You've lost someone you loved - parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, friend. And then someone else you love dies, reopening old wounds, bringing back memories, and once again you find yourself in a world of grief. How do you deal with the loss of more than one person?
Coping with the loss of a parent is hard. I don't have to tell you that. You deal with the sadness, cope with the grief, and learn how to live without your mom or dad. But then something happens and someone else you love dies. Old wounds that have barely healed from losing your parent are reopened. You are suddenly sucked back into the dark, lonely world of grief, with one less person in your life...again.
My Chain of Grief
I may have mentioned in a previous post that I lost many of my family members over a period of 8 years. In May 2000, I experienced the first real loss in my life with the death of my maternal grandfather. Even though he was nearly 93 years old, his death was still a shock to me and my world began to crack. Then my paternal grandfather died in 2001, followed by my paternal grandmother in 2004 and my maternal grandmother in 2005. I never really grieved for them, not in the way I should have. They were older, had health issues, so death at this point in their lives was not unexpected, but the crack that started with the death of my grandfather became deeper and wider with each death after that one.
Then in November 2008, I found myself facing a room full of grieving family members and friends, struggling to find the courage to deliver my mom's eulogy. I began with almost the same words she used less than 3 years earlier when she gave the eulogy for her mom. I was in shock on that day and for months after that. But the crack that began 8 years earlier with the death of my maternal grandfather gave way to a gaping hole of grief when I lost my mom.
It was only then that the loss of my grandparents truly hit me and I began to grieve for all of them. I struggled with the crippling weight of the loss of my family, trying to close that hole of grief. There are many words I could use to describe the situation I found myself in. Unfair. Too much. But I couldn't change what happened. I had to grieve, heal, and keep moving forward with life.
Facing Another Funeral
I passed the 1 year anniversary of my mom's death. I still deeply felt her loss in my life. But there were moments when the weight of grief wasn't so heavy, like little rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds, and I knew I was slowly healing. I just kept trying to moving forward. And that's all I could do...try. Try to heal. Try to cope. Try to find happiness even on the saddest of days. I was dealing with loss on top of loss.
In December 2009, my husband's grandfather died. Although I didn't know his grandfather very well, I was saddened by his death and sad for my husband and his family. Dealing with another loss after the death of my mom pushed me right over the edge. I didn't want to go to another funeral, but I wanted to support my husband and his family like they had supported me. On the day of the funeral, I walked up the church steps to the chapel. As soon as I walked into the chapel and saw the casket at the front of the church, I froze and started crying, rooted to the floor in tears. It was such a reminder of my mom's funeral. All of my partially healed emotional wounds were ripped open again.
This past weekend, exactly six and a half years to the day after my mom died, my husband and I attended the funeral of his grandmother. This time was different. I've come a long way since my mom died. The wounds from her illness and death have basically healed. But this was the loss of a mother, and my mother in law was deeply hurting. I could understand what she was going through. I tried to help her as best as I could on Saturday. To be supportive and comforting for her, even when I broke down myself, saying to my husband that there's just been too much loss.
On Saturday night, I sent my mother in law this text:
...When my mom died my world stopped but everything around me kept moving. I had to be a wife, mom, daughter, friend, worker, and homemaker even though all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry away the pain. I existed but wasn't really living. Six and a half years ago to the day today I lost my mom and not a day goes by that I don't miss her or think of her. The unbearable pain lessens. The hole in your life becomes less noticeable. You don't cry as much. The bad memories of loss are replaced with good ones of times spent together. You can remember with a smile and not just tears. There will always be hard days but more good days in between. No one can replace your mom. For me I had to start living the life I knew she'd want me to in order to honor her and all that she sacrificed for me. Her love will always live in my heart. She will never be forgotten....
It may take my mother in law awhile to get to this place, the place where I am now, where it doesn't hurt so much. But I wanted to her to know that I understand and that it does slowly get better.
Dealing with More than One Loss
How do you deal with the loss of a loved one after you've lost a parent? Or how do you deal with the loss of a parent after you've already lost someone special? It's not easy. Dealing with any type of loss after my mom died has been the most difficult for me. I didn't grieve when I should have for the death of my grandparents, which made my mom's death and the ones after hers harder to cope with. The grief seemed unbearable at times, but crying and grieving were important steps in healing.
One day at a time...to remember, to love, to cry, to grieve, to cope, to heal.