It was the week after my Dad passed, eighteen months after my Mom had passed and at the end of a 20-year stretch where I had lost 30 other important members in my life, that I sat at home all alone. I sadly realized on that cold December day in 2008 that all the people who gave me the most cherished memories had all become a memory and their memory hurt.
The care for my loved one was over, the funerals had been done, there was no more doctors appointments, chemo treatments, running errands, or visits to hospice for me. In fact, my schedule was completely blank. It was that day when I realized I was an orphan.
At the time my husband and I lived in a tiny rural Alberta town with a small main street for the grocery store, bank, post office and gas station, nothing else in the way of support for someone dealing with grief. My husband tried his best to comfort me but he had never dealt with a loss of his own and had a difficult time understanding how I felt or even what to do or say, for the most part he left me alone to work it out on my own.
I became enraged, at him for being so indifferent, at my loved ones for making me the responsible one to care for them then leave me alone. I was angry with the clients at my business for not understanding my need to take time off, the friends that stayed away because they were too uncomfortable with my grief, the neighbor that walked in the other direction when she saw me because she didn’t want to upset me and my employees for the silence in the room every time I entered. It was as though I had suddenly caught the grief plague and everyone kept skirting me so that they wouldn’t catch it.
I didn’t know what to do or where to go for help and by every reaction from those around me, I was just suppose to get on with it and get myself back to normal. The only problem with that was, I didn’t know what was normal any more. For so long I had been the care giver for my parents, the one other family members had turned to when having to deal with tragic events, the one that ran from sun up to sun down for everyone else. Now I had all this free time and no idea of how to fill it. The first thing I tried was jumping back into work, but the stress suddenly became overwhelming and I just no longer felt a passion for the business. My husband suggested I take some time off and I walked away, almost ran, without a second thought.
The spiral down got worse, I was home all-day and night with nothing to do. The anger I had turned to sadness then I became depressed. I worked for many years in the bar industry so I knew where to find substance to help numb my pain, and I could have easily overdosed to make the pain, sadness, anger, regret, guilt, depression, all of it to stop. Thankfully I wasn’t that far gone to know those thoughts were not healthy, nor helpful.
I was about nine month into my grief journey when my bottom fell out, I got very sick with multiple medical illnesses. I knew I needed change or something that would move me away from the darkness that seem to be eating away at me. When I was younger I liked to write poems and short stories, I bought a notebook and decided to maybe try writing out my thoughts. I always enjoyed writing but what came out was not anything I would ever let anyone read. There was nothing poetic about those first few journals. The ink was black like how I thought my soul felt, the penmanship was heavy and firm, the language was as colorful as a sailors but after a few months of verbal vomit, my heart didn’t feel as shattered and my head began to clear from the heavy fog it carried.
At the same time, my husband and I also decided to move to Ontario, another positive change that helped me move forward. I busied myself with the move and renovations of the house we purchased, and I made some new friends that didn’t judge me for my loss. I wasn’t my old self any more but I did start to feel like I was beginning to learn who this new person inside me was starting to be. I still had many moments of thinking about my parents mostly, but my memories of them had begun to change. I no longer saw them in my mind at their sickest, instead I knew they would have enjoyed our new property and I knew my Dad would have loved to join me in the many gardens, and I made sure to include him by planting things I knew he would have enjoyed.
Shortly after we had settled in, a friend lost her partner in a tragic plane crash. I felt for her, I knew the pain she would be going through, but I didn’t know how to help her since I barely had a handle on myself. I suggested she find something or someone to talk to, she found BFO.
Not wanting to go alone, she asked me to join her for the first Living with Loss meeting. I didn’t know what to expect or what to do as this was for her but the facilitators made a comfortable environment and the group members had similar stories to mine that I suddenly felt a relief. I finally found a group of people that got me and got what I had gone through. It was a place I could go to and everyone understood, listened and never judged or told me to get on with it.
I originally intended to go to the group to support my friend, however, I gained more than I could ever give back. Even though I was now several years into of my own grief, I still harbored feelings of guilt, regret, anger and resentment that I didn’t know what to do with. It was through this group that I began to understand my own thoughts and work out those emotions until I could function with them. I will never be the person I was before my loss but I have figured out who this new individual I have become is and I’m starting to get comfortable with her.
I think of my loved ones everyday in everything that I do and always will, but thanks to BFO, the group members, my friends and my husband I now understand that what I went through is a part of life and it is okay to feel what I did. I still have moments of darkness but I now have the tools to manage it and I continue to go to the group to learn but also maybe my story will help someone with their journey.
By: Brigette Rawlings