Sunday, August 28, 2011

Time for a Change

For several months following Eddie's death, I did everything I could to help myself through that difficult time.  As I've said before, I met regularly with a pastor, attended counseling sessions every week, read practically every book I could find on grief, and finally started seeing a psychiatrist.  I also read daily devotions from several different books, made notes of uplifting sayings and bible verses, and wrote fairly regularly in a journal.  I was still going to the cemetery almost every week, even after six months.  Then one day it hit me - I needed a break.  I realized there was actually such a thing as going overboard with the grieving/healing process.  I had to stop trying so hard and let myself just "be" for a little while.

I ended the meetings with the pastor (he agreed we had covered everything anyway).  I talked to my counselor, and we decided I would see her on an "as needed" basis.  I put away all of the books on grief, even if I hadn't finished reading them.  I chose one book to read devotions from each day.  I stopped making notes of sayings and verses.  Instead I put what I had already written in my purse so I would always have it with me if I felt the need for something uplifting.  I quit making myself write in my journal every day and started writing only when  I really had something I wanted to talk about.  I stopped going to the cemetery except on special occasions.

Over time I've managed to find a balance between doing too much and doing too little.  I went back for counseling a few more times, mostly to help me get through the holidays and the first one-year anniversaries.  I sometimes refer to one of the books on grief when I start having certain feelings or questions again.  I still carry the notebook of sayings and verses in my purse "just in case".  I've switched from keeping a journal to writing a blog.  Now I go to the cemetery if I want to - not because it's a special day or because I feel like I should.

The road to recovery is a winding, up and down one.  It's full of potholes, but you'll also encounter smooth patches as you go.  You will make wrong turns and get lost sometimes, but you'll eventually find your way again.  As with any trip, it will probably take longer than you want.  Just as I did when I was a child, I find myself now wanting to ask someone "Are we there yet?"  I'm not sure if the journey we take after losing a loved one ever actually ends, but I do know it helps to stop and ask for directions along the way.

"Words to Live By"

We all need words to live by,
To inspire us and guide us,
Words to give us courage
When the trials of life betide us.
And the words that never fail us
Are the words of God above,
Words of comfort and of courage
Filled with wisdom and with love.

-Helen Steiner Rice       

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's OK to Laugh

I'm sure I smiled or maybe even laughed sometime during the first six months following Eddie's death.  It wasn't until September of that year that I was actually aware of it though.  I had attended a birthday get-together with a group of my friends.  We talked, ate, and watched the birthday people open their gifts.  I was glad to be sharing time with my friends, but what I was going through was always in the back of my mind.  A few days later I received a thank you card from one of the ladies whose birthday we had celebrated.  She said she appreciated the gift I had given her, but that more than anything she was glad to hear me laugh again.  That took me completely by surprise.  Although I had enjoyed the evening, I didn't even realize that I had been laughing. 

At first I felt guilty.  How could I laugh when Eddie had only been gone for six months?  Wasn't it too soon for me to be laughing and having fun?  Then along with the guilt I also started to feel scared.  If I could laugh, did that mean I was forgetting about Eddie?  How could I possibly forget that quickly?  As usual, I looked through the books I had been reading for any information on laughing while grieving.  I found that almost every book addressed the issue (which told me my feelings weren't any different from everyone else's), and they all said the same thing ... it's OK to laugh.  God gave us the ability to laugh as well as to cry because laughter is as healing as tears, both emotionally and physically.  It relieves stress, stimulates healing, and gives us hope. 

I gradually started to accept that laughter and grief can exist together.  Just because you have one doesn't mean you can't also have the other.  It wasn't too soon for me to have fun, and I hadn't forgotten Eddie.  I learned that it's not wrong to feel good sometimes, even after a tragic event in your life.  Feeling good didn't mean that the grief had ended, but it did give me hope that I could enjoy life again.  I wasn't being disloyal to Eddie by going on with my life.  I found that the good days would come and go, just as the bad days still did.  The grief went on, but I learned to enjoy the relief that came with being able to laugh again. 

"A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones." -Proverbs 17:22

"He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." -Job 8:21

"Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains." -Proverbs 14:13

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nothing Stays the Same

My granddaughter Emily started to school this past week.  Wednesday was her first day of kindergarten.  It doesn't seem possible that she's five years old.  It seems like only yesterday that she was born, yet so much has changed during that time.  Trey and Emily's mother are no longer together.  She is married to someone else now and has a new baby.  Trey is in a serious relationship with someone, and they just recently moved into a house together.  My grandmother came here to live, fell and broke her hip and is now in North Carolina with my aunt.  I've been back in college working on my specialist's degree for a full year now.  One of my best friends at work retired from teaching, and I really miss seeing and talking to her every day.  Other friends have married, gotten pregnant, and one has passed away.  My mother has cancer and will soon begin chemotherapy treatments.  Eddie died, and his family and I have started to gradually drift apart.  Life goes on after the death of a loved one but in a very different direction.

I couldn't stop thinking about Eddie all day Wednesday, the day Emily started to school.  I couldn't believe he wasn't here to be a part of it.  This was just one more thing in a long list of events that he's missed out on because of the choice he made.  I know how much he loved Emily, so I know how excited and proud he would have been.  I couldn't help asking the why question again.  Why did he choose to leave and miss out on Emily's entire life?  She was only two when he died, so she didn't have long to get to know him.  She recognizes him in pictures and occasionally says something about her "Papi".  (Whenever she does I still feel a physical pain in my chest.)  She remembers that he drove a truck, liked to hunt, played softball with her daddy, and took her for rides on the 4-wheeler.  Whenever he rode her on the 4-wheeler she would sit in front of him with her legs propped up and tell him to "go faster".  In time I'm sure she will forget what little she does remember though.  I regret that he's not here to spend time with her because I know she would have enjoyed it.  She loves to be outside just like he did.  I can only imagine all of the things they would have done together if Eddie had lived.

There's no way to predict what the future holds, just as there's no way to go back and change what has happened in the past.  We just to have to accept the hand life deals us and do the best we can with what we have.  There are times when I feel like I've really moved forward and am going to be OK.  But then there are others when I still feel tired, sad, lonely, and even a little scared.  This past week has been one of those times.  I guess this is what one of my books called a "grief spasm".  I know it will pass, but I have to wonder if it will ever completely go away.  

"You can never change the past.  But by the grace of God, you can win the future.  So remember those things that will help you forward, but forget those things that will only hold you back." -Robert C. Woodsome