Healing Grief & Love Dedication
This Friday would have been my daughter, Brittany’s , 26th birthday. She left Earth at 5 years old due to complications from chemotherapy and leukemia. She fought a good fight and after a very short, 2 month long battle, we had to make a painful decision to not put her on life support. That was the hardest decision I will ever have to make in my life. It was also the most compassionate choice.
Brittany and Baby Erik
This week I've chosen to blog about Healing Grief and Trauma with the “5 Stages of Grief” which was coined in 1969 by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in honor of my daughter and to everyone anywhere who has lost a loved one. Chances are, if you are on the planet right now, you have lost a loved one, and if you haven’t, at some point you will. For more on the 5 Stages of Grief see the website: http://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/
I’m hoping to hear your stories as well. I believe that through sharing our stories we help each other heal and come together in community. Community = To Come In Unity, together we support each other, together we heal. We are one after all.
The 5 Stages of Healing are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
“ They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order.”
Sadly, I never went through counseling. I blundered my way though a “burying process” of all feelings and pain, in fear that, should I allow feelings to come up I would simply go insane and never recover. I tried to stop feeling. I tried to become strong. Tried.....
Now, 21 years later, I have begun to allow my healing to come up, knowing that I will NOT go insane, although at times, it may feel like it. Allowing the feelings to come up will allow transformation of the pain of the loss, into the healing of the heart.
I recently watched the movie Finding Joe about Joseph Campbell and what he calls The Hero’s Journey. This was a very moving and inspirational movie that I highly recommend if you are going through a loss of any kind and especially a loss of a loved one.
I can finally see my “Hero’s Journey” and I’m grateful to be on the heart healing path, the "Return".
I have posted “my story” before here on this blog, http://www.welikeitraw.com/rawfood/2012/02/my-heart-opening-journey.html But, the short story is that I did not go through the grief process very well or with any grace. But, I DID go through the 5 Stages of grief without being aware of it. It was a pretty messy and very untidy journey.
Remembering the first few weeks and months, I see how much in Denial I was. I was in total shock, numb, disconnected and did not feel I was even in my body at all. I had a fantasy going on in my head that she was “just gone” for a while and that this was just not happening. Although there was a great deal of alcohol involved, I sort of slipped into the “life goes on as normal” role while everyone around me watched in pain and horror.
The denial process did serve as somewhat of a buffer from shear gut wrenching agony in the beginning.
Remember, it’s ok to be in denial. Let it serve you.
After the major part of the denial started to fall away, I was SO angry. I lashed out at everyone I could. Especially God. I lost all faith I had ever had. I screamed at God, cursed at God. I drank more. I hated myself and my life. I started being very destructive to myself. I directed the anger at everyone around me as well. I felt as though God had abandoned and betrayed me. I felt that no one in my life cared enough and every word of attempted comfort was taken by me as insincere.
Remember it’s ok to be angry. Let anger be your support.
The bargaining process for me was gut wrenching and raw. It began before she passed. I pleaded with God. I begged that if he would only spare her, heal her, I would do whatever I had to. I asked for him to take my life instead. Made a deal to be of service to people for the rest of my life, if he would just not take her from me.
After she passed, it continued. I asked for her to be brought back. I asked that if she was brought back we would go to a new place to live so no one would know. It was an elaborate plan.
Remember, it’s ok to bargain. Let bargaining keep you moving forward.
Once the realization set in that the baragining wasn’t going to happen, the depression came in and took hold of my life and didn’t fully let go for nearly 20 years. I wondered if life would ever be happy again. I also didn’t feel I had a right to be happy.
Letting go of the notion that we have to be sad forever can be difficult. It can feel as if you are betraying your loved one. It was hard for me to take my son out to experience fun things because the thought that my daughter didn’t get to have the experience left me with a great deal of guilt. I had to do quite a bit of work to move through that.
Remember that it’s ok to be depressed... Move through it with courage and self compassion.
As time went by I gradually moved into an acceptance of the situation. I did have to reorganize my thoughts of what acceptance meant. At first it felt that if I “accepted” it, I was saying it was “ok” and that I was “moving on” and forgetting her. It wasn’t any of that at all.
I had to realize that acceptance for me, was just realizing that it had happened, that I couldn’t change it, that life WAS going to continue and I had to find a way to move on with life and take each day at a time. I had to be ok with not always being ok. It had to be ok to feel pain and sadness. I created ways to honor her. I still buy Christmas ornaments for her. For her birthday I find ways to do something special in her honor like taking blankets or stuffed animals to a children's hospital or donating to a cause.
My Mother, has courageously been healing her heart by writing a beautiful book of our journey through this loss. The book will go to the publisher in a few weeks and is titled "Brittanys Rose".
Remember that it IS ok to accept the loss and keep living. After all, isn’t that what your loved one would want for you?
My Beautiful Mom and Me
When you lose a loved one, your life really will never be the same. Learning to live your life without them isn’t easy. I highly recommend going to some kind of counseling and finding as much support as you can in the early stages of healing.
We are all affected by loss and trauma at some point. We are living in times that seem to be desensitized to healing grief and trauma. The more we can open our hearts and recognize the pain each of us may be carrying and learn to love each other the more transformation and healing will take place in the world.
In the comment section, I’d love for you to share a story or leave a love dedication in honor of someone you have lost and how you celebrate their lives....
In love and Health,
Lori Clayton, LMT, CHHC