Thursday, May 29, 2014

Name It. Sit With It. Grieve It.

Name it.
Sit with it.
Grieve it.

Yesterday these wise words were spoken to me by one who has helped me on my journey through grief.  Knowing that today marked the fourth anniversary of my daughter's death, these words were spoken to me after this wise woman inquired how I was doing on what she knew was a very difficult holiday weekend for me.
"I've been so busy living, and celebrating life's happy milestones this past month that I've actually been doing quite well." I replied.
I then related how I had resolved that I would not let grief interfere with living this spring.
I resolved that I would fully and mindfully participate in the many life celebrations occurring in our family during the month of May.
And so,
I've been doing that.
I've been so busy living, loving, and spending time
with my children and grandchildren that I've not even taken time to blog,
write in my journal, or keep up with friends for lunch or coffee.
Yes, I've been celebrating
the living,
and life.

To my friend, I acknowledged that from the Friday night of Memorial Day Weekend
May 29th, 
I'm never fully sure of what day it is.
She said, "If those feelings of loss come, remember: 
to name them,
sit with them,
grieve them.

  Grieving is such hard work.
After all these years, sometimes I just want a break from processing feelings.
 I resolved that I would "grieve well" after the death of my daughter four years ago today.  
It seems strange and really quite unacceptable to resolve to grieve well,
 and yet, that is what I resolved to do.  
Was the resolution one of self preservation?  
Was it made because I had read somewhere that this is what one must do after great loss 
in order to heal?  
Was it because I resolved not to go into denial about a loss that threatened to level me?  
Was it because I knew of no other way to honor the gift my daughter had been to me then to fully acknowledge her death and embrace the memories I have of her as I embrace the pain of losing her?  Embracing the pain allows for the letting go of what no longer is.

Thankfully, my daughter Keicha came to spend this week with me. We've had such fun.We've had very special mother/daughter times this week.Yesterday, she went to spend the day with her sister Amy and with Julie's boyfriend Jason.

Before I was out of bed today, I had a text from Keicha.  She was at Jason's house spending some time with Phoenix.  Phoenix is Julie's dog.  Phoenix lives with Jason.  Keicha said in her text that Phoenix is so old and so skinny that it makes her cry.  I asked for a photo.  The photo came via text.  That is when the tears started.  They flowed all morning.  I thought I wouldn't cry today.  I thought it would just be another special day with my daughter Keicha, but I was crying.  Why?

Name it:  Phoenix, the rambucous pup, the alpha dog that always overpowered our dog Buster, is now barely able to get up.  He is getting old.  He is one of the last tangible reminders of days with Julie that belong uniquely with Julie.  Julie loved Phoenix.  She got him as a pup, and he was always a handful for her.  He was also an expense because he had ACL problems and hip problems and at one time she almost lost him to an episode of twisted stomach.  Phoenix is the one who was by her side when she left us.  Phoenix was her loyal companion.  She never married.  She never had children.  She had Phoenix.  Seeing how much Phoenix has aged since Julie died reminds me how much time has gone by since she was with us.  Seeing a photo of Phoenix just brings up way too many memories of Julie to not make me cry.  Julie is now ageless.  She belongs to the ages. In our memories, she remains 34 years old. Phoenix was left behind to age and grow old just as the rest of us were.
Julie and Phoenix
April 2010

Julie and Phoenix
April 2010
*These two photos above, were among the last I ever took of Julie.  I took them the last time I saw her alive.

Sit with it:  I've learned from many sources that while many may think that people who are suffering great loss may think that they must just push through it and carry on, in reality, it is really necessary to  take time to sit with one's grief in order to heal.  Some call this "soul work."  One must be willing to mentally and spiritually visit some dark, lonely, and confusing places that threaten to overwhelm the emotions when sitting with grief and letting it wash over one's physical and spiritual being.  One must trust that healing will come.  Some fear that if they start crying, they might never be able to stop.  In reality, no one ever cried forever and ever.  I sometimes suddenly find myself sobbing over a remembrance, but once I've expressed the emotion I am feeling, I am ready to move on with my day.  I feel better.  I am grateful for the memory that brought the acknowledgement of the treasure I have lost.  I am then able to see other blessings that surround me.

Grieve it:  Julie was one of the great treasure of my life.  Losing her brought what C.S. Lewis and others have called "the dark night of the soul."  It is in the dark night that one learns that one truly has a soul.  In this dark night of the soul, I discovered more truth about life, and love, and faith than I learned in any other experience.  I am grateful for others who have also grieved deeply who have shown me the way to walk through this valley.  I learned I must deal with my grief or it would deal with me.

And so today, I've taken the time to let grief wash over me.  I've also celebrated the life that was given to me for 34 short years.  I hold Julie's memory in a special place in my heart.  I grieve her, my sweet Jules.  It was her strong, beautiful, intelligent, funny, spirit that once brought such great joy and richness to my life. Her depression and illness also brought me great worry and pain.  I grieve over the pain that she suffered in her life.  I wish she could have known healing and peace in this life.

 In my stillness today, I allow grief to wash over me.  I would never deny my soul the need to grieve the loss of the treasure that was my beautiful Julie.


Terra said...

You expressed your feelings very beautifully here.

Betsy Adams said...

I have said this before --but I cannot imagine losing a child... It was hard enough to lose my parents and both of my brothers.

We all grieve differently.. George's parents lost a teenage son to suicide many years ago.. There were 4 kids in the family. George and Ken were the oldest --and Jimmy (the one who died) and Janet were 10 years younger. Apparently, Jimmy broke up with his girlfriend --and then killed himself. So sad and senseless.

God Bless You, Sally....

Linda Myers said...

Sitting with you in my own space.

#1Nana said...

I cried with you.

Terri Tiffany said...

I must say that you sound very healthy with your grieving. I'm glad you've discovered the way that works best for you. I think that's half the battle.

DJan said...

As you know, I've lost my children, both of them. It's been almost twelve years since Chris died, and still to this day sometimes I'll find myself tearful and vulnerable. I do the same thing: just let it pass through and then I'm better. Sometimes I'm weepy for no apparent reason, and a good cry will not be denied. You tell of your recent grief so well, and my heart goes out to you and Keicha during this time. Sending you lots of love, too. :-)

Jeanie said...

I am glad to hear that you have been spending time enjoying life with your family. It is also good to know that you are letting yourself feel all that you need to in remembering Julie. What you are feeling in seeing Julie's beloved Phoenix getting old can't be ignored. I am so glad you have those precious pictures.

Bossy Betty said...

This was an absolutely beautiful post. You are honoring your daughter by honoring your grief. The grieving process is a long and lonely one. Thank you for reminding us to help those who are on that journey.

Keicha Christiansen said...

Thanks for writing a post. I was so busy yesterday I didn't get one done, but this says everything I was feeling just perfectly. XO

dkzody said...

Your daughter is just so beautiful. It is good that you have those photos to hold on to that beauty. You honor her life with your cherished memories of good times. Thank you for sharing the beauty and the pain.

Jean said...

This is a wonderful post. All of your readers can benefit from it. Julie was certainly a beautiful young woman. I can only imagine the dreadful pain of losing her.

Elizabeth Cutter said...

Sally, thank you for being open and for sharing your hard-won wisdom. I am sorry you have had to walk through that valley but grateful for your courage and kindness in giving us a glimpse of how to grieve well. Looking at those lovely pictures of Julie, I can't imagine the depths. I pray for your comfort and peace.

Arkansas Patti said...

Sometimes it is just a word, sometimes a song, sometimes just a feeling but an anniversary is the hardest.
I haven't lost a child but lost many a loved one. We all grieve in our own way. I am just so glad you have your family to support you.
Hugs to you and Keicha.

Olga Hebert said...

So wise and basically positive approach to the grief that feels like it will never go away. Sally, this was so much a message I needed today--name it, sit with it, grieve it--that I have to thank you for it. It opened up the tear ducts that I have been fighting and avoiding lately as I get ready to really think about how my life is going to be from now on.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

A powerful post, beautifully written. Looking at those photos, it is hard to believe Julie was so tormented. And easy to see how much life and love she shared with you. Peace.

Linda Reeder said...

Just want you to know I have visited here today, and read your beautiful words. Any other comment would just be inadequate.

Jeanie said...

Sally, you are grieving well -- and right. Those grief bursts will get you again and again and they will come in-between some of your most joyous moments. By acknowledging them, you are both acknowledging Julie and you are living the life you know she would want you to live. And then you go on to the next thing. And round and round. Sometimes so fierce and hard it shocks you that many tears exist. Sometimes, just choking up. And you will laugh, too. At the good things past.

Grieving takes courage. And grieving well takes even more courage, especially after something so unplanned, so untimely. We mourn the passing of our elders, but we also know it was their time, a life long lived. Someone young -- the ache is so much stronger. But you move ahead, live the life you have -- and that you can do in honor of Julie and all your children.

Just know that a large number of people -- your family, friends, bloggies, too -- wrap their arms (real or virtual) around you and hold your heart close. Big hugs to you.

Mindy said...

Thank you for taking the time to write this. It is beautiful and comforting. I lost my husband when he was 45 and my son took his life at 17. Sometimes I feel like I am alone in my grief but clearly I am not. I know there are many others who know this pain. Your daughter is beautiful and this is a beautiful tribute to her and help to the rest of us, thank you again

rosaria williams said...

We can't live fully if we don't acknowledge all aspects of our lives. You are brave and strong here, willing to express what is so hard to express, allowing your emotions to have the light of day.
As I write this, I'm tearing up, knowing full well what you're going through.

You do know Julie had your eyes...

Tom Sightings said...

Thanks for the post, and just know that our hearts are with you.

Terry said...

This was beautiful. Your other posts on Julie have touched me as well. Thank you for sharing what must be a very difficult time in your life.

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh, friend, there are no words. I'm sorry. Just... sorry.

Grateful, too, for the wisdom you share here. And for the courage it took to share it. Love and prayers to you, my friend.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Your gift of words and deep honesty are helping so many who face loss, as you have. I admire your ability to convey your progress and share the process so openly with us here. Thinking of you and Julie and sending you love....Marcia

Linda P. said...

I, too, just want you to know that I have read the post and am thinking about Julie and all who loved her so much.

Jackie said...

No matter how much time goes by, I can't read your words without crying. Feel a gentle hug from here (South Georgia) to you, Sally.
And...I'm so glad to read these words in your blog today: "...happy milestones this past month." That is so wonderful to know. I wish you only happier and happier milestones in the months and years ahead. Truly.
Love you,

Rose said...

Sally, you are such an inspiration. Even though it must be difficult to write such powerful feelings, you are helping so many others who are also dealing with grief. Hugs to you, Rose.

John Paul McKinney said...

Sally, Thank you for having the courage to share your grief with us. Keeping you in my prayers; may sound weird to you but I just said a prayer to "St. Julie" for you. Who would better understand?

Perpetua said...

You write with great beauty, wisdom and love, Sally and do your darling daughter much honour as you do so. I simply can't imagine the grief of losing a child, especially to suicide, and admire so much the way you are facing your grief and learning to live with and through it to a different future.

Barb said...

I've been thinking of you , Sally - now I realize why. I haven't been on the computer much as the business of getting the Denver house ready for sale took over the month of May. Sweet Julie. These photos make my tears flow, too - I can't begin to imagine your great loss. But, you are a wise soul. Allowing your grief, yet moving on with life. You celebrate Julie by allowing yourself to find and express joy in what remains. Hugs to you.

troutbirder said...

Indeed. It has been seventeen years since our Ted fell to bi polar. I had resolved that day to carry on with his life mission of bringing joy and hope to those without either. It has kept me going as well..

Kay said...

Oh Sally... I'm so glad Keicha could be with you to celebrate the beautiful moments you shared with Julie and to mourn her loss. I believe every loss is handled in a different way.

My aunt lost her youngest daughter five years ago, and I thought she was fine because she didn't show her agony in front of us. Then... one day... She said to me angrily, "She promised to always be with me. She said she would always take care of me. She wasn't supposed to leave me!"

It's wonderful that you are showing us how you have managed to deal with the pain and yet focus on the beauty that was Julie.

Deb Shucka said...

Reading this much after the anniversary. Please know my heart goes out to you and that I so admire your courage and strength and willingness to embrace grief on its terms. Julie was a beautiful woman. I am deeply sorry she's gone. I love you.

Glenda Beall said...

This is my first time reading your blog, Sally. I applaud your excellent writing on grief and dealing with it. A lesson for us all. I have lost five loved ones in five years and I understand grief. I am sorry that so many believe we must be stoic and not cry when we should and need to cry. I am glad I found your blog on DJan's blog.

LC said...

In a 1978 Easter Sunday service in a small chapel at Yosemite National Park, the topic was the hard things of life. The minister said to go through the pain and darkness with thoughtfulness, thoroughness and thankfulness.

Your post reveals you continue to do exactly that. Thank you, my friend, for sharing this intimate journey of the soul.