Forgive and Remember

I have been away from writing for three weeks now as I’ve had some life changing moments to get through. Now I will return to the book “A grace disguised” by Jerry Sittser and proceed to look at the various ways a grieving soul moves through the journey after a loss.

Chapter 10 – Forgive and Remember

Perhaps my avoidance of this chapter indicates that I still am in the process of forgiving the people who were involved with my daughter’s care during the  months prior to her death. I have come to know that forgiveness is a process just like grieving. It takes time and you take steps backwards and sometimes you just can’t move. It has been for in those moments I have had to cling to God. But as you will find out later, forgiveness or the lack thereof, isn’t easy, nor is it a one-time deal.

Sittser talks about those of us who have experienced a loss, tragic, random or premeditated look to  have revenge or justice in order to feel that our loss has been heard. I can remember there have been so  many times in  my life that I have chosen not to forgive. And because of that I suffered more. The relationships that were involved were broken and have remained broken to this day. Despite finally forgiving those who have hurt me over the many years – it came too late for save the relationship.

Shortly after Brittany’s death I was struggling with how I felt about the medical professionals who were involved with Brittany’s care. I was angry at them because I felt they gave up on  her. Not once did I, her mother, ever give up on her. But they didn’t seem to care or so it appeared by their lack of persistence on finding out what was wrong. To  me it just seemed as though they took the short way out and covered it all up with medication. I knew it wasn’t the right decision. And I felt powerless to fight it.

The pain of that anger is still very present as I write this because tears are flowing effortlessly down my face. The power of being powerless is staggering. It was the first time in my life that I can recall feeling hopeless and helpless and it made me angry. I wanted to know why they gave up. Why couldn’t they find something to fix her. Why did they just send us home and not explain what happened.

In the weeks after her death I wrote a long letter to her primary neurologist. In that letter I told him how I felt, how I trusted him because he begged me to trust him just three years prior and I did. That letter was very freeing for me as it started the process of forgiving him. Yet as I sit here and write this post I am feeling more pain than ever before. Why? This is when I have to lean very hard on my faith. I had to put myself in his shoes and hope by some measure that he too was grieving her loss. That I will never know.

I suppose I might see things differently had he shown up at the hospital or her funeral. Her other doctors where there. Offering condolences and assistance. But it was the absence of her neurologist that brought me such pain and sorrow – for his absence made me feel as if he didn’t care. That was the driving force behind my anger.

As Sittser reminds us in this chapter, “Forgiveness rarely happens in an instant.” That I know all to well. Although I did feel a large sense of relief after I sent the letter, it didn’t go away. It just found a quiet spot on my soul and rested there slowly destroying my faith in the medical profession.

Forgiveness is a life long journey, and just as grief washes over you at times so does the process of forgiveness. As Sittser states in this chapter we may have to forgive again and again when those special occasions arrive like when I go to a wedding of a couple Brit’s age or when some of Brittany’s friends begin to have families of their own. I have to relive that again. That moment of anger shows up and I have to chose to forgive all over again. Because you see my loss is eternal there will always reminders of the magnitude of my loss.

I have begun the journey of forgiveness and like my journey of grief – my faith in God keeps me on the right path. At the times when I choose not to follow my faith or my belief that God is in control – that is when I feel lost and alone with no map and no guide to get me through.

A few weeks ago I did something I’ve been trying to do for years since Brit’s death. I’ve been holding on to all of her medical records, maybe one day thinking I’d change my mind about suing the people involved. It occurred to me it was time to let that go. So I sat down in a chair and began the process of healing by shredding each document. As the tears flowed and with each page I felt a sense of relief that part of my life, that anger was released.

Forgiveness is hard, but a necessary process. Forgiveness also doesn’t mean I have forgotten what happened on October 13, 2006. The flashbacks still occur. The nightmares still keep me up some nights. The pain in heart is always there. But in forgiving those who were involved, I have started moving forward and replacing those bad memories with good ones of my daughter. This story, my story is an on-going process and like Sittser our faith in God is how the story gets re-written. God changes everything. Faith gives hope in the midst of grief.

But also know, for those of you living this now or you know someone who is on this journey. It never goes away. This kind of pain after a sudden loss is hard and some days still unbearable. Keep in touch with them, don’t forget and pray constantly because we need it. Our faith, our trust, our future depends on the prayers, love and compassion of others and the mercy of God.

until next time,

m

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The End and the Beginning

Chapter 1 – The End and the Beginning

by Jerry Sittser

In this beginning chapter Sittser describes his loss. The horrific tragedy that fell upon him while driving home with his family. His story is gripping and leaves  you with a sense of loss that is beyond my own. But it’s the way he describes his pain that left me with a sense that someone else besides me understood what sudden loss can do to a person. How seeing the one(s) you love die right before your eyes and the feeling of helplessness that is so overwhelming you want to die.

The way he describes his initial experience was much like mine. The shock is so unbelievable that you can’t imagine that such an event has taken place. The flashbacks to the series of events leading up to the loss is excruciating to read because I too had those flashbacks. Reliving each moment over and over again until you fell to the floor in absolute exhaustion crying and wailing because the pain had to come out.

Sittser lost his wife of two decades, his mother and his third born son in a horrible automobile accident. I can’t even imagine what it was like to lose three people for me just losing one, my daughter was so incredibly difficult that the thought of losing three loved ones at once was beyond what I could comprehend.

“I was so bewildered that I was unable to voice questions or think rationally. I felt wild with fear and agitation, as if I was being stalked by some deranged killer from whom I couldn’t escape. I could not stop crying. I could not silence the deafening noise of crunching metal, screaming sirens, and wailing children. I could not rid my eyes of the vision of violence, of shattering glass or shattered bodies. All I wanted was to be dead.” – Jerry Sittser

The above description, although it not my own experience, is very much the feeling I had when I watched as my daughter was being resuscitated for the fourth and final time. I’ve written before about the experience of watching as the hospital staff surrounded her bed on numerous occasion throughout the night bringing her back to life. Yet during the early morning of October 13th 2006, I watched in horror as the nurse climbed up on the bed and was performing CPR while the doctors where shouting out orders to keep the medications going.

All the while I’m looking at the monitors, as a nurse, knowing that what was about to happen next was going to be the worst moment of my life. As my eyes met the nurse who was pumping my daughter’s chest I saw all I needed to see. Her pain, her helplessness and her compassion said it all. As the doctor said to me “she can’t take much more, it’s time to say goodbye” – the words I will never ever forget.

So as I read his description of his flashbacks and reliving the moment. I too relived that moment for so many months. But as time as gone by the violence of it has diminished. But the sorrow that it created is still profoundly real.

One other thing that Sittser reveals about his own first few weeks after his loss that I found to be parallel is that one day you wake up and realize you haven’t cried for the first time. I thought in the beginning that it was a sign I was on the mend, that I was beginning to come out of the gloomy fog I had been living in.

“The tears came for forty days, and then they stopped, at least for a few days….It was only after the forty days that my mourning became too deep for tears.” – Jerry Sittser

At the end of chapter one, Sittser describes what it is like to have your life turned upside down and the choice to move on is the only one. That there is no way to avoid the pain. He called it “suffer and adjust” which is basically what I did. And as I have said before it’s a work in progress.

until next time,

m