I do not claim to be any kind of authority on loss and grief. The only thing I can do is give insight and share my journey. There is hope, strength, gratitude and love of life that comes with loss. When I gained perspective on all of my loss there were so many lessons and gifts.
What is grief?
According to Webster's simple version-
: deep sadness caused especially by someone's death
: a cause of deep sadness
: trouble or annoyance Well this only scratches the surface. This is my explanation of what it was like for me, to be in grief:
I believe that emotions are watery so I always think about bodies of water. Imagine a terrible storm in the ocean with 100 foot waves and you are in a small raft clinging to it for dear life. This is a storm that is uncontrollable and feels like you might be swallowed up. Then there is a break for maybe just a few minutes but still a break. The next storm maybe the waves are only 75 feet and the raft is a bit bigger this time. The next time you might be back in the 100 foot waves or in 50 foot waves or maybe smaller waves this time. This may repeat many times for a long or short period of time. Then you will see an island in the distance (safety) but the ocean is still too stormy to get it, even though you may try. One day the storm isn't so bad and you make it to the island. The sun comes out and you feel better. People are there to help when you are ready to called out for them. Some days you still find yourself in that storm but you know your way back to that sunny island. You have faith that even though life won't ever be the same, you will somehow get through your grief and find your new place in the world again.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. No magic formula that if you follow will make everything better. Because no matter what, your life will be changed. With change (good or bad) there can be grief. I say this not to be negative, but to let you know that we all grieve differently. Where you are is where you are. Not getting stuck is the main thing. Cry and let go, cry and let go, cry and let go, move forward. I always hated it when people would say to me time heals all! Because this is BULLSHIT!! The only thing that time does is provide distance from the pain. With distance comes perspective on what has happened, looking at it in truth. Then healing wounds of the past for the things said and unsaid, done and undone. Celebrating the gifts and beauty of the good that was lost. Cherishing those memories always.
There are many forms of loss; people, family, parents, siblings, divorce, beloved pets, health or physical self, jobs just to a name few of the big ones. For me I experienced all of these in a 5 year time frame.
How can anyone prepare for grief? There is no way to do that, no matter what you may think. Believe me I have had it from so many different which ways and it hits you like a mac truck when you finally come to accept what has happened.
Some of the grief I felt right away and some in reality took months or even up to a year to truly realize the truth of what happened. I know some people that have taken years to face their grief and I'm sure that there are others that have never face it, which is the saddest of them all. I believe that you can get past it but it does take work. It is hard work and exhausting beyond words. But no matter how tough it is to do, so worth it to live again happily.
From a soul level; I do believe that we come here for a purpose; to be of service, to grow and experience all that this planet has to offer. To be in our emotions and see beauty that is here, knowing that we are only here for a blink in time and need to embrace all that is.
From a human level; I'm thinking WTF is going on and where did my life go? Don't get me wrong, I do see all of the gifts in my life and understand why things happen but really WTF!
My grief was compiled layer upon layer and not dealt with, this was when I finally reached out for help. My dad was on Hospice and knew I had to get some sort of help. I knew that I didn't have the tools for even one more loss. Thank Goddess that I did because little did I know at the time but my younger sister passed just a week before my dad, only a few short months after starting grief counseling.
I highly recommend a good grief councilor to support you. Groups are also a good form of support with a grief professional to guide or facilitate the group. I chose private counseling because of the many different losses I had experienced. I love my councilor and trust him. It took a couple of tries to find the right fit so don't be afraid to change if you feel it's not right.
In the past 5 years I have experienced more than my share of loss. In turn I have experienced so much sadness, fear, and pain. It has lessen but every once in a while I still find myself on that raft in the stormy ocean of pain. Now I know that the storm will pass... I will be on my happy island again much quicker.
I had always considered myself very lucky to have only experienced a limited amount of loss in my life up until March 10th of 2011. So this is where I will start my story.
I have been in a 12 step recovering program for over 25 years now. Always seeking to be a better person and to grow from and learn life's lessons. Trusting in a power greater than myself and knowing that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. Living one day or even one moment at a time.
For the last few years I have been so blessed and fortunate to have another spiritual community too. So much love, support and acceptance from this community. There are wonderful teachers that supported me and still continue to do so. So please know this is something no matter how strong you think you are (my ego is still huge around this because I'm only human) you need the support and love from many sources to get to safety.
I am so grateful for the amazing support systems in my life. Even with all of this it was barely enough to get me through the next few years of my life. I never could have believed what would be unfolding for the next part of my life.
A Journey to Heal Oneself is a Courageous One.. Be Brave!
Loss of Heath, Physical Self and Career
I start with loss of health/physical because this where my journey begins here. I don't want to get caught in the details of the accident because this is not the point.
March 10, 2011 I was in a very bad car accident literally hit a cement wall going 60 MPH. This is quite a statement for where I was at the time. It was what needed to happen for me to take a look at my life. From a spiritual place a big wake-up call! I've always been one of those people that needs to learn my lessons in a big way. I'm hoping now that I have moved past this thinking even though I still slip into it now and again, (because of course I am human).
I believe that physical loss of self is one of the hardest kinds of loss that can happen to a person. Along with the physical injuries; recovery can be challenging. Because your life comes to a screeching halt, (yes I can have a sense of humor about this now). Whether it's an accident, surgery or a serious illness this does make you take time. You have to take care of yourself. Even a smaller wake-up call; like a broken bone is a loss of self. Louise Hay has a sweet little book about Healing Your Body that has been so helpful to understand what need to change to help heal the Dis-Ease of my body.
Who you were changes you lose that person that you once knew. There is a loss in your day to day life of what you can and can't do. This happened in a big way to me. Everything that I based my life on and who I was, was gone in a split second. My whole life revolved around healing after the accident. I think that accepting where I was and thinking that it was only temporary was helpful. (Sometimes denial has it's place) For me letting go of who I was at the time and embracing the new me was the best thing I could have done. I was supported by my family and am so very grateful for that. A time of reflection for who was in my life, where, and what I was doing.
Letting go of a career that I valued and defined who I was, wasn't easy by any means. But this was part of my journey. I was forced to let go; because of where I was physically and this left a big question mark in my future. A huge sense of being very lost; who was I and what am I doing? Career loss again depending on the situation can affect you and those around you in a big way. I always just trust that things will work out. For those that can't trust that things happen for a reason, it's different for them. So many more struggles can happen if you can't trust. Yes I can slip into this (because again I am only human).
I could have given up but that isn't who I am or what I do. So I slowed down took the time I needed to heal. It took a few years to get almost back to my former self. But really the that fact was, I was ever the same. I gave myself permission to be okay with where I was. Never giving up on being the best form of myself that I could be. I finally saw this as an opportunity to grow and be something different. I saw hope in my life again.
This started a chain of events that I could never have imagined at this time in my life. Funny my mom said very shortly after the accident that this would change everything. I got really mad at her for these words. But she was right in so many ways. I know that she is smiling from the other side of the veil when I type this, I feel it.
Even though I hadn't recovered fully from this accident yet, I was feeling good about myself. Knowing that the changes I made were for my better self, my happier self. But there was a couple of other things in the works. Many times in a marriage people go through hard times, you are suppose to stick together and support each other. In sickness and in health right, richer or poorer? Well he did stick around but was planning his escape because he was who he was. First I will talk about mom. Never Give-Up on Yourself! EVER!!!
Loss of Mother
The grief of losing a mom is devastating on so many levels. It always depends on what your relationship is to your mom. They are our first teachers, our first loves, they teach you how to be in the world, for me she was my role model to becoming a women, the good, the bad and even the ugly. We are joined with them before birth; moms are the vessel that brings us into the physical world. We know how they think and feel even before we are born. When you really ponder this we are so tied to them in every way.
Mom got sick very quickly. She was in emergency, then transferred to a Vegas hospital, had a surgery and never really recovered. Less than three weeks later we were making a decision to take her off life support. This was from mid December 2013 and by New Years Eve we had to let her go. I had gone home for a few days for Christmas, to be with my kids and husband. Planning to go back right after the New Years but I got a call from my sister a couple days after Christmas; mom took a turn for the worse. When I got back it was so clear that mom wasn't there anymore. I have to say that as far as hospitals go; their job is to keep your loved ones alive even past their time, so hard to let go. My Step-dad, sister, and I had to make this terrible decision that I wouldn't want to wish on anyone. I feel so sad and understand why there is so much guilt and doubt around taking a loved one off life support. Be very clear in your advanced directories, what you want and don't want for your end of life! No one wants to talk about this but for your loved ones who have to make these decisions; this is critical! The hospitals only carry out the family's wishes so please be aware of what those are for everyone's sake.
Again this is just the small piece of what happened but I needed to say this because I know that many children, parents, and spouses must feel the regret and guilt along with the grief. Just be willing to let go of those feelings if this is the case for you, because like I said the hospitals are in the business of keeping people alive.
When my mom passed we were on good terms which I'm so very grateful for, mostly because that wasn't always the case. Mom is family of origin she is the one that taught me or didn't teach me. I loved her so much and also hated her so much. She was a hard mom, but because of her, I am who I am.
When I lost my mom, it was not just the huge void that was left in my heart and life. It is also processing all of the emotions around our relationship. My relationship was different with her than anyone else. Just as my sister's relationship with mom, was different than anyone else and even mine.
When mom passed it did tear me and my sister apart. Emotions and grief effect everyone differently. For me it was sadness, pain and a void. For my sister it was anger and blame, which was just a cover for her grief. These are real things that happen in families time and time again. I think for me just honoring my sister, my step-dad, kids and everyone else for how they felt, was the only thing I could do. I had my own feelings to deal with and there was no way I could make anyone else feel good about mom dying.
Mom was Strong, Opinionated, Loving, Controlling, Beautiful beyond words, Hovering, Co-Dependent, in Service to others, Angry, Judgmental, Knew what was Best for Everyone and so much more. Above all she loved her daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, husband, and everyone else that was in her life. I always swore I would never be like her but, I am in so many ways, and I really hate to admit this to anyone. I like to think that I'm a watered down version of her;) Love you always and ever mom.
Hospitals Are a Business that Makes Money. Honor and Respect your Loved One's Wishes.
Loss of Husband (Divorce)
Just a few short days after my mom's memorial June 2014, the person that I thought was my life partner husband (17 years together). Told me he wanted a divorce and left the house in three hours. This is another devastating and traumatic event that can happen in people's life, divorce or a break-up with someone you love deeply. He made up his mind and I had nothing to say about it, in his words this was his decision and had nothing to do with me. He had his reasons "I'm sure". I may never know exactly what they were but it did effect and change everything for me, for the worse at the time and now the better too.
Greif around divorce is very tough. Plus for me the way it happened wasn't ideal which maybe, there really isn't an ideal way, but maybe it could have been better. At the time and for a long time, I kept looking back at what I had done wrong? What was he doing and why did this happen? So many crazy thoughts, regrets, self blame, shame, abandonment was huge and what if's??? that ran through my head. I was worried I would run into him, wish I would run into him. I felt it would have been easier if he had died and I know that this sounds harsh. This is the death of a relationship not the person so very confusing on an emotional level. This was for many months and spilled into over into a year and made it impossible to grieve for mom, because I was so hyper-focused on him, and truly traumatized by everything.
I have gone through divorce once before and of course it was different and different reasons. No matter what the reasons are; even if you are the one that wants the divorce there is grief. Loss of an important person in your life is very significant and painful. So many issues come up with this, that are tied to again family of origin and our believe systems. Really looking at this in a realistic way and the truth was key for me to do any kind of healing. I tend to see people for what I want them to be, not the truth of who they really are. I can make-up whatever I want to make-up.... I am a dreamer and still dream of a life with that right someone, to share equally a life with, to always love and cherish. (:Yes I'm still a romantic:)
Forgiveness for myself and to the other person. I may not forgive the actions of what happened but I must forgive the person to be able to move on. Otherwise my heart is closed and never ready to love again. What would the world be without love? I had to look back and see my part in the relationship. I couldn't be stuck in it. I Learned more about myself and what I want and don't want. What I need to change and not change. Do I give up myself in relationships and not tell my truth? Yes so this is very healing to uncover this.
I will never be besties with either ex-husbands, but I can move forward without regrets. Some fears are left but that is a work in progress! I continue looking at this because I am on a healing path for a better relationship with myself and others.
Forgiveness is the Answer to Move Forward with an Open Heart..
Loss of Grizzly Beloved Friend
A few months later in October 2014 my dear sweet Grizzly made it very clear it was time to let him go. How do you let go of unconditional love? Not very easily, but I couldn't see my beautiful companion suffer any longer. The thing is, that they will hang in with you as long as they can, for you. Like with mom which I know sounds a bit crazy to compare the two, but still a decision had to be made. It is a selfless act to let go of a loved one. When you see them suffering in such a way; you just know in your heart, letting go of them is the right thing to do. I truly believe that I'm connected at a soul level to him and everyone that has stepped through the veil. They all look over me so I have many angels now.
Grizzly had been by my side for over 7 years loving me unconditionally every day. I loved him unconditionally too each and every day. He was with me during the accident and through my recovery. Never leaving my side; how can a void like that be filled? It really can't and I still haven't been able to replace him because; he was and still is irreplaceable! Maybe someday down the line I will, but not yet. The grief around losing him is still there.
When it was time to let him go; a wonderful women (hospice veterinarian) came to the house and helped him to pass over. I stayed by his side this time, until he transitioned to the other side of the veil. I even envisioned helping him cross over. He has come to me in many dreams and vision quests. I really do feel that he was a guide to help me through this difficult part of my life and am so very grateful for him being with me.
This is a bond that is sometimes stronger than with people in your life. Honor them and feel the sadness. Even get another one if that helps you to move past it. But this is a huge void of your everyday life, they are with you all the time. This is a terrible loss so never discount it. Once in a while I still call to him and want him next to me. I know he always comes. Love you Grizzly Bear.
I Always Cherish my Grief Because that Means that There was also Great Love!
Loss of Sister
Sister's are a very special bond. She was my one and only sibling. She was my first best friend and my worst enemy. She was my responsibility at a very young age, she was 5 yrs. and I was 7 yrs. Back then it wasn't uncommon for kids at this age to be left alone well at least in our family. My sister and I were woven from the same threads that bonded us together for this life. We witnessed the same craziness that we grew-up with. We knew each other's stories and secrets. We loved each other, protected each other, got into trouble together, got mad at each other, didn't talk. In the end we did heal our relationship again so very grateful for this. She came and stayed with me for two weeks and we were finally the sisters we wanted to be. Only to lose her again.
I understand now why so many things/ people were cleared out for this to happen. Everything happens for a reason and are connected. With mom and husband both gone it cleared a path for me and my sister to heal our relationship. The dynamic's with mom, sis, and me was so dysfunctional that when mom was gone it changed that triangle of dysfunction. With husband gone, this bonded us together with common hatred:) Mostly with both of these relationships gone, made room for us to be sisters again.
As everything was happening I was really feeling swallowed in my ocean of grief. How do I even talk about this? As I had mentioned a bit earlier I was in Grief counseling because dad was on hospice. It was right before Thanksgiving 2015, my sister and I had made plans to meet in Vegas and then drive to see dad. I had been trying to call my sis all day and never got her. Then that night I saw her number on my cell it wasn't her, instead it was her foster daughter that she was living with at the time and she was hysterical. When I realized what she was calling me about my heart gave way as asked if she was still with us and she cried no!
Once again my world was crashing around me my little sister was gone. She had many struggles in her life; physical and with that she used prescription meds pain pills. Again our system for health care is so broken in so many ways. This is a very familiar story for many people. Bottom line was she took too much not on purpose and overdosed. This is a harsh reality for me to look at and all she left behind in this life I feel grief. My beautiful sister is gone just when we healed our relationship. I do hold on to this fact with all of my heart, that we were in a good place. Of course, could I have done something to prevent this? Shoulda, coulda, woulda, been able to change the course of this, NO!!! This is not in my control, no matter what her path was, it was her path. My heart still aches everyday for the pain that she had here and that she struggled so much in this world. We both suffered from what happened in our childhood, but in different ways. I know that my sis did the best she could and she was tired. I know in my heart that if she felt she could have changed things she would have, maybe in her next life.
Again I feel so strongly about how our health care system is broken on so many levels. There are many Doctors that just throw medication at people and treat the symptoms or pain. By doing this the side effects can lead to so many issues for people. Pain medication addition in our country is a huge problem, that needs to be addressed and dealt with. My sis had received a new pain medication and death was her end results after only 2 days of being on it.
This is such a painful way to lose a loved one. A very helpless feeling knowing that there was nothing you could do to change it. I have survivor's guilt too... This is the first time that these words have come up for me. Maybe because I am still here without her and this just not feel right. I guess that I thought we would have more time to be the sisters. But so grateful for the time we had and the healing that happened!
My sister was smart, beautiful, sassy, tough, loving, protector of the weak, caretaker, angry, adventurous, wild at heart, loved by so many people, the best sister you could every wish for. Love you my sister.
Let Go Judgments and Expectations of Others. Heal your Relationships and Love Them Unconditionally.
Loss of Father
Dad is the other teacher that we have growing up. The first man that you fall in love with, as a little girl. He teaches you the right or wrong way to be in relationships, again for the good, the bad, and even the ugly. This is what you take into all of your future relationships with men. There is a special bond with a dad and has daughters. My dad and mom both did the best they could with what they had, I think that every generation has evolved and are more conscious. Again dad was a hard dad to have and he did life his way and made no apologies for anything. He was my family of origin and what I based most of my decisions on for the rest of my life. This is the family Triad, Father, Mother and Child. This is the learned behaviors that you take into adulthood.
Even though dad and mom hadn't been together for years dad was on his third marriage I truly believed he still loved mom with all of his heart. The feelings were not mutual from her though. I share this because that I know many times when one spouse passes the other one goes not long after. When dad found out mom had passed he wanted to follow her. I could tell this in his voice and he even said so at one point. So almost two years later he did follow her through the veil.
I did go and see dad at least three times that year. Because this was the one regret I had with my mom that I hadn't seen her for a year before she got sick. So I made that point of being there with dad. I am very glad that I did. This leads into the last visit with him only days after my sister passed and two days before he followed her through the veil. My daughters went with me who have supported and held me when I haven't been able to hold myself up. My son has also been there for me in so many ways too. This is more than anyone should have to bare in a short time span, so who could blame me. I see the blessings of my children time and time again. We are always there for each other.
My dad was a stubborn Sicilian man who did life his own way. We all came to see him and my cousin that I adore drove there too. I cooked for him Italian sauce/gravy he loved when us girls cooked for him. We celebrated and honored him just as we did for my uncle just a little over two years before. Giving the dying their dignity, keeping them comfortable, let them have that cigarette, eat ice cream, give them their pants!! Oh my God you have no idea! Yes much humor to be had even in this situations. This is the right way to see someone out! I was so happy that we could be there.
Did I tell dad about his daughter, my sister, no I did not. I know that he was mad she wasn't there and he said it. All I replied was she wanted to be.. but couldn't. I felt this was the right way to handle this because I know sis was waiting for him to go to their next adventure. This is not the kind of information that someone so close to dying needs to hear. This was how I felt about it. Maybe others believe differently and that's ok. We all have the right to decide what best at the time. Because when you are in the thick of something like this you just have to go with your gut!
It's funny, dad would forget Birthdays but that didn't matter, whatever women he was married to at the time he was devoted to them and their children. He was stubborn, opinionated, hard working, old school, jack of all trades and a master of none, he shared his wisdom about life at the kitchen table with coffee, he always said he was so proud of me, that I was a chip the old block, he always said I'm a survivor and he was right. I am more like him than I ever wanted to be. Most of all I know that we loved each other. Your kitty cat loves you dad.
Honor and Respect the Dying Because in the End.... What's a Little Ice Cream?
Through-out this story which when I am done will happily leave behind and cherish the good.
My dear uncle (dads brother) passed this had started this whole chain of loss of family August of 2013. We lived next door to my Uncle, Aunt and Cousins growing up. They were such an extension of our family, really like sisters and another set of parents. Spending so many holidays and celebrations together. His house was a gathering place long after I had moved away. We did get our last celebration at the end of his life too. Honoring him and loving him in the end.
My aunt also passed (dad's sister) who was only a few months summer of 2015 before my dad. When dad passed he was the last of his family of origin.
A friend had commit suicide spring of 2015. He left his beautiful wife and 4 children. He was a good guy that just got really lost along the way and could find his way back.
My neighbor passed in the fall of 2015 he lived across the street from me. His wife called and I sat with her when they took him from the house. He had gotten cancer and went very quickly. He was one of the kindest gentlest souls that I've ever met. His wife lost the love of her life and still grieves for him but get's up every day and moves on in her storming ocean.
My first mother-in-law passed right after my dad and sister the end of December 2015. She was my kids grandma and she took me to my very first 12 step meeting which changed my life forever. My gratitude to her for changing my path for this life is beyond words. She was an angel put here for me.
Part of the spiritual work that I do is to help people and clear past Karma. I did this in one form or another for each of these people except my sister who I had someone else (my wonderful teacher) do this because I was too distraught. Hopefully when it is time for them to come back here it will be free of the pain and suffering that had happened in this life.
Life is Uncertain; This is the Only Thing that is Certain. No Guaranties so Embrace ALL the Good in Your Life.
Connecting the Dots...
When I look back at how everything perfectly unfolded it is really mind blowing.
My mom and I were in a good place before she passed. We had worked through so many of our issues and she knew I loved her.
When mom passed my sister and I were barely speaking to each other. She was so angry at me, my stepdad, the hospital and everyone else!
Then when my husband at the time left me, my sister and I got close again. The common hate factor was there... We banded together, with a cause.
Grizzly sweet boy was my guarding angel, he watch over me and protected me. I always feel that they take some of what we go through into their bodies somehow. His job was done and time was up. His soul is free again.
My sister and I became friends again. A year later she was visiting me, so we could be the sisters that we were meant to be. We knew that we love each other always.
My sister passed just before my dad, I really think that she couldn't face that he was going to be gone too. She was there to welcome him so they could go together and be reunited with the rest of the family.
I do believe that dad wanted to follow mom, so they could try it again sometime here in physical. I really hope that they can figure it out one of these times!
As for me I'm working on myself; because I'm being forced to, with a broken ankle, now it is October 2016. The universe works in funny ways. A couple of months ago I was having a session with a beloved teacher. She asked what was I being called to do? I said to write, but of course I didn't make the time. I think that the universe conspired to make me do what I promise to myself!
I hate sitting with myself more than you can even imagine. I'm trying to become all that I am; without the roles and masks that I have learned along the way. Love myself and have compassion for myself. Heal the wounds of my past that seem to resurface time and time again. Accepting myself and the path that I have chosen for this life time.
Everything Happens for a Reason.
Gifts of Loss
Looking back now with much better perspective I have lost all of what had identified me for my entire life. This is like a darkening of the soul, a cleansing of my life so to speak. I still grieve many days for the family that I have lost and identities that were stripped away from me; daughter, sister, wife, caretaker. But I am also free of them...
All of what I thought I was is gone. I feel like an orphan sometimes, I feel lost sometimes, I feel strong sometimes, I feel weak sometimes, I feel brave sometimes, I feel at peace most times, I feel happy most days. I want to feel all of my emotions and be who I really am. Once these things had been taken I am free to look at who am I truly and what do I want for the next part of my life. This is such a gift to gain perspective and insight into myself.
The pain and grief I've felt can be a very dark place.
The other side and gifts are-
To be in my light, joy, love, and appreciate each moment that I'm here.
Living in each day as if it's my last, letting my life unfold, accepting where I'm at and loving myself without any judgments.
Loving my family that supports me, stands with me each and every day. Here in the physical and from the other side of the veil.
Continue the work that feeds my soul and heart, being in service, sharing my gifts with others.
Heal my heart; so that I can love unconditionally and see the world with an open heart.
Practice gratitude everyday and every night because if the only prayer I ever say is Thank You, then this is enough.
Forgive myself and others, because we all do the best we can and if you didn't do the best you could; forgive yourself even more (because we are just human).
Keeping hope within sight for this is what keeps me moving forward towards something better.
Be courageous means having fear but doing it anyways.
Being strong and know that this too shall pass.
Surrender to a power that is greater than myself, because I don't always know what is best.
Trusting that everything that happens is how it is suppose to be.
Feel the peace that is in me when I let go.
Watching each moment lead to the next one and seeing the perfectness in the sequence.