I was thinking a lot all weekend about grief.  Not the grief of an inconvenience of something going wrong in our lives, but grief that fills our minds, our hearts, our souls, because the loss is just too powerful to bear.  Grief that I have not felt often in my life, but when I have, it has been memorable.

For me, grief has most often been because of the death of a loved one, even if I knew that the death was imminent.  The loss of the physical presence of that person.  My paternal grandmother.  My brother.  My maternal grandmother.  My grandfather.  Each one, felt so deeply in my heart, in the depths of my soul, that I just felt empty, lost in a way.  Grief consumed me, and rightfully so. 

I remember the day that my older brother died.  He was living in San Francisco at the time, in hospice care through a program that Mother Teresa created.  Two days before, knowing that his death was soon to come, nursing staff had asked my brother about his family contacts.  He would not answer.  He wanted to die alone, I think.  The day that he passed, I went to work, as usual, at 8:30 AM in the morning.  About 9:30 AM, I got really, really tired.  I did not know why; I started my day and my week on a upbeat note; it was a Monday, but I felt ready to face it.  I came home for lunch…. I never did that.  But I did that day.  I had a message on the machine, another thing that rarely happened.  It was a nurse from the Hospice unit where my brother was.  She wanted me to call.  I left the room, and sat at my kitchen table, and ate my sandwich.  I knew, but wasn’t ready.  I wasn’t ready to hear the words.  I hadn’t seen my older brother in years, but had constant contact by telephone and through letters over the last few years of his life.  He was disturbed, he had so many struggles.  But, I loved him, he was my brother.  That meant so much. 

I finished my lunch.  My stomach was in knots.  I called the nurse.  She told me that Jeff had died earlier that morning.  She told me that I was listed as the first family member to notify.  That didn’t feel like an honor; that felt like a burden.  That meant that I needed to tell my parents, my mom.  That really sucked.  Telling a parent that her child, your sibling, was dead. 

Then, I asked the nurse.  I asked her what time that my brother passed.  She said that she had been with him early in the morning, and he was resting; she went in a short time later, and he had passed.

He died at around 6:30 AM, California time.  That is 9:30 AM at my house. 

I felt him pass. 

It hurt so much, as much as it made total sense. 

I went back to work, I dropped my bag, and told my best friend that he had died.  I wanted to let myself fall on the floor, to collapse.  I knew it was coming, yet it hurt so much.  It was so painful, such a fresh wound to my heart, no matter how much I knew that those words would come.

What is so interesting to me is a couple of realizations about grief.  First of all, I felt grief of this depth when I was living alone last year in the apartment, alone.  Sick.  Sad.  No, not sad, completely devastated.  Alone.  Raw.  Ready to give up completely.  I was grieving.  Grieving the loss of my relationship.  Grieving the loss of what I thought that my life was to be.  Grief over the loss of that which was familiar, comforting, peaceful.  Grief related not to a physical death, but an emotional death of my relationship, my destiny…….

The other realization that I have made about grief, and the role that it is playing in my life, is that I have begun to anticipate my grief.  My parents are aging.  Pets have been around for a long time.  My siblings have serious health problems.  I have begun to think about the losses that are to come.  Maybe some more quickly than others.  Grief will be immense.  Grief will be welcomed, because to me, it symbolizes not just the loss, but it also is an expression as to the level of the importance in my life, it expresses all that I need to in terms of what is felt the deepest as the loss.  The deep meaning of it.  Of the relationship.  Of the need to acknowledge how much the person who will be missed. 

I dread grief at the same time that I anticipate it.  I know that it will hurt, but that I can embrace it, and utilize it to help me through some of the most difficult moments of my life.  As a symbol of love, of goodbye, of how to get through that which cannot be avoided.


13 thoughts on “Grief.

  1. Grief is a strange creature but a necessary one, guess its like a wound getting infected, you have to clean it out, cry and feel the emotions in order to properly heal. Beautiful post huns *hugs* <– big ones

  2. SF: It is such a strange phenomena, but I find it so healing when I really allow myself to truly grieve; openly, lovingly, without restrictions…… thanks you!!!

    Amber: Tell me more about that honey…….. this one was so hard, yet so healing for me to write, and I felt that I needed to……. it is my soul’s way of readying myself for the losses to come…..yet, I am not sad, I feel grateful to be open to it….. weird, huh??

  3. Vanessa, you know that as a hospice nurse I know a “tiny” bit about grief! Actually I learn more about it everyday. Grief is everywhere. We are always grieving something. I think that prepares us for the “big” grief moments we will have throughout our lives. Grief is different for everyone. I am sorry that your brother died without your family there. As a nurse, being with someone during their death is an honor and a privilege. I am sure that nurse was with him as he passed. Even if she was not, I am sure that he was surrounded by the angels that carried him home. I truly believe that. We are never alone.

  4. Your post really struck me. My father died six months ago. I felt him pass as well. I tell people that and they look at me like I am insane. It is nice to know that there is someone else out there who had that same experience. I am sorry for your loss.

  5. Yep, I know that you know a “bit”…… what keeps occurring to me in my mind with this topic is the huge difference between going through a loss and grieving it. How many times can some of us say that we did not grieve our loss? We went through it, but didn’t really come to terms with the enormity of it….. when I was in college, my beloved paternal grandmother died while I was away…. I knew it would be soon, and when I went back to school after her death, I kept trying to get over it…… I never really dealt with it at the time. As a society, I often think that we try to talk ourselves out of needing to grieve; it is I believe inconvenient for others if we grieve too long, but yet, if we don’t our souls suffer…….. this is really pressing on me lately. not sure why….

    Do the families that you have been with so far actually grieve the losses that you can tell? That is so key……

  6. Great article about Grief. Stopping in to say hello. I read an article on dying that may interest you. I’ll email it tomorrow when I’m back at my computer. Blessings to you and yours. . . CordieB.

  7. You know Vanessa, grief is an amazing thing to study. It is something we learn so much about at hospice. Grief is so culturally different. It is amazing to watch different races, culturea and their reactions to grief. In the African American culture it is very normal to scream, cry, fall on the floor, faint when faced with a death. In the caucasian culture this is usually not seen as “normal” It would probably be looked upon as unusual by friends and family. I think from what I have seen, AA people generally grieve in a healthier way because they actually DO IT! They grieve with everything in them. They get it out. White people tend to go inward with their grief. That is where things get stuck. People think that you grieve for a year and then you are done. There is no time table. I think with anybody that you lose someone that you will grieve forever. I don’t think it ever goes away. What many people don’t know is that hospice provides free grief counseling to family members. Even if you don’t live in the same area as your loved one. You can get free grief counseling where you live if you have a death. Even if they were not a hospice patient.

  8. The first time I remember feeling true grief, I was nine years old. At that age I woke up about 5.30 am and was used to occupying myself until the rest of the house woke up.

    One day I woke up and unusually, decided to occupy my self by looking through old family photos. I went into our spare bedroom, where we kept our photos and took the albums out. I spent several hours going through the pictures until my brother woke up and came to join me. Together we enjoyed the memories brought back by the pictures.

    Photos of our border collie dog Frisky caught our eye most. We spent a lot of time talking about how much fun we had with him and how lucky we were to have such a faithful friend. We both agreed we should take more pictures of Frisky. We joked about how we had trained him to join in childrens games with us and our friends. How when we played ‘stuck in the mud’ we could call him and he would run under our legs to free us in the game.

    Soon after our mum came into the room to see us both. I still remember how unreal it seemed when she told us she had some very sad news for us both. Moments after we had both been planning many more happy times and plenty more pictures of our faithful dog, mum told us he had been run over by a car and killed the night before.

    Grief for me was the utter inability to accept the fact that he was gone. My mind just simply could not comprehend it. I knew it to be true but I couldn’t believe it was real. I cried for days and still it didn’t seem real. There must be a way to change this, my mind kept telling me. though I knew that there wasn’t.

    I don’t think it was a coincidence that my brother and I spent so much time remembering our dog that morning before we even knew he was gone.

    When my parents suggested two weeks later that we get another dog, I was horrified at the idea. How could they think that any dog could ever hope to replace my faithful Frisky. I refused, they insisted, I resisted, we got a new dog anyway and I loved her just as much as Frisky but not instead of….

  9. cordie: I would like to see that article. I used to be so afraid of death; and now, I feel more ready than ever before. It doesn’t mean that I want to lose people that I love, or go through loss, I just know that I am ready for whatever life deals out, I believe so anyway……..

    mssc54: Thank you for your thoughts. I had felt like I had “lost” my brother many years before his physical death, but that was so difficult for all of us, because as a family, we did little in terms of supporting one another; we each had too many issues to deal with ourselves…… Grief does stink so badly, but we always emerge on the other side in some way, even when we are certain that we can’t….

    ctzrn: Hey; I like that you gave details of that; it is so different in so many ways……. in so many cultures. I find it fascinating, and I think that the most healing way to grieve is indeed, to GET IT OUT…. when my brother died, instead of going to my parents house in North Carolina, to be with them in denial, I stayed at home, and took a few days off from work, and went to the ocean, and spoke to him there. It helped me to do that so much, instead of in the “expected” way…… I really appreciate your perspective, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    Visionary: Thank you for your visit, and welcome!!! I feel for you in terms of the loss of your dog, and for the Universe preparing you for that….Pets are part of our lives just as humans are, and are a great loss, especially as children. We have no perspective as children to base our losses on. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story with me, this is a topic that we don’t often get encouraged to discuss……..

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