief doesn’t just surface when people, pets, and living things die. It surfaces anytime someone or thing we have feelings for leaves our lives. When we leave any part of an old life behind, such as: loss of work, divorce, addictions, changes in location and/or lifestyle; we grieve.
Kübler -Ross developed the idea of the 5 stages of gief that came from what was considered originally as the 5 stages of dying. They are the same:
I’ve seen this process again and again, but somehow I think I can escape these losses without going through the each stage. When I read through it in class, I could relate, but only as a past tense experience. I keep trying to believe there is some magic way to not experience the feelings of every stage. Now at least, I’m able to slow down and look at the list and go OK, I have to just let it pass through me with awareness. Most days I have to remind myself daily or I forget and spin it into a drama that I don’t want added to my life. I can spend time questioning every detail and letting all of the progress of these past years whirl around me as I’m swept up in this tornado.
Sometimes we forget that grieving isn’t exclusive to adults either. Some cultures have rituals they follow, which I believe helps them stay present to the grieving process. But in other cultures, living in a fast-paced society; the busy doing world of single mothers; teachers stretched so thin they can’t see the whole student; and mental health systems that are too interested in labeling kids quickly; we can miss what grief is doing to the children. I just recently got a taste of how some educators have become numb to a child’s emotional pain. This is not entirely their fault, teachers are stretched so thin that sometimes all they can see is behavior and they don’t find the time to see that a child may be grieving.
My son has been struggling for a long time, but more than ever this year. Our last six years have been full of losses, but even I missed that some of his acting up may have been because he was grieving all these tremendous losses in his life. We tried therapy but they couldn’t label what they saw in the short time he had covered, so it was missed on all kinds of levels. I didn’t see it until it got so bad that it was impossible to avoid. I started researching how grief comes out in students. The results came out like a checklist of all the behaviors he has been exhibiting in school. This experience has reminded me of how easy it is to expect children to do what we can’t do ourselves. Who acts normal when they are grieving? As an adult with lots of experience with grief, I’m watching myself be totally chaotic and lost at times. How is it an 11 year old, who hasn’t studied it and is only at the beginning of understanding meaning of life supposed to process all these losses like death, divorce, addiction, moving, etc.?
Grief is something that has been studied and documented for years. There is a formula but it is complicated and not linear. There is no escape from the process. We must face it in order to move through it. If we try to avoid any of the stages we stay stuck. Sometimes we will try to fill the void and we will endlessly fail. Other times we try to cover the void with alcohol, drugs (illegal or prescribed), food, sex, and/or some other form of addictive behavior. Once again staying stuck and digging ourselves into a deeper pit of endless sorrow. I’m deep in the grief process right now and I’m not running, but I feel far from normal. I’m just trying to stay aware of where my head and heart are and doing the next right thing. Today that meant spending 30 minutes reading with my kids before school; taking a long walk while listening to an inspiring audiobook; meditating; having lunch with a friend; and reading and writing about grief. In my research, I found one of my favorite authors, Louise Hay wrote a book with David Kessler about grieving called, You Can Heal Your Heart. I love how when we ask for help and mean it, we find exactly what we need.
With Love and Gratitude,