Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Personal Look at grief, The elephant in the room.



















Robyn Bloem, copyright , 2014, all rights reserved
I didn’t know if the horrible, raw, bleeding pain of losing Lindsay and Emily would ever subside. I remember one day, very soon after their deaths, I accepted an invitation to go to lunch with two women from my church who had very good intentions.  They reached out to me in my misery and for some reason I accepted.  Actually, I know now why I did things like this; it was because when I was first hit with this tragedy I did all the things I had to do for my family because it was my duty to keep taking care of them and besides now they were all suffering too, but the other thing was I thought this would be my life from then on. If I was going to live and function, I would have to learn how to do it with a broken heart and a very heavy gait. I didn't realize at the time, the rawness would lift somewhat.


Pretty blue dishes
One of the things I tried to do was use a set of dishes Lindsay and I found one day when we were shopping together. There were enough to make up two sets, so she and I divided them. I remember she told me to take the eight dessert plates because "we will come to your house for dessert!" So as I looked with pain at my half of the dishes, I wanted to avoid them, but then I thought if I didn’t use them now, how could I ever use them and I also wanted to do it for her husband, Bill.  He had moved in with us and  I wanted him to be able to use the dishes when he went back home and not have that awful depressing impact when he looked at them. I don’t think the rest of my family even thought about those dishes or noticed…but I knew.  So, we used them-every night.
Grieving the right way
I was very concerned about “grieving correctly.” I had heard mumblings among the bereaved that there was something called "complicated grief" and a person could become its victim if she didn't do this thing "correctly."  I remember speculating that I had to think about Lindsay and I had to meet things head-on or I would somehow make everything worse.  I even feared that when I tried to think of other things and not feel the total agony of loss that maybe I would have something come around and bite me in the future.  I asked people if it was okay to try and think of other things or was that suppressing grief?
Talking about Lindsay was the proverbial elephant in the room.

Anyway, back to the lunch that day.  I sat there with these two merciful women who tried very hard to take me out and away for a couple of hours.  They chatted about meaningless and trivial topics trying to engage me. I was being slowly choked by it all. I responded and interacted with them the best I could but it was the proverbial elephant in the room.  I had just spent the day before with the monument company and we had been making decisions about the cemetery marker.  I remember looking out the window of the restaurant and wishing I had my own car.  I wanted to run out of the restaurant and get behind my own closed door at home… safely and quietly tucked away from everyone else.  Instead, I reached in my purse and took out the proof from the artist at the monument company.  I showed them what Lindsay and Emily’s stone would look like...monument, stone, marker; it all sounded so sanitized---it was her grave stone and what she was doing with one of those was a real mystery to me!  But anyway, when I opened up the conversation a little bit by showing them what I had in my purse, it at least afforded me a little time to talk about the only thing on my mind…our dead daughter and granddaughter. 
A learning experience

When I finally arrived home after that near-eternity experience in the restaurant, I realized a couple of things.  Number one- I determined never again to ride with someone else. I had to give myself an “out” by driving alone.  The other thing I realized  is that when I was home and as crazy as we all were acting, it was as if we all had the same disease.  Even if the symptoms were manifesting themselves  a little differently from time to time, we had all been there.  If someone wanted to stare blankly at the TV or go to his room or eat something or sleep on the couch completely sprawled out so that no one else had a place to sit…it was all okay.  We all knew the feeling. 


Sometimes the males in the house hand angry eruptions.


There were sometimes angry eruptions among all the males.  Grief is a different animal for males and females; I stood and cried in the kitchen or the bathroom or in the laundry room.  The guys were all very angry (and I was living with five of them; Steve, Sr., Bill and our own three boys). So, even though we were all crazy with grief, we all recognized the syndrome and we all understood. I did try not to break down in front of the boys, although they might find that hard to believe since I seem to cry so much now, but at the time I was trying to hold it together when they were home.


I was hugging a toy clown.


I can remember one time I was in my bedroom hugging a toy clown that was Lindsay’s and one of the boys walked in and caught me sobbing into its silky body. The look on his face made me feel terrible. I got caught in the act of heavy grieving-shamelessly rocking and crying. He left abruptly and I felt even more traumatized for having traumatized him. So I guess you could say, I had grief about the way that I was grieving. There was no manual on grief for us to follow. After the initial first couple of months, Steve would see me crying and say, "Well, the bible says, 'If any man is sad, let him pray.' " So we got accustomed to praying wherever we were; in the hallway, sitting on the stairs, in the bedroom, in the car and certainly at the cemetery. We were learning and growing by persevering and prayer. And I can say now, that grief still strikes deeply in our hearts here and there, but not to the degree and magnitude of those early almost bloody and painful days. God has been good and He showed Himself to us in the dark.


 And if you want to take me to lunch this week, I'm available, minus the elephant!