(Harold the Helicopter)
Today I actually feel pretty good. That is such a blessing considering that under a week ago I was desperately crying out to God to take me home. I know the fact that I feel that way sometimes means I should get help processing the grief, but I also know that with my history it will be best and safest for me to not push myself into that until I am pretty stable. It is kind of a catch 22 I guess. I can’t get help because I am struggling. I am struggling because I can’t get help…but first and especially second year I started learning to stand up for myself and to figure out how to support myself through things. I might have taken some steps backwards through the abuse third year, but elephants never forget and neither did I. Third year and the fallout gave me ample opportunities to start growing those skills to the best of my ability. Someone once suggested that I had PTSD surrounding another event. I posit that if that is true then I have comorbid PTG (post traumatic growth). I have found my inner warrior. I might be primarily a people-pleasing pushover, but I at least sometimes believe that I do have worth and I am worth fighting for.
I am not so sure the PTSD assessment was ever really that accurate, but that is not the point. The point is that grief storm attacks are normal, particularly in the first year surrounding the event. Considering that my “event” is more of a complex loss that occurred in pieces over a period of time, defining that year timeframe is kind of difficult. That is not to mention that the one year designation also does not make one immune to further storms of grief, but rather a somewhat arbitrary marker separating firsts from other hard events. It is easy to see the grief storm and feel like I’m not moving forward when in reality I am. I want forward motion to mean feeling awesome all the time and that is not how life works.
I am feeling apprehensive, because in almost exactly a month will be the first anniversary of the first match day last year. Maybe I will get lucky and the day will go by without a second thought…but probably more likely it will be a very challenging day. Last year on the 16th my red skates came in the mail and I tried them on that night before going to bed. The next morning I was taking pictures of my new skates to upload to facebook when I got a call from my mom to look for the match results. I figured it wouldn’t have come yet, but curiosity made me go look anyway. And my world stopped spinning. Grief is hard. It is crazy that it has been 11 months since then. It still feels raw like it was yesterday and at the same time it feels like it has been a million years that I have been fighting since then. In relation to another event someone once told me that I should try to do something exciting on the anniversary to cover up the pain and make it something to look forward to instead. Yeah, I’m not so sure about how that will work. To be honest, that day last year not only had the excitement the night before, but was originally a day to which I was eagerly looking forward. I was excited to announce my residency position. Then the excitement was crushed into disappointed agony. So I don’t really see how adding extra excitement will do much more than make the resemblance even more striking. And…umm, I may have decided to plan a party the night before anyway, because, well, mostly because I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to when the party was going to be when I said yes I would like to help plan. I am really hoping that the party is engaging enough that it at least is a little bit of reprieve from the pain that will most likely be happening that weekend. I am going to be brave. I am going to have a hard week, but I am going to survive.
Well, anyway, since I am already way far away from what I originally sat down to write, I guess I might as well go even further off course and share some of the things that have been saved in my internet for a long time.
I found this letter on the internet and the site was citing it from somewhere else that was citing it from somewhere else and I got tired of trying to track down the actual original reference, so I guess this is probably kinda copyright infringement or something, but this letter about grief I felt was not identical to my experience but did have a lot of things in there that I would very much have liked to have been able to express. I bolded a few of the things I would really have liked everyone to know.
Dear_____________________(Family, Friends, Pastor, Employer),
I have experienced a loss that is devastating to me. It will take time, perhaps years, for me to work through the grief I feel because of this loss.
I will cry more than usual for some time. My tears are not a sign of weakness or lack of hope or faith. They are the symbol of the depth of my loss and the sign that I am recovering.
I may become angry without seeming to have a reason for it. My emotions are heightened by the stress of grief. Please be forgiving if I seem irrational at times. I need your understanding and your presence more than anything else. If you don’t know what to say, just touch me or give me a hug to let me know you care. Please don’t wait for me to call you. I am often too tired to even think of reaching out for the help I need.
Don’t allow me to withdraw from you. I need you more than ever during the next year.
Pray for me only if your prayer is not an order for me to make you feel better. My faith does not excuse me from the grief process.
If you have had an experience of loss that seems anything like mine, please share it with me. You will not make me feel worse.
This loss is the worse thing that could happen to me. But I will get through it and I will live again. I will not always feel as I do now.
I will laugh again.
Thank you for caring about me. Your concern is a gift I treasure.
I wish I had found this sooner. I might have actually posted it on facebook or something if I had been able to find the energy and motivation to do that. I wish that I had found it though because of those phrases at the end “I will not always feel as I do now. I will laugh again.” That is a piece of hope that I am not sure I would have actually believed if I had found this too soon, but that piece of hope is something that I still am clinging on to. Sometimes it feels like nothing will ever change and I am going to be stuck here forever. Okay, most of the time it feels like that. It feels really good to try to believe that maybe someday there will be something more for me than this pain.
I also found more recently a page by I think it was Margaret Feinberg about what not to say to someone grieving. Usually I hate that kind of list because everyone is so different and what someone else wants to hear might be what I can’t stand and vice versa. This list though had some things that I agree with. What not to say: you must feel so close to God right now. Umm, no, no I didn’t. I felt like God didn’t care about me, and that is not a close feeling…Instead pray for me. I like that this is phrased “for” not “with” me. While I did appreciate people who prayed with me, the first few days I didn’t want that because I didn’t feel like God was good anyway. Oh looking back I know I needed the prayers at that time, so please do pray for me, but I wasn’t ready yet for the praying to be with me. Don’t say have you tried more super foods? Yeah, trying to create easy solutions for me is not what I need when my world is falling apart. Sure, most people do drown in water where they could have stood up, but screaming at them to stand doesn’t help them. What helps them is jumping in to the water with them and holding them up out of the water. Instead be with me…I am a person, not a problem to be solved. Yes, there is a huge power in with. I crave community all the time, but in grief is isolating and a time when I really needed people but had even less ability to cultivate it…and I wanted people to be with me, not give me a list of what I should be doing differently or an “easy” answer that sure didn’t seem easy or like an answer to me. The third thing on this list was Don’t say let me know if I can help, instead make a specific offer. This one I am not so sure about. I actually really appreciated people who offered to help even if the offer was vague. Sure, I might not have known or if I did know I might not have been able to express it, but just the offer meant a lot to me. And to be honest, even a specific offer that was exactly what I needed could very easily have been turned down because I didn’t want to be a burden, I didn’t want to be anyone’s little charity project, I didn’t want to be needy, I didn’t want to end up in a situation that could get me in trouble, etc…
So yeah, I’ll end with a book title I found and fell in love with…(no I have not even looked for the actual book to read).
“Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved.”
Oh yeah, and this would be a good time to say thank you again to all the people who have made a huge difference with your kind and welcoming and supportive words and actions and stuff. Thank you so much for believing in me and for me when I didn’t believe in myself and couldn’t believe for myself. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for the time you took to enter into my world. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for putting up with my sometimes misplaced frustration and with the crazy that came out when I was hurting. You mean so much to me.