GriefGrief is an ugly...word. A necessary term that envelops so much. Where to even begin? Chances are you've heard about Kübler-Ross and her stages of Death and Dying. You're probably thinking tears, moaning and groaning and crying out....memorial services and a burial. But what about when your grief involves the living? Maybe you've heard the term Anticipatory Grief. That is grieving the loss of someone before they are gone. What happens when you grieve not because someone has died but because a dream or a lifestyle or a future is not as anticipated? Are you following?
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & AcceptanceGrief doesn't just mean that a loved one has died or is dying. I've explained to so many people over the years that the grief process is like a ladder....those stages of death and dying can be conquered and yet one can fall back down just to have to climb up them again. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & Acceptance are the familiar stages we discuss or lay out to conquer. Yet, have you ever grieved over a life that didn't turn out like you planned? A future of hopes and dreams cut short or changed from what you anticipated? A child that strayed down a difficult path. A separation of relationship? In talking about our caregiver journeys we mention grief a fair amount.
A few years ago, I wrote a Blog titled, "When my White Picket Fence no longer Matched the American Dream" and outlined how facing our difficult our circumstances had been challenging. Different from that normal life we envision.
Turns out I realized a while back that I'd been grieving for a long time. I'd been mourning the things that weren't set to my imagined or anticipated ideals. I wanted to be in control of so much. Of my life, of my career, of my family and our future. Grief isn't just something that you get over either. Whether you've literally lost someone close or whether you are in mourning over something else, there is no magical switch that we can flip to get over it or shake it off. Sure, there are things we can do to alleviate the symptoms and help us move on....but grief has no timetable. When we are dealing with lifelong illnesses, injuries, and disabilities, that process of grief can come and go for decades.
Hope, Dreams, & PlansJust because you've lost, mourned and grieved doesn't mean that you can't have hope. I have a substantial amount of hope. We have an increasing amount of good days, or rather I choose to see them that way. We have choices about our attitude and outlook on our day, our week, our schedule, and our future. We can embrace life and make decisions that give us positive outcomes for our families. We can travel, take trips, visit friends and family, reach out and hold each others hand, and just overall relish in the delight of the simple things without getting caught up in what we wish were different.
I was such an independent child and student growing up. I got good grades. I studied hard. I finished an entire year of college before I ever graduated from High School. I wanted to make a difference in the world. My parents always taught me I could be anything I wanted to be. I went to college, got three degrees, and bought a business in my early 20's. I bought a house while my husband was deployed. He literally came home from his last deployment to a home he'd only seen in photos and a new business in a town he'd only visited once. We had big aspirations.
Wounds of War & Beyond
|Leaving to go back to Iraq in 2004 after two weeks home|
In the meantime, We had two boys....beautiful handsome boys. They woke frequently and secretly I was envious of all the moms on Facebook posting how their infants were sleeping so well. Mine didn't sleep well for years. I lost sleep. I have been tired for the better part of a decade. We also had two miscarriages. Those happened before the dawn of our social media appearance so many don't know about that. But that was a struggle. For a while, it was difficult to go to friends baby showers.
With two young boys and a husband with disabilities, life started beating me up. It was brutal. I couldn't work like I wanted to. I had to hire people to do the jobs that I should be able to do. I had to depend on others to do work that I was responsible for and ultimately, I had to be content with letting things go. I had to let a lot of things go. I had to start staying at home more. While once I had a full time nanny and housekeeper, I had to spend a season focusing more on my own family. Stepping back from my career. Giving up my business. Giving up many of my personal indulgences. Even my me time of teaching had to go. It was hard.
There was a season where I literally couldn't always even make it to the store when we needed milk or toilet paper and a few people were kind enough to randomly ask if they could assist to bring us things. Some just showing up at times with a hot and home cooked meal. God Bless them. My family has stepped up and helped more than I can ever count, mention, or repay.
I've cried over life. I've cried over situations. I've shook my head at diagnoses and the calendars as they fill with appointments, wondering how we juggle it all. I've grieved over that normalcy of life that we missed. I've felt inferior at times in dealing with the enormity of existence and responsibility of caring for my family.
In Memory of the Picket FenceAfter one of those moments of grief and wiping tears last year, my husband randomly asked, "Do we need to get the truck and go to the store and get you some picket fence?"
"You read my blog!" I said as I wiped some tears. "No. I really don't need it. It wouldn't match our house now anyway," I told him. And we kept driving to our destination.
I don't have to have a white picket fence to have hope in our future or to better avoid any future moments of grief as they may hit without warning. Part of my picket fence is dead and buried and the other part still stands in our memories.
We are doing well right now. This year, 2017, has been a year of change and transition for us. Life still presents its challenges but we tackle them. Hopefully we tackle them with grace and love and not like a stumbling circus act on stilts. If you're reading this and have loved and experienced lost.... bless you. If you're reading this and loved and stuck somewhere in that grief jungle... bless you. Know that you are not alone and there is Hope going through it and on the other side.