Sunday, April 17, 2011

A lesson in Grief

I had to sit down and ask myself why I felt so melancholy this weekend...was it the headache that plagued me for the last three days? The houseful of company that came through? The odd weather?
It was the simple fact that Uncle James has been gone a year. An entire year, and I don't know where it went, because I remember the day he died up to the day of the funeral very vividly while the rest of the year has been a blur.
Grief is a funny thing, as it takes on different forms for everyone, and is unique to each. Some people go through the 5 basic steps of grief in the natural order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some go through only some of the steps, or not in that order. But everyone grieves in some way.
There are no time lines, no final stop in each person's journey through grief. It just passes in it's own time, until the day comes when we can remember with fondness and less tears.
I remember crying all the way to Taber, and all the way back. And the next day, and the next day, until, at a year later, I still can't quite come to terms with our loss. Why is this? I don't have the answer, and instead try to focus on the good things, like how he is in my Aunt Pam's arms again. After she passed away, he had to endure the pain of having his soul mate ripped out of his life, and a huge piece of him died the day she did. The fact that their souls have met again is a big comfort to us all, especially to his kids.

my cousin found this old photo in James' stash of mementos
  I am still grieving, and I suppose I haven't accepted his death yet. I didn't go to the lake much last year, as it was so painful to see the spot where his travel trailer used to be parked. And I still can't listen to certain songs, especially anything by Alan Jackson (God Bless the Working Man), without thinking about him humming along and knowing I won't hear it again.
But I'm thankful for my memories, and the few home videos I have, where I can not only hear his laugh, but actually see him throw his head back while he did it.
 Right now the image of him lying in his coffin is still fresh in my mind, as is the feel of his hands when I held them and cried so hard as he lay there. It may sound weird, but I thought, 'his hands used to be hard, why are they like wax?? Why are they wax??' I was angry then that he wasn't real, even though his shell was very real.  It made me think of Pam then, and how her hands were so soft and smooth when I said good-bye to her a few days before cancer stole her away from all of us. She held on so tight I had to pry her fingers away, even though it killed me to do it. While that memory came into my mind, I half expected James' to do that too. When they still felt like wax I knew that moment was the end of my denial period, and also the beginning of my acceptance of Pam's death seven years before.
The point of my ramblings is that, while my grief is very real to me, no one will understand the extent of another's pain. All we can do is lend a shoulder, or an ear, and comfort each other until the pain is gone.

Rest in peace.

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