I wondered if I was being honest with myself. Was the pain really less after eighteen years? I’ve been writing about the most painful part of my life; how could that not affect me?
I decided that writing about my grief has really connected me to life and given me so much purpose.
I felt ready to move on, but Sam still had more questions for me. As I tried to be more clear and explain my views about grief, I found so much more clarity and insight.
On Dec 15, 2010, Sam wrote:
I read your last post…very painful, yet clear!…but I’m maybe even more confused. It would seem you are saying that nothing made much of a difference for you while you were grieving…not support, not community, not groups, not individuals (except your Mom). But, you were actively involved in Compassionate Friends. Just wondering why? Are they helpful for others, but just not particularly for you? In a sense, Compassionate Friends is a community. But is it helpful to be in a grief community? Is it that grief simply is something has to be lived through and worked through on one’s own…some get to the other side, and some don’t?
And by the other side, I don’t mean that grief ends….I mean a side where life can become enjoyable again. Is there anything that will help someone overwhelmed by grief? You mentioned that Judy Present would have told Judy Past that she will sing again…but could Judy Present have told Judy Past how to sing again, how to get her life back sooner? Have others found the path sooner? Or are they just suppressing their feelings?…Sam
I’m wondering if I’m an adequate communicator – you are absolutely right! At the same time that I’ve said “I’ve felt so alone,” I was involved with Compassionate Friends.
“Community support” actually did help me survive. I highly recommend it, and I have from the beginning.
Thanks again for pointing this out. I’m going to address it further.
Going to a Compassionate Friends meeting was a place to voice my sadness. Not only did I voice my sadness, I listened to the sadness of others! Sometimes that was extremely hard, too. That’s why groups are not for everyone. For people who are more “private” – it doesn’t help! My husband hated going, for example.
A support group did ease some of the anguish of my grief. The resulting friendships most certainly helped, but not enough to really change the pain of what it was.
My Involvement consisted of a breakfast once a week and a meeting once a month. However, I experienced the pain of grief every waking moment and cried enough tears to fill an ocean.
I don’t want to send a mixed message. So here is a summary and I hope it makes sense:
1. Grief is like an amputation. Lifeblood from the soul flows out, and no one can help initially. There is shock, numbness, and disbelief.
2. Receptivity to seeking support is very individual.
For me it was immediate. I needed to know if anyone could survive this level of pain. I was desperate to find someone with similar circumstances; I searched everywhere I could and attended many support group meetings. After a short time in a “general bereavement” group, I began to only attend those for parents who had lost children.
I did not find anyone that counseled me – my first “therapist” had a second child die before she could significantly counsel me. I saw a few therapists, but felt that they didn’t have a clue about my grief. I became a leader at Compassionate Friends within a short time because there was no one else who was willing, and I did this while I was still newly bereaved.
It really did help me to feel I wasn’t alone with my pain because I saw others suffering, too. There became a time in my bereavement where I saw others in so much pain, that I became grateful to know I had progressed to feeling better. This was about five years after my son’s death.
What would I tell someone deeply grieving about finding happiness again? That is very hard for me to answer, but I will try.
I am going to try to answer this as if I were speaking to myself when I was in my “deepest pain.”
I was not receptive to hearing about purposeful things that came from someone’s loss. I was dealing with trying to cope with losing what I loved so much and no one could convince me that anything “good” could come from it.
I was not receptive to hearing about “people who had recovered” from their grief. First off, I didn’t believe it was true. I was also certain if they had recovered, that they didn’t have the attachment I did.
So I would never say, “Look at me – I’ve recovered and I’m happy!”
If I told Judy of the Past that she would someday sing again, it would only work if I told her this:
“Beside Me Always” is a wonderful legacy for Jason that became possible after being unable to sing for such a long time!
I would also say, “The pain of grief you are experiencing is absolutely horrible. It is worse than anyone can imagine. I have no idea how much pain you are in. I am not going through what you are going through. I wish I could help, and if you think I could help – ask me anything! I will tell you what helped me, although it is different for every human and it might or might not help you.
Now I will write about what helped me survive my terrible pain.
I devoted myself to remembering my dead child. I memorialized him by giving all the love in my heart I had for him to my family, to those who were alive in my life – my children, my husband, and my parents.
I devoted myself to comforting other people suffering because it was in my child’s memory.
I committed myself to staying married, despite the challenges and abyss that was created by grief.
I set no timetable. I did not go around grief; I went through it. I cried and I allowed myself to feel the pain. I would never tell anyone grieving that there is a way to recover and find happiness “quicker.” First off, I believe it is elusive when it is sought – it is not a goal, but a by-product.
For me, survival was the key. There are many people that cannot survive the pain of grief!
I did all of those things, except for one thing that held me back from finding joy.
I didn’t feel that my happiness was important or even possible.
I was so busy surviving that I forgot how to enjoy life.
My office was quiet and I decided instead of editing, I would scan many of those recent papers I found in an old “grief folder.”
It was unbelievable for me to read words that I had written so many years ago. Only six months ago I had completed the lyrics for my song “So Real.” There on one of those pages were my words:
“I imagine your soul soaring free.”
I saw so many things that brought me back, but I had no tears. I simply had deep thoughts about how to explain the process of my “healing.”
I found two pages that were very interesting. I had actually done more than sing a song at my friend, Linda’s funeral. I spoke and my pages said that before she died she had asked me! I didn’t remember that.
My funeral speech said many of the same things I just wrote about. I plan to add those words to: Post #170 When You’ve Left You’ll Still Be With Me.
Then I saw another very interesting paper. It was from a woman who wrote about me to Becky. Becky became the leader of our local, Compassionate Friends chapter after I stepped down.
On that paper was a phone number. The woman’s name was Charlene. That paper was at least fifteen years old.
Impulsively, I decided to call the number. A woman answered the phone and knew who I was!
We had a wonderful conversation. It was another one of those amazing coincidences in my life. Charlene remembered me for all of my writing contributions to Compassionate Friends newsletters. We had never met. But, she also knew about me through the brother of my close friend, Cheryl, who died two years ago!
I was able to tell her, “Those songs I wrote when I knew Cheryl, have brought me so much joy at this time in my life!”
After I hung up, I decided that community support actually had made a huge difference for me. It wasn’t simply about my search to find someone to support me. It was about my wanting to help others with their grief; that was something that had actually helped me from the very beginning. That was why I had gone to help Lori when I was only in my second year of bereavement!
There was no doubt that anyone who had also experienced grief had the ability to quickly connect with my feelings.
This “club of bereaved parents” that I belong to might never have been one I planned on joining, but it certainly made my grief journey far less lonely for me.
Perhaps people in the past had this all around them. Perhaps what Sam had said was true.
Charlene told me she had a grief partner in Canada whom she still spoke with on the phone every Monday evening!
Below is Charlene’s letter. It tells the story better than all of my prior writing.
Thank you for sharing your tape with me. I have never been to a meeting but have received the Newsletter for six years.
My son’s death was much like Judy’s son. He was born with a severe, heart defect and was to have surgery when he turned five years. At 2 ½ years he got a rare flu virus which attacks the weakest part of the body, his heart enlarged 3 times it’s size in one week. He was waiting to have a heart lung transplant but died before it could be done.
The one thing that I really related to Judy was he needed constant care from me. Tyler threw up everything he ate and was small and weak. His lips and nails were always blue. The one thing no one could understand was what a shock it was from giving constant care to a beautiful, precious little boy and then have it ripped from you.
Please let Judy know that after six years it makes me almost at ease to know that she understands that part of my grief.
I’m listening to all three of you speak. It was a comfort to me; I am not alone or crazy!
Thanks again, Charlene
Below is another page I found. This page also spoke to my finding support while I was grieving. I did not read these words until after I wrote this post. This was written at least fifteen years ago.
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