Shortly after Derek died I read an awesome article about grief and waves; here it is:
“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.”
Many people responded with words of encouragement, but one response in particular, by an older gentlemen, really stood out from the rest…
“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love.
So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out.
But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
On January 8, 2018 those waves were 1000′ high and they kept coming and coming and I couldn’t breathe. For months I couldn’t breath, then there was a reprieve and I started trying to live my new life and I was doing so well, or so I thought.
On Sunday, February 24th, those waves came crashing down on me and they were just as big as they were on the day that Derek died and they came one right after another. I couldn’t breath and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, I mean I had been handling my grief with a balance and I was doing good. I knew that there would be more waves and more bad days but I didn’t expect them to take me back to those first days and weeks and months.
On Tuesday I went to Art Therapy and I knew there were going to be tears that night and there were, a lot of them, but Leara always knows what to give me to work on to help me. She asked me what I wanted out of that night, did I want to work through those emotions or not? I told her that yes I did want to work through them even though I knew it was going to be hard and I was going to cry through it.
It was a painting exercise based on my favorite book “Read This Until You Believe It” and do you want to know what I learned that night? I’ve been thinking that my grief is separate from who I am, I am positive and cheery and sunshiny so when those waves come and they knock me down I was thinking that that wasn’t me, the real me. That was the grieving me that didn’t have anything to do with who I am. But you know what? That is so far from the truth….
Grief is a part of me now and it doesn’t take away from me being a positive, upbeat person, it’s just a part of who I am now and when those waves come, and they will again, I have to learn to embrace them, feel them and still take care of me because I am still me even when grieving. There’s that self-care element again, until 2 years ago I didn’t really even know what self-care was but I suck at it big time.
Sometimes I get discouraged about Derek’s Place, I doubt myself a lot, and wonder why we don’t get the support that a lot of other non-profits do. We volunteer for other non-profits in an effort to help those in the community that will come to Derek’s Place but it seems like people still don’t know who we are. I know it takes time, a lot of time, for something like this to get off the ground and I just have to have faith that this is going to happen. I am determined to make Derek’s Place a success and to help all of those people that are like Derek.
Derek visited me in a dream again the other night, I love those dreams where I can see him and talk to him. I see it as a sign that he wants me to keep going and not give up on what I’m doing.
This excerpt from the book “Read This Until You Believe It” resonated with me the other night and I want to share it with you:
Right now is a hard time. You don’t have to love it. You don’t have to do this gracefully. You don’t have to find what’s good in this moment. You just have to make it through.
I made it through those crashing waves with a better understanding of who I am now.
I am a grieving Mom that misses her Son terribly but I am also strong and positive and working on loving myself.