My beloved sister Donna was a gentle, loving, caring soul. She was my trusted confidant, my witness, my cheerleader, and my best friend. She died September 6, 2002, at age 49.
Donna was was born three-and-a-half years after me. She was there for me, I for her. We were giddy and vulnerable with each other. I remember walking down the street with her, holding her hand, thinking about how lucky I was to have her as my very own sister. Our commitment and our sense of knowing one another was astounding. A glance into her eyes affirmed my joyous reality: “She was both my sister and my best friend.”
When Donna was 36, she received the diagnosis of breast cancer. I had already lost my young husband to cancer, so the words sent shock waves through me again. Since the death of my husband, Mark, in 1984, I had embarked on a path of healing that involved “making peace with my own grief.” Stephen Levine, respected author of Who Dies?, states, “we can be available to others in their grief to the extent that we know our own.” This was certainly a stunning way for me to assess how authentic I’d been transforming my grief regarding the loss of my husband Mark.
I remember feelings of disbelief at the sound and meaning of the doctor’s words, the physical sensation of numbness and my inability to think clearly. Later, when we went to have lunch, Donna looked into my eyes. “Lyn, she asked, “as my older sister, can you be my advocate? Please understand, I do not need you to be in charge of me. I need you to hear me and give me feedback.”
She then added, “What I really need from you is to be responsible TO me…NOT for me.”
My jaw dropped. Her simple request imprinted forever in my mind and on my heart, and it has changed the way I see my own role as a friend, family member and professional caregiver. How eloquent, how profound. “Yes Donna, I’ll practice and do my best to learn to be that.”
My professional work, Degriefing®, is in truth an oxymoron. There is truly no way to DEGRIEF! Degriefing is about normalizing and then using our grief as fuel. By engaging in verbal expression and then chosing specific activities (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual), this work can assist each of us in making peace with our grief.
There is loss and suffering every day on this planet we call Earth. If we allow ourselves to tune into the pain of global grief, we see that loss and grief are a natural part of the human condition. We lose five minutes in traffic, we lose the sun at the end of the day, we lose our footing, and, “Oops, I just lost my train of thought!”
Grief is the most available untapped emotional resource for personal transformation. I experience a sense of purpose and find meaning doing the Degriefing work in my sister Donna’s honor. It keeps her alive in my heart as her love and wisdom guide me from within.
Donna, remembering your beautiful smile and with deep appreciation I thank you forever.
Your loving sister,