I have come to learn the hard way that grief must run its natural course.
Kind of reminds me of a river I once knew, a mountain fed stream called the Salmon River that runs through Williams Park in Langley, B.C. One year when heavy rains came, the river flooded, washing out bridges and banks, uprooting small willows and bushes that stood along the water’s edge.
The engineers at the park’s department set about rerouting the creek to minimize the damage the next time it flooded. The idea was to redirect the path of the tumultuous waters so that even in extreme conditions, the force of the current would be less hazardous to its environment. To this end, wire cages called Gabions filled with rock were installed along the river bank to change the course of the river.
Several weeks after the project was completed, a downpour came, lasting several days. Agents of the parks board came to see the effects of their efforts. As caretakers we already knew the result: the raging river had not only done just as much damage as before; it had also dislodged the Gabions in order to resume its natural course.
Like the Parks’ engineers I thought by pouring my overwhelming emotion into a new relationship, I could reroute the emotions of my grief. I could get on with my life at a much earlier time than predicted. I could avoid all the pain and loneliness of grieving.
But what I learned was that at the first sign of issues and challenges in the new relationship, I was easily derailed. My judgement was almost non-existent. I missed many warning signs that this person was not suitable for me; Not because he was a bad person, but because I had just grasped at what my grandmother used to describe as “any port in a storm”.
It was a painful lesson. Painful for me and for the other person as well.
Be grounded in your grief. It’s a natural process. Don’t fear or shun it. With God’s help will you make it through.
A Caregiver’s life seems overwhelming at times. Most of the time, in fact.
Some of us try to juggle work and family and caregiving another relative, God help them. Others just try to make it through another day of being inside, sitting, trying to get a grip on what can be let go of, and what needs to be done.
It’s exhausting and all-consuming, caregiving. And at the end of it all? Grief swoops in.
I’m finding grieving different from caregiving. Less constant in its demands I thought. Grief not only comes and goes, but I’ve found it can disguise itself as some other emotion.
I thought because my husband’s health was in decline for so many years, my grieving process would be short, and not so intense. I didn’t break down sobbing at the funeral. I didn’t go home and weep over his clothes, his bed, his shoes. I just wanted everyone to go home so I could be alone in the flower-fragrant silence of my home. I wanted to be alone with thoughts of him.
And then suddenly seven months later I was overwhelmed with emotion. Emotion which I misplaced. It was like being on a roller coaster ride: what you tell people is a thrill is really terror. And I was not recognizing my fear. Life was suddenly entirely and only my responsibility. And I wanted to be safe. I desperately wanted someone to look after me. Like Chris had.
Fortunately friends, family and a group called Griefshare helped me sort it all out. Helped me see that I am grieving, deeply and furiously the loss of my husband of thirty years. And in starting a new relationship all I did was complicate the process. Hurt others.
Because I didn’t recognize, couldn’t own my grief.
Adam women are strong, Mom always used to say. I hope that’s true. I hope that like it says in the book of James, chapter 4, suffering builds endurance and character.
Just like knowing how your caregiving days are going to end doesn’t make the process any easier, knowing what James has said doesn’t make grieving any easier, either. But like caregiving, there is a sense of pride in honoring the process.
If you need help, like I did, contact your local Griefshare group-note, it is faith-based. Other alternatives? Contact your local hospice society or funeral home. They should be able to help you find a group that will fit your needs.
This Caregiver’s Journal began in August of 2014. Although the first blog article was actually written on New Year’s Day, 2015, the rest are in chronological order from August 5th, 2014. What is written here has gone before.