When you’re deep in grief, you really are not yourself. And you know it, you feel it, you see it in the mirror. It’s quite clear that the eyes you see are not your eyes. They’re vacant. You feel hollow and empty. It seems impossible that you could conceivably go on. That’s how I felt when I wrote this post on Facebook in April 2017. I had just lost my big sister, Cathy, in November of 2016. She was number 10 of the Eleven in Seven. My Eleven in Seven is how I describe losing eleven of my nearest and dearest in 7 years. Seven/Eleven might be lucky for some, but not for me!
Read this and see if you can relate.
“I watched a segment on CBS Sunday Morning featuring a woman telling her grief story. It had only been a couple of years since her husband died. In 6 years time, I’ve lost a sister, husband, father, mother, and another sister (my sister Cathy just died Nov. 2016). In that same 6 year period, I’ve lost an uncle, 2 first cousins and 2 life-long friends. So, I’m going out on a limb here. I’m coming out of the closet. I’ve been reluctant to share with you just how deeply I’m still grieving. Why? Because people don’t want to hear it. We, as a society are not comfortable with grief, are we. If we can’t fix it, we’re flummoxed on just what to do. Me too! I was not empathetic to this before I was thrust in to the fray. People THINK they’re helping, but they only are making it worse. I hear TONS of platitudes “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, “Everything happens for a reason”. This puts ME in the position of accepting your words, acting like I’ve never heard them before and feigning being comforted by them. When, really, inside, I’m seething. I want to shout at you, tell you how NOT helpful that crap is! There are people who actually turn around and walk the other way when they see me. Can’t say I blame them. But, I can’t say it doesn’t hurt. When people say, “How are you?”, just, y’ know, like you do every day, I’ve stopped responding with “I’m good!”. Because I’m not. At least not every day. I’ve started saying, “I’m still struggling”. I’ve gotten responses like “Why? What’s up?”, even though these people KNOW I’ve suffered multiple immediate family deaths, one right after the other, in a short time. Or I get deer-in-the-headlights looks from people. I’m trying to make a choice not to take care of YOU. I need everything I have to take care of myself right now. So, please don’t expect that I’m going to fill the silence by saying, “but, hey, every day above ground is a good one” or some such. Also, I KNOW everyone has a grief/death story. Please don’t minimize MY experience by telling me why YOUR experience is WAY worse than mine. Can we both grieve? Yes, I think we can and be mutually supportive. And, please don’t say to me, “well, if there’s anything I can do” (I heard this in the segment today). That puts ME in a position of, again, having to come up with something you can do! If you know me well enough, make a plan with me for a lunch or a drink or a walk around the lake. If you don’t, just simply,”I’m so sorry you’re having a hard time.” “You don’t deserve it.” “Thanks for getting up in the morning and choosing to be here in front of me” or something similar. I have dearly close friends who have never really acknowledged this leveling of my family and the impact that can have on someone when it all happens right in a row. I have enough insight to know that’s not about me, it’s about them. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. This is not meant to call anybody out. I’m just letting you know what I need. These last few years of death and decimation of my earthly tethers, my roots, my foundation are leaving me a little hollow these days. And, I can’t take care of people the way I used to. Thanks for reading. And, thanks for caring.”
If this describes you right now or at any time in your grieving process, then, you’re not alone. And, you’re certainly not out of the norm! If this doesn’t come close or you’re feeling something totally different, that’s OK too! There are no rules, no benchmarks to be met in this process. It is what it is, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment sometimes. Just know that I’m here if you want to start an exchange. Just leave a comment and it will come to me.
And, if you don’t want to leave one, just know that I’m here, understanding what you’re going through. I won’t say I “know how you feel”, because I don’t. I’m not you. I know how I felt, and I guess I’d like to think that helps me imagine and understand how you must be feeling. You deserve to be insular now. You are in a state of flux and change, a chrysalis of sorts. You’ll know when you’re ready. And, I’ll be here.