Friday, June 14, 2013

Rising above grief.

     It's interesting how people come into our lives when we least expect it and often it's when we're doing something as basic as grocery shopping, going to an appointment, renting a movie, etc. I believe that people are put in our path in order for us to connect, share and learn from one another. When it happens & you're willing to open yourself up to someone, it can be an amazing experience that changes you and your perspective.
     I was blessed to meet an amazing woman today while getting a mammogram, but somehow I never caught her name. We just started talking during the procedure and the floodgates were opened. I was in the most vulnerable position (hard to be modest when you're half dressed) sharing my medical history and the next thing I knew we were having a full on discussion about love, loss and grief. I'm a cancer survivor & her husband passed away from cancer and as we talked the topic of grief came up. Our discussion inspired me to write about this difficult topic and I'm not sure why I didn't do this sooner. I believe that she and I connected for a reason and that reason was for me to write about something that so few of us talk about openly. Grief. What is it? What does it feel like? How do we deal with it?
     Grief is a normal process, but sometimes we don't recognize it. For myself, I didn't recognize it, because my husband had not passed away. Why would I be grieving for someone that is still alive? Besides that, I was in complete denial and shock the first year of his injury and I certainly can't leave out anger, sorrow and my personal pity party. These feelings are not wrong, but yet we may feel guilty about feeling them, especially when our spouse is still with us physically. What we fail to realize is that we're grieving for the loss of our future dreams, what we thought our life would be and the loss of our spouse as we knew them before. As someone that has written in journals for years, I didn't write in my journal for one full year after my husband's injury. Looking back, I think it was because putting it on paper made it real & I couldn't deal with that yet. I also like to control life, which I now know isn't possible. I put on a brave front that I was strong, didn't need help and proceeded to stuff all those bad feeling inside of myself. How naive I was keeping grief at a distance when it needed to be dealt with.
     In order to heal, we must grieve and the timeline is unique for each of us. Someone else you know may seem to be moving through grief at a different speed, but don't compare yourself with anyone else when it comes to grief. I have moved through the grief process quicker than my spouse and of course I want him to hurry up and heal, but it doesn't work that way. His hurts are different than mine, he is reminded of his loss everyday that he gets into his wheelchair and I can't heal those hurts for him. Friends may try to help and their intentions are good, but often they're uninformed and don't know what to do or say, which may lead to being insensitive. Don't let anyone tell you, "You should be over it by now" or "It's not as bad as it seems."
     Only you know what you're feeling whether that be: loneliness, fear, blame, rage, anger or guilt. One day you may feel that you're making great progress and then something triggers an emotion that sends you reeling back. As time goes on you're able to work through these emotions and slowly move forward again. I know from experience that even after 6 years I'm sometimes caught off guard by a wave of sadness or "whoa is me" moment. It happens, I allow myself to feel it and then I move on again.
     The most important thing I've learned is that talking with someone who "gets it" can be very therapeutic. I struggled with this for years, because in my mind, being vulnerable meant losing control. I've come to realize that I don't have to be the "strong one" all the time. What I have gained from opening up and being vulnerable is the knowledge that I'm not alone in my feelings and that usually the person I'm opening up to needs to hear my story as much I need to hear theirs. This is exactly what I experienced yesterday at my medical appointment. Two women talking openly about grief, acknowledging and understanding one another, being vulnerable and not judging where each of us is in the journey. I'll close with a verse I came across 3 years ago and it resonated deeply within me. Unfortunately, I don't know the author.

 "We do not understand:
Joy...until we face sorrow.
Faith...until it is tested.
Peace...until faced with conflict.
Trust...until we are betrayed.
Love...until it is lost.
Hope...until confronted with doubts."

It's ok to grieve the past, it's part of what makes you who you are today, but don't get stuck there and let it keep you from dreaming again. The wound may always be just below the surface, but it gets to a point where it doesn't overwhelm you anymore and when that happens you'll be able to find hope and dreams again!