By Becky Lomaka, MA, CT
Director of Grief Support and Education O’Connor Mortuary
It’s been a rough few weeks since my last column. My family and I have experienced heartbreaking losses that have me in a tangled emotional overload.
In mid-August, a friend’s daughter was killed in an automobile accident, a beautiful life taken much too young. Just a few days later we found out our dear friend of twenty-five years had only a few weeks to live, the cancer we thought was gone from his body came back with a vengeance. He died over Labor Day weekend. On the same day we found out about our friend’s cancer coming back, I got the devastating news that my cousin’s three-year-old son has been diagnosed with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, a rare and fatal disease will slowly rob him of his muscle function. Couple this is with the anniversary of my brother’s death seven years ago and the pain that surrounds this horrible date year after year since he has died. It’s made me ponder the thought that endings are not always happy, sometimes they are just plain hard.
Grief, no matter how recent or how long ago the loss, has a way of painfully flooding our entire being. I was talking with a friend whose daughter died 21 years ago; as the date of her death nears so does the resurgence of the raw and gut-wrenching grief my friend experienced in the early months after her daughter died. Then I think about my cousin and try to wrap my head around how she can even comprehend the diagnosis given to her sweet toddler and the bucket list that has suddenly filled her soul with what she needs her son experience while he can still walk, use his upper limbs, and breathe on his own, as this horrible disease slowly ravages his body.
Sometimes when we experience multiple losses within a short period of time, it can result in a fog that can be hard to find our way out of. In our grief, there are days with no silver linings; it’s about just making it through the day, loving those still with us and trying to find gratitude for time we had with those we love.
What if we chose not to avoid those days, those triggers, those moments and instead walked toward them...walked toward our grief and made space for it in our life rather than shutting it out? What if allowing ourselves to feel our grief actually helps lift us out of that fog and blur of pain?
Just the other day I had the privilege of listening to a young father eulogize his infant daughter who died at birth. He talked about the blessings his sweet baby brought to so many people; how he and his wife’s lives were changed forever in such a positive way. How this baby’s life story, as short as it was, was a gift. His words struck me. It’s okay to allow myself to withdraw, to turn inward and simply sit with my sadness and pain; by doing this I also create a space to let the world back in again.
Barbara Karnes, the American hospice pioneer and Registered Nurse, said it beautifully, “The present moment sounds easy, but, of course, it’s not. It takes lots of practice. If we can be more in the present moment, at ease with life as it unfolds, maybe our final act of living will be filled with more and better memories.”
Sometimes we need to let go and realize we are not in control. Life doesn’t always give us happy endings, yet we can make the most of the beginnings and the middles, cherishing those moments along the way.
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