After the death of someone we love, our grief experience and overall healing has everything to do with our relationship to the deceased, the intensity and depth of the love we felt for them, and our degree of faith in a hereafter.
In the immediate aftermath of a person’s death, it’s hard to breathe and everything hurts. We feel shattered, bewildered and frightened. Sometimes, however, grief shows us its own timetable and can be delayed or complicated. I experienced a long delay in time sequence when my father died. I was thirteen years old; it was the springtime of my life.
I rarely spoke about him back then and it appeared that I was coping fine until my early 30s, when my denied pain erupted on the heels of a favorite uncle’s death. I discovered then just how much sorrow I had repressed when my father was laid to rest. I also discovered that just because he was at peace didn’t mean I was.
When, Katie, my beloved daughter, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 18, I felt gripped again by old feelings of terror and potential loss. During the next ten years, while Katie battled the up and down relapses and recoveries of her surgeries and treatments, I had to deal with the realty of what might happen to her: a premature death.
We don’t always get what we want in this lifetime so when Katie passed away at age 28, my father’s death was immediately eclipsed because, despite my love for him, no grief compares with the agony of losing a child.
Now, after 11 years and 51 years, respectively, my feelings of loss still go up and down simply because our souls do not mark time linearly. And while I don’t feel that crippling paralysis that I experienced initially, I continue to experience their loss and see the empty spaces left behind.
But now, I make the conscious choice to fill that “missing you” space by helping others deal with their losses. Making that daily choice to help others allows my communion with Katie, my father and everyone I’ve lost to remain open, active and meaningful. It also helps me to be present in my life as it is now and in the lives of those whom I love and who love me.
It took me a long time to get where I am emotionally because I, as many other people whose lives are changed by monumental loss, wanted to get “my old life” back. I finally understand that pursuit is futile because “my old life” is not coming back. I’m confident, however, that my faith and trust in life’s process will help me to find the joys that are looking for me just as I am looking for them.
Mary Jane Hurley Brant 2011Tags: Depression, Multiple Deaths
Hi MJ. Great article. Your observations have certainly rung true in my own journey following the death of my daughter Jeannine in 2003.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
So true, after the death of my fiance, over 5 yrs. ago all I have clung to, yearned for and dreamed of was getting my “old life back”. I know that isn’t going to happen but choosing to build a life without him still seems impossible.
First to you, Dave. We have been friends through OTH for about 2 years now and we understand the power of words to help us heal and to help us manage the loss of our daughters. It makes me happy to know you.
Second, to you, Deborah. I have known others whose fiance was taken from them. It’s traumatizing for such a long long time and the world just wants us to hurry up.
I say, take your time and hang out with loving people who accept you right where you are. I think that doing something creative is healing whether it’s learning ti knit or dance or work with clay. Hey, maybe even learn to cook Chinese! Take yourself to the movies and journal about it afterward. Stay in close touch with your feelings and be mindful.
I don’t mean to be glib. I just want you to know that someone is up there and watching over you and wanting you to be thinking about your now life. It’s okay to think about it, just think about it.