Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Never the Same Again

"There is that phrase again," I said to myself this morning as I watched Al Roker interview a survivor of  the devastating, destructive tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri this past weekend.  The man had just witnessed his hometown ripped to pieces in moments.  He was searching for his neighbor.   Everything he owned was gone.  All he could say was, "It will never again be the same."

How I have fought against that phrase.  I have refused to believe it.  In fact, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind after my daughter's death was hearing a dear friend tell me that her mother was never the same after her sister's death.  "I will not be that person," I said to myself.  I will not change.  I will continue to be who I am.


Now, a year later, a year after the black line that went down the record of my life clearly dividing my life into two parts, I know that it is not possible to be as one was before a devastating, shocking, unspeaking loss.  I am changed.  I am not the same.  Sometimes, I don't even know who I was before.  Jerry Sittser  in A Grace Disguised:  How the Soul Grows through Loss, writes, "Catastrophic loss is like undergoing an amputation of our identity."

One may hope to remain the same after such loss.  I now believe this is not possible.  One's life has forever been altered.  When that happens, one changes.  In the past year, I have made peace with this truth.  Sittser tells the grieving soul that catastrophic loss is to be compared to a massive flood that is "unrelenting, unforgiving, and uncontrollable, brutally erosive to body, mind and spirit."  One cannot survive such a flood and come through to the other side without being changed.

In the end, I am thankful I will never again be same.  I would not have chosen this path for my life, for my children, or my grandchildren.  I would have done anything to stop the horrific loss that we suffered one year ago.  There will always be a hole in my heart, a gap in our family circle, a missing link, a link that brought so much joy, laughter, and delight.  Why did I think that I would not change?  How could a mother lose a child and not be left bereft?


A day of celebration for me and Julie when she earned her hard earned BA in English.   

"Recovery is a misleading or empty expectation.  We recover from broken limbs, not amputations.  Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same."  Even as I read these words of Sittser's last summer, I was repulsed by the thought as I wrote in my journal, "There it is again.  We are never the same"  Now, I see that I had a choice.  I choose to submit to transformation.  I have chosen that course.  I refuse to be destroyed.

I have been changed.  It has been a transformation.  I am learning why loss can be 'a grace disguised.'  Yes, despite the hole that will never really heal, and despite an amputation to my family, to my life, to our futures, I am learning that the soul grows through loss.  For that, I am grateful.  I would not have wanted to remained the same after such loss and not learned this truth.


23 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Sally.. I agree that life happenings all through our lives CHANGE us.. That is life --and we just have to adapt to these changes and keep on putting one foot in front of the other... So many people (myself included) allow these events (seen my blog post today) to define us... My situation was very different from yours---but it was still a life-changing event for me.

God Bless You... The more you talk about it and try to go forward, the better you will be. BUT--your life has been forever changed. Just work to make it the best life you can have. Julie would want you to be happy --and celebrate her life.

Hugs,
Betsy

Beth said...

My deepest sympathy on the loss of your daughter. I have lost a spouse, parents, sisters and brothers, never the loss of a child. I have tears in my eyes thinking of the agony of such a loss. How could one not be changed after such a tragedy? My thoughts and prayers are with you.

KathyA said...

So true. We are never the same after a loss like yours -- ever., and yet this path leads us on to others where we continue to grow and affect the lives of others.

John Paul McKinney said...

Dear English Teacher: By sheer coincidence, I read you blog just a few seconds after you posted it, and have been thinking ever since how to fill the void with words. I know from my own personal and professional experience how futile that is. Still, when you write of amputation, I was reminded of Cicero's (De Amicitia) describing a friend as "one soul in two bodies." The same term comes up in Aristotle and a similar refrain in Augustine's Confessions when he grieves over the loss of a friend, as if half of his own self was now gone. How much more the loss of one's own child. There is nothing I can say that you haven't already heard more eloquently expressed, but I do want you to know I was very moved by your reflections, and if the offer of understanding from a person you have never met means anything at all, please accept it from me. When you write of gratitude it appears you have chosen the right path both for your family and for yourself, and the path that most firmly honors your daughter. Peace.

Terry said...

So true. I cannot imagine experiencing a loss like yours and expecting to be the same. There would always be the before and the after. When I was going through a dark time I remember reading a book whose name escapes me now. The author had not only lived through the suicide of her youngest son, but her eldest son and wife were murdered in their homes that same year. She had been married to a mentally ill man, the father of her 5 children, whom she ended up raising alone. The book helped me such a great deal and I can't imagine how she dealt with such a loss. I remember she quoted Hemingway, "the world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong in the broken places" for some reason, that made an impact on me. Thank you for sharing this.

DJan said...

I find great solace in the communion of souls who have been through similar situations to my own. There will always be those who believe they can weather any storm and be unchanged, but it simply isn't possible. Sally, your blog with the soul-searching posts you write come across the electronic ether and change this reader.

Watching the devastation in Joplin, empathizing with those who have lost everything and whose lives will never be the same, it's all in a piece with the loss of anything or anyone that defines me as being "me." Your ongoing pain is so eloquently expressed... my heart goes out to you, to them, to myself. Gentle cyber hugs, Sally.

Olga said...

Your thoughts are so beautifully expressed. I think you are embracing the opportunity for growth in spite of great pain. I can admire that even while sensing how hard it must be to do.

becca said...

very well said i feel the same that after a tradgey no one is ever the same. hugs

Jeanie said...

My friend, how very beautiful and well stated. And how true. In my grief facilitation classes they explained "you don't get over grief, you get through it." And yes, things change with any tragedy, personal or otherwise.

And they should -- if they didn't, it would so undervalue those very things that touch you most with loss. When life goes on, it doesn't mean it goes on the same, it means it goes on and if we are very lucky we can learn to work with that. I see that you are, and it makes me smile, for I know how difficult it is.

Lynilu said...

I posted earlier, but it seemed to just go into the wind. I'll try again, although I've lost some of the train of thought.

I've had times when I thought I wouldn't recover. Looking back on those times, it is clear that I moved on, and I grew into the person I am now. I like who I am. If I could retain the positive things from the past and still be me, you bet I would. But .... if wishes were fishes, etc.

No, we are never the same, but then "same" isn't always "better," either. We move on. We never forget, but we move on. And eventually, life is good again. The memories become less bitter and more sweet with time. :)

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Beautiful post, Sally. Your loss was so overwhelming, so immense that it had to be a transformation. I so identify with the concept of a line cleaving your life between the time before and the time after. Thank you for sharing your pain and your immensely moving growth process. May memories of your beautiful, accomplished daughter help bridge the gap between those two parts of your life.

Nat said...

I don't think you can be the same again after experiencing such a significant loss. But as others have said, you do move on, you keep living, only differently. Keep the memories strong and always with you!
Thoughts are with you....

Anonymous said...

I keep trying to write a comment, but somehow Blogger won't let me. I'm going to try something different and choose Anonymous and see if this works.
Kay from Musings

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! It worked! I can't comment through my Google account, but it accepts Anonymous.

I wrote you a long comment before and it all disappeared. Sigh.

I was just trying to say that I admire how you've taken this tragedy and let it strengthen you and continue to help others and teach. Julie would be proud of you.
Kay from Musings

Joanne said...

I see it. I feel it through this post. It's that word that keeps popping into my head when I visit you here...hope. You are allowing God to guide you to make that path for you...a path that you would never ever have thought for you or anyone else, but here you are on this path accepting and trusting that you will be guided toward healing ...be it with a bruised and battered heart but you trust that you will be there ever present with your family's love and support inspite of the pain. I am in awe of your words and I know that they are a healing force to many. Blessings always, Joanne

Anonymous said...

I've just figured out which people I can comment easily with. The pop-up comment box and the full page is OK. The comments embedded under a post are the ones giving a lot of us problems. Then again, you've got a lot of comments so I'm not sure what's going on. Could it be just me?
Ah well... I just have to remember to use the Anonymous.
Kay of Musings

Retired English Teacher said...

My daughter said she has tried six times to post a comment. I have contacted Blogger but have not received an answer.

My dear readers, who could respond, thank you for your words of encouragement and love.

Deb Shucka said...

A beautiful, powerful and deeply true post, Sally. I read Sittser's book a couple of months ago, and found such comfort in its pages, I got a copy for my brother and sil who lost their son at New Year's.

We can't stay the same, and I agree, it's in our surrender to that where we find the transformation that allows us to continue to live our lives as wholly as possible.

I Wonder Wye said...

I like to say that living with VHL (a rare cancer) doesn't define me, but it does refine me. I cannot imagine living with the loss of a child -- how difficult it must be to find your joy again. Losing anyone you love feels like the world is a little colder place...you have dealt with this tragedy with grace and insight.

rosaria said...

Oh yes, one changes radically and life too becomes different from such an event. You had to go through a major change, indeed, and to survive you had to tell yourself everything will be the same, you will be the same.

Your realization opened you to the new you, the you with a knowledge you couldn't have had before. Few of us survive unscathed. The veterans are still suffering after so many years, and so much distance. Traumas of the soul are more enduring than bodily traumas.

Thanks for sharing.

Barb said...

Hello Sally, How could you be the same? I see the truth in your statement "It has been a transformation." I love the photo of you and Julie - so happy in that time of her accomplishment. Those are moments that really can't be taken away from you.

grammy said...

So sorry for your loss.
Very beautiful post about loss. My neighbor lost her husband in December and I have been walking with her. She is so angry...I mostly just let her vent. She talks about just wanting to go be with him...I just tell her my opinion on that...but let her talk. I am not sure I am handeling it right...but no one else wants to be with her and hear all the negitive stuff...I hope I am doing the right thing.

Seams Inspired said...

My heart aches for you as I read your beautiful post. I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. You articulate your grief and stepping stones to healing so well. Thank you for sharing your heart.

(((HUGS))) sweet bloggy friend.