I took an online survey about grief from someone doing a university research study. I was asked to write about my experience. On most surveys when they ask for comments, I can barely come up with a sentence or two, but in this case, I found myself writing paragraphs! It just flowed out of me. It appeared that the survey allowed for lengthy comments, so I just kept writing until I was satisfied I'd said everything I could say. Below is what I wrote.
My life will NEVER EVER be the same after losing my daughter. She was our only child. She was married, but separated, and she and her husband had no children, so we have no grandchildren, and now, we never will. We have no family now, (as far as father/mother/children). Everything about family--all the things families do together--holidays, dinners, birthdays, special occasions, trips, vacations--will never be the same again.
It's hard to imagine that I'll never hear her voice and her laughter again (apart from a sparse few recordings). It’s hard to think we’ll never sit around and have deep conversations and great debates and fun verbal sparring matches like we used to have. It's hard to think that all the creative and artistic things she did are now all I'll ever have; there won’t be anymore. I look around the house and EVERYTHING reminds me of her. It’s hard to think that I’ll never get to pal around with her, and do fun things with her ever again. I go places that we used to go to together and I'm faced with so many memories of things we’ll never do together again! It’s hard to think that I will make new friends who never knew her and it will be impossible for me to fully explain or relate what a wonderful, awesome person she was. It’s hard to accept that I'll grow old and she won't be here.
HOWEVER, all that said--although I do miss and will forever miss her-- I also do know LIFE GOES ON. I will learn to adjust as time goes by. I know I will ALWAYS grieve her loss, but I will adjust. In spite of the bottomless pit of loss I feel, and as much as I know my life will never be the same, I do have hope that life can still be good; just forever changed.
I feel angry sometimes about not being able to change what happened. Sometimes I'm angry because she's in heaven enjoying herself while I'm grieving so horribly here. The anger is temporary though. I cry and let it out, and then I'm OK. I allow myself to cry as often and as much as I need too. It almost always makes me feel better to cry and let it out. Occasionally, it doesn't make me feel better. I think the difference is some crying releases sadness or anger or pain and it’s helpful. But, crying that is just self-pity and feeling sorry for myself is not helpful or cathartic.
I often find it hard to go about my daily life. Grief is physically exhausting. Along with not sleeping well, I feel exhausted all the time. Sometimes on hard days I just want to sit and do absolutely nothing. I have trouble concentrating. I'm forgetful. I have low tolerance for frustration. I procrastinate. I used to be a very timely person and now I find myself running late or missing deadlines. Sometimes I don't care how I look or how my house looks. But, I planted a memory garden and I take great care of the plants and flowers. I've never gardened much before this.
I am able to talk to friends about my grief. I know which friends I can be real with. I know a few friends who are uncomfortable and don't want to hear so much about it. A few I avoid completely because they are too negative and only bring me down. One type of person I avoid is the self-proclaimed expert on grief who thinks my experience should be exactly like theirs. That really annoys me. This is my grief journey and no one else can tell me how I should or shouldn't be feeling or what I should or shouldn't do or how long it should or shouldn't take, etc.
I don't mind if people don't know what to say or can't imagine what I'm going through. I don't expect people who haven't gone through this to comprehend it. I didn't before this either. I can forgive people who say the wrong thing sometimes; because I understand they just don’t know. In the past, I’ve inadvertently said foolish or hurtful things to people because I was once ignorant too. Ignorance of this kind of grief is a blessing!
I write and journal about my feelings and thoughts. I post things about what I'm going through on Facebook and I also have a blog. People say it's helpful to read what I write and it encourages them in things they're going through, even if it's not grief from a death. I've learned that people grieve over many things, and grief can take many forms. Even though there are similarities and commonalities, everyone's grief journey is personal and individual.
It hasn't been very long for me, just 4 months, so I'm still in the thick of it, and will be for quite some time. Some days are REALLY, REALLY, REALLY HARD! Other days I feel "almost" normal. It's a roller coaster. Even on the good, "almost" normal days, every moment I'm acutely aware of her absence.
Her death traumatized me in so many ways. Fear is one way the trauma manifests. She died suddenly and unexpected, and sometimes I think about what happened to her, and wonder if it could happen to me, my husband, or someone else I love.
My husband experiences grief differently. He cries too, and he isn't ashamed of it. But, he cries less often than I do, and things that trigger his tears are different for him than me. He is more private about his feelings. You wouldn't see him talking about it on Facebook, for instance. But, he and I talk about it together. In a lot of ways, grief has brought us closer together and strengthened the bond between us. Even though, especially in the first initial days afterwards, it was easy to feel irritated with each other. I think a lot of that was lack of sleep and overwhelming emotions. But, in general, we are very gentle with each other because we know how much we're hurting. We draw strength from each other. We also draw strength from our faith in God.
Although I've had some moments of feeling angry towards God, those feelings are not dominant and are quickly put aside. I don't blame God for what happened. I trust God to help us through it and I look to him for comfort and strength. I know He is with us and helping us bear it.
I don’t believe God causes things to happen for some higher purpose or to make us grow. But, I fully believe God can use tragedies and sorrows, not only to make us better people, but so we can be a comfort and help to others going through the same kinds of things. My hope in being able to move beyond this, and still have a good life in spite of it, comes from my faith and trust in God.
It brings me great comfort to think of my daughter being in heaven. I’m so glad she’s not in any pain and she’s completely whole and happy. I think in heaven she’s doing all the things she loved to do here, with no frustrations, and nothing holding her back from being all God created her to be. I also have confident hope of being reunited with her again. It will be so fun to have her show me around, and show me all the things she’s done, and introduce me to all the people she’s met in the meantime while she's waited for me to get there. It will be more awesome than I can imagine!
Sara Faith Nelson
Sharing the journey, because, I find there are so many others making the trek through life without a loved one