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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'Hakuna Matata'

'Leave your past behind you.' and 'Hakuna Matata.'  two wonderful quotes from the Lion King.  Great advice, but sometimes your past refuses to be left behind, and you unfortunately have 'worries' to deal with. 

This weekend I played hostess to an impromptu baby shower for my daughter.  This is her second child, so it really was a small gathering of people.  She already has so much from my grandson, so it was mainly to help her buy what she will need after the baby arrives, diapers, t-shirts and so on.  It was really a great afternoon, lots of food and fun, and a complete surprise for my daughter. 

So you are probably wondering, what does this have to do with the past?  This is exciting, promising and wondrous all wrapped up in the joy of a new baby coming into our lives.  You are right, it really shouldn't have anything to do with the past, but alas, it does. 

The night before Rachel's death, I was getting my home ready for a friend's shower, whose baby would soon be my godchild.  That evening, I prepared the favors, decorated the rooms of my house, and started preparing some of the foods, and scanned my to-do list for the next day.  Guests would be arriving in the afternoon, so I would need to be completely ready by 12 noon.  As I lay in bed I hoped it would all go well, and that she would enjoy her special day.  Well as you are very much aware, my day did not go as planned.  In the wee hours of the morning we were headed for the hospital, and to a life that would never be the same again. 

So what does this all have to do with my daughter's shower?  The night before, a couple of us prepared the favors, and as we sat around joking, I confessed that I was a little scared and nervous.  The last time I had planned to host a baby shower in my home, things had not gone so well.  A fear I realized was unfounded, but a fear just the same.  They acknowledged my concern, understood my unease, and we talked about it for a bit and then right back to the task at hand.  Later on after they had gone, I sat catching up on some favorite TV shows and cried. 

Why was this bothering me so much, why was I so afraid.  It would be okay, everything would be fine, and go well, I had nothing to worry about.  But there is something called PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and anyone who has ever experienced a life altering event, knows exactly what I am talking about.  Most of us associate this syndrome with war veterans, rescue workers, medical staff, etc., but it is very real for so many people, regardless of what their occupations may be or their lifestyles.  PTSS really shows no partiality, everyone and anyone can fall victim to its untimely visits.  

For me the simple task of tying ribbons on favors, brought to the surface, many unaddressed fears.  It also triggered vivid memories of the day that followed, and the harsh reality that life can change at the drop of a dime.  As I sat there crying, I kept thinking to myself, wow it's been five years, why am I having a hard time controlling my feelings and emotions.  Everyone keeps telling me that the five year mark is a pivotal time frame, so why am I spinning instead of simply turning the corner.  

So I did a mental checklist:

                      Yes, I know that Rachel is gone.
                      Yes, I have come to accept that she is not coming back.
                      Yes, I have adapted to a new 'norm' in my life.
                      Yes, I know she is always with me, a heartbeat away.
                      Yes, I share her story, and let others know it is okay to talk about Rachel.

Okay then, everything seems to be leaning towards my full acceptance of Rachel's death, so why did this hit me so hard.

Whenever any of us experiences a traumatic event, we protect ourselves by locking away unpleasant memories, our minds keep them hidden until suddenly a simple thing unlocks it.  Thankfully, I recognized what was happening, but all the same it took its toll on me.  I found myself unable to sleep, and staying awake until 1:30 a.m.; at which point, I convinced myself that the phone would not ring and I could get some rest.  Even though I seemed to come to grips with what was happening, I didn't decorate my home until after I came back home from Mass.  It was around 12 noon when I finally began hanging the decorations and preparing my home.  

Even though my heart knew everything would go beautifully, my mind kept reminding me of what could happen.  Needless to say, I survived, the day went wonderfully, everyone had a great time, and my daughter received much needed baby supplies.  

Anything goes in grief, there are no rules, no guidelines, and time frames are only estimations.  We all cope and deal with life's alterations at our own pace, regardless of what the 'experts' say or how others have handled it.  We are as unique as grief itself, and grief in turn is as unique as we are.  What seems abnormal in normal day-to-day living, can be quite normal for the griever.  If however, you find yourself unable to function, even years later, please find help.  Speak to your physician, find counseling, get together with others who have been where you are.  Letting it out, allowing yourself to vent, speaking it out loud, truly help with the healing process.  So be good to yourself, give yourself space, and know that once in a while, you may hit a bump in the road.  Sometimes it is just a simple little pebble, and other times it may be a boulder which might require a little more maneuvering to get around it.  Most importantly, allow yourself to grieve, when you do, you will allow the healing to begin.

Blessings! and until we meet again.


  1. well even simba found out that the past can not be left behind.. it is as important and what is to come!

  2. Ana Marie, even if we try to bury our past, forget what has happened, pretend it never existed, eventually something triggers a memory. When this happens, sadly for some people, it can have a devastating effect. We see this so often with unresolved grief, longed repressed feelings, suddenly surface, leaving a person alone and confused. Others may not understand or tolerate this sudden outpouring, believing that it should have been long ago resolved and dealt with. This is especially true of victims of traumatic events, the hurts of long ago, suddenly bubble up, and become unbearable. It is often easier said than done, but if we are able to confront our hurts, pains and emotions, we can begin to let go, and when we do so, we begin to live again. We move beyond our pain to become so much more. We do not erase the past, but hopefully, learn from it and become stronger, more resilient, and we become survivors who can now help others through their difficulties, leading them through their confusion and pain. We are not islands, we are humans, who need to be comforted, loved and cared for and in turn we need to do the same for others. And when we occasionally find ourselves down, it is so wonderful to know that we are not alone, and that someone understands, and is willing to reach down to lift us up, regardless of where they have been or where we are coming from.

    Take care, xoxox Rose Mary