A community of peers created by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation
''...I remember what she said to me, how she swore that it never would end...wish I didn't know now, what I didn't know then...against the wind..'' - (from 'Against The Wind', Bob Seeger - 1980)
After thinking, concentrating and deliberating about all that has happened over the past 9 months, there are a few things of which am fairly certain; that grief visits many new and frightening emotions upon us is not in question. Our challenge is to decipher those emotions and thoughts, and see how they will be applied to this different life. In the beginning this is not easy...we are in a fog, stunned beyond all previous understanding of the word, we are cast into a state of confusion and aquire a sense of hoplessness as we have not know before. We all know the feelings I'm speaking of, the shock, the terror, the tremendous sense of loss and bewilderment...and of course, always...the loneliness, the damn loneliness. At least six of those months were spent purposely wallowing deep in grief; I'm not talking about a state of wallow as you might first think. I don't mean the strictly narrow view of grief as one might suspect...not the trapped in self pity wallow so much; not the pity-party wallow, where we imagine all the misfortunes that there ever has been, have decided to take up residence in our lives...no, the wallow I speak of for me was about immersing myself in every aspect of DJ's death which I could think of. Making this wallow a parallel life of it's own, existing with the everyday things which must done; working, eating, visiting, making plans, laughing, crying...living. This goes far beyond investigating and exposing my feelings concerning my her loss; this entails trying to understand how that loss actually gave birth to those feeling, and why their impact has been so profound. It is an ongoing journey that has revealed to me many things of which I was not aware of before.
This was a purposeful submersion...not knowing what I intended to find, but knowing that for me, it had to be done. Some may wonder, why bother...it is loss and it will be felt; that is true, but as I sat in that window, leaning forward...thinking...pondering, trying to elicit some type of meaning from all that had happened, and which had caused this tremendous upheaval, not only in my physical, day to to day living, but in that most dangerous of places for me, my own mind, I knew it had to be done. It was clear to me from the outset that the things which I discovered probably would not be of my liking; that many of the answers I sought would not be found, and for sure, much of it I would never understand, but the attempt has to be made...the immersion had to be complete.
The hospice service we used had left information on grief and grieving, among the items were a card which simply said ' GriefShare Bereavement Services'...I started with that. In all my years it had never occurred to me that there were such services. Picking up at the fourth session of twelve, I attended the remaining 9. The information and fellowship I found there did make some of the things I was going through a bit easier. They addressed the issues of shock, bewilderment, and discussed the searing pain almost all of us there were feeling; there was talk of ''roller coaster'' rides and ''waves of grief'' which we could expect, but for how long was unknown. I had been under the impression that I could do this all at once...have all the pain, all the hurt in one neat package, deal with it, and be done; I had no idea what I was up against. Of course, that was when I knew everything.
Our life together really started during DJ's senior year in High School, with my interest in other females at an all time low, and her passion for my best friend finally extinguished, we declared to one another. From the morning after her prom, when, after having explained to her my big idea of us, and her accepting, we were inseparable. We talked constantly of the future and the things we wanted to do, naturally she would have to have a ring, an engagement ring. I had been hoarding a few hundred dollars, a small fortune to me at the time, for a new motorcycle, or possibly a trip overseas...it was decided that some of that money would be better spent on something to alert the world to our decision. We went to a jeweler's and negotiated for a token. Of course the one she really wanted, we couldn't afford, but the nice saleslady there offered that we could select a more modest model, make regular payments and after having built a record with them, upgrade to what we really wanted; so, it was done. DJ chose what would serve as the stand in, something which was decent enough to let everyone know we were serious, and just flashy enough to make her friends at school more than a bit jealous, she was a senior at the time. Over the next few months I made the payments religiously; we watched the coupons dwindle in the small book which served as our guide to how close we were to being able to upgrade. At some point, before the end of summer that year, we called the jeweler's and confirmed that it was time, and we could come and choose another ring; we made plans, picked a Saturday to do it, and waited anxiously for the day to arrive.
Now, the store was ''downtown'', about 25 blocks from where we lived, one way, and normally we would ride the bus there, (my car having to wait for repairs because of our current endeavor...); at the end of this particular summer, the bus drivers in our city were on strike when the Saturday came...if we wanted to get to the store, we would have to walk...a taxi was never considered. Twenty-five blocks may not sound like much to most folks, but to us city kids it was huge. It was decided we would walk; I had mixed emotions about the idea, but DJ would not be denied. We walked...and walked....it took most of that Saturday to get to the store an back...the next time I would actually walk so far, would be under threat of that not doing so would lead to a court martial. DJ wore those rings for the next 25 years, with the next upgrade coming at the renewal of our vows on that anniversary date. As I recalled all of this, it came to my mind that this had been our first joint venture, part of our first steps towards a life together, a life we had no idea of, and about which, we could never have dreamed of. Having had this minor success, we felt we could conquer the world, anything was possible, (''...there was no stopping us now!...''); such are the thoughts of young love. We were sure we knew just about everything; actually we were headed into that wind.
Today I am brought to earth as I listen to Seeger lamenting the disadvantage of getting older, learning more, and often understanding even less. That thorough wallowing I indulged in revealed just how many things I simply wish I didn't know now...I wish I didn't know about Chemo, blood counts, colons, side effects, picc lines, deductibles, Cobra, disability, and.... Medicare, morphine, hospice, and certain rites, just to name a few. I know for a fact that I could have done without the knowledge of extreme sadness, terrifying panic, and the despair and aches of loneliness; these things I surely could have bypassed in my continuing education. But, I do know about these things, and the wallow introduced me to them and many others in a more meaningful way. To say it was a painful exercise would be the epitome of understatement, I would take that Saturday walk we had any day rather than having to go through it, but it did serve a purpose, the examination paved the way for me to view this journey as another step in life I had to take and, it has made it a bit easier to travel at this point.
Gaining a comfortable perspective on DJ' death is a double edge affair; on the one hand a lot of the pain and anguish associated with it is removed, everyday is a lot easier without fearing a breakdown at any given moment. On the other hand there a sense of uneasiness in accepting the fact that she really is gone, and that I might get used to it...no matter, that is how it is coming to me, and much of what Seeger sings about in Against The Wind appears to reflect my sentiments exactly...I am starting to think that my getting used to being without DJ is simply not going to happen, more likely I will find some way to trick myself into living with the fact of her absence.
So, into another wind we head, this gale of a different life which brings many unknowns with it as it whips past us. Contained within are specks of memories which can sting the heart and produce tears in our eyes; carried along with it also is the debris of past dreams and wishes which can bowl us over or have us reaching for the nearest lamppost of the familiar just to keep from being swept away. Yes, it is a powerful blow, a personal nor'easter that we all must face at some point during our journey of grief, because that is the goal; to head into the strong breeze of a different life. For me, the cloak of hope I wear for this, tho incomplete, does contain sections of a new understanding and a greater appreciation for this experience we call life; the threads which join them are sturdy, being fashioned from the knowledge gained from understanding peers, steadfast and loyal family members and the benefit of months of self examination. We shall see how this garment stands up to this particular wind of change; I am sure a lot will have to do with how I dress myself in it. But at least I have an idea of it...that very elusive, somewhat amorphous fabric of hope.