Thursday, March 13, 2014

Live & Learn -- Coping with Grief

Each person handles grief and loss in their own way. Over the past week I have learned that my coping mechanism is to stay busy.
I left the hospital last Thursday after my dear Godfather, my Uncle Steve, passed away after a brief but brave battle with lymphoma. I had no idea what to do or where to go. I knew that my mom and her siblings needed time and space to grieve, but I was an emotional disaster and in no state to go back to the office, so I just went home and curled in a ball on my couch. I eventually cried myself to sleep, only to awaken a few hours later in a massive panic attack. That's about the time poor Stew called and tried to talk me down from my hysteria. Eventually he left work and came home and be with me.
Since then, I've realized that being alone, or quiet, or allowed to think, brings back the panic attacks and sobbing. I think about Steve, and how much I miss him, and the fact that I'll never see him again or introduce him to my son. I think about my sweet aunt and cousin and how great their suffering must be. I think about my angel of a grandmother, who has now lost her husband and three of her children to cancer. I think about my darling mother, whose loving heart has been shattered by the loss of her older brother, who she has looked up to her entire life. I think about myself, and how helpless and lost I feel. I think about faith, and the fact that if I believed in god I would give him the middle finger right now.
And to keep from being drowned by these thoughts and feelings, I stay busy. I attend graduations, and bridal showers, and yoga classes. I work, I run errands, I cook and I clean. I play the music too loudly in the car, because when it's quiet my thoughts begin to whirl and I catch my breath, realizing that once again tears are raining down my cheeks. I feel selfish, sad, and alone.
I think about Steve, and I try to focus on all the happy memories I have of him. The days we spent at Green Lake, walking for the American Cancer Society. The Irish Blessing he gave on our wedding day. The family barbecues he organized. His love of the Sounders. The random emails he would send me, with little tidbits about books he thought I would like, or inquiries asking me to question my faith (or lack thereof). He always, always forced me to think outside the box. I will miss his quick wit, his brilliance, his generosity, and his bright smile.
Let us agree
   for now
   that we will not say
   the breaking
   makes us stronger
   or that it is better
   to have this pain
   than to have done
   without this love.

Let us promise
   we will not
   tell ourselves
   time will heal
   the wound
   when every day
   our waking
   opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
   it can be enough
   to simply marvel
   at the mystery
   of how a heart
   so broken
   can go on beating,
   as if it were made
   for precisely this -

as if it knows
   the only cure
   for love is more of it

as if it sees
   the heart's sole remedy
   for breaking
   is to love still

as if it trusts
   that its own stubborn
   and persistent pulse
   is the rhythm
   of a blessing
   we cannot
   begin to fathom
   but will save us
Jan Richardson

Steven Dennis Swift
1952 - 2014
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  1. I am so very sorry for your loss. I lost my uncle in June to Cancer, and it has been the hardest 9 months of my life. He lived next door to me since I was younger, and I was so used to yelling across the driveways as he was fixing his boat, or cutting the grass. Everyday I think about him and end up crying, and just yesterday I went to call him and then realized I couldn't. I am not the person to tell you it will get easier, because it probably won't, but it will get less sad as you go through the time of mourning and into time of remembering. I'll be thinking about you, and even though I am basically a stranger, I am always here to talk. <3

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I didn't see my uncle nearly as much as you did, so I can't imagine how hard that must have been for you. But I'm glad that you have all those wonderful memories. I am starting to feel better and am getting good and remembering all the happy things when I'm feeling sad and overwhelmed. The whole blogging community has been so wonderful, I've appreciated it so much!!

  2. This was absolutely touching. I literally cried the entire time I read this. I am so sorry for your loss my dear, but you on the right track to thinking about the good memories. I have always been so sensitive to the way others grieve and not to judge their process. I lost my grandfather a few years back and I shut out the world. I eventually came around started trying to remember all the good he caused in my life. Hang in there love! The great thing about a blogging community is that tons of strangers will happily take the time out to lend an ear when you need it without thinking twice.

  3. I'm so sorry for your loss, dear girl!!!

  4. I'm so sorry you're having to go through such a sad time and, more importantly, that such a beloved part of your family has passed away. There's really not much that can be said to change any of the grief you're feeling. The one thing I can say is, the memories you're sharing of such an incredible man are sweet and so priceless.

  5. I'm so sorry you're going through this, friend. It sounds like he was a great man whose life will leave a lasting positive impact on everyone it touched.

  6. so sorry for your loss. I recently lost an Uncle too Feb 9th. and on that same day I had a cousin who had a baby. but the uncle was on my dad's side. the baby born was on my mom's side. It's so hard to lose anyone and i'm so sorry you're going thru. I've been grieving alot lately. 5 funerals since August 31, 2012 and it's been rough. i'm here if you need a friend. Just keep your Uncle Steve in your heart and his memory will live on forever. Prayers to you and the family

  7. Losing someone in the family is devastating. I currently have two cousins and one uncle battling different forms of cancer right now and it's definitely a struggle to hear about the setbacks when you just want everyone to be perfectly healthy again. My coping mechanism is also to stay busy or constantly work.

  8. I'm so sorry for you and your family. Your mom is such a sweetheart, I feel so bad! How horrible! The pictures of him are so nice though and he looks like he was a great man. I remember him from your wedding. Was he wearing an Atlanta Braves hat in that one pic? That's Dustin's favorite team. I hate life sometimes. We have these beautiful moments and then devastating ones, and life can change at any time. You never know when your last moments will be so I guess the only thing we can do is try to spend each one the best way we know how. It sounds like you were very special to him and I know his life was full with you in it, it's just a shame and so sad that your son will never know him but he shaped who you are so in a way he will know him through you!

  9. I'm so sorry for your loss and for the pain you are feeling. Grief is a process and while I'm not sure it ever gets easier, you will find a place to tuck it away. Thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.

  10. I am so sorry for you loss. I know cancer sucks. You gotta do what you need to when grieving. I found staying busy helped me in the beginning.

  11. I'm so sorry for you loss! Do what works for you <3

  12. Again, I want to tell you how sorry I am for your loss and for the pain your are feeling. I don't care what anyone says, each of us needs to grieve in our own ways. There is no "right" OR "wrong" way to do this. Sadly, life is filled with both good and bad. I know you are sad that you won't be able to introduce you baby boy to this man you loved, but you will still have the pleasure of telling him all about his great uncle. I know that it won't be the same, but it sounds like he is a man that you will hold forever in your heart. Many hugs.

  13. I am so sorry to hear about your dear uncle! It's crazy just how much I can relate to each and every word of this post. Grief is such a long and daunting road! Prayers that you and your family find peace during this time! I know how sad it feels realizing that a person you love won't be around to watch your little one grow up, but I find comfort that even if they aren't here on earth, that they are still around guiding me to be the best momma I can be!

  14. I hope you find comfort, the way I am, knowing that even if the person you love isn't here physically on earth, that they are still around you helping to guide you to be the very best momma you can be! Prayers momma!


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