The complete version of this was written by J. J. a year after the deaths of her daughter and granddaughter. It was published in Elizabeth Wagele’s book, The Enneagram of Death and excerpted in The Career Within You blog on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-career-within-you/201301/healing-after-terrible-loss
I write to make sense of the year since the untimely death of my daughter and my 11-year-old granddaughter in a single car accident. I’ve known for a long time that life is a preparation for death. Still, I get confused and long for someone in my wandering to show me a clear path. I know the importance of reaching out to others despite longing to shut myself away.
When I first heard that they were dead, I didn’t know I was in a state of shock, so I tried doing business as usual. I went back to work after a week, not recognizing the physical and emotional exhaustion I was in. Shock tricked and protected me for several months before I realized I wasn’t keeping up. Eventually, a colleague noticed. I took a long leave of absence. I needed the healing miracle of time and space.
I was ready to go into and through the pain—the only way to the other side. I learned I must look inside myself and become willing to fully experience what I discover there. I am learning to breathe and relax when my body strains to push pain down or out and away. Although the pain feels too strong for me at times, I am aware that these feelings are, strangely enough, an exquisite form of love.
I am finding the willingness to touch that smoky, hazy, vague place of vulnerability so deep inside me I didn’t know it existed. As I attempt to describe it, I feel it evaporate.
The long hours of overwhelming crying are subsiding. But, still, I cry.
Sometimes grief settles in my bones for days at a time, bringing a chill that only solitude and silence can warm again. Grieving is a private business.
At times, grief comes in bright colorful bursts of images. The two of them appear suddenly laughing and teasing. This gift of spirit from out of nowhere or everywhere sooths me. Sometimes I feel a tactile sense of their presence snuggled next to me in bed.
I still relapse into confusion and anger, but more and more I see gifts everywhere.
Their deaths have taught me the profundity of vulnerability. I cannot question this evidence of my own powerlessness in the face of Death. It’s not so much about the death of their lives as about the Life of their deaths.
Many days, I feel content to live in this moment. To live each day well, willing to stand poised on the threshold of life and death, is the miracle of recovery. For me this means to let go of each day, each hour, even each minute sometimes, trusting I am safe to pass through whatever I may find.
My understanding, values, and view of life and death have changed. They have brought an opening, a calming, and a connection to life unlike anything I have known. I feel compassion and love and I treasure others in a wholly different way. And I regard my own life and death with a new acceptance.
Their deaths have brought congruence to the opposition of life and death, a mystery my mind was unable to integrate before. They have left me with a certain notion that one must not leave deeds undone, words unsaid, life unsettled, for the day comes in the snap of a finger.
I miss them very much.
This story from Chapter 5 of Elizabeth Wagele’s The Enneagram of Death has been edited to about half its original length. The Enneagram of Death was published by the International Enneagram Association, 2012. Please see www.wagele.com for Elizabeth’s other books, reviews, essays, and a list of famous Enneagram types.