#4 Grief & Loss, the importance of allowing the process

Part of this “un-becoming” journey to healing, was not only being accountable for my choices, understanding the “whys’ of my decisions in life, but also, facing some significant “tough experiences” for me, that I’ve either struggled with or buried away (avoided). Just as good cream always rises to the top, eventually, so will the traumas that were never faced, to allow healing.

Sadly, I’ve attended more Funerals in my life than Weddings. A few of these, were lives that were taken far too soon. We don’t come with an expiration date (or warranty), we have the blind faith that we’re immortal, especially in our youth, but ultimately, when your times up – its up.

Losing a senior (grandparents) loved one, is hard, it hurts, however whether it be terminal illness or simply their body lived a long full life and was too weak to continue, its “expected” almost, they take their last breath, you miss them, allow the void of their absence and embrace the times you were able to make special memories, which will fill in the dark space inside. I, unfortunately lost friends, close to my own age, many actually, before I turned 28… lives taken suddenly, its not simply processed or considered a reasonable expectation, there is no way to mentally prepare or process a life that was just there – and now, gone. These were each very traumatic experiences for me, as mentioned in the “#3 Coming Home” entry, we didn’t discuss the “tough stuff” in our home, these were definitely tough, I developed a coping mechanism apparently of shutting down and tuning out traumatic incidents as never developed the skills required to effectively process them – out of sight out of mind… but they don’t go away, not ever. They’re compartmentalized, packed up, sealed tight, placed up o a “shelf in the back”, never to be revisited… but, they’re always there…..

A childhood girlfriend, her younger sister was murdered by a previous sex offender that had just been released from prison, a very close girlfriend, engaged to be married and just beginning her two weeks vacation before starting a new career, died unexpectedly in her sleep, two friends brothers were killed, one by a drunk driver, one in a small plane crash, my cousin – took his own life, (along with multiple family members and friends parents passing in between these occurrences). Two sudden deaths, were simply far too traumatic to ever accept or face, I lost two male friends, each, I had such a strong bond with, to date, I’ve never faced, accepted or allowed the stages of grief, until now.

I met Dan, when I was 12yrs old, he was 13, at one of my twin brothers BMX races, just by our house. He was scruffy, nervous, awkward, and we knew, the moment our eyes locked, that we were supposed to be friends. As life has it, I applied at a local golf course just down the road, during my orientation, while walking the grounds, there stood Dan, stopped right in his tracks. Turns out, the golf course belonged to his parents… we became inseparable. As we grew older, I knew he hoped our friendship would turn to more, I only saw him as a brother, the friend zone. He was a “wild child”. Private School, Sports Cars, living the “high” life, was how he was made up. Drugs and alcohol didn’t fall far behind. I was the country girl, lived simply and (likely because of my Dads issues) never got into any “trouble” never mind reckless living styles. Dan’s graduation from College was approaching, he asked me to please come with him, being a private school, it was far away so I’d have to go for the weekend. In all those years, he never had a girlfriend, said he was waiting for me. I was 18, had a boyfriend and didn’t feel comfortable going away. That Sunday, I was working in the Club House Lounge when a friend showed up and asked to talk. I KNEW, just from the look in his eyes… something happened to Dan.. I could feel it. I flew down the stairs and ran over to his Mom’s house on the property… His Step Dad met me at the door, he didn’t have to say a word. Dan was a passenger in an SUV, there were 4 others in the truck, they were all impaired, the driver lost control, crashed into the side of a mountain, Dans body was ejected from the vehicle, everyone except the Driver were killed instantly. My Mom took me to the funeral, beforehand there was the service, as I approached the casket, I noticed the lid was open? I’d never attended an open casket funeral prior. I remember kneeing beside him (oh god.. I’m typing through tears here…) I put my hand on his, it was so cold, he looked like a wax figure from a museum. I told him I was sorry I wasn’t his date, I will miss him and love him, he wasn’t there, I couldn’t feel him there at all. I was in shock. Following this, at the burial, I remember being calm, until they began to lower him into the ground. Complete terror and fear took over, I started screaming and two people had to hold me back from jumping in after him. We drove home in silence, it was never discussed again. I visited him mom a few times in the days to follow. One night, I’m sure she must have had a couple of drinks, she looked at me and said “Why didn’t you just go with him, he loved you, he always did. If you went, he never would have been in that truck”. She sobbed and all I could do was hold her – as the guilt and the “what if’s” filled up my entire soul. Not a single day has gone by following where I don’t think of him, where he’d be in life, would we eventually, when he smartened up, have ended up together… I can’t speak of him without tearing up. I did reach out to his sister via email just last week (I searched for her contact) as was hoping to connect with her Mom, told her I haven’t ever healed from losing her brother and would be so happy if she could pass on my message. She never responded.

Another loss, I’ve never accepted, was my childhood neighbour and friend Steven. He was the first friend I made when we moved to the country, he lived right next door. This tall skinny blonde cutie was 7 and I was 5. He was the older brother I never had. Steven chose a very toxic path in life, much different from mine. From 19-45, he was in and out of prison. When he ws out, he was back in my life, when he went MIA, I knew why. But he was ALWAYS there. 4 years ago, he developed an infection in his heart, I drove to the hospital, we reconnected without missing a beat, I was going back to see him the next night, he passed away peacefully before I could make it. Here’s the reason why its SO IMPORTANT to allow the 5 Stages of Grief…. I didn’t attend his funeral service or the burial. My family did. I simply shut it out of my mind. Wouldn’t accept it, face it but mostly, never said goodbye, even if it was at his final resting place. I hurt his Mom also by doing this. It is without question, the single worst decision I’ve ever made. I live with horrible regret and guilt, and I can’t ever get the chance back again to rewrite this. His Mom knows how difficult it’s weighed on me, but my avoidance of losing his, has left a large dark void in my heart that causes physical pain when I think about him. I am going to drive out to meet his Mom and go to the gravesite together before end of Fall this year to make peace with not only losing him, but to atone for not saying goodbye. I feel both Dan and Steven with me regularly. Part of me believes they need me to let them go.

Grief isn’t easy, its not supposed to be, if it didn’t hurt, their lives wouldn’t have been significant in your life. The more it hurts, the more relevant they were. Hurting means you’re feeling. The stages hurt like a SOB, but allowing them, learning to cope with the pain and working through each as they present – is the only way to be able to fold up everything special, into the memory box piece by piece, blow it a kiss and THEN, place it up on the “shelf”, to revisit should you want to view a happy prior memory. The alternative, when it decides to surface, I promise you, it will – is far more painful and damaging than any healing stage of the process. Its like losing them over and over again with every memory. Their spirit needs to rest, and so does yours.

Step 1. #Accountability; “choices”, you made them, own your part in the outcome.

I remember vividly the rainy night I was sitting in my favorite muskoka chair outside, consumed with heartbreak and loss, grieving a recent breakup. All the stages seemingly at once of grief (totally can picture a Bridgit Jones manic episode as I type this out). We all have had heartbreak, it can feel like you’re dying inside, every slow song on the radio torments you, situations trigger memories, I won’t even touch on the self induced torture of deciding “The Notebook” would be great selection to watch during this time. Something else happens…. we’re hurting so badly and loneliness is filling up inside, that we start to romanticise the reality. Suddenly the reasons that were blindingly clear that it wasn’t healthy or sustainable begin to be replaced by the “perfect times”, the loving moments, the memories shared together… oh, hello self doubt, was waiting for you to appear. I could easily go on and on about this – however, good things don’t end. Remember the bad, remember how they made you feel over and over again, remember the tears, the loneliness you felt when they were right beside you… THESE are the realities. Easier said than done.. totally get it, but you don’t “get it” until you’re over it. THEN the “why in the sweet holy hell did I ever stay, no, GO BACK multiple times – knowing the outcome would result the exact same or worse – maybe this time ….. CHILD, NO! Its your heart playing games with your head… its not the “hope” this time it will be different – its fear – of continuing on with how badly it hurts, being alone, the long exhausting process of meeting or even the idea of meeting someone else, they couldn’t ever be like “he/she” was, right??? Thats the point, you dont want them to, it ended for a reason (or multiple). Its plain and simple grief. Its normal, if you werent suffering horribly over the loss, you didnt love them.

This however, wasn’t a “normal” relationship or breakup, where feelings are hurt, possibly jaded… this was an extremely toxic, abusive, demoralising, damaging, constant walking on egg shell based, loaded with multiple traumatic experiences mixed in. I didn’t go back once, I went back 5 times prior. I put my daughters and family through the hellish tormoil and constant worry for me, 5 times prior.

I digress for a moment if I may, soon after the breakup, a girlfiend had recommended a book for me to read that helped her during a marriage ending.. “Why Does He Do That”… I downloaded it to my Ipad and read no more than about 3 pages… “WTF”, WHY am I focussing so much energy even beginning to attempt to try to understand how or why he acted as he had (with a long history of the same behavior to others he “loved” FYI), WHY did I ever not just allow this for myself, I chose… no, contintinued to choose him over an over. What’s wrong with me? If asked, I’m a zero BS, blunt when it comes to advise to others, how can I be so willingly neglegent to my own self worth?

The “superpower” aspect of having an ADHD mind, is that theres hyper-focus, its like having the mental ability to process as if a panel of 8 advisors debating in your mind at once. So, this one raining night while the internal playing of my relationships “Greatest Hits” was going off, so was the “advisory commitee”, my broken heart and sad mind all together at once, when it hit me like a bolt of blinding lightening…. Why am I missing him? Why did I choose anyone to be a part of my life like him? I wasn’t a prisoner or victim of circumstance, I saw the flags 3 weeks in and ignored…. actually, why is my history filled with being drawn to broken, damaged men? Why do I almost starve for dominant males approval to validate me? The “nice guys”, great friends, but have always deemed them “weak” to consider dating, just no immediate chemistry. Hmmmmm… theres a pattern here.

Welcome to the stage – Accountability. I had never ever prior, taken a step back in life and said to myself “ok, well isn’t this a fabulous shit show… how did my choices result to this”. Now, I’m not going to sugar coat it and say the remainder of the evening was pleasant, far from it. We all have little compartmental spaces in our minds for memories… as I began to go back farther and farther through the years, teens, child, baby… instead of reflecting on memories as that age, I observed them through adult eyes. Hidden compartments putting together little flash backs that never made sence suddenly fit together, truth be told, nobody can prepare you for when your authentic story & truth appears, we mature, evolve and gain experience as we get older, however, who we are now – was created from every one of those experiences, life lessons, memories. Its a package deal, our character makeup, from the past to the present. Before I realised it, the sun was coming up, I was raw, hurt, angry, sad – a million other emotions mixed into the melting pot, and didnt speak with my immediate family for just over 2 weeks, explaining only that I needed a little bit of space.

If you aren’t willing to be accountable for your choices which played a part in your life – you’re simply covering issues up with a light layer of dirt… the same cycle will continue.