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Friday, September 3, 2010

Please, tell me you didn't do that again!

Why do we do what we do?  Why do we often repeat the things we know didn't go right the first time we tried it?  Why are we such creatures of habit?  To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' 'I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.'  

It has been an interesting day, running around trying to get some last minute items for a family wedding, while avoiding torrential downpours, made for some fun dodging.   I did get it all accomplished to my surprise, especially knowing I left to much to do at the last minute.  You would think by now I would have learned not to do that, it often leads to making hasty purchases that leave you wondering, why!  

Even when we know better, all too often we fall into our old routines.  If you are generally a caretaker by nature, that's exactly what you do.  You make sure everyone around you is okay, you are the last person you worry about.  If you are a take charge type, you step in and take the lead, making arrangements, keeping Uncle Jack happy, making sure Aunt Sue is in the right place, and so on.  If you are typically laid back, you just step out of the way and let the others take the reigns.  Then of course there are the doers, who wait for the marching orders and then get right to the task.  I could go on with more personality types, but I think you get the picture.  

When we are hit with a tragedy, we immediately do what we do best, we do what we have always done.  It's what is expected of us, after all, everyone knows that just how I am.  Its funny at how often we do not even realize we are doing it.  We are so wired to be who we are, that even in the midst of something bad happening to us, we just do it.  

I have always been the responsible one, even as a child, I would often say no when my parents would ask me to do something. They seldom got upset with me, because within minutes, I would feel guilty and do it any way.  As I grew older, and maybe wiser, I was  the one that everyone could count on.  Just ask Rose Mary, she'll get it done, she'll take care of that.  There were so many times I  wished I could just stop being responsible.

When we got the call letting us know my daughter had been in an accident, responsibility kicked right in.  I was the one giving the medical updates to the rest of the family and to her friends.  When the time came, I made sure all the arrangements were taken care of, who had what role, and so on.  Even as far as getting up at the funeral Mass and sharing words of remembrance on behalf of my daughter.  I so performed as expected, and didn't let anyone down, I proved once again that they could count on me. 

When that initial shock wore off, wow that creature of habit took a sabbatical and I got my wish, responsibility went out the window.  I didn't even recognize myself, I worried about nothing, didn't care what was happening around me, even when things seemed to be crumbling, I just coasted along. Fortunately for me, my family stepped into action, and made sure things were taken care of.  That individual that everyone could depend on, now depended on everyone else.  It was very humbling, especially when I realized that I really could not handle the grief alone, knowing there was no way I could take this ride without someone else taking the drivers seat.  

I recently attended a funeral and realized that even when we are in shock, we are all so different.  I witnessed as the immediate family seemed lost, unsure of what to do next, being guided by the funeral home staff.  It was like watching a boat that has slipped it's anchor and is drifting away.  I have even attended funerals were the family member had to be literally carried in order to participate in any of the services.  We have all experienced the different reactions to the death of someone.  We have all seen widows who scream, while other widows just sit there quietly.  We've seen the distraught family and the family who stand there as if this were just another day.  We have more than likely witnessed the full spectrum of responses to the death of a loved one.  We have probably been some where on this spectrum ourselves.

More than likely we were amazed at our own reactions, are self control or lack there of.  This is who we are, this is how we survive, how we cope and how we go on.  So being a creature of habit isn't such a bad thing, it can help you climb that mountain.  And just when you don't think you can go any further, you get a boost of energy, and we make it to the top, were the view is clear and we can finally see what lies ahead. 

Do not be ashamed of your reactions, of your response to what has happened.  Do not allow anyone to make you feel as if you have failed.  I didn't wear black which was a big no no for a person of Portuguese decent.  I actually had someone tell me how dare I not honor my daughter, how disrespectful of me.  Imagine that, I wasn't in black.  I did wear it for the funeral, but changed into what my daughter expected me to be in not what everyone else did.  Besides black is just a color in my book, what I chose to wear wouldn't bring my daughter back.  

Don't worry about what others will think, what others will say, trust me, even if you give them nothing to talk about they do anyway.  So live for you, live as your loved one would have wanted you to, do what your loved one expected you to do.  Rachel was fun loving, full of life, and so on the day of her funeral, our families and all her friends, went home, changed and all came back to our home.  They brought food and beverages and we spent the rest of the day together, celebrating her life.  It was a tribute to who she truly was, what she believed in, and the most appropriate of good byes.  

Be yourself, if you usually take care of others, let others take care of you.  Surrender yourself to your grief, allow yourself to cry, to laugh, to celebrate the life.  Do whatever it takes, even if it is totally out of character with who you are.  After all this is a whole new experience for you, take it one day at a time, take it slow.  

Blessings! and until we meet again.

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