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Understanding My Grief, Part 1

November 14, 2006

The Super Social Workers at Children’s Hospital combined their considerable forces to direct me to this book, which I’m currently reading. My modus usually involves blasting through a book and doing a little reflection on it once I’m done. But this book– and the process that it commends– probably deserves a bit more consideration. Still, I’m not about to drop $10.61 for a journal, not when I’ve got a perfectly free blog. So I’ll do a little reflection here, and hope that it answers the question(s) that can only be found in the fancy journal.

In the beginning of the book, the author means to have the reader embrace the process of grief. He describes grief as ‘opening your heart’, and says that we need to willfully open ourselves up to pain. One challenge is that we don’t like pain– it hurts, and we tend to avoid it. Another challenge is that those around us don’t like pain, either. So they will tend to discourage the person who has experienced loss from dwelling too long or too deeply on it (this has not, thankfully, been my experience). But Wolfelt says that we shouldn’t be bullied into truncating our feelings or process. We should dive deep, and feel things fully.

All of which seems sensible to me. I was thinking about this on my run this morning. I live in an area that is just full of hills. If I lace up my shoes and walk out the door, I’ll be running up a steep hill inside a minute, and I’ll be up and down for the duration. And man, those things can be uncomfortable– painful, even (especially in my current decondition). But if there’s one thing I remember from when I was a better runner, and especially from when I ran marathons, it’s that it does not help to clench up in the face of discomfort. The best thing to do is just stay relaxed and try to glide on through.

Which I have tried to do with my crazy feelings, too. I let my mind go a little bit at bedtime last night, where I would normally distract myself with a book or TV and then just quickly go to sleep. And so I found myself thinking about other episodes of grief in my life. I thought about my grandparents and their respective deaths, which I’ve been aware of over the past few months. But as I let my mind wander, I found myself thinking about Gramp‘s death, which happened just a few days after the kids were born. This was something I was aware of, but hadn’t really accepted. So I let myself imagine his funeral, and his grave, and his house. And I cried for his dear widow.

Today was even more gritty, as we went in for Ella’s shots. As usual, I got to hold the patient during the needling portion, and then I got to pass her off afterward (“Oh, come to your mother… mommy loves you…”). But when the needles were going in, I flashed back to one of Will’s immunizations. On that day, he screamed when he was stuck, but only for a few seconds. Then he stopped and was absolutely calm. And I remember thinking, “oh, dear God, he’s used to this kind of treatment. He doesn’t even realize that this kind of pain isn’t normal.” And I felt guilty for all we were putting him through, all the tests and surgeries and blood draws past, present, and future. But I told myself that all of this pain was worth it, somehow, because someday we’d be done with it, and he’d be happy and healthy just like all of the stories we had heard.

But today, I just felt like a fool for thinking that. I felt like a terrible parent, and a coldhearted, calculating sonofabitch to keep putting him through that. And what’s worse is that I’m selfish enough to still say that I’d do it again– I’d put him through four months of discomfort– just for the chance to know him.

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3 Responses to “Understanding My Grief, Part 1”

  1. Brooke P. says:

    I have only been reading your blog for a week but in that time, you and your family have been on my mind quite deeply. My heart says a little prayer.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I understand so much of what you’re expressing in this post.


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