Sunday, July 19, 2015

Grief: 43 Days And Counting

For those of you who don't know, I was with my best friend of 25 years as she faced dying. I was with her the whole 2 weeks until she passed. Including a 5 day hospice experience. We are 40 years old. I am not the same person, but others and me, wish I were.


Greeting guests at the wake/funeral.

We were 15 when we met. We worked together at a Frozen Yogurt shop in the late 80's when they were still really cool, before they disappeared for over a decade, and then came back with a vengeance. We clicked right away because we both were bit of outsiders in school. It's not that neither one of us had a lot of friends in high school, but we didn't like the cliques, the partying, and the usual stuff that came along with typical weekends of high schoolers. So we clung to one another, and a sisterhood formed; a bond just as strong as any out there. Maybe I can share more about "our story" later, but for now, I am in need to write about my experience with the strangest, most awful, dreadful thing I've ever felt: grief.

Amy died 43 days ago, and I am just now able to put a blog post together, which I don't even know if you would call it that. If my whole body has been in a super dark gray cloud, a 1/8 of my head is out of it.

I use to think I knew what people were feeling when they lost someone. Wow, I knew nothing of their loss and pain, NOTHING. And I'm here today to tell you that if you have not experienced great loss, you don't either. You think you do, just like I thought I did, but you don't. And the moment you assume to know, is the moment you have hurt the person grieving. The moment you start to compare your loss to theirs, is the moment you've practically lost all trust in the person grieving. It doesn't help. I repeat, it doesn't help. There are a handful of things that help, and an even bigger handful of things that do not. Maybe I'll get into that later, but who knows because it's a miracle and only by the grace of God that I've gotten this much written. And I write because I've been blown away at how many people who have had great loss have reached out to me, telling me to keep sharing and that hearing from me, me (mainly through instagram and FB), has helped and encouraged them!!! What?! How can that be? I'm new at this, I have NOTHING to offer. So I think. But again, that's the power of courage. Courage to share our stories. Courage to be as real as possible. I'm knew to this grief journey and because I've shared thus far, other grievers have been encouraged. And by golly, they've encouraged me.Not because I'm something great, or know so much, but because I spoke up, I shared. I shared my heart. Everyone needs to hear from our hearts.

Self care in grief consists of: Beach, sunsets. a lot of coffee, essential oils, and buying oneself flowers on the street. And a lot, a lot of mingling with strangers.








One of the first things I read when I lost Amy was "the more the affection for your loved one, the greater the loss." Might sound like, "duh", but for me it wasn't. It helped me instantly understand why I felt the way I did. So traumatized, so deeply hurting, intense pain, utter confusion, and for over a week after it happened, a shock that put me in a smoky fog.

I had lost grandparents before, but I had never grieved for them. I didn't know 2 of them very well, and the one grandpa that died that I loved dearly, I was very sad and missed him a lot, but I didn't really grieve. I didn't go through the stages. Oh the stages, I know them so well now, except I haven't gotten to ACCEPTANCE yet, that's coming; I guess it's the last stage.I'm still in the BARGAINING stage. I actually feel stuck in it. But the grief counselor is going to be helping me through it. Yes I said through, which indicates it will end.

So the affection you have toward your loved one--you can see how losing a child then is the most unfathomable in loss. There are different levels of loss. Mine is a very high level because of the length of our relationship, the depth of it, the greatness of it, the complications of it, the Christ-centered part of it and on and on.


For the first several weeks (and I'm just now slowly coming out of it), I didn't feel like a normal part of society. C.S Lewis says in his book A Grief Observed, "Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers."  If you can relate to that at all, then I submit you know of grief. I did not want to go anywhere, talk to anyone or socialize. I felt like an outcast.

I think to myself: Am I even still a regular American citizen? I have no idea. All I do know is that in grief I find myself in 1 of 3 places over the last several weeks following Amy's death--

My bedroom in a pool of tears, holding my dog so tight I squeeze his insides, or at the Cross. A blubbering mess of tears in my husbands arms crossed over the kitchen island unexpectedly while making dinner (which is a huge accomplishment for the grieving), all with slime from my saliva pouring out of my mouth and onto his arm hair.
Grief finds you on the floor, in the tub, on the sofa, and in the flower shop at any give moment.
It finds you sniffy pleasant scents, eating croissants and remembering what your loved one would like and love. The colors, the movies, the songs. Grief finds you crying in the Trader Joe's isle at a cheesy love song from the 80's cuz you know your loved one would love that song and the lyrics are quite fitting. It may also find you spending a little money. It finds you with little to no appetite and getting lots of massages due to the physical condition of your body. Grief settles in the body physically too ya know. Grief finds you desperately wanting to call, text or go visit with your loved one. It leaves you in your desperation wanting to hear their voice. Knowing you never will and hoping you can accept it. It finds you drinking lots of water so you don't get dehydrated. It has found me at the ocean, at the sunset and staring out my bedroom window. At first I tried to think the thoughts of my experience with her the last two weeks of her life, back into existence. Like literally thinking I could do that. So I guess grief finds you sort of crazy.It finds you struggling to deal with life's particulars: answering questions, listening, responding to emails, texts etc.

Each day, I know I have to get up. I have to have my coffee. CHECK. Then what? (I remember asking my closest and now (only) best friend the morning Amy died---"What do I do now? And I was serious---"Just lay here, do I eat? Move? Stare out the window? What??" She said, "What you're doing right now is what you're suppose to be doing." So I laid in bed for 9 hours.)

Ok, now that I have made coffee and sipped a little, I'll check email and Facebook, even though I have little interest in what's going on with others. Pretty insensitive right? I know, that happens with grief, I guess. Apparently it's quite normal. It's not that we don't care necessarily, it's that chemically the brain cannot retain information when grief is thick and going strong. So I guess I'm off the hook then.
I've learned lots of interesting things about how grief happens and works. I guess the reason we go through shock when it first happens is because if we felt everything all at once, we couldn't handle it. So we have this built in system, thanks God, that prevents us from feeling all the pain all at once.

So then, I might have to take my dog out to go potty, that seems pleasurable and fairly simple, yet I'm reminded of his frailty now and scared of losing him and how much Amy loved him like her own. Then I get back to my small apartment and feel frustrated by the small space and little messes I can't keep up with, so I think, ok, I'll go to my room and stare out the window some more.

I then have a slight renewal of energy so I make some phone calls and "take care of business". And in my day I may get a text from a friend/s or any given family member, and then I have to have a response I don't feel like giving. I feel I have to be a certain way, even though that's not how I feel or where I am mentally. But they can't handle it or me if I don't respond to what they want from me. But I do it anyway.

Then my husband and daughter who are both naturally bubbly, continue to use their usual excitable voices to ask me how I am, just like they did before Amy died. And before she died I would typically answer with the same, equally excitable voice and tone, because the three of us have that in common. But now? Well, just find either one of them and ask them what kind of response they get.
I then proceed to wander around my apartment, thinking, "hmm, what's next?" Oh well, I think I'll eat ice-cream, because I can.

"No one ever told me about the laziness of grief. Not only writing, but reading is too much. Even shaving." C.S. Lewis A Grief Observed 

I keep wanting and wishing moments back because the more days that go by after her death, the more distant they feel. At first I was haunted by the "movies" that were playing on repeat for weeks, but now they are fading and that is scary to me. C.S. Lewis was fearful of this too, (he lost his wife), the memory fading. And if it continues to fade will that mean the moments never happened? Will it make me feel further away from my loved one? I don't want that.

I mentioned earlier that I was in the BARGAINING stage and let me tell you, I do not wish this on my worst enemy, if I had any. It's an awful nightmare you wish to wake up from day after day. The thing about grief is that you know it will be there the next day and the next, so it's dreadful. It's not that I question WHY. I've already wrestled with God on the tough theology questions and confusion years ago when I struggled with infertility. The bargaining is more like, "Did I say the right things? Did I say enough? Did I do enough? What If I would have done this or that instead?" etc..
It's tough accepting that the things I did indeed say and do were enough and noticed. Dear God I pray they were noticed by her.

I've also experienced something I use to do myself. Ignored others grief.  Others not asking you at ALL how you are or how you are dealing. I've read this is common because sometimes the people in our lives don't know what to say or they think what they say won't be enough or that they will make it worse somehow, or they think it won't matter. So they stay silent. I have also learned that the people in our lives can be overwhelmed by the depth of our pain in our grief, that they literally back down and out because they don't know what to do to help. I myself, remember making these mistakes with others I knew were grieving. See, one can know a thing about something, but until it becomes an experience in your own life, we really don't know.  That is why we shouldn't be so quick to judge or criticize others. And every single story of grief is different and unique because every situation and person is. I give grace, because I have needed it so much before.

Ya grief creeps in and all you are left with is longing for your loved one. Wishing them back into existence.Wishing and begging to go back in time like that's a possibility.

Then there's the perspective of death itself. Which I'll have to save for another time. God has been speaking to me about this a lot. Eternal perspective. Oh I have known and know a lot about it...the epitome of a christians life is having eternal life, but again, when a thing happens to you that is real, it's all together another thing to believe or see or accept that one thing you thought you knew. So there's another journey for me.

Here is a verse I never knew existed and this is my aim for growth and understanding:

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Psalm 116:15

For now I'm thankful for all the family and friends that have loved and supported me through this time. God has provided sweet strangers for me throughout the weeks as gifts to my heart. Things you know are divine. I have received cards, gifts and precious messages. Nell's has been a source of healing and so has worship. I'm grateful to have a community, even if it's not the community back home that I miss, to help navigate me through this time. It's not conventional, but I've appreciated it where it's come. Thanks for reading and for caring enough to spend this much time on something I've tried to write, because I'm sure it was a jumbled mess, sort of like me.


10 comments:

Mommastinkyface said...

Thank you for sharing your story. You will continue to be in my prayers. When we feel helpless, there is always prayer. I may not have the answers, but the Lord sure does. I hope he brings you comfort in this terrible time.

Marli said...

i'm so very sorry to have heard about your friend, gina. i send up a little prayer every time i see a post of yours on ig. i really have no idea what you're going through but am praying you feel God's incredible and wonderful peace in your life.

Dana Dittrich said...

Gina, I am so amazed that you were able to write this post. Everything you've said is so heartfelt and honest I can only begin to imagine how difficult it was for you to put this together and get it out there. My heart has hurt for you ever since I saw that Amy had passed into eternal life. This post shows that you are moving through your grief and that you are learning so much along the way. God is helping you through and I will continue to keep you in my prayers that He may continue to guide you and your beautiful family on this terrible but necessary journey. Much love to you, Gina.

Jean said...

It took me over a year to visit my grandma after we laid her to rest. It hurt too much and I was never able to go with anyone. Thinking of you! xoxo

Ferial Trammell said...

Gina, THANK YOU for sharing your heart, for being vulnerable, for allowing us a window into your grief. I am so thankful for your story, for your bravery, and for your faith. I am praying for you and I can't wait until we meet again. Love, Ferial.

IamSuperMelski said...

Gina, how brave of you to share your story on grief. I am sorry for what you are going through. No words can ever make you feel better, the pain, that grief is there, but I do believe that God will heal your broken heart. Grieving is awful and I do not wish anyone to go through it. I have grieved, I grieved for a relationship that died, I died too. The thing I hated most about grieving is that it was part of me, I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, and even in the little time that I was able to fall asleep it was just memories that left me waking up in tears. I am sorry that you are hurting. I am sorry for your loss. You are strong and very courageous to put this out there, your story is serving as a message to others out there who are also grieving. God has used your grief to help others. God bless you always my dear.

Raynna said...

I'm so glad you could write this much dear Gina. Sending you a big hug today. ��Raynna

Stephani Cochran said...

I lost my father March 22 and my mother 3 months later. The grief is beyond description, and I know it will never completely end because they are my parents. I have experienced some dark and horrible experiences in my life, but nothing as dark as the shadow of death. Praise God that the light of Jesus can still shine in the darkness and nothing can extinguish it. I am a different person since my parents death, and I suspect I'll never be the same again. Thanks for sharing. I truly am sorry for your grief, but I do know God sees us, the darkness hasn't hidden us from his unfailing love. Grace and peace.

Stephani Cochran said...

I lost my father March 22 and my mother 3 months later. The grief is beyond description, and I know it will never completely end because they are my parents. I have experienced some dark and horrible experiences in my life, but nothing as dark as the shadow of death. Praise God that the light of Jesus can still shine in the darkness and nothing can extinguish it. I am a different person since my parents death, and I suspect I'll never be the same again. Thanks for sharing. I truly am sorry for your grief, but I do know God sees us, the darkness hasn't hidden us from his unfailing love. Grace and peace.

Stephani Cochran said...

I lost my father March 22 and my mother 3 months later. The grief is beyond description, and I know it will never completely end because they are my parents. I have experienced some dark and horrible experiences in my life, but nothing as dark as the shadow of death. Praise God that the light of Jesus can still shine in the darkness and nothing can extinguish it. I am a different person since my parents death, and I suspect I'll never be the same again. Thanks for sharing. I truly am sorry for your grief, but I do know God sees us, the darkness hasn't hidden us from his unfailing love. Grace and peace.