Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Process of Grieving

I am finally beginning to understand why, after the death of a loved one, they call it a “grieving process”. I just wonder how long this process will last, or if it will go on indefinitely.

I believe the steps of grieving often depends on who it was that you lost. When I lost my dad, I was devastated. He and Mike had been so close and it broke my heart when I decided to NOT tell Mike my dad had passed. At the stage of the illness Mike was in at the time, I just felt it wouldn’t benefit anyone. To this day though, I feel like I never fully grieved my dad’s passing. I tried not to cry in front of the kids or Mike, so where did that leave me. I needed to be strong for everyone else, when in fact I just wanted to scream! I think about my dad every day and I miss his strength and guidance. The life I shared with my dad and those experiences were completely different from those I shared with my husband. I’m absolutely sure the grief one experiences when they lose a child is even more difficult and deep.

My grieving process seems to be similar to that of the roller coaster I often experienced when I cared for Mike. There are days when I feel strong and happy and days when I feel so depressed and lonely. The day Mike passed I was beside myself, more emotional than I thought I would be. I had 11 years to prepare for that day but I found out that no amount of time is enough to “prepare”. As weeks passed, I began to come to terms with the fact that Mike was no longer suffering and there were more days when I felt comforted by the fact that Mike was with his mom, dad, brother and my dad - laughing and free of pain. His soul was free and he deserved it.

Now months have passed. Shortly after Mike passed, the kids and I handled his absence by saying it somehow felt like he was in the hospital during one of his lengthy stays. I imagine that that train of thought is why I am finding myself more upset lately. Reality has set into my subconscious that Mike is not in the hospital and he is not coming back. I find myself crying more easily these days and I try to stay busy to keep my mind occupied. It’s the “alone” moments, the part of the evening right before bed or the morning right before I awake that I find myself most teary eyed. Anything can and will set me off. For example:

I use hand lotion before I go to bed each night. The other night, I just couldn’t stop crying as I remembered how each night, before Mike went to bed, the kids and I would message his hands with lotion. Many nights have passed since the day Mike passed away yet I have no idea why that particular night affected me so much, but it did. The smell of the lotion, me lying in the bed where he used to lay, looking at the picture of Mike and I dancing on my night stand - all contributed to my nighttime breakdown and the reality that this grieving process is ongoing.

Breaking down at home is one thing, having something happen while I’m out in public is trickier. When Mike passed away, many wonderful people had Masses offered in his name at our church, most of them being at our favorite Rock Mass on Sunday nights. Going to Mass is always emotional for me, but knowing that I will hear Mike’s name being mention during the intentions makes it even emotional. I remember it was at the 6pm Mass years before when I noticed that Mike forgot how to bless himself. I knew it was a turning point for him in many ways and my heart broke because it was something that was so natural for him until that point. This past Sunday was another of the Masses offered for Mike, and my emotions were already all over the place. During the Sign of the Peace, the young altar servers came down to their families who were sitting right in front of us. I looked at Courtney because it was so cute, but then it came. The floodgates opened. Shortly after Mike was diagnosed, Brandon became an altar server and Mike was so proud. When Brandon first started serving Mass, I would often prod him along from our seats in case he forgot something. I was thrilled that Mike was able to see his son up there doing what he had done when he was Brandon’s age. Now, seeing those young boys come down to their parents, brought all those memories to the surface and my already emotional state was weakened. I thought I did a good job keeping my tears under control, but Courtney noticed and I was embarrassed to think of how many others had also seen this.

Beside these unexpected bouts of sadness, understandably, there will always be the situations and events where it will be natural for me to become emotional.

Sunday October 28th will be mine and Mike’s 24th wedding anniversary. It will also mark 8 months since Mike passed. I predict that it will not be a good day.

I am happy that the kids and I will be at my sisters for Thanksgiving. When Mike was with us, we always timed eating our dinner around Mike’s schedule. We would eat while he was napping, so we could all sit down together. This year will be our first without him and I will be thankful that I will not be at home.

Obviously, I am dreading Christmas this year. While the kids like keeping up traditions because it was Mike’s favorite holiday, I know we will all have trouble this year. My mind immediately goes to last Christmas and how “alert” Mike seemed to us - how we all took pictures with him, not knowing it would be his last with us. None of us knew that two short months after those pictures were taken, Mike would be taken from us. It will be hard for me to decorate and “celebrate” Christmas this year.

The holidays are expected to be emotional but it’s the unexpected moments that continue to catch me off guard. I am learning to accept this process no matter how long it takes. Please be patient with those you know who have lost someone they love. Everyone handles it differently - be kind. Even though funeral services may have been over some time ago, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to someone to see how they are doing. Their loss will always be felt.

1 comment:

Kathy Knowles said...

You describe the grieving process very well, and sometimes I think it's recursive with no real end. With some loved ones, I don't think we stop grieving. We just have days of handling it better than on other days. The thing about Alzheimer's Disease is you grieve throughout the disease. I've been grieving for years as I've watched Billy change and lose abilities that we all take for granted.

The tears come without invitation at strange times, too. A song, a smell (the lotion you use), or the sight of a piece of clothing can all conjure up tears. I'll never forget being in the grocery store after our son died, and I looked at a can of Wolf Brand Chili and the tears flowed. Andrew loved that chili, and I always kept it on hand for days when he needed a quick meal. Memories are powerful.

Grieving hurts, and I am so sorry. I wish I could help you make it go away.
Love you, my friend.