Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Woman to Woman

Today, it is Woman to Woman again, courtesy of Morning Glory and Lei, and I can't put up the banner thingy because I am borrowing a laptop and have not got my files and whatevers here. I will do that later. You will be relieved to know that I have ordered a new computer. Eureka. I certainly am relieved. Happy. Ecstatic.

Today's topic is:

Dealing With Grief

"Grief is a difficult process and almost everyone has experienced it in some form, be it losing a spouse, a parent, a relative, a pet, a child or through miscarriage. Please share with our readers what you have found to be effective in helping you come to terms with the death of a loved one. How has it changed your life? How have you been able to move forward?"
Hmmm. I have rather more experience at this than I would wish for. Or do I?
Those of you who know me, know that Geoff died 15 months ago suddenly. Well, after 2 weeks of sudden illness. And my Dad died in 2000, nearly 3 years after being diagnosed with Diffuse Lewey body disease. (A very rapid form of Alzheimers). I had a miscarriage after my daughter was born as well.
18 months after being diagnosed, I remember the day that Dad moved to a new nursing home. I was talking to the sister in charge, and we talked about death and dying, and I remember saying that we had done our grieving, because the man we knew disappeared a long time ago. She smiled and said... you have not even begun. She was right.
Nothing prepares you for this. Nothing. Oh, I thought I was prepared. I was stupid. Every time you lose someone you love, or who is very important in your life, it is different. Losing a father is one thing. Losing a husband is totally different. Losing the father of your children is different in addition.
I cope with any trauma by detaching and gaining as much knowledge as possible. Responsibilities weigh very heavily and in a way, I think I have used them to focus on and avoid dealing with the grieving bit. This may well still come back to haunt me. When Dad died, I had things to sort for his estate and mum to care for, and funerals to arrange, and children and ..... you get the picture.
When Geoff died, even more traumatic. I didn't have the faintest idea what I was supposed to do, and no-one I knew had lost a husband, and so they didn't know either. I bumbled my way through all the practicalities, and distraught children, getting my daughter home from the other side of the world, trying to get my 17 year old to be 17 and not 40+ , the funeral and the very real nightmare of suddenly having to find a way to support my son and myself financially. And for the last 15 months, I have had to focus on that and his inquest a couple of weeks ago, and hospital complaints about his care, or rather the lack of care. Grieving? I have not had time. Or rather, I have not let myself grieve. Or I may be too scared to.
When he died, I wrote a list of things I need to remember when someone dies. What not to say. What to do. How to support and how to help. What I had learnt from experience. Maybe one day I will post my list. It may help you to know how best to help when you are in a position to help when it happens to someone you know. I know what worked for me, and I know what didn't. And even though I too have lost pets and been deeply saddened by that, can I please say at this point, that telling a woman who has just lost her husband that you understand what she is going through because you lost your pet dog 2 years ago, DOES.NOT.COMPARE.
So, even though I have a great deal of experience of losing people, I am the last person on earth to offer advice. I can tell you what to do to help someone. But not how to cope with grief. I don't know how. Not yet. All I know is one hour at a time. One day at a time. One phone call at a time. One challenge at a time. One mountain at a time.
He seems to have been gone a long time. And this is the great problem that people who have lost a partner face. In the immediate aftermath of death, there are a great many people around, to do the little things, but a month or 2 down the line, they have moved on, and through no fault of their own, and totally subconsciously, they expect you to have done the same. It doesn't happen that way. And if they actually sit down and think about that they realise that. But other people have their own lives to lead. It is just that months later, you need more help than ever before. A year or 2 later, the same applies. When you have lost someone, you will know what I mean.
They say there are stages of grief. I have read them. I don't necessarily think that everyone goes through all of them, and in some cases, where like in mine, there are still no answers about why or how, it can take so much longer.
I am not given to weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth and the whole woe is me thing. It might have been easier if I had been. People have come to expect me to be strong, and because I am a mother, and I have 3 children I love more than anything else on earth, and their security is important to me, I remain strong. I really would love to be weak and feeble now and then, might I add. It would be a novel experience.
And then, of course, there is the biggest part of dealing with grief, or loss, and that is the extent of your faith. I have had to learn that I am not in control of my life, and that is a terrifying thought at first. I lived with the delusion that I was in control, even though I had a great deal of faith before Geoff died. The single greatest lesson that I have had to learn is that I am not. Not even vaguely. And I have learnt to trust. And that pride is a stupid thing. And how to simply say thank you. And that maybe the lessons I have learnt have had to be harder, because I didn't trust enough before. I don't really know. All I know is that today, right now, my faith is immeasurably greater and stronger, and that I am absolutely convinced that God has great plans for me.
So this is a long and wordy way to get to the simple truth. I don't know. Dealing with grief is intensely personal. It claws at your soul. How do you get rid of the headaches? How do you learn to sleep through the night? How do you temper your dreams? I don't know. I really just don't know.
(And for some reason blogger won't recognise the spaces between paragraphs. Sorry about that.)


Isabelle said...

Oh Linds. What a moving post.

I know losing grandparents isn't the same as losing a husband, but I often think that I miss my grandmother, particularly, even more as the years pass, just because it's such a long time since I've seen her.

Thinking of you.

Belladonna said...

Wow. Powerful words. You reallly packed a punch with this posting.

On a lighter note... one way to break up paragraphs is add a period in the line you want empty but then change the COLOR to the same as your background (in your case white). It will be invisible and give you the line break you want.

(Or if you want to get really quirky - instead of just a place holder period you could type SECRET MESSAGES and then turn them white to hold the spot...no one will know they are there but you.) Bwahhha ha ha!

Morning Glory said...

Linds, in some strange way I feel like our souls have touched during this past year of blogging. You're so honest and funny and truthful and sincere and real. I suspect that grieving is still ahead of you and I hope that if I ever face what you have, I will be strong when I need to be and know that it's ok to be weak sometimes.

There is so much in your last two paragraphs that I can personally relate to in the way of not being in control of my life and learning just how strong my faith is.

I've looked forward to today and what you had to say on this subject. I was not disappointed. Bless you, my friend.

His Singer said...

Linds my friend,

It isn't easy...none of it. And my encouragement to you is to allow yourself to actually do the hard work of grieving. You don't always have to be stoic and the solid rock for your family. Take time for you as well. A bit of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth might do you a world of good!

Still holding you close in thought and prayer...

Lei said...

You are right, we ultimately are not in control of our lives, but we should control what we can - our attitude, how we spend our time, what we accomplish... Thanks for your perspective!

Kelli said...

My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer on April 23, 2005. He was in heaven on August 22.

Through the intervening time, my mom left his care to us. We moved across the country to do it. No questions. Just sold it all and was gone in 3 weeks.

The aftermath of his death was magnified a thousand times by her anger. I truly believe it was anger at him for dying and leaving her alone, and anger at herself for not being there in those last 4 months.

Grief *is* a strange thing. Two years later we are still not a cohesive unit. We are trying, but it's a slow and painful process.

My dad was no saint, but he was darn close. He gave my children the git of grace in how he spent his last days- actually, how he spent his entire life. But, those final conversations, and intimate moments are something they will never forget. Not will I.

You're right. It is a never ending journey, twisting and turning. I can't imagine, nor understand your path. But, I'm honored that you choose to let us walk with you as much as you do.

May His grace be all around you on those nights you can't sleep, or the enormity becomes too much, or you're just lonely.

Hungry Hippo said...

I'm glad I met your dad and I'm glad I went to see him and held his hand when he was ill. I know it was very unlikely he knew who I was but I thought maybe the physical contact and warmth of another human being might have been comforting in a confusing time. I never used to think about death very much but now it hits me out of the blue when I lie in bed at night. It makes me think about things that I never used to think of. Sometimes it makes me afraid but sometimes I think it's better to work through what I think and feel. I have recently met someone who lost her partner in a car crash and I have no idea how she keeps it together. Everbody deals with death in different ways and it is a very personal thing. I guess being relatively young I had never had to confront it head on before.

Penless Thoughts said...

As always, Linds, you did yourself proud on this one!!!

This is what really jumped out at me:

"And then, of course, there is the biggest part of dealing with grief, or loss, and that is the extent of your faith. I have had to learn that I am not in control of my life, and that is a terrifying thought at first. I lived with the delusion that I was in control, even though I had a great deal of faith before Geoff died. The single greatest lesson that I have had to learn is that I am not. Not even vaguely. And I have learnt to trust."

I think each one of us HAVE to face that one thing,(and it can be different for each of us because we are all different) that finally convinces us that "I am not in control of my life" HE IS!!!! That is also the most freeing realization in the world!!!!!

Angela said...

What a heartfelt sincere post. Thank you so much for sharing your true feelings. I lost my mate 4 years ago suddenly. It is so frightening...it does take time to grieve and you will do it in stages. My first way of dealing with it was to accept that I was not in control of my life...God was. At a one point I know...you think how could he have let this happen to me .... and now? That's normal to have those thoughts.
I have found that my faith and strength through God is what has helped me go through the griving process.

My greatest way of dealing with this situation has been just to Trust in the Lord and accept things as they come in his time. It is hard to do...if you can your shoulders will feel much lighter.

Another way for me was to think of the Footsteps poem. When I couldn't walk anymore...he picked me up and carried me through my sorrows and the many, many days that followed.

I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers my dear friend!


Dawn said...

I have not experienced any of the scenarios except losing my father in law. And my grandparents. None of these things has affected me in a way that I could even write about. Sadly, maybe. But I know my day is coming. I think I'll keep a copy of this post close by for when it comes. I hope you do post the do's and don'ts for us, because we need to know. I have watched two people close to me lose teen-age sons, and that taught me a lot.

I hope that when the day comes that the numbness ends and the grief hits you full force, you will remember that we are all so privileged to be on this journey with you and we want to be able to help you through what is ahead. I don't know exactly how that will work, but I know we'll be here. Bless you, friend!

Dawn said...

Me again. On a lighter note - can't wait to hear about your blogger friend MIRL!

When I have that problem with paragraphs, I have to in to HTML and put an extra space between paragraphs. Works for me.

Denise said...

Such a lovely, and very powerful post.

Crystal said...

Linds - Thank you for sharing your ever honest feelings and emotions. I would like to see the list you've made too. I just want you to know that I hold you close in prayer and will be one of the network around you in all the days ahead. ((( Hugs )))

Susie said...

Hi Linds,
This was such a moving post on the grief you've experienced. I can relate on a few levels, but as I've told you before, I'm totally unprepared to deal with the grief of losing my husband.
I'd also be interested in reading your list of suggestions.
You'll be in my prayers...

Barb @ A Chelsea Morning said...

I feel stunned after reading this post, Linds. This is so completely honest that it's moved me to tears.

I've lost a brother and a mother-in-law. I still have my parents and my husband. I truly cannot imagine what you've been through and are still going through.

This post is so raw and honest, it's an inspiration.

Barbara said...

Quite a post you have written here Linds. As you are so in the midst of grieving for such a recent and close loss as your husband I almost feel a fraud for commenting. However I will.
I have had many people to grieve over in my life but not a husband so I think the hardest was my Mother. Her manner of death was traumatic (won't go into it here - that will come in my story) but I had never experienced the sense of loss and finality that I did then. It was like wanting to break through an impenetratable wall. I would be just walking down the street and I would be struck all over again and just burst into tears. All I could do was le ttime pass.
When my Father died it ws the day after I had arrived in the States for a month long itinerant mission tour. I did not need to go b ack to support my Mother as she had already gone and my brother who was on the spot said, stay I can deal with everything so rather than let a lot of people down I did. The outcome was that I never got to grieve and it was a long time before I actually realised my Father had died. About a year later it hit me and I spent a whole day crying. This amazed me as my Father had always been a difficult man but that day was necessary to both accept what had happened and to get some of it out of my system. I also had to grieve a lot for the relationship that I had never had.
Having met you I think that you are coping very well although I know there are extremel;y difficult times when you are alone.
My prayers are with you.