My husband is a dog guy. We’ve had several in our 40+ years of marriage but the last was the best. He was a young pup when we got him from the shelter. He liked to get himself around Henry’s feet as if to say “don’t leave me”. We named him Tripp because he couldn’t walk without tripping over him. As Tripp grew to over 70 pounds he remained at Henry’s side. He was his constant and faithful companion.
Over the last dozen years grief has been my faithful companion. It will leave for months or even a year at a time but it always returns.
In these 10 years or so we’ve lost all of our parents and a dear uncle. That is enough to cause the feelings of loss and sadness to come in and out of my life. Add to that realizing more and more the loss of youth and working in the unpredictable world of addiction. Actually, addiction is predictable: some will die.
It only hurts when you care and at times it seems I care too much. Of course that’s not true but those I love, I love deeply. The family I’ve lost have all left lasting imprints on my life.
The ones we’ve lost to addiction are the most painful, yet, where I guard my heart the most.
I’ve been public with my grief in hopes it’s helpful to those who are struggling or just haven’t found their voice to sing the chorus of lament.
I write to dispel any shame associated with sorrow or sadness.
In the church, we have a habit of celebrating death. We try to avoid the pain of loss by jubilantly celebrating their eternal life in heaven. We talk about the suffering that is no more. Yes, I believe that. But let me feel their loss. Let my soul mourn their absence. Let me express my sorrow.
Grief has also become a teacher. I’ve learned that it’s not only associated with physical death but it also arrives on the heels of change.
It’s not that I don’t like change. If I’m the one creating it I’m all for it. But imposed change like getting old(er) or moving or retirement? My faithful companion is at the door of my heart again.
Grief shows itself in different ways to each of us. For me, it looks like a combination of anxiety and depression. It often means unexpected tears for apparently no reason like a commercial. Or a fictionalized story of a family going through a hard time. It was a good book but I was bawling as if they were real people!
My anxiety also showed up with physical symptoms like lack of concentration, excessive worry, change in sleeping patterns and, at times, what felt like heart palpitations.
This was the point I realized I needed help beyond caring family and listening friends.
A quick Google search will tell you there are 7 or 5 stages of grief. I’m choosing 5 because who needs two more stages!
You’re probably familiar with them but here’s a reminder: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
I’m pretty sure I breezed through denial and went straight to anger and then completely skipped bargaining. Our lives aren’t text books. Sometimes we’ll repeat a stage and feel like we’re on a hamster wheel of grief.
Recently, I’ve sought medical help for the second time. I’m fortunate to have been directed to a psychiatrist I’m comfortable with. After consultation she’s put me on medication to help alleviate the anxiety. I’m also going to start therapy, which will be a first for me.
I think I’m moving out of the depression stage but I’m not sure if it’s because of the meds or I’m moving into acceptance. I don’t know that it matters. I do know my balance is still wobbly. I also know I’m loved, cared for and I have hope.
Hope is what I want to share. Sometimes it starts with a phone call to a doctor or a stranger writing a blog.
Yes, pain is real but so is hope.