3 weeks after the death of a loved one As I begin this portion of the newsletter, my mind reaches back to our last S.O.S. meeting. I’m thinking of the new family that was at that meeting: a young husband whose wife took her life a few months ago, his mother, his sister, and his mother-in-law.
I am always pleased to see family members attend S.O.S. meetings together. Very, very often, a family member accompanies another family member to “humor” him. It’s almost as if you can hear him/her saying, “Okay, I’ll go with you just to shut you up. I don’t need to do this for me but I’ll do it for you”.
This is not the case with this family however. It really doesn’t matter why they come because, once we are all there together, the sharing and telling of stories takes over and becomes a link. The young husband told of feeling fine and “fairly together” when he would be suddenly be jolted into thinking about his wife’s death. He would be overcome with grief. It is this young man who comes into my thoughts when I read the opening lines of this newsletter.
His sorrow, like ours, comes in waves. Right now, those waves are large, and they crash upon him and leave him momentarily weak. “On the rock I’m supposed to be…” I wonder who sets up the standards for grief. From where does the idea come that grieving people should be strong? Who decides that we are to be “like a rock”? I think that we set some pretty high standards for ourselves. If we do not go with the craziness we are feeling, we will lock ourselves into step 1 of the grief process and never progress.
Dear Gene had a good point at that meeting. He said, “Do you know what the grief process involves?” Know that, as a survivor, you will feel the shock, denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance that any grief situation involved. The anger will be more intense for you because the person who died chose to end his life – it was not a “normal” death. The guilt you feel will be almost overwhelming. Know that whatever you are feeling is normal. Talk with people. Attend S.O.S. meetings. Listen to the stories. We are all in this together. “How long, how far. Does my grief have to go. Before I start to move?” You are moving.
Attending S.O.S. is a move forward steps non – the- less. Let people care for you… After 7 ½ years, my sorrow mostly comes now in small waves. This past Sunday, I was caught in some small waves. My oldest son was confirmed in his Lutheran Church on Sunday. It has been a struggle for us since he kept telling me he wasn’t going to attend the classes to prepare him for confirmation. But I stood my ground, and as I watched him march down the church aisle, I began to cry. A lot of feelings and memories surfaced.
My family of origin has been Lutheran on both sides – as far back as to when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the church door. A tradition was continuing. I could almost feel the presence of my ancestors around me. For this young man, a rite of passage was occurring. In the eyes of the church, he was an adult. He could, at last, kneel with his family at the communion rail and receive communion rather than “just” a blessing by the minister. How he complained to me prior to this day about the fact that he could not receive the bread and wine as his older sister did.
The little waves washed over me as I remembered his baptism in that same church. Both sets of grandparents were present that day. Now, his maternal grandparents were dead and his paternal grandfather lay dying in a nursing home. As the tears feel, my 10 year old and my 8 year old began the questions: “Why are you crying?” “What’s the matter?” I shook my head, indicating I did not wish to speak.
All of a sudden, the 10 year old’s face looked as if she’d made a startling discovery. She leaned over me and said to the 8 year old, “It’s about grandma ‘cause she died.” Little Mr. 8 year old nodded with the wisdom only an 8 year old can possess and said, “Oh, yeah, it’s about grandma.” And, I guess that really sums it up. It was about grandma. There will never be a family gathering where she isn’t remembered or thought about.
But it was also about grandpa. He, too, is missed and remembered and thought about. The tragedy is, that grandma chose to absent herself; grandpa did not. So… the waves of sorrow came. I did not attempt to “be like a rock.” I went with the feelings of sadness and felt better for having done so. We are never over it, are we? We have, a lot of us, come through it. I say to this young husband.