GOOD GRIEF, JUST DO IT!
CHALLENGE FIVE REFLECTION: GRIEVE
My maternal grandmother (I called her Nana) was the first person I had the opportunity to literally walk to death’s door. I was sixteen. I sat with her and held her hand and talked into her ear for the last forty eight hours of her life. It was my first, first-hand experience with death. It gave me a "familiarity" with death and "prepared" me for the deaths of other loved ones. It allowed me, even as a somewhat macho sixteen-year old, to feel the sadness of losing someone so dear to me and gave me a roadmap, so to speak, for grieving future life losses. And with each successive loss, I was able, through some miracle of the universe, to keep opening myself up more and more to the feelings of loss till my grief for the loss of my first wife became almost unbearable. And now, my avoidance of funerals lets me know that I have probably begun to close those emotional doors.
But because of these first hand experiences with death, it is easy, and perhaps smug of me, to think that I have it down when it comes to grieving. And, as a therapist, I always encourage and support others to go the distance with grief and not to fight it and not to set a time table where you wake up one morning and say to yourself, "Okay, self, time to move on!"
But then, as I started this reflection on Challenge Five, I was caught off guard when losses I had not previously considered losses or losses, that I did not consider worth grieving, began popping into my awareness.
One such loss is my business. I have had a successful private practice in marriage family therapy since 1982, until my practice became vulnerable to whatever it is that is going on with our economy.
The last two years have been extremely challenging. On at least three separate occasions, I gave serious consideration to closing down the practice. After each consideration, I became more determined that the end of my practice was a loss I was not willing to experience or grieve. But until now, I never thought of the experience of keeping the practice going with decreased income, a lack of cash flow and credit, an abundance of phone calls from creditors, questions marks from family when there is little or no food in the refrigerator or cupboard, or when the cable is turned off, as LOSS. Of course, that’s exactly what it is. Not only a loss of funds, but a loss of my image of being the kind of person who can pull it off. On any given day, I’m not pulling it off. It is not necessarily a terrible thing, and I am learning how to stretch my image of what being successful looks like, but the fact of the matter still remains, on the days that the office is empty and the phone is not ringing, I am LOSING.
I always tell others, a la Elizabeth Kubler Ross, that grieving is a PHYSIOlogical process, not a psychological one. It’s not about having a strong mental constitution. Our bodies are going to go through certain stages when we lose, and we have little or no control over those stages. And if we try to control the process or avoid it, grief, itself, will eventually take us down and kick us in the butt. So, in putting together this blog, I am finally realizing that I am grieving the loss of my practice as it once was. I am probably in denial, in depression, with a splash of anger. My practice has been picking up, so I am also rationalization that it is all going to be okay, and so it might be. In the meantime, after beginning this challenge, I’ve decided to let the grief bubble up freely. And to be honest, like most folks, I’m still fighting it!
I’ve also begun looking at the loss of my eyesight and how I avoid "seeing" how much eyesight I have lost, and hearing as well. I am not writing any of this for sympathy or advice, but simply to trigger for you, yourself, a willingness to look at the disguised losses in your own life.
Loss and grieving is just a part of living, and perhaps the more we grieve, the more we can live. Perhaps the more we grieve our losses, our capacity to take in an abundance increases.
The more we fight grief, the more we live in survival mode which is not living at all. It is surviving. But I’m "up" for living. How about you? Take a chance and let some of your grief out. Good grief, just DO IT!
After I had "hubbed" to this point in this reflection, I attended an exquisite Christmas concert presented by the Redlands Community Chorus who sounded like the Roger Wagner Chorale of old. Sitting behind me was Dorothy, who had lost her husband, Jim, several years ago. I loved Jim. We sat next to each other in choir and had many many many laughs. Jim was/is an interesting man and talented musician. He played the double bass and had a history with the Tommy Dorsey Band. So he was full of riveting stories if you like Big Band music.
My sweet wife talked at length with Dorothy before the concert started and said many poignant and consoling things. Thank God for Dianna because when I saw Dorothy, I instinctively avoided talking to her. I acknowledged her, but did not speak to her.
As soon as I saw Dorothy, it was instant. I was so surprised. The sadness whelmed up inside me, and I was afraid I would begin loudly and uncontrollably blubbering. When the concert was over, I turned around and told Dorothy that I really wanted to talk to her, but.... And it all just came pouring out. Thinking about Jim triggered memories of Roberta (http://hubpages.com/hub/A-LADY), and Dorothy pulled me into her arms and just held me while I cried. She went on to tell me that she hasn’t been able to cry but began to tear up as she held me. So maybe sharing our grief can be a gift..
And then I looked down at my left pocket of my hoody sweat shirt, There was a tiny feather poking out. I have no idea how the feather got there. I had not seen it previously in the evening, but there it was. So writing this reflection opened me up even further to the grief that still sloshes around in my body and soul, and the feather is like a little tap on the shoulder from The Lady who had asked me several days before she passed to get her a feather. As life would have it, I happened to have one, so I hung the feather from the ceiling for her to look at, and she has been sending me feathers ever since. You can read the details in my son’s hub. http://hubpages.com/hub/Trains-Feathers-and-Butterflys
Our encounter with Dorothy was Saturday evening (December 12). On Monday morning, Dianna and I attended the funeral of Emmy, who was like her second Mom. Wouldn’t you know it, as we entered the church vestibule, there on the tile floor rested a beautiful turquoise blue feather. Where in the heck did that come from?
It was a very painful day for Dianna, and she sobbed and sobbed during the service. The feather brought some solace.
I had no idea when I thought about this challenge to grieve, that grief would come rapping or perhaps pounding on the door, but so it has.
We all have many losses to grieve and because our society seems so hell bent on moving on, I encourage all of us to support each other in grieving, and there is no time table for grieving. Perhaps it continues for a lifetime.
In this book, there is a chapter on having a conversation about death long before it arrives