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.