It has been five days since our sister’s passing and for the past four days, since my sister Elizabeth’s arrival; all she can do is work, work, work (even today, on the day of her departure she won’t stop!). She is like the Energizer Bunny. Good thing? I’m not so sure. On the one hand, it is a great thing in that we have had so much to gather together.
But, on the other hand, this makes me wonder; just what is it that she is trying so hard to avoid and does she really think that she can avoid feeling the pain? Almost like the proverbial blood over the door as in the days of Moses; if by stayinig busy long enough, the grief, the pain will simply flow by and you will survive it without the torment, without torture.
I want so much to say to her, “it just doesn’t go that way, Darlin’, eventually you ARE going to have to FEEL the feelings. No if’s ans or buts about it.” I want to, but she won’t listen. She will just look at me, over those readers that she wears with the animal print, under her silver bangs that are parted in the middle and with those eyes of deep brown and say, “Ann; I’m fine.”
And I know she is, or I know she will be. But I can’t help but to worry as Elizabeth is the one I worry about most during this whole process. She is one that, if you didn’t know her, you might think her as cold, aloof; gruff. But there is a very tender heart deep in that body she carries as a shield and she guards it closely, even from her own family and very dear friends. The only time I recall her crying was when Kimball’s Oncologist had “the talk” with us. Afterwards, the nurses shewed us out of the room to tend to their patient and we went downstairs. Elizabeth turned her head away, over my shoulder (hands still down at her side) and started to cry. I reached around, held her, trying to console her. She could only allow this for a brief moment… all the while not returning the embrace.
I say this not to snub at my sister or to say “what is wrong with you?” Rather, as an observation. This poor girl (yes girl) who is still unable to open herself up to the vulnerability it takes to allow yourself to heal, to feel, to grieve; simply won’t. Grieving is so unique and we all do this in our own way, no two people do it the same; this is true. But with Elizabeth, her reasons for the how’s and the why’s may run deeper than even I had realized.
Going back to the death of our father (1963), she was only six and, doing as she was taught, went off to her room to cry. So, in the privacy of her room, there she was, crying and carrying on about how much she missed her Daddy. Next thing Elizabeth knew, somebody (I’ll leave the name out, but they were obviously much older than this dear child) marched in and told her to “grow up, stop crying”; or so my sister recalls. Now, understanding this person’s side, he was also grieving and was probably trying to intervene for our mother who was most likely beside herself at the sound of her young daughter’s tirade. But still, you can see how these things have a way of sticking with us? It most certainly has stuck with my sister, she still hasn’t forgotten it (or forgiven it for that matter).
“Stop crying!” “Grow up!” Made its mark, didn’t it? Trust me, I’m not laying blame. I understand where that came from. Just wish my sister did, for I know she is still hearing those horrible words. You see, our memories are tricky things. As a child, things, people seem so much larger; yet when confronted as an adult, those Monsters can be brought back into perspective.
To give you a rather awkward, yet simple example of mine; my Kindergarten class had in its room this long cascading staircase that split from the two large hall doors. It was beautiful as it curved down and around into the class room. I remember returning as a young adult shortly after I got married and I so wanted to go down those beautiful cascading stairs, just like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. When I opened the hall doors I stopped, looked in and down and burst into laughter. You see, what was remembered as twenty or thirty stairs was simply five (maybe seven). Everything was so small! But that wasn’t how my mind remembered it.
The same goes for all childhood memories, I would imagine. And, my sister is no different. Now to say that this is a depressed person would be an untruth. Actually if there were in fact ‘happy’ genes, I believe she got our family’s quota. But, this isn’t to say that I’m not worried about her. We all grieve differently. She and I finally got through most of our sister’s things (her clothing has been placed in bags for donation, we went through the office, etc.). On the one hand it was very therapeutic; however, the tears did flood (on this face anyway).
We spoke a bit last night after we got the last bag done and the last of Kimball’s things cleared from her room. It was actually a very peaceful conversation; I told her about my feelings over the past couple of weeks and how through everything that was happening with Kimball, so many feeling stirred inside me, almost as if to make it so I could see my relationships that much more clearly. I went on to say how I didn’t understand the anger, the rage, the sadness, the guilt I was feeling at everyone but… I mean I knew this was part of the process but always thought that was to be directed at the deceased not others for God’s sake.
We laughed at the absurdity and she reminded me that many don’t know how to handle it. They just don’t know what to do. Doesn’t make them bad people. Unlike us, where we’ve been forced to accept grief at a very early age; many have never gone through it. People don’t have the etiquette ingrained in them as it was in days of old. This is true, we don’t. I guess I’ve just been so gullible for so long I simply assumed. Then it hit me… I’ve done this about everything. I think that if I think it then we all do; ‘think it’, I mean. If I can do it, then everyone can. And that isn’t entirely so, is it?
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen. –Reinhold Niebuhr
- The Grieving Process (storyimpactorg.wordpress.com)
- Grief is an Expression of Love (memorybearsbybonnie.wordpress.com)
- ~Grief~ (myodyssey8.wordpress.com)