Most of us have had the experience of buying new clothes that didn’t quite feel right. Perhaps they were a little too tight or too big or the brand new material was scratchy, not soft like our older things that have had several washings. We may decide not to wear them at all or we may decide to wear them awhile until we are comfortable in them. This can be a frustrating experience.
Who Am I?
When we are, grieving most of us feel like we aren’t living in our body anymore. We may look in the mirror and see our old reflection staring back at us but we know there is a stranger inside. We may be shocked or surprised that on top of the grief we are feeling and everything else we have to deal with that it isn’t even us, the old familiar us we used to know. It is this new person who has taken up residence where we used to live. This new person may be very angry or sad or both. He or she is probably confused, numb, anxious, and afraid. Their appetite and sleep habits may have changed. All the familiar things are gone along with all the safe places from their lives. In some ways, it is like waking up in a new set of clothes that we didn’t ask for, we didn’t choose, and that certainly don’t fit. Try as we might this is one set of clothes that at least for awhile we cannot take off.
What is This Place?
We are in a place we have never been before. We are now living in a world where our loved one doesn’t. Their absence may scream at us or leave us too numb to hear or feel anything at all. Though the places may be familiar, we feel lost and alone. Unlike a new set of clothes that can be returned to the store, for us there is no return. We are where we are and it takes time to get used to it. Part of the difficulty and frustration we feel is that no one can tell us exactly how much time we will have to wait in this limbo that used to be our life.
Where is Everybody?
As hard as all of this is, it may also seem as though the people in our lives have changed. Some of those people who we thought we could depend on in times of trouble are strangely now absent from our lives. Others, though present, keep telling us to put on that old set of clothes, which is impossible since it disappeared from our lives with the death of our loved one.
What do I do now?
So now what? After awhile we realize that no matter how much we might like to we cannot go back and the only way to go is forward. Though no one can make this journey for us we can allow the people we choose to walk along side of us. We will learn that it pays to be choosey and select family and friends that don’t expect us to be anyone but who we are. People who will listen quietly when we need to vent and who will respect our silence when we don’t wish to talk. People who will let us find our own way in our own time, and not push us to follow theirs. People who will be gentle with us as we learn to be gentle with ourselves.
One day we will wake up and when we look in the mirror, we will recognize ourselves in our new set of clothes. We will realize that we have survived and once again feel hope for the future. We will still miss our loved ones but the pain will no longer be more than we can bear. We will take some of our old life and our self from our past and mix them in with the person we have become. We will recognize that this is okay and not a betrayal of our loved one. Our world will have changed but will once again feel familiar.
Our loved ones death we will not forget
But in time
Mostly we will remember their life.
Deb has worked at Affinity Visiting Nurses Hospice for ten years, the first two as a hospice social worker and the last eight as Bereavement Support Coordinator supporting families before and after the death of their loved ones. She provides supportive counseling, developed and facilitates a variety of grief support groups, including a well-attended group for men only as well as other educational events. Deb received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from UW-Oshkosh and her Master’s degree in Social Work from UW Milwaukee. She received her certification in Thanatolgy through ADEC. Her writing has appeared in New Leaf Magazine, We Need Not Walk Alone, Living with Loss, Grief Digest, numerous hospice publications and EAP publications. Some of her poetry on death and dying will be included in a college textbook for social workers in end of life soon. New Leaf has also used some of her poetry for a line of sympathy and anniversary of death cards. On a personal level, Deb’s 14-year-old son died after being struck by a car. Her 31-year-old sister had died in a car accident eight months earlier, and her 56-year-old father died from a heart attack exactly three years before. These three unexpected deaths within three years started Deb on a journey she never wanted to be on and she learned first-hand the importance of having the help and support of others. In the years since, she has experienced other losses, the most recent being the unexpected death of her 44-year-old step-daughter who died from complications three months after a routine surgery. Deb’s passions are writing, reading, education, nature, and family. She is currently working on a book of her grief poetry. She recently moved with her husband to Waypost Camp, Hatley WI. Her husband accepted a job there as Property Manager and his position allows them to live on-site with acres of woods and a lake. She anticipates the quiet beauty to be a strong catalyst for writing. Deb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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