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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer

It has definitely been a hot one, here in New England and all across this nation.  But even with all this heat, humidity and feeble attempts at keeping cool, I love the summer.  Summer has always been a time when family and friends get together, enjoy the outdoors and being with each other.  This summer has been no exception, it seems every weekend my family and I have yet another gathering.  A cookout here, a birthday party there, or just getting together at someones home, to take a dip in the pool. It's about fun and laughter, planning for the future and reminiscing about the past. 

With all these fun activities, and so much to do, you would almost think, 'wow, there is no time for grief.'  But if you are grieving, even years later, you notice, you feel the difference, you know what's missing.  Everyone else around you may mention your loved one's name, make talk about their exploits, and even say how much they miss them; but it is not the same.  We may not show it, we may suppress our feelings, and others see someone who they believe has gotten 'over it,' who has 'moved on.'  Occasionally our eyes may water up, a lone tear will make it's escape, coursing down our cheek, but it's expected (once in a while), or so it is assumed.  And we find that people tolerate this, after all it's normal to feel something, to tear-up when we are reminiscing, just don't break down in front of them.  (Note: they can't handle it; they run for cover, find a place to hide, so I've learned.)  Just kidding, not everyone runs for cover, but it does become awkward, especially if it has been several years since the death of your loved one. 

Why?  For most of us who have experienced the death of a loved one, we know it doesn't go away.  It could be 2, 5, 10 or even 30 years or more later, and we still feel the void.  For others who have not yet experienced such a loss, it may seem as if we are not coping or refuse to move on.  Today is the 35th anniversary of my Grandmother Rose's death, and yes I still remember.  I was only 15, my first true experience with losing a close relative, and it was very difficult for me.  I can still remember that morning when the phone rang; how may grandmother looked at the funeral home; and how I was plagued with nightmares for quite some time after the funeral.  My fear of losing others I loved, overwhelmed me, and I dreaded then and still dread now, early morning phone calls.  (A symptom of post traumatic stress syndrome.)  And of course Rachel's call came at 3:18 a.m., so my fears were again revisited, and my experience all the more real.  So please don't call me before 7 a.m., unless you really have too.  From my own experience, we just coast along, we learn to adapt to a new 'normal' in our lives, we learn to cope, and we survive and begin to heal.  

Yes there may be scars, reminders of what was, but we learn to live with them.  To accept them as part of who we are becoming, and gentle reminders of what we love and hold dear to us.  I have come to love my scars, and I have a few, they remind me that love is truly what matters, and because I love, I will hurt, but I will also live and I will have those cherished memories that only love can give.  But will they begin to fade in time, yes and no.  As you have just read, my grandmother is still a part of me, the scar of her death is definitely faded, but her memory has not.  And even without a conscious effort, I somehow remember each July 28th, that my grandmother died today; as I do with other family members who have died.  

Her loss is less intense, because the years have allowed healing, have allowed me to accept that she is no longer with us.  Will I be able to feel this way year's after Rachel's death?  I can only hope, but for now it still hurts, there is still pain, it is definitely become less intense and I have begun to accept the fact that Rachel is gone, but it is still a fresh wound, with the scar just beginning to form.  

Two of my children just celebrated birthdays, a sharp reminder that I won't be taking Rachel out for dinner, or singing happy birthday, there won't be Facebook messages from her friends, and no excitement when the cake appears with candles to blow out.  Just the date on the calendar that simply says Rachel's Birthday.  Evidence that the scar it just now beginning to form, and that the wound is still not completely healed. 

To add to this awareness, as I drove home from work today, I spotted a young woman that reminded me of Rachel.  I began to wonder what she would have been doing now if she was still alive.  She would be turning 29 this year; would she be married, or still single, would she be a mom, giving me grandchildren.  Where would she be living, would she be close by, or would her adventurous nature have her exploring the globe.  So many possibilities, but none capable of becoming reality.  I did not cry, however, but just felt a sadness for what could not be; for so many promises that would remain unfulfilled.  
These are the thoughts that go through my mind as I watch my two other children, reach another birthday, or fulfill yet another dream.  This is what I think of as I attend functions and activities, and see how far others have come.  Yet I smile and laugh, I act as if all is okay with the world and I move through my day, accepting the new 'norm' in my life.  At times I feel like a duck on a pond; all calm and collected on the surface, but paddling like mad underneath.  But when the day is done, I have made it through another day, I have survived, and I can feel the wound beginning to close.  

Grief has its own agenda, it takes it's time, and it definitely requires a lot of work and effort.  But somehow we find our way, we accept what it brings and the time requirements, and we find the strength, fortitude and courage to face each new day.  For me, love has been my guide, acceptance my co-pilot, and my faith the anchor in the storm.  And each new day brings with it a knowledge that I will be okay, as you too will be, and that we do not need to hide our scars,  but to accept them as part of who we are and all they represent, especially the LOVE!

Blessings! and until we meet again.

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