Monday, May 30, 2011

Loss and Grief

Today something happened to spark me into thinking about the greiving process. I'm at an age where loss is something that you have to learn to deal with. As you approach your early to mid thirties, the sad fact is that people you love will start to pass. I think that like it or not, learning to grieve is something you have to learn to do as an adult. Unfortunately, there are times when you must start much earlier.

I was talking with Kitten about that, and it struck me that the way I grieve has changed massively since the time I was a teenager.

I lost my grandpa when I was 16. He had been ill most of my childhood. He had his first heart attack before I was born, when my mom and her sisters were still teenagers. As he got older he developed more heart problems and diabetes. The spring I turned 16 he went into the hospital to be treated for congestive heart failure. The night before he went in we had a talk. He knew they were going to reccommend heart surgery, again. He didn't believe he was going to make it through the surgery. When he went in, I was there to talk to him. He and I had a long talk, which I don't need to share here. Suffice to say, my grandfather was convinced his time was up. He asked me to leave the hospital, to remember him alive, well and loving me. He made me promise him some things, all of which I have kept- to this day. They were promises that I take very seriously. He told me when he went on that he would come back, and that he would be with me. Not like an angel, but a guide, and that I would always know he was near when I needed him. I kissed him, told him I loved him; and then as he asked, I went home.

Three hours later I got a call from the hospital. My family wanted me to come up. The surgery hadn't worked, they had managed to preform a procedure that would give my grandfather time to tell our family goodbye. I told them that Iwasn't coming. I already had my talk with Grandpa. I didn't need to see him that way. My grandfather passed on to another life shortly after that.

The thing I remember most about this first passing of someone I love is anger. I was angry with my family. Part of it was because, as arangements were made, it became apparent they were not going to fulfill my Grandfathers wishes about how and where he was to be buried. This upset me. I was also upset with my family because they were angry with me for not coming up to the hospital. No one seemed to understand that I had already done what they thought I needed to do. No one seemed to understand that I was already grieving. That I had started that night when I left the hospital, because my Grandpa and I knew the score. I was preparing myself to be there for my family. I was preparing myself to be strong. I was also waiting to feel my Grandpa there with me, the way he promised he would be. The sense of betrayal I felt from my family was enormous.

A year later the town I live in opened a veterans cemetary. I love to brag about my Grandpa's military service. He was a hero. I could go on for hours about him. I won't now, because that's a whole post for another time. Suffice to say, my family wanted to have him moved there. I thought this was a terrible idea. First, I think its terrible to move the remains of any person once they have gone on. It seems disrespectful. It made me more angry because not only had they buried him somewhere he didn't want to be, but they were moving him to another cemetary that he didn't want to be in. Suffice to say, I didn't attend the second funeral they held for him. Again, my family was angry with me.

I let it go. My grandpa is not in that casket. He isn't in that cemetary. He's somewhere better. He's with me. He's with all my family, if they would take the time to look for him.

The second time I lost someone was not long after I lost my Grandpa. I had a cousin, JM, and he was very close to me in age. When we were children he, Punk and I were the terrors of my grandparent's neighborhood. We grew up together, he was like my little brother. I loved him very, very much.

The winter I was 18 JM was in a car accident. He survived, we were all greatful. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the accident, JM lost his leg. He went through therapy, we got him a prosthesis, and it seemed like he was really coming along. I knew he was having a hard time, he had lost his girlfriend, some of his friends ditched him, and the accident itself had marred his classic good looks. I still found him handsome, and there was no lack of females lining up for him. But he wasn't happy.

The medication he was on had an effect on him. The loss of his leg hit him really hard. He felt like he wasn't the person he was before. He felt left behind. That spring, my cousin took his life.

The effect that had on me was far different from the one I had when I lost Grandpa. Part of it stems from me having seen him the night before he left us. He and I had something pass between us that I never talk about, but to me it seemed like what happened after that was my fault. It took me years of therapy to come to terms with what had happened. It took me forever to realize it wasn't my fault. There honestly wasn't a thing I could have done. But I didn't know that then.

There are nights that I still dream about the funeral. I still see everything in my head. I wake up and my chest feels heavy from the memories. I remember only parts of it, only bits and peices really remain clear to me. What I can tell you is I completely lost myself that day. I know that my family tried to get me to leave after the graveside service. I can tell you one of his friends came back after dark to get me. I don't think I have ever cried more in my life than I did on that day. That day my chest was an eggshell, with nothing inside it, and it seemed like every weight in the world was there, pressing on it, and finally it splintered. I was completely shattered, but the hollowness was still there. I have never felt more heavy or more empty than I did that day. I remember thinking to myself it was me, it was me that was really gone and I would wake up from the nightmare of that moment and find I was looking down on my family and that he was there, telling them not to greive for me. That I was happier. That I was whole.

I never did wake up. I spent weeks completely lost in myself. I remember the walls of my bedroom, and I remember sleeping in the same clothes for weeks on end. I don't know what my family was doing, or where I went. I only knew that it was my fault, that he was gone, and I would never have a chance to talk to him again. I hated myself.

When I finally came to I remember the numbness that came over me. People I knew, friends of mine that had known him as well, they wanted to talk about it, grieve with me. I did want to. I didn't want anything. I let it go, I let him go, for years.

About four years ago his mother gave me a picture of him for Christmas, with one of his old dolls. It was the puppy that went with my Rainbow Bright doll when I was a little girl. Everything came rushing back. But years of therapy, a lot of thinking, and to be honest a lot of time to mature; made it much easier for me to accept the gift and be thankful. I had moved on. I forgave myself and I forgave him. There isn't anything else I can do. Now I am able to exist in a world where he has moved on. I have to wait for another turn of the wheel. When it comes, I won't apologize, the way I always though I would. I will greet him happily, and move into a better place and be glad that we could be together again.

My second fall at Casa Beuno I lost my great-grandmother. I know to be my age and to still have a great grandparent is remarkable. She was a remarkable woman. When I think of her life I am always amazed. She was alive when the Titanic sank. She watched the evolution of radio, telephone, television and automobiles. She saw the moon landing. She saw everything amazing that happened in a century. Time, however, is hard on those who live so long. I know by the end she was very tired.

Still, her death came as a shock to me. I don't know if my family kept how ill she was from me, or if it was as sudden to them as it was to me. Either way, she passed on October 29. I was horrified to find that my family planned to have her service on Halloween. It seemed to me, it still does, terrible. And uncouth. How would she rest? I hated the idea. My boss Mrs Boss, offered to let me have the whole day off. I was scheduled to work in the bar from open to close that day. I simply asked her if she would let me off long enough during the afternoon to attend her service. She consented, thinking I am sure, I would end up wanting the rest of the day off.

When the day came I went to work in costume as planned. I was rainbow bright. Of course, I had a wig on, but I wasn't terribly worried. My grandma always liked me as a blonde. I didn't figure she would mind. I was disconcerted, as I brought my clothes in with me, with what I was wearing to the service. My family had asked that no one wear black. They wanted everyone in pink and white, or red, her favorite colors. I had brought a white blouse and a full pink and white floral skirt to wear. Still, it felt wrong not to wear black.

I worked all day, not thinking about it. I couldn't. When I went to the service I was suprised to see my whole family there. In black. Of course. I didn't think about it.

I know it might horrify some to think about it, but I didn't stay for the graveside service. I went back to work. I worked all night that night. I worked all day the next day. And the next. And the next.

At the time I was seeing BBD. He wouldn't go to the services with me. He wouldn't talk to me about it. He wouldn't let me cry. I had no one to hold me, I had no one to talk to about it. I had nothing I could do to but work. So I kept working. I don't say that because I want pity. I don't. I don't say it because I want someone to comfort me now. I don't.

I say it, because I think it is interesting to see how I coped. There was nothing for me in this instance, not the support I had from my Grandfather before he passed, or the offers of comfort and tears that I had when JM passed. There was nothing for me. I found myself grieving in the strangest way imaginable. I worked. I kepy going, because there was nothing else for me to do. I didn't cry. i didn't rave. I felt no guilt. The loss was there, but it didn't touch me. It became something inside of me, and then it was gone.

I tell you these things because I wonder, had these things happened differently if i would have reacted differently. I say these things because I wonder, now, when i loose someone I love, how will I react. I can say this, there have been times in the last few years that someone has gone from mylife, but not died, and I didn't handle it well. At all. There have been times when I have lost someone I love, like Beloved, and it was like the whole thing never happened.

I wonder where I am headed on my pathway of grief. It makes me worry. It makes me think.

I also feel grateful, now, that I know I have people in my life who will not let me go through it alone. They will grieve with me, even if the grief is not their own. I would do the same for them. I believe in sharing burdens. I believe that there are ways to lessen pain, by sharing.

The question is, when the time comes, will I let them?

Remember those you love.
Cherish those you love.
Find someone who will be there. Whether you need them or not.

Tonight, you don't know it maybe, but you helped me grieve in a way I never have before.

Thank you.

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