When I lost my brother it was early summer time. The flowers were out, the heat hadn’t magnetized and yet I could find beauty in nothing. I felt like I was never going to get over the pain from his death. In some ways I felt paralyzed, almost not feeling at all, from fear that if I did feel I would never come back.
The pain ebbed and flowed but the pain was most intense during the holidays. I dreaded them the first year, knowing one chair was missing. His. I had a hard time eating or enjoying the taste of anything. More than anything I watched over and worried about my parents, whom I knew were in much greater pain than I was. So, between my worry for them and trying to survive my own feelings, the holidays were really tough.
When I look back on that time now I think not so much of all of the pain we all had…but rather of all of the gifts of compassion from others. I think of how friends gathered, wrote notes from afar, sent mementos that reminded them of Rod. What I know is that we were surrounded by love and grace from others.
Grief hurts. It’s a big open wound that you wonder: Is it too big to ever heal? Will I ever be the same? Will I ever feel joy again? How can I survive this? The answers to those questions may vary. I don’t know that one is ever the same after they lose someone they love….but I believe that, if one chooses to, they can become someone that grows, that loves even deeper, that feels even deeper. Death reminds us that each day we have to treasure and love those around us deeply and passionately.
My husband lost his then wife, Kathy, and two young boys, Tanner and Shea, when a boulder fell from Glenwood Canyon in Colorado (told in our book: Out of the Canyon, Random House, 2009). What I admire and respect most about him is the journey he took in healing. I met him months after the accident and we shared our two losses. He was in deep pain and grief, but he also was determined to live his life in honor and joy of his family. He decided to learn and grow and open up even more because he knew they would want that.
We later married and now have two boys of our own. There is not a day goes by that Kathy, Tanner and Shea are not a part of our lives. They are our angels and our protectors. Each holiday we light candles for them and each of us talks to them and tells them we love them. Is it easy? No. Does my husband miss them desperately? Yes. In many ways, Art says, the missing and yearning for them is a friend because in that space where he feels the pain and yearning for them, THAT is where he feels closest to them.
There are no magic answers and no diagrams to get through the maze of grief and loss. Each one of us is different and we each have our own journey. During these holidays, I encourage you to find some way to honor, love and touch the one you have lost. Honor them with candles, a special tree, or a special present to yourself that you allow to be ‘from him/her.’ Pick something that feels appropriate to that person and to your self or the family. Feel the pain of your loss but also feel the joy you felt with them alive. Try not to judge yourself or others. The most important thing is to honor the life they had while alive. By reaching out and honoring their life, you are helping yourself as well.Tags: grief, hope