Carrying our Grief

I came across the story of an orca whale whose calf had died; she was photographed carrying her baby’s body across the sea, holding it with her nose as if it would miraculously, in time, come back to life. She carried that baby for seventeen days and 1,000 miles on a “tour of grief”, until finally, the mother whale let it go. It was heartbreaking to watch or think about, and yet many of us can relate to this feeling of loss and deep desperation.

You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice (Bob Marley)

Losing someone that you love is hard; devastating really. I thought about this mama whale because a dear friend recently lost her child; he was a very bright and successful young man, and he fell into a dark place that he could not escape. He took his own life and I doubt that he knew, or even imagined, the ripple effect that his act of despair would have on the world around him… how could he know… he was in unspeakable pain that he hid from everyone, and he felt alone. While we all pray that he has found eternal peace, his family and friends are in mourning; their world has forever changed, and there is a hole that cannot be filled; it remains empty with the ghost of a lifetime of memories; the only thing they can hold onto. 

We all experience grief differently; some fall into a deep sadness, and want to push through the pain alone, while others prefer to tell their story… over and over…sharing memories to keep their lost person alive in some way. While there is not much that we can do or say to lighten this burden of grief, we can try to just “be” with them…be there, be gentle, be kind, and be a good listener.

Blue Christmas

sad christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for those who have a light heart and jolly spirit… for others, it seems like work to wear a smile and “go through the motions” that most people expect during the holidays. This year everything feels different. It feels empty to me. I lost my Dad three months and 21 days ago and I have missed him every single day since. My Dad REALLY loved Christmas. Each year he tried to out-do the previous year. He would always leave a voice mail message on my daughter’s cell phone (even at the age of 24!) saying “Ho Ho Ho! Have you been a good girl this year Shea bird? Santa Claus is watching!”… and always with the warning that “if you’re not good, you’ll get coal in your stocking!” Shea still has last Christmas’ message from my Dad, her Pop-Pop, saved on her phone. It makes us laugh and cry at the same time.

I truly believe that my father knew that last year would be his last Christmas. He asked each one of us to think about something special that we wanted. Instinctually I knew that he was “preparing” and wanted his last gift to be memorable and to always serve as a visible reminder how much he loved us, and was always with us, even when he could no longer be. I chose a pair of earrings which I have worn every day since he gave them to me last Christmas Eve. I will treasure them always; they are a reminder of a Christmas past that will never, ever be the same.

As for this Christmas…I just want it to be over. It hurts too much. Thanksgiving was difficult…but Christmas is much harder. I recently found a Christmas ornament that symbolizes the loss of a loved one and says that this year “they will be spending Christmas with Jesus”. Did it help? No. It just made me cry.

I am receiving beautiful Christmas cards in the mail and I am struggling reading them all. I can’t seem to sit down and write out my own greeting cards. I am still grieving. I hope everyone understands.

This year, I am working on Christmas Day. It is ok though. The distraction will be good and I will not be able to withdraw into my own thoughts or sadness. It is a gift to be able to serve others and have a purpose. I will be spending the day with amazing people who selflessly work in a profession that no matter how much you give of yourself, you always receive more in return.

I know that I am not alone in my sadness this year. My friend Susan shared this song with me today and it expresses everything that I am feeling… everything that I was trying to say in my blog, but stumbled along the way with broken thoughts and memories. Susan knows the pain because she just lost her father yesterday… another friend just lost his beloved service dog last week… The thing about grief is that it is so overwhelmingly painful by itself, but going through it during a time that is supposed to be joyous and hopeful makes the sadness feel even more profound and lonely.

Merry Christmas in Heaven Dad. I miss you.