I have a friend that reads Tarot. When the cards deal with the topic of someone passing he tends to state that death is as much a part of life as is birth. While this is definitely true, it does not mean that any of us deal with it gracefully. In fact, my experience has been that the ability to reason, and conduct ourselves rationally is inherently compromised and there is not a specific normal that fits everyone. It’s events like this that make us stop and reevaluate.
Growing up in the era of Dr. Spock releasing all his advice on raising children, and so much emphasis on how to be emotionally available, and breaking the cycle, there was a common gravitation toward the concept of the five stages of grief. While I believe that all of the emotions are valid and that they probably all happen each time for me, I don’t see them specifically as phases. Grief looks different for everyone. Even children in the same family will take very different roles during the process. It is difficult for me to separate the person from their reactions, but people do very strange things when they are hurting. I believe that the most important thing is to realize that even our ability to make simple decisions or do basic selfcare physically, emotionally and fiscally can be greatly compromised and it may be helpful to make daily commitments to people to let them know that we got out of bed and showered if that keeps us moving.
I don’t think we are ever really ready when we lose someone. My brother was taken in a freak accident while my mother’s death was a slow and difficult thing for my family to endure, and although we were there and knew what was to come, it did not make it easier for any of us. When I had the privilege of caring for my best friend last year and witnessed his decline to Pancreatic Cancer, on his passing, I could barely even eat for months after, causing me to drop close to 40 pounds. The displacement feeling from being a vital part of someone’s life to being left behind is in a weird way like the deafening you experience when you leave a concert and then go sit in your silent car afterwards, but instead of just being your hearing, it’s everything. Loss is overwhelming. It impacts our ability to process simple tasks, because sometimes grief can make our common aspects feel pointless and trivial. The process is always different for each person because we never love any two people exactly the same.
I think the greatest thing for me during these times is to allow myself the ability to just be where I am. Sometimes that means just allowing myself to cry. There were times when I could not stop myself from screaming, and times in my process of grief that I literally balled up on the floor of my shower letting the tears flow with the water that surrounded me. I found, in each instance, that I started healing when I stopped trying to reroute it into some stupid behavior or denying how I felt. I had to stop comparing myself to where I thought I SHOULD be and just allow myself the dignity to let it happen in its own time. I found relief through writing and art.
Even my friend that reads the tarot with the great advice had to take the time he needed to take when he lost his husband to Pancreatic Cancer and then his mother. The pain I had experienced as a caregiver and again with losing my mother were an emotional bridge that helped me connect to him and be a light in his darkness. Unfortunately, death is an integral part of our cycle here. While no one can tell us why, the thought of trading the pain for never having known someone has always let me know that the love was worth it. We don’t have to live in chronic fear of losing someone we love. The key is not to have regrets because we didn't appreciate and make the time with them matter so much that it is worth every minute.