THE GRIEF JOURNEY
Everyone grieves in a different way. As I said before Chris and Francis’ experiences are entirely different to mine (although I have probably bombarded them with an overload of thoughts and ‘learnings’ enough to drive them crazy)!
I made a conscious decision to learn as much as I could after Rowan died and I have had a colossal amount of help along the way. My first helper, Raewyn, the funeral director who looked after Rowan just after he passed, suggested I read Lisa Williams, ‘The Survival of the Soul’. Lisa is a renowned medium in the UK and Australia. Her two books (the other being ‘Life Among the Dead’) created an interest in me that snowballed. A colleague of mine at Statistics NZ, suggested I read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross MD, ‘On Death and Dying’. In this book Elisabeth talks of the now famous five stages of grief; denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These five stages can be applied to someone who learns that they are dying or to the people left behind after a death.
I think that we learn through suffering and not through love. The suffering, although a by-product of love, is the finger that fires the starter pistol on this journey. The trials and tribulations, after the initial bitterness, send you inside yourself and you have to depend wholly on your own vision of things rather than allowing someone else to tell you what is fact and what is fiction. Hence there is a need to read and research and formulate a balanced view of the tragedy.
How did my initial grief feel? The best I can describe it is that it felt like fear – I wasn’t afraid because the event had occurred and hence fear was superseded – but I had the same horrendous fluttering in the stomach, the cold feeling that stretches from the throat to somewhere near your heart, the restlessness, the constant need to swallow, the shallow, rapid breathing. I felt as if someone had placed an invisible muffler between the world and me. I felt as if my world was spiralling out of control. Nothing felt real. The emotions I experienced were those of numbness, anger, shock, despair, disbelief, anxiety, a yearning for what we had lost. I think this is the first time that I have actually analysed how exactly I felt at the time. I was totally overwhelmed. I was in the middle of a short term contract and I still had to function normally.
How did these initial feelings of grief manifest in my behaviour? Again this is something I haven’t really analysed. The restlessness was definitely a feature; settling to any one thing was damned-near impossible. Forgetfulness was a large part of my life for a number of months (add grief forgetfulness to menopausal forgetfulness and you have pea-soup)! I had some amazing colleagues who helped me through this phase; running around after me like mother hens! I suffered a loss of confidence. I lost interest in things that I normally loved doing like cooking. I avoided people. I avoided places that reminded me of Rowie. Many people struggle to sleep, have difficulty going to sleep or find themselves waking early. I found myself waking early. My doctor asked me if I needed some sort of medication to help. I said that I didn’t – I needed to feel every emotion clearly and understand it for what it was as I worked my way through the pain.
Physically my asthma seemed to worsen. I had stress reactions manifesting in feeling jumpy, like sort of waiting for something to happen. I had hideous, recurring invasive pictures of Rowie’s accident. My stomach constantly churned, my heart raced and I was hypersensitive to sudden noises. I had nightmares. I piled on heaps of weight. I was constantly tired.
I think I have more or less worked my way through the five stages of grief even though sometimes it feels like I have taken three steps forward and two back! I have accepted the reality that Rowan has moved on. The pain of grief and feelings of anger and high distress have lessened. I am struggling a little adjusting to an environment where Rowie is missing. I have little rituals that I perform every day that bring me closer to him. I periodically suffer a sinking feeling; a flatness of emotion. This week is hard. His friends who were still with us last year and constant company during their final school year have moved on. Most are starting their University lives this week – a continuation of their awesome journeys. We look forward to hearing about their experiences but obviously wish Rowie could be sharing their excitement too. I don’t believe that my grief will ever disappear although my heart has done some healing; I believe that I have expanded my life around the grief to allow me to continue living a relatively ordinary life again.
I am still very sure that I will be able to catch up with Rowie one day soon to ask him all about his life at the other side of the veil.
As I travelled this journey I found that I bounced from one thing to the next as I tried to learn about my soul purpose and spiritual path. I wished that I could find things all in one place. I have started a website that contains all the things that I found helpful during my journey last year; recommended books, crystals, candles, Angel cards etc. Please pop and look if you have the time, http://www.spiritualus.com