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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Living Day to Day

This week I lost another friend, very suddenly and very unexpectedly. She collapsed and died within a matter of hours. She was a vital member of our church, and as we gathered together today, many tears were shed as we were confronted by her absence. The blessing was that we were not alone in our grief. We will gather to celebrate her life together. We will share memories together. We will tell stories to each other. We will laugh and cry and hug, and doing so, we will pass on the love she gave so generously to all of us.
Yet all of us must also go on with our daily lives, carrying our grief with us. Each of us carries different levels of grief, bringing to this bereavement the losses of our life-times. The first thing I did on the day following my friend's death was put on my grief symbol. I have a necklace that I wear when I need to remind myself that I am grieving. Having a tangible symbol enables me to be more gentle with myself when I find myself unusually exhausted or irritable or down. Holding on to that symbol helps me take a deep breath from time to time and give myself permission to grieve. No one else can give me that permission. I have to consciously give it to myself. While my colleagues may express condolences when they initially hear of my friend's death, they have no reason to remember that I am grieving day after day.
So, for the immediate future, I will do my best to remember that I am grieving. I will try to get more sleep. I will be more cautious when driving. I will take extra care of my health. I will wear my grief symbol. I will live gently, day by day.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Yesterday, or today, depending on whom you ask, was the first anniversary of my mother's death. It has been a tough year, with two significant losses coming so close together. I think I underestimated the impact of those two deaths, even though I am supposed to know so much about grief. The holes people leave in our hearts are as deep as the love we shared, and, yes, I know how corny that sounds. Truth sometimes sounds corny, I guess.
I still feel angry that I didn't get to say goodbye to my mom. I expected to at least be able to see and touch her body, but the family had her body cremated before I got out west. I have been surprised to find how deeply this has affected me. I am working on designing a goodbye ritual. Better late than never.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Death after Death

     A year ago I decided that it was time to do something with all the writing and research I did for my doctoral thesis on grieving multiple deaths. Since then, as if on cue, I have experienced multiple bereavements and find myself dealing with the complexities of multiple bereavement grief. All I can say for sure is that I am grateful to have walked this path before. I know what to expect, and knowing allows me to be more gentle with myself than I might otherwise be. I can let go of my self-judgement when I find myself grieving. I can be more patient with myself when I need more sleep or more headache meds. I can give myself some understanding when I'm impatient and irritable. I can recognize the difference between grief and despair.
     I say, "I can," in all of those sentences, which is not the same as saying, "I do." I can't always follow my own wisdom. I don't always take my own advice. My current job situation does not allow me to get extra sleep, which is one of the things I know to be important. And when I find myself short-tempered and angry it doesn't always occur to me to relate it to the deaths that I am grieving.
     The biggest difference on this particular journey of multiple bereavement grief from the one that I walked during the 80's and 90's, is that I now talk about grief and grieving out loud. I don't keep secrets. I share what I know. I hand out business cards with this blog site on them. I connect with other grievers. This time, I know how important it is to have companions on the journey.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Tears

Last week, in the middle of my school day, I was doing some research on a computer in our library. All of a sudden, I found myself looking at a picture of an aortic aneurysm (my mother died as the result of surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm), and without warning I burst into tears. It was like I was seeing my mother's heart, and her very large aneurysm. My stomach lurched, my breath stopped, and I was plunged into a state of deep shock and grief. I have not been able to shake the memory of that picture. You can never un-see something. I wonder if my mother saw a picture of her aneurysm before she agreed to surgery. I'm lucky - I can still ask my father.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Death of a Parent

It's been 4 months since my mother died. I've survived Mother's Day, my parent's anniversary, and each of all the other days in between. I have been surprised by how different this grief is from the others I have gone through in the past. As I said in my last post, it feels as if this death is more disorienting than others. I suddenly find myself hoping my grandsons will call me Granny, which is what our children called my mom. I find myself planning my retirement years with more intensity than I plan tomorrow. I want to stay young for the pre-teen I still have at home, but I feel older than I've ever felt before.
I also find that I'm grieving a loss of my own history. There are fewer and fewer people I can call to find out the real family history - that history that lurks just out of sight, because of all the secrets that all families have. The history that could help me understand some of my present.
And I'm grieving the loss of the little, seemingly trivial things. I find myself wondering who my mother's favourite Blue Jay would be this year. When I watch a game, I feel the weight of knowing that my Dad is watching alone. Most things are like that - tinged with sadness.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Feeling My Age

There's nothing like the death of a parent to make you stunningly aware of your own mortality. Other deaths have moved me to examine my life in light of the fact that it will one day end, but the death of my mother has done this in a more significant way. Not only will my life end, as hers has, but I am now the "next in line," as it were. I am now the grandmother, the matriarch of our family. I can now see that my life will have pretty much the same perameters as hers had. My grief at the loss of my mother is laced with sadness about my own future. Some days I can get past this and choose to continue having dreams, making plans, and investing in my future. Some days I just need to sit with my sadness over the fact that 20, or even 30 years seems a very short time to have left.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

When You Can't Go Back

Recently, while watching TV, I heard a woman say, "If you can't go back, you'd best go forward." Such simple, truthful, advice. I cling to that advice every day. In my deep grief and sadness about my own mortality, I find strength in that saying. I can't go back. My mother is dead. I must go forward. I have children and grandchildren, a wife, friends, relatives, all of whom deserve my investment in our shared future. I need to take the days as they come and just keep going forward in the simple ways that I am able. Perhaps just sweeping a floor or making a phone call will be enough to tell someone else I love them. One day at a time, always going forward.