Saturday, July 07, 2012
Grief - How Did I Do It? (The First Week)
I've written about my son who died last January at the age of 26. I've written about how you can help those who grieve. But I don't believe I've written about my own grief. I would like to say that's because I am a very private person. But as a writer, I don't know if I would convince you of that, especially because - in some ways - I am anything but a private person.
But if you really want to know the truth, it took me years (decades, actually) to reach the point where I could write not just what I did and thought, but from my heart...or, at least, to open my heart to you a little bit as I write. For most of my life, I denied my emotions. Pain? Loneliness? Grief? I have faith. I have to just "get over it" or "offer it up". But a few years ago I finally learned something. Sacrificing for God or for others is all very good, but to deny grief is not the Christian way; it is not Jesus's way. Jesus wept. He wept over Jerusalem. He wept when Lazarus died...even though He knew He was going to raise him from the dead!
Today someone emailed me and asked if I know of a Catholic Mom's blog about grief. No, I didn't. But I could write a blog post. So here I am. Now you know why I am writing this...because I hope it will help those of you who grieve and those of you who watch others grieve. All I can do is share what I've learned, what I've experienced and felt, and what has helped me. Just so you know, my experiences, my pain, my grief are different from that of my husband or children, or anyone else -- because we are all different. Just so you know, I don't expect your grief - or your family member's or friend's grief - to be like mine. Come to think of it, it undoubtedly won't be like mine. But I am going to be brave and share in the hopes that some little thing I say might help in some small way.
When I found out that my son had died, I was in a sort of shock that held me up. I needed to reach my husband and all of my children (with all of them being adults, not all of them were here at home and not all of them were in our town). So I squashed my emotions, which wasn't all that hard, simply because I had practiced it for nearly half a century. When I thought of calling my sister - who had died just six weeks before - that's when I broke down.
We had to go to my son's town to arrange for the funeral. On the way, we stopped for lunch at Subway, where I have eaten many times, yet I had no idea what to eat. Once we reached town, we met the rest of our children and went out to dinner. Stupidly, I ordered steak, one of my favorite foods. And then I sat, staring into space, while someone asked me why I wasn't eating.
"I want Paul, not steak," I whined. My husband smiled kindly and said Paul would want me to eat. And I knew he was right and I ate...not because it was good but because I'm very aware that I'm the kind who needs to eat in order to function.
Having our family together, and with others, was a huge support. Most everyone was so generous and good to us. My son's church let us use their former convent to stay in, and just being able to start some coffee brewing and cook my usual breakfast each morning helped me feel a little bit more like "normal"...not that life was normal or ever quite would be again, but it made me feel more like I was still normal, like I could get through this.
I cried throughout the Masses we attended while we were there...in the church he attended so many times, often daily...with all the people he knew...and with the priest talking about his life and example. But it was good to cry...there, so close to Jesus.
One thing I noticed during that trip was my shoulders. I would get through this! But I noticed I was lifting my shoulders stiffly, sending them the pain, to store away for me, so I wouldn't have to deal with the pain now. Transferring the pain of my soul to my body. It's interesting what we do to survive.
This is very long and I need to take a break, and frankly, you might too. I am going to draw a veil over the funeral because neither you, my dear reader, nor I, need to "go there"; but I hope to write a little more about the past six months or so - and dealing with the grief - in another blog post. I just want to say, in closing, that God is with us. He is good...all the time, and as Paul often told me, "God is love".