Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Telling The Story

The process of coping with Dad's illness and his death and then struggling with the grief has been such a learning experience for me, in some good and some not-so-good ways.  It changes one forever, that’s for sure.

I've been going to a grief counselor and a grief support group for the last several months and have found it to be helpful.  Each person in the grief support group has a different story to tell.  The group is full of different personalities, ages, backgrounds, situations, and beliefs, but many of our feelings and the ways we are muddling through grief are similar.  It is comforting to me to know that this is all part of Normal (whatever that is). And, when we talk about the loved one we lost, when we tell their stories and ours, I love how our voices weave together in common threads despite our differences.

I don’t think things get better in time after the loss of a loved one ~ it hasn't for me at least so far ~ but maybe we get "better" at coping, and, even if we don't, life goes on, which in and of itself sometimes makes me cry.

One of the most helpful suggestions I’ve gotten from the counseling sessions has been to write.  The counselor doesn’t say what to write, or when, or how much, or why – all of that is left open to be figured out and/or determined as needed by the bereaved.  Some of the other people in the support group have said that writing doesn’t help them, some say they can’t get started or just don’t want to do it, and one person even said it made her grief worse. 

It is helping me, though.  I’m not sure why, but I am glad and grateful that it is.  Maybe it’s because I think that having a written record of my memories, thoughts, and pain will make it more likely that I won't forget anything, which is a big fear of mine.  I believe that as long as there’s someone around to remember a person or an event, it still exists.  It breaks my heart that I can’t see or talk to my dad, but at least through writing about him and what I’ve learned as a result of having had him in my life, I can still hang on.  He took a piece of me with him when he went on ahead, but, through writing, I know that a piece of him will remain here with me.

From the grief counselor, I’ve learned that there are certain questions and concerns that almost everyone who is grieving has at some point.  One of these things the bereaved frequently wonder is if there was anything else that could have been done to save the person who died.  Of course we wonder that; it’s human nature.  I know, though, in my heart that we did all we knew to do to take care of Dad and to save him, and writing helps me to confirm that. 

And then there’s the Denial, still lurking and always trying to gain a foothold.  For a few seconds at a time, my mind sometimes allows me to believe that none of the events of the past year actually happened.  But then I remember, and I am thrust back into the icy Sea of Grief. On the surface, it seems like I would readily invite the Denial that gives me the high of the fantasy in which my dad is alive and well, but, in reality, it brings about a hangover that leaves me hurting and struggling to breathe. Writing is helping me to accept that it really happened, to cope, to let some of the things that don’t really matter go. 

I think about the significance of the stories that I’ve told about Dad so far.  It makes me feel better to have it on record how much of an impact he had on me and on other people, even though he certainly wasn’t aware of his influence or aware of how his kindness touched so many people.  I believe that writing can be a powerful healing balm and that it can console those who are grieving with thoughts of better days both in the past and somehow also in the future. Scribed words are proof that my dad’s life mattered.  And, most importantly to me right now, it is a connection for me to my dad, one that I know will always be available whenever I need it.  Yet another way that my dad has shaped me and at the same time has given me the tools that I need to do what I need to do.  Thanks again, Dad.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge, that myth is more potent than history.  I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts, that hope always triumphs over experience, that laughter is the only cure for grief.  And I believe that love is stronger than death.”  ~Robert Fulghum

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