|Anne's Beach, Keys, Florida|
It was a wonderful week of warm weather, beautiful scenery and lots of family and friends. It was a time to relax as well as take in whatever Miami had to offer. We enjoy getting away in the dead of winter, it is a warm spot for us in what seems a dreary and unrelenting northern winter.
As my family and I took in the familiar sights of Miami, Key West and its surroundings, I couldn't help but think of Rachel. My brother, who was also with us, would occasionally point out a favorite spot that Rachel liked to hang out at, the Clevelander Hotel on South Beach, or that favorite beach spot in the Keys; she was on our minds. We would spot a butterfly and immediately someone would say, 'Rachel's here,' even before the thought hit my mind.
Most people, even those close to you, sometimes do not know the inner turmoil that can be invoked by simple memories, locations, or the mere scent of suntan lotion and miles of sandy beaches. I don't cry outwardly, but silent tears course their way through my mind as I reminisce, as favorite spots are passed while traveling, as fond and beautiful memories bubble up.
Rachel loved Florida, she enjoyed her trips to Miami, Tampa and the Keys, it was very easy to convince her to take a flight or road trip, and I often received a call letting me know she had done just that. 2006 was no exception, my mom was heading up north to spend some time, and wondered if anyone would like to come to Florida to accompany her on the drive north. She would be up north for a few months and wanted to bring her car with her. Rachel volunteered immediately and so plans were made for her and her brother to fly down to Florida and then drive back home with Vo Mary. None of us realizing that this would be her very last trip to Florida, and in a style all her own, she fully enjoyed her time there. So needless to say, Rachel was on my mind extensively throughout this vacation.
In my Psychology of Grief class, we discussed how events, locations, sights, sounds and even smells can trigger memories, how they can have an effect on you, even when you least expect it. Grief is for a lifetime, let no one tell you any differently. It hurts so much because we loved so much. What does begin to happen is that we find ourselves more capable of controlling our reactions, of thinking of the wonder of what they meant to us, and what was special and important to them. Occasionally tears will roll down my face, and when the urge is too strong for me to control, I simply walk away from others, and let them flow. This too is very normal, and I have come to learn that it is okay, and may occur totally unexpectedly, but it is because of what they meant and still mean to us, it is because we loved them then, and still love them very much now, that sometimes unbidden tears will flow. Let them. I do.
It will be five years in September, and I know that for most of the people around me, it was a sad event, but they have moved on, not that they have forgotten, but only that they have their own lives to live. It can be hard for those of us who are grieving to understand, but it is the reality of loss. Think of the last time you went to the wake of someone who died, or sent a card; yes you felt sad, you felt for that friend or relative, but you did what you could, and you really need to keep moving. You let them know you cared, you were there when they needed your sympathy or empathy, but after all, you still have your life, your child, your parent, your spouse and all your responsibilities to deal with.
Some people in your life will understand, and listen to you, even years later, knowing that maybe you just need a willing ear. Others will believe that everything is passe and you should be very much over it, and moving on. For these individuals, you put on a smile, you go about your life, and you live it as normally as you possibly can. I find that having both of these scenarios in my life, keep me in a sort of teetering balance. On the one hand I know I can say and react the way I want to; on the other, I have to be careful not to show too much emotion or express my feelings. Sometimes I feel like a juggler, trying to keep all my worlds going at the same time, making sure that the right piece is in the right place to keeping it all moving, without anyone noticing the occasional slip up.
Those individuals around you who have suffered the loss of a loved one, will understand. Those who have lost a parent, know the pain of others in the same shoes, the same is true for those who have lost a child, a spouse, etc. These understand, they know that there will be times and occasions that will cause you to stop, to assess, to allow the memories to fill you, they have been where you are. I am grateful for so many people in my life, for so many who put up with my musings, with my memories, who allow me to cry, even now. In turn, I am also grateful for those who go about their lives, who know that there is loss in life but expect people to move on; they give me the strength to but on a smile, to force myself to act accordingly, to put on a brave front.
Thank goodness for support groups, and liked-minded people, who allow me to let my guard down, who let me express myself, who let me miss my daughter, and who remind me that it is okay. These individuals give me a welcome reprieve from keeping up the brave front, and trust me it can be difficult to sustain at times. They are those who like your family, see you at your best and worst, and still love you any way. Who understand when your words and actions don't make sense to the rest of the world, who know your pain, who see through your confusion, and who lets you be in the moment, whatever that might be.
We all will have our moments, we all will have our ups and downs, our sorrows and happiness, the comings and goings, and we will all somehow survive. One of the most important things I have learned, is that I do not have to go this journey alone, I can and choose to find others who can and are willing to help me. People who understand what I am going through, who have been there before me, who can help me keep 'juggling' when there is an occasional slip up. My recommendation to you, is to find such individuals, keep them close; find support groups - especially groups who are dealing with your specific loss (be it death, divorce, or any other myriad of events that can cause grief and suffering); there are so many people out there willing to listen, willing to help.
Be patient with those who feel that you should have completely moved on, they do not mean any harm, they just do not understand YOUR pain. Most importantly, be good to you, cry if you need to, laugh as often as you can, and enjoy everything that your loved one means to you. Know that even if laughter seems difficult to you at the moment, it will come in time. You will smile, you will enjoy life's simple pleasures, and you will laugh and dance. You will have a new rhythm, you will have learned new steps, you will have learned to cherish the love, the memories and the joys. You will revisit favorite locations, and find the beauty in the memories, you will feel a love that goes beyond any you can ever imagine. You will know that your loved one is with you always, just as I felt Rachel's presence on this vacation, you too will know they are with you.
Blessings! and until we meet again.