at MOPS today the speaker spoke on loss and grieving. she spoke about her organization, New Hope Grief Support and what they do. she really slapped me in the face with her words...in a good way...in a "wake up and realize your grief" kinda way.
her name was Sue Beeney...she was so sweet. before she spoke she flagged me down in the hall and asked me my name, "its Carlee" i said..."ooohh...you just so look like a Carlee...your outfit is so darling and i love your tights and your whole person is just so precious!" and she hugged me...so...of course i loved her and listened to everything she said and we are now BFFs...i dont think i have ever been told i look like a Carlee before...i guess i have always struggled with my name...maybe from people telling me they knew a dog or had a dog named Carly...(because they wouldnt spell it Carlee right?) but coming from Sue i took it as an extreme compliment and her kind words made my day and made me realize how important it is to uplift people however terrifying it may be to impart a compliment to a stranger.
anywhoooo...the topic was hard...last year sucked...i lost one of my good friends and my uncle within months of each other. i am still processing. i realized today i still have a lot to process, and thought this would be a good place to start. she mentioned the importance of journaling and i realized that by writing about Devon here i helped to express a little of that grief and not carry it with me and i realized i still have a long way to go.
i also had a miscarraige 2 years ago that i am still processing and grieving as well. people may think that once you have a baby after a miscarraige that it is similar to replacing a dead goldfish or hamster with a new one, but anyone who has had a child or lost a child could testify it is something you will always remember and grieve in your own way. its so common - one in every three or four women will have experienced it and few talk about it. i decided after it happened that i would be open about it because i wanted to invite conversation about it however hard it would be and i knew i made the right decision when a few days ago a friend called to tell me she suffered one and knew i had and wanted to talk about it. when i opened up to people about it and learned how many other women have gone through the same i felt a little more comforted in that grief...that i dont bear it alone i guess...is that selfish? human? i found great comfort in the story about a miscarraige in the book Baby Catcher and remembered writing this post shortly after.
her point that hit home to me was her three things she would want to tell any grieving person:
1. everything you are feeling/experiencing is normal
2. you are not crazy
3. give yourself persmission to grieve
she also gave us permission to show that grief to our children. she talked about the importance of showing grief to children. i felt so much better after i heard this because i have broken down SEVERAL times in front of bryson about devon...
"why are you sad mommy"
"because i miss my friend devon"
he would comfort me in his way and in his "windows" and then i would feel bad for not being able to keep it together for my child, but her words and wisdom and experience relieved that and made me realize how NORMAL grief is...how HUMAN it is...how NECESSARY it is. she called tears the "Pain Drain" - she said there are studies of tears from sadness - that they contain toxins the body expels - that they are different than the tears one sheds from joy - no toxins in those. that was huge to me...it told me God designed us to cry.
one of the most cathartic essays i ever wrote in college was one i had my senior year - it was to write about a Christian cliche that you couldn't stand and why. ohhhh....so many to choose from....but i chose the topic of suffering. how some Christians like to paint a smiley face over suffering instead of embracing it. i chose the cliche that i heard a zillion times "Suffering produces character" true...but so misused when one is in the midst of it. i found solace in the books of Lametations and Job and Ecclesiastes and still turn to these in times of contemplation and anger and questioning and despair. I love the practice of All Saints Day in the Catholic churches - to speak the names of the dead - to memorialize them. the Protestant churches dont tend to practice this...and that makes me a little sad...
i was/am very fortunate to have found some Christian friends in college who are very real in their faith and friendship and don't shy away from the tough stuff. my uncle commited suicide and the emotions involved in a passing like that are beyond comprehendable. i still am in a processing mode (have i overused that word yet?) and my heart is broken for his wife and boys he left behind. i am constantly in a state of bereiving the great man that he was and memorializing his legacy and the great things he has done and anger at the way he left this world. i think it is important to separate the two...
over the last 3.5 years i have lost 2 uncles and 1 friend and 2 of those deaths were very sudden and Devon's was very drawn out and expected, but i realize that there is a sort of closure with someone who passes due to a terminal illness. at least you make a peace...at least you can say your bittersweet goodbyes...at least you have some sort of journey with that person...when a loved one passes so unexpectedly the process is that much harder...it continues for so much longer. like...forever...it seems...
i felt released today of a lot of guilt i have been harboring...just in the sense of dissecting guilt as an emotion alone and how man-made it is...how it is something so personally constructed...i let go of the guilt of never saying goodbye to my grandma, of not spending enough time with Devon in her latter months, of not spending enough time with my uncles and telling them how much they meant to me, of the baby that never was born. it was so nice to spend time with other women in the atmosphere of comfort of being able to release a lot of that emotion...of not being afraid of that or embarrassed by that.
i decided today that the only way to change a lot of the Protestant cliches surrounding death is to be more open myself. to open myself up to be there to grieve with someone - to not cover it up with a joke or sarcastic comment - to let that person cry when they need - to not be afraid of tears, but to share in them with that person if need be. to not "talk them out of grief" but to journey alongside them and let my grief be exposed. and above all to acknowledge grief. so important. i remember when my grandmother died i was in such community - i was in college - surrounded by friends...Christian friends...i remember the only person who sent a card was my friend Charlie...it meant so much to me...i think everyone else didnt know how to be there in my grief and shied away from it, but for someone to acknowledge it in that way meant so much. just a simple card...just a simple note to let someone know that you realize they are grieving and that you are thinking about them...Sue encouraged us to make a note to send it a couple months after the passing - when the cards have stopped. i will...because we are all too respectful of each other's grieiving process to the point that we can be too removed.
in case you may be dealing with grief in whichever way - loss of a marraige, or baby, or friend, or family member - please check out her website and the groups they offer - she has developed a book for children too to help explain loss and work through it as well and i would encourage anyone who may be in need to seek help...because Lord knows we need all the help we can get!