I sometimes feel like my mood is reflected in the weather, albeit differently now. Before Nina died, I used to dread those dreary cloudy days and felt my best when it was warm and the sun shone brightly. Physically and mentally, I could feel the difference. However, in the early years after Nina died, my outlook flip-flopped. I was better able to tolerate those days where the sky turned a lackluster shade of gray.
I felt in tune to the drabness of the skies, as it went along with the darkness in my heart and soul. I welcomed it.
Luminously brilliant summer days in which I used to thrive in year’s past became the enemy. I felt it was an affront to my psyche. How dare the sun shine brightly when there was so much desolation and blackness in my heart! My world became one-dimensional – void of beauty and joy. Hadn’t the world lost its radiance and pleasure for everyone else, and shouldn’t the weather follow suit as well?
Especially in the summer, it is easy to find yourself confronted with many of these emotions when so many things become glaringly conspicuous. During the cold winter months we are indoors much more and therefore able to hide ourselves away from the goings on around us, cocoon ourselves from the hustle and bustle of other people’s lives that have been untouched by this grief that has become our constant companion. I remember one of our members told how in the summer she couldn’t bear to open the windows because she would hear the sounds of the neighborhood children’s laughter as they played outside, knowing that her son was no longer among them.
Those who have lost a schoolage child are particularly aware of their loss when the children are on their summer vacation from school. When school was in session I could play tricks with my mind convincing myself that Nina was still in school to account for her absence, but not so with the advent of summer vacation.
Everywhere we turn there is the steady reminder of summer’s past, those days that were blissfully innocent – building sand castles at the beach, camping trips, walks to the park, impromptu backyard softball games, family picnics, summer vacations to the cabin, days spent together at the State Fair – endless possibilities.
Now, seven years later, my grief is more like a summer storm. For example, this last weekend the weather was unpredictable; one minute the skies were cloud free, but within minutes, they took on an ominous dark hue followed by booming thunder and drenching rains. In a matter of minutes, the storm subsided and the skies became cloudless again, only to be followed by another tempest. Back andforward, the pendulum swung, never knowing what to expect – much like the grief storms that I now encounter and have become well acquainted with on this often tumultuous journey I have traveled since my daughter’s death.
They sneak up when you least expect them. The relentless waves of these grief storms dash you against the rocks and leave you quivering and breathless, only to hurl you again with their tremendous force, only to subside. I know the fury of these storms and have come to respect their power. As a dear friend said, “For having loved, Grief demands her payment.”
On the seventh anniversary of Nina’s death, I decided that I would do something that reminded me of our life together. She loved to go shopping with me.
Since I have learned that oftentimes the anticipation of days such as our children’s birthdays and anniversaries, and the major holidays is worse than the day itself, I felt confident that I could manage this and that it would be a good way to celebrate her life and, at this juncture in my grief, less so her death. Therefore, I headed out to the shopping mall that we frequented often. I seemed to be muddling through the day as well as could be expected when – wham!
This storm of grief raised its ugly head, suddenly and without warning, as all grief storms do. I became fixated on every mother and daughter shopping together. In particular, I noticed the smiling mothers and daughters enjoying each other’s company as they walked hand in hand discussing their latest purchases, asking how a certain article of clothing looked after they tried it on, having lunch together at the food court, doing all those kinds of things that my own precious Nina and I did years before.
The storm growing within me welled up from deep inside and became a deluge of tears that drenched my soul. There was no getting away from it, no protective umbrella that would shelter me from its force.
Just as I have no control over the weather, I have learned that I have no control over these sudden storms of sorrow. When they occur, I have learned to give into them, and let those healing and cleansing tears fall. Moreover, when the storms of summer sneak up on us unexpectedly we can be ready for them with the knowledge that their intensity ebbs and they become more rare with time. We can and will survive them if we work through our grief, remembering we can’t go over grief, under it or around it, that we need to face it head on – only then can we see the sun. Even better, we will actually look forward to it shining again!
As grief psychologist and bereaved parent Darcie Sims says, “Live through your hurt so joy can return to warm your heart and light your life.” May you be well on your way to finding some warmth and light in your lives these lazy summer days. Please remember to be patient with yourselves – it will happen.
With gentle thoughts,