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No-one Ever Told Me That Grief…

My father passed away last week.  It’s not possible for me to create a blog that doesn’t reference this huge event.  I wouldn’t want to avoid it, and I see this as an opportunity to work through some personal things that are common to us all – we all know what grief looks like.  I loved this C.S. Lewis quote that I came across recently; I have taken some time to think what this means to me.

Dad was that ideal daddy, when I was a little girl, who could do no wrong and who I loved unrestrainedly, unconditionally.  I was very lucky.  Later, I knew him as a fallible human being, but one I could relate to as our souls would contact each other, sometimes just through eye contact.  There was always a special bond.  Some days before he died, I imagined I saw a brief glimpse of that and I’m grateful.

Moments of recognition, by then, were rare.  My father lived to be 92 but I would have to say he’d mostly slipped away much earlier than that.  At the age of 79 or so, he was diagnosed with dementia and that slowly took pieces of him away year after year.  We started grieving a long time ago, then.

At the same time, we couldn’t know when this would end, how much damage there would be – and we certainly didn’t want his life to end any sooner than it had to.  For him, this was a very difficult period of his life and “no way to live” was what he could be heard to mutter at those really hard times.  Not too often; he was made of stern stuff, in the manner of his generation; but by that same token, he was proud and his dignity was a thing he held dear throughout his life.

It doesn’t matter to me who he was, what his achievements were other than what I’ve just expressed, how he appeared to me.  How I will remember him – how I will choose to remember him, that’s what is important.  He was, in all, a kind, decent man.  My siblings have their own memories, as does my mother who survives him, and we all hold those personally dear.

What will take me a while to process is how much grief is like fear; that end piece of realising we cannot choose when or why or the manner of our leaving, having lived lives where we felt we controlled the big things to find that, no!  We don’t!  All illusion!  Being with my father who had time to come to terms with his life having a finite point, any time now, really brought that home for me.

Still, like fear, we need grief as a signifier and from there we can move forwards to healing.  That healing then becomes a new learning and part of who we go on to become.

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General

Holding onto Suffering Out of Fear

 

We can probably all agree that there’s no pain and/or suffering that we would willingly hold on to, so at first glance a claim that we would do voluntarily might be jeered at.  Pain is part of life and we learn to deal with that as best we can, of course.  Maybe that’s what is meant by the Thich Nhat Hanh quote above?  That, as we will no doubt suffer, it’s better to do so with as much courage as possible?  Otherwise put, to find a good attitude.  With two funerals behind me and my family this month, here comes the painful part of adjusting to daily life without them.

Harvey, aged 20, my sister’s eldest son and Mute, aged 37, my daughter’s husband, were not part of my every day life.  I knew Harvey well, from birth, of course and so always kind of kept tabs on where he was and what was doing.  He was an extraordinary person but was living his best life as an undergraduate at York University reading music, he was so gifted.  He was happy and healthy, not a worry – until he suicided…  Harvey had his struggles in life, clearly.  As a family, we were aware of many of them but he also tried to protect us from those.  And we had to strike that balance between over-concern and giving him the chance to flex his wings and discover life, of course we did.  We just feel so lucky that we knew him.

I would see Mute from time to time; the way you meet family members who all have busy lives. What was important to know on a daily basis was that my family were happy and healthy, and we were so blessed.  Mute enjoyed, as they say, rude health, all his life – until he had that sudden coronary episode.

My daughter’s husband, Mute, had one of those spirits that was hard to suppress.  He lived his life consciously working on being happy all the time and had good health.  He was happy and healthy right up until he was taken from us very suddenly last December.  He was a person who chose positivity, right living and being an example every day; his spiritual and religious practice made this a conscious decision, every day.  This was him living his best life.

These kinds of death must always be, by definition, a shock to those who knew and loved him.  That’s on top of all the other grief stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) that we all go through when we suffer a loss.  And we can expect to feel these, in no specific order, over and again for some time.  Others’ losses will trigger our memory of this time and of our own particular loss of these two, just because this is how grief works.  We know that any of these stages can come back on us any time over the next few months and years, and we lean on each other to get through those times.

There’s a warning here, too, that we can get stuck in grieving or other familiar pain… once we give ourselves permission to experience all of it, or feel we’ve been pulled down into grief that goes on and on, we can be familiar with the pain.  Seeking a way out might seem… much more difficult than just feeling the pain.  We might just avoid people and places and things, we might think it’s indecent to smile.  But that’s not the point of pain; that’s a part of your life story, but it’s not who you are.

I’m quite sure that neither of these people would want their family to hold on to pain and suffering from their loss any longer than necessary.  They would acknowledge that we must feel pain, but they would not want it to be prolonged.  I would go so far as to guess that Mute in particular would see it as our duty to use the tragedy as an opportunity to overcome and become an example of how to transmute tragedy, to make sense of their whole lives by continuing the legacies they left. And they did leave legacies, even at their young ages.  You can find out more about these, if you care to at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/harveyparkerfundraiser and https://gofund.me/a55e15bf.

For the rest of the family, we won’t really come to terms with the loss of these people for some time yet.  When we go on with our everyday lives we’ll notice the lack of these people and mourn, almost afresh, as yet another realisation strikes us “they’re not here anymore”… it will be that way for a while and that can’t be avoided.  We’ll remember smiles and happy times as well as feel pain for the loss.  Life will go on and we’ll learn how we make an impact on the world just as the world impacts us.  That’s what we’ll learn from their passing.

As we struggle to find a way to deal with the unimaginable we need a bank of positive solutions and the more resources, the better.  Often in a family loss like this, our family members are grieving just as deeply as we are, and that’s where an outside resource is really helpful.  At those times, talking to someone who is not going through the same trauma, who can hold space for you to grieve in any of those stages mentioned above, is going to be helpful.  They can help pull you through to smile again.  Do contact me in the forms here or email me if I can be that resource for you.