My personal experience with grief and loss, it’s effect on me and how I’m coping.
“When those you love die, the best you can do is honor their spirit for as long as you live. You make a commitment that you’re going to take whatever lesson that person or animal was trying to teach you, and you make it true in your own life. Their having been in your life changed you in some beneficial way, and making that commitment is the only way you can ease the pain of their absence. But more than that, it’s a positive way to keep their spirit alive in the world, by keeping it alive in yourself.” – The Time of my life, Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi
Living a life in the pink doesn’t mean that life is rosy all the time. It’s not just about the food we eat either. To me it means that even when faced with devastation and hard times you find the strength within to persevere, to love and honor your feelings and draw upon experiences that are lessons meant to be learned to lift us to our higher selves. Mind, body and soul within the pink of health. I’m reminded of the poem by Rumi entitled “The Guest House”
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi
I’d like to share a personal story with you…
My brother took his own life. He was in the prime of it. He didn’t share his thoughts of suicide. It’s been a long road so far on this life journey without him. I’m still mending. When I first learned of his death the immediate reaction was shock and disbelief. “Well, are you sure?” Even though I really knew or had a nagging inkling that it was true but did not want to face that. I held out hope that someone was mistaken or at least that something could be done to ‘fix’ it. They weren’t and there wasn’t. I felt a weakness sweep over me and a feeling as if half the cells in my body had been ripped away. I was living daily with a constant pain down to the smallest fibers of my body until one day as I was trying to continue life as usual I just couldn’t move. I stayed in bed for 3 days barely eating and not having the energy or motivation to eat or move. Just cry and let the hard painful emotions sweep through me. Eventually, with the passing days, I got used to the unwelcome change of his abrupt departure. Through talking and talking and some writing, reading and meditation. Even this is cathartic. I’ve come to accept that life must go on without him. Whether I accept that or not it is a cold fact. The plans were making will never come to be. He was more like a twin than a sibling 18 months younger. We shared a lot of the same interests in the outdoors, camping, hiking and running even a lot of our philosophies on life were aligned and when they weren’t we could hear each other out. I miss his perspective. It was another of the many first thoughts I had.
In the initial stage of grief there wasn’t anything that was a controlled response from me. It was pure raw emotion taken over. I had to just feel it, for as long as I needed to, to learn from it and allow it to pass. It was undeniably there. Like being chased by an opponent to the edge of a cliff with a rickety bridge. Do you allow the capture of your feelings and risk suppression for who knows how long only to deal with it in small bursts leaking out with bitterness or cross the uncertain bridge to freedom? I chose or was lead by the full force of base emotion to just cross the bridge.
We had plans to do a Spartan Run that summer which I had started to train for and could no longer bring myself to it as the immense stress my whole being was under from grief would be too much to bare. I gained weight. It (running) became a metaphorical road block as he was one of my biggest supporters when it came to my physical fitness accomplishments, especially when it came to running as he was a runner too and understood what it took. I tried to keep active and eat healthy but there was so much I needed to let go of mentally that until that happened the physical weight wasn’t going anywhere. One of which was the fact that he was never coming back. How long is forever? Unfathomable. Too long. Unending.
I witnessed signs and symbols of synchronicity that he may still be here in some form. Or at least it was a comforting thought. I tried to see the good that was before me. I looked at the sky everyday afterward. We had the most beautiful skies I had ever seen. A cardinal appeared to me everyday, wherever I was, until one day, when I was ready to let him go a little more, the cardinals stopped appearing. It wasn’t until recently when I felt healed enough emotionally and decided to start physically training my body again. I started to train for a hike with the intention that I do it for my brother’s memory. It was on this hike that I finally saw a cardinal again. I wasn’t able to capture a photo of it. Just wasn’t quick enough. When my camera was ready, and I was still, I sat there in the hope that he come back. I waited for about 5 minutes then the realization to the parallel of the loss of my brother. I felt the lesson of that fleeting moment was that just as my brother was not coming back neither was the cardinal or vice versa. It appeared as a reminder that those special moments in time we must enjoy in the now. I again had to let some of it go. We must cherish the people and the moments we have with them. Life is precious. And so there is a long journey ahead of me without him but I will appreciate the best of him by holding dear the lessons I’ve learned from having known him. I will continue on the path and enjoy the things we both enjoyed. Learning, always learning, fitness, family and the great outdoors.
“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” –Emily Dickinson
Enjoy your life in the pink and know that you are worth it. Your life has meaning. You are loved. You have value standing alone.
Some photos of my saunter in the woods in memory of my brother:
I am only left with his memory now but if you have any thoughts of self harm please seek out help. There are people that care.
Call: Canada’s Suicide hotline is 1-833-456-4566
Text: 45645 will connect you to a compassionate responder who will be able to provide suicide crisis support.
In The U.S.A.:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States is 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) or 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)
For the hearing and speech impaired: 1-800-799-4889 (1-800-799-4TTY)