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Swimming through the river

April 1st, 2005 · 2 Comments

Terri Schiavo’s death accentuates for me the fact that many people I know, from relatives to friends to bloggers, seem to be living in a season of loss. Yesterday on NPR I heard that Terri Schiavo’s parents didn’t have any funeral plans because they didn’t believe their daughter was going to die. Denial is one of the stages of grief.

I feel I am just now emerging from a time of mourning. Grief is its own beast. I learned I couldn’t control it. For example, I discovered I couldn’t make myself mourn for my brother. I was surprised at how little I cried for him when he died. At the same time, when I lost a different relationship in our lives, I couldn’t stop myself from sinking in the sadness. Depression can’t be dictated. I felt as if I were in the middle of a river at night and I didn’t know how long or wide or deep it was. I knew I wanted to get out, to get to the other side, to emerge from the emotional mess within me. Yet I couldn’t see the end. All I could do was to try to keep swimming. To keep afloat. Somedays all I could do was hang on until the next one. It was hard: it was difficult to tell others what I was trying to do. I wasn’t sure I could believe in God or anyone any more. The thought of trusting another relationship, whether with a person or spiritual power, seemed impossible, as did surviving the river. Somehow, I swam to the other side, riding on flotsam and jetsam, bits of debris, provided by friends and fragments of my faith. There were pieces of prayers, gasps and grasps into the darkness. The sun rose. And I found myself one morning out of the mess. I’m not sure I can say I did much to make it out myself. And I can’t say that everything is fixed and fine or that I’ve healed the hole inside me. I haven’t replaced the ripped relationships. Yet I now know I will go forward from here. My family will go forward from here. What happened was awful but it was also okay. I’ll be okay. I’ve found a peace and I’ve found somehow my faith again, enough faith to trust that what happened has a purpose in a plan. I can see that I’ve learned lessons and that I’m stronger.

People told me I was grieving but I didn’t believe it or I thought it was silly to be sad for the end of this relationship. Now I can see how I was stuck in the river of sorrow until I got to the other side. It was a strange eddy of emotion, one I couldn’t stop but had to ride out best I could. Grief is a beast but it is a polite if unwelcome guest: it will only stay a season.

For those who are mourning, from where I am right now, I want to say this: You will make it. Grab onto the branches and boats that come your way. Find fragments of truth to carry you in the currents, bits of debris you can still believe. Ask for help as you can. You’ll find the other side, the end of the eddy. The morning will come. Little by little the mourning will end. Sure it will still seep into memories and days, familiar images and fragrances stirring sorrow, evoking tears. But the swimming feeling will slow and cease. One day living won’t seem to be so much labor. You will look out on a spring morning as I am now, seeing the green of the grass and the blue of the sky and the pink of the tulips and be grateful for the spring within you. You will be glad you survived and thank those who brought you through it. Maybe like me you will find yourself believing in life, love and God with a hope bright and warm like sunlight.

I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant or overconfident. I know that there is a lot of pain in life I have never experienced. I don’t know what everyone experiences. And I do believe there are times for tears, for sobbing into sleep and wrestling with emotions. We will always have sorrow. I’m not sure we are ever completely healed. But I wanted to share what I am experiencing now for those who may be on the same journey. I felt so alone and I hope I can give someone hope.

Speaking of mourning…I don’t usually pass on forwarded messages but Rae sent me this note with a good reason to go today to Greg Hammond’s blog, a sweet site dedicated to the wife he lost to breast cancer one year ago today. He reminds me of Rod Kratchowill (who responded to my figure-skating questions).

Beginning at 12:01 A.M. PST April 1st, Greg Hammond
(www.californiahammonds.com) is hosting a Commentathon in memory of
the first anniversary of his wife’s death from breast cancer.

_All_ you have to do is leave a comment. Sponsors have committed to
donating money for every comment made. The goal is $10,000 with every
single dollar going to help low-income women receive mammograms.

Greg is also going to be giving away iTunes gift certificates once an
hour. There are other prizes: 3 iPod Shuffles, 1 iPod Mini, 1 Mac
Mini, 1 iBook Laptop. The condition on the iBook laptop is that it
only gets given out if it hits $10,000. There are no conditions on
the other prizes.

Please post about this on your blogs or copy and paste the message to
all friends you know who could take less than one minute to support
this noble cause. All you have to do is go to the site, and leave a
comment- it could be one word only or as long as you want. Comments
are limited to one per person in fairness.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read this. If you have time
tonight, go to the site and follow the links that Greg provides to
read a bit more about Cheryl. She was 36 years-old when breast cancer
took her life. It took five long years to consume her, it will take
you less than a minute to comment. Less than a minute to comment.

Tags: journal

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rae // Apr 1, 2005 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you so much for linking this Julie 😀

  • 2 mary // Apr 3, 2005 at 12:57 pm


    What a thoughtful piece on grief. I like your exploration of “ripped relationships,” too. Your confirmation of the emotional journey through pain and loss helped me this week.


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