Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Grief in the Long Term

Even a pen has a lifespan, I think to myself just as mine has run out of ink in the middle of writing a sentence. The pen doesn’t come back the following season like the leaves on the poplar tree outside my bedroom window will come back in the spring… ~ From “The Jim and Dan Stories” ~ by Colleen

During my husband’s study for his master’s degree in counseling, he did an internship with Hospice and helped to facilitate a grief group. Knowing my experience and interest in the grief process, he invited me to be a part of the group. I would have appreciated a support group after I lost my brothers, but it had been 3 years since their deaths, a little late for that sort of thing, I thought. Even so, my husband encouraged me to participate, thinking that I could be of help to others who had more recently lost loved ones, and eventually, I agreed.

Our first meeting – a small group of all women except for my husband – was held at the local library. For introductions, we were directed to go around the room and share with the group a little about ourselves and why we were there. I should have known when I had to hold back the tears while listening to other people’s stories that sharing wasn’t going to be easy, but I was still surprised to discover when it was my turn to speak that, even after 3 years, I couldn’t be counted on to articulate losing my brothers without falling apart.

How is this going to help others, I wondered? What happened to my open book philosophy of taking death and grief out of the closet? I could go to the Radford University class that was using my book as part of their grief and loss curriculum and talk about the book, what it was like losing my brothers, how I got through it. But on this day and with this group, I couldn’t seem to state the facts, form the tragic words, or even use their names without losing it. I felt like an alcoholic admitting a disease that I had thought I was in remission of. Hello, my name is Colleen and I lost 2 brothers. Jim died in a violent machine shop accident. I watched my brother Dan die of liver failure.

Ah, is this what they mean when they say that you can come to accept losing a loved one but that you never really get over it? It was a rude awakening to remember again that Jim and Dan are really gone and then to speak it out loud to others. But I learned a good lesson that day: There comes a point in the grief process when it’s not a good idea to pick at an old wound.

Note: Originally posted on looseleafnotes.com on November 23, 2005

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