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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Grief Journey

Many thanks to my readers who responded to the blog regarding the death of our friend. It has been two weeks now and in some ways it still doesn't seem real and yet the raw loss and his lack of presence in our midst confirms his absence. It is hard to imagine that we are not going to see Ken again, that Geri and the kids have an entirely new way of life to get used to. It is easy to understand why grief is a journey...these unwelcome realities take time to fully understand and we perhaps don't even have the capacity to embrace the full impact all at once.
As the days go by, my friend is beginning to grasp the deep reality of her loss. She said to me last week, "Jodi, I am not married anymore. I can't get my hands around that. When will I know to take off my rings?" These are ground of being issues, realities that cause our core identities to be shaken. Geri is no longer a wife. How do we move forward through the losses of our lives and begin to carve out the new identity with which we are left? In her case, she has 3 kids who she's still mother to. They are seeking to figure out what it means to no longer have dad around. There will be more losses to contend with...they will no longer have a father present at hockey games, soccer games, school programs, or Christmas. And there will be sacrifices as mom won't be able to do it all. And there will be anger because none of it is fair and all of it is painful. I told Geri the first time someone asks her if she's married will likely be a very difficult moment. I know this because recently someone asked me if I had siblings and I quickly answered, "yes, one brother." It was the first time in a long while that I had been asked that, and as I gave the answer that I had for 46 years, I realized, no, that's not entirely true anymore. I had a brother, but he died 18 months ago. I am no longer a sister. It is still hard to grasp my new identity as the only child. It is not the family portrait that I grew up with and yet, I have had to embrace the new picture of my family, one that includes the memory of my brother's life, but not his physical presence among us.
That is why grief is a journey. You have to keep moving and face each phase. We move forward, feel like we're doing well, then a set back. It's all part of the process, but you have to keep moving, no matter how slow the progress, how small the steps.
For the first time since Ken died, I felt almost normal yesterday. My own acute sadness is ebbing a bit even while my heart aches for Geri and the kids. I feel deeply for the pain and loss she faces with each new day. Selfishly, I feel thankful that my own personal journey is not currently laced with so much pain. I know my day will come and so I am savoring the calm joy of a lack of crisis for now.
The funeral is December 7. Christmas and New Year's will be tough. We'll get through this together, step by step, on the grief journey.
Prayers appreciated. Thanks.