New England is still picking up the pieces after Tropical Storm (Hurricane) Irene's visit. It's been a few days and yet many are still without power, running water, and simple luxuries like reaching into the fridge for something cool to drink. My family and I were fortunate in that we lost power for only a few hours, but so many still wait in darkness.
Grief in many ways, is just like life's unexpected storms, and even if we have time to prepare, no one really knows what the aftermath will be like. When all is said and done, we still have so much to do, so much to clear up and clean up, and we struggle to get back to what seems 'normal.' We wait in darkness for the lights to go back on, for the ability to see clearly, to no longer having to fumble around, groping for reassurance and something to hold on to.
I have faced the tempest many times, and each time, it was the days after that seemed the hardest. Where do I begin? Where do I go from here? Where will I feel safe again? Will I ever feel normal again? What will my life be like now? So many questions, so many doubts, so many uncertainties, so much upheaval, it leaves you spinning, looking for direction.
These few days after the storm, I have heard so many complaints, too many what ifs, and have listened to one tragic story after another. I thought back to the days after Rachel's death, and I too asked the very same questions, and listened to other peoples' tales of woe and loss. Whenever we are faced with change (even good change), we find ourselves dealing with the doubts that surface. We inevitably also hear those people who tend to down play what has happened, hoping to lessen their own fears and misgivings. In grief, these are often the people who say the darnedest things, who leave you scratching your head in disbelief. In their attempts to placate, they add a sort of humor to our darkness, as we listen to their sad attempts at consoling.
But yet, people make do, they reconnect with friends, they seek solace from family and friends, and they find their way through the darkness. They survive, we all survive, we begin to accept what has happened, and look for new ways of living. We hold on to the memories that keep our loved ones near, and move forward knowing our lives have somehow been enriched, for ever changed. And just like the aftermath of storms, we begin to rebuild, and hopefully improve upon what already existed. Unfortunately, too often it takes the storms in life, to help us see what we have, what is important, and what truly matters to us. Sometimes it is the storms that refocus us, teaching it's lessons, and if the student is willing, can take so much away from the experience.
As I stated earlier, I have had my share of storms, some I was prepared for and knew that death was inevitable. My father, father-in-law, my grandparents, had battled illness for a while and even though they beat it several times, we all knew that eventually they would succumb, and the disease or illness would win out. In the case of my father-in-law and my grandmother, we actually prayed that they would be relieved of their suffering. And when my dad became comatose, we slowly began to acknowledge that this might be it. But even with these expected deaths, if you will, there was so much to pick up after, so much to straighten out, and most importantly, what would we do with out them?
When Rachel died, there was not preparation or expectation of death, just the aftermath. It think of all those victims of earthquakes and tsunamis and other disaster that come on them all of a sudden. Whose lives are terribly altered in a flash, who suddenly are faced with the realization that their lives have drastically changed; knowing that nothing will be as it was before. That was how I felt after Rachel's death, it was as if my world suddenly and unpredictably came crashing in around me. Like so many before me, I stood there surveying the scene in front of me, wondering where to begin, where to go from here, and realizing how dark my life was getting, fast!
But like so many New Englanders, and scores of others around this globe we call home, we pick ourselves up, we brush ourselves off, we rebuild, and we find our way back into the light. We cling to hope, and all it promises; knowing that even if we no longer have a cherished loved one in our lives, that their love is right there, always with us, no matter what changes we face.
It will be five years in 7 short days, and even though I still feel I have far to travel in my grief journey, I know I have already come a long way. The sun is beginning to warm my face again, the clouds are no so threatening, and the pieces are somehow falling back into place. Albeit there will always be one piece missing from my life, but I feel it is in this missing piece, that the sun shines the brightest, that the love is the strongest, and that I feel a sense of wholeness that I cannot begin to explain. I am not the least for my loss, but the most because of it.
Blessings! and until we meet again.