“To Live and Mourn Simultaneously” for the title of this post because I truly believe it adequately describes how life goes on after a loss.
“Sudden and tragic loss leads to terrible darkness. It is an inescapable as nightmares during a high fever. The darkness comes, no matter how hard we try to hold it off. However threatening, we must face it, and we must face it alone.” – Jerry Sitser
The darkness is a topic I’ve written about before and it’s primarily because it’s a place I resided for a long time after Brittany’s death. In fact, it’s a place I’ve resided for a very long time. Throughout my life of what I’ve coined as “unfortunate events” I have found myself to become a familiar resident in the darkness.
When I say darkness, I don’t mean black, I mean like murky water – sometimes unable to see my way through to the light. To find any good in what has happened to me. However, darkness is unavoidable and it is necessary to face one’s grief. There is no avoiding it – you really have to face it. You cannot put it off nor can you dismiss it away to face another day – it will haunt you and it will keep haunting you until you face it squarely and walk through it. This is what I know to be true.
My walk through the darkness has had some good days and some not so good days. In the early weeks and months after my daughter’s death darkness was a scary place. I wanted to run away from it. I wanted it to go away because I didn’t like what I saw or couldn’t see but only felt. The pain was so gut-wrenching that I felt I couldn’t bear it another moment more. But I did. And I still do today. It’s just different.
When it comes to making a choice on how we grieve, and we do have a choice, we have to look at the big picture. How we look at our journey and how we can exist in the darkness and still see the light. The power remains within us to take the walk in the right direction. To face the pain and the sorrow right where you are in that moment can bring you to a place where light begins to crack through and the life you see before you can and will be joyful. Just different.
I have to say that facing grief in the darkness can be exhausting. I continue to fight this exhaustion to this very day. Why? Because the battle isn’t over. My struggle, anyone’s struggle with loss lasts a lifetime. It’s not over in a year, a couple of years or a decade – it’s never over. The loss changes you. It re-molds who you are right down to your very core. Life looks different, it feels different and some days it just doesn’t feel right. But you keep moving forward because it’s the only way to let the light shine through.
While loss doesn’t define who you are it is your response to it that defines who you will become. I have written about this numerous times and I stand by it – we have a choice. The choice we make during these moments in life, whether it is personal tragedy or horrific loss – will define our future. It will mold you into who you are to become. Because, as I’ve said before, you are never the same after a loss. No matter how hard your friends and family wish that you are that same person, you are not. You can not.
“I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.” – Jerry Sitser
That quote from Sitter really spoke to me as I have lived that and breathed that for the past few years since my daughter’s death. As I sit here today remembering my mom, whom I miss dearly. She has been gone so long now (September 16, 1988), the memories are so old and few, but I cherish them more. My grandmother died 5 years later and then I became bitter because the two great women in my life who had the most influence on the woman I had become were gone. Gone during a time in my life of great change, becoming a mother and career changes. Those losses took the wind out of me for a while. I felt deflated. I felt like so much had been taken from me and I couldn’t understand why. It was hard to watch my friends go through their lives – births of children, etc. and have their moms at their sides. Yes I was so bitter.
But yes, I have grown from my loss(s). I have grown into this new person, one that sees life from a different perspective. While I won’t deny that I have moments of anger about my losses, times when I want to chuck something across the room when I see a scene on TV about a mom and daughter; overall I have accepted these losses, but not without a price. I live everyday with a sense of loss that no one else will ever understand. So I fill my days finding purpose in what I do. It helps to fill the void.
Of late I have found that I have been distracted from my journey – result has been that I have lost my step. I liken it to walking down a path and falling off the curb. What do you do? You get up, dust yourself off and keep moving. Get back on track. That is what I have to do now. Writing is one of those things. Mentoring other grieving parents. Speaking out about grief and the journey. Being a great nurse. Providing the best care I can in the role I am in now. That is my purpose. And I will fulfill it with every fiber of my being. But there is a price.
In 2006, the worst loss of all happened, but the world didn’t stop revolving when I lost Brittany, although many times I have wanted it to. Life kept moving on and I had to move with it or remain stuck in it. It was a choice I made then and I continue to make now. To live and to mourn simultaneously.
until next time,