Continuing my blogging series: Grieving Forward – Embracing Life Beyond Loss by Susan Duke
Chapter 5 – October’s Song
After I read this chapter again, I have lost count how many times, I was reminded that although October will never again be a month I look forward to, Susan and I had this fateful month in common. And it is one of my most favorite chapters. You’ll see why as you read on.
In this chapter Susan’s speaks of the anger she experienced, unexpectedly, and the guilt she felt over having these “anger episodes”. I too had these unexpected episodes of anger, however mine came much later. It was the month of February. While still living in Michigan in the house that Brittany and I shared.
Like Susan, my anger came out during a normal activity that usually brought either joy or it was just a normal routine. For Susan it was planting Fall flowers. For me it was shoveling snow. I think I remained in the shock phase for several months because Brittany’s death came on the heels of my mother’s death anniversary in September and then Brittany’s birthday followed in November – then of course the holidays. In looking back I think it was my body’s/ mind’s way of protecting me. But after the first of the year, it all came to head.
I found myself yelling at objects like they could actually hear me. I yelled at the snow, the shovel, then I yelled at the snow plow. I must have looked like I’d gone stark raving mad to my neighbors. Yet they always would call and say “are you alright” “do you need anything” – I had great neighbors.
Like Susan I too found a resource that allowed me to understand what was happening to me. That the anger I was feeling was normal and that it needed to be heard and felt. That is was part of the stages of grief. Today, I don’t go there very often, but I do believe it will always be a part of the process, the journey that I’ll be on for the remainder of my days. It just looks different.
Susan talks about the gifts from God that came to her during those times. I too had those. Our stories are so much alike it’s somewhat scary. I read her book and I see my story. My feelings were validate more in her book than in any other book or therapy session. I strongly suggest if you have lost someone – read her book. For me, it was life-saving. That was one of my gifts from God.
Some of the other gifts came in different shapes, sizes and from different people, some known some unknown. The two gifts I remember that turned the journey towards a more positive light came from two very unlikely sources. Both had a powerful message and both left me believing God heard my many cries and felt my broken heart.
The first gift came while I was going through the last remains of Brittany’s things. My sister-in-law had gone through most of her things early on and we’d given them away to friends or to the Goodwill. During a time when I was severely struggling with why she died and missing her terribly I was moved to go into her room. I sat on the floor for the longest time remembering the many great times we’d had in there. Laughing while laying on her bed telling stories about people or life. Sharing a quiet moment together while reading our own books. It brought heavy tears to my eyes.
As I glanced around the room, I saw something under the bed. I reached for it and found a disposable camera. I wondered what it was from and decided to have it processed the next day. Before leaving her room, I looked in her closet and found a few items still hanging, things I still hadn’t been able to let go of yet. As I rummaged through some things on the floor of the closet I saw a binder from school. I thought my sister-in-law had gotten rid of all these things. As I opened it up at first it looked empty, but peeking out of the corner was a piece of paper. I pulled it out and looked at it in disbelief.
This piece of paper turned into several pieces of paper which was a project she had worked on at the end of her 10th grade year. Over a year later – I wasn’t sure how or why that was still in her binder. None of it made any sense as this was not the same binder she had then. As I sat and read the contents of the paper I began to sob and wail and fall apart because the paper was an assignment she had done in her Life class. It was titled: My Last Day on Earth.
It was five pages of questions about who she wanted to do her eulogy. What song she wanted played at her funeral. What words did she want them to say. What did she want them to know. Then a drawing of what grief looked like to her or how it would look to those left behind – I wasn’t sure which. The the final page was a picture she drew of herself with her hands raised up to a cross and sunshine rays. Then I knew – this was a gift from God. There was no other rational explanation. I believe that to this day.
The other gift was a dream. I don’t dream much anymore and especially didn’t after her death. But this one dream was so vivid and so colorful and her voice so clear. I know God sent her to me to let me know she was ok and with the angels.
My dear friends, God does hear us weep. He loves us enough to send us gifts to comfort us – we just have to be open to receive it. Just as with any other blessing that comes our way from God – we need to be open and available to receive it. It’s these gifts that I have found comfort and knowledge that God is with me. And as time continues to pass I have found I am not as open to the messages as I need to be. It has become easier to shut down the emotion and keep looking forward. But that can take a toll.
It’s a delicate balance to look back briefly and then look forward and keep believing God will continue with me and for me for the rest of my days. It’s a journey that I will always be on and I just have to remember who my guide is and that is God. Like Susan, my season of grief has evolved over the past few years and I expect it will continue to evolve. It still stings from time to time if I linger too long in one place. That is when God gives me a little nudge that says move on my dear one move on – I’m here. This I know to be true.
until next time,