Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Grief Letter...

Peyton and my mom - December 2008

I wanted to {no, I needed to} write this grief letter today to share with you where I am at on my journey of grief and healing since my mother, Anne, passed away on July 25, 2010.

For about three years prior to her passing, my mom suffered from breast cancer.  She passed away at age 63.  At the time of her death, we were in the midst of a turbulent year, both with the significant decline of my mother's health as well as a horrendous year for Peyton in terms of her own health.  During 2010, Peyton was hospitalized at least 10 times with respiratory illnesses, each one worse than the one prior.  Two or three weeks prior to my mother's death, I traveled home to Canada to spend some time with her before she passed.  While I was away, Peyton remained well enough to stay out of the hospital.  Then my mother passed towards the end of July, causing our whole family to have to drive up to Canada from South Carolina.  We were gone two weeks.  It was with much prayer, and only by a miracle, that Peyton made the trip.  It was the absolute best possible scenario as far as Peyton's health was concerned.  Of course, once we returned to South Carolina, we were right back into the hospital.

Before my mother passed, I had prayed and indeed cried out to God with all my might for my mother to be healed - even if that meant for her to be fully restored by Him, the Great Physician, by bringing her home to be with Him.  I wanted her spared from any further suffering.  During that trip to Canada prior to her death, I told my mom it was ok - we would be ok.  If she needed to let go, she could.  As I said, she passed two weeks later.  We did make it home in time for me to be with her at her passing.

When she passed, of course there was much grief and sorrow as you would expect.  But there was also a sense of peace.  Do you know the kind I mean?

Philippians 4:7

New Living Translation (NLT)
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

But yes, I grieved for a time.  My mother was more than just my mother.  She had become a best friend.  A confidant.  Someone I looked forward to speaking with and emailing each day.  Someone I could talk to.  I desperately needed that.  Having a special needs child who is also medically fragile is a blessing but it is also highly stressful.  I suppose I lost much of these things about my mother long before her passing as she grew more and more ill, to the point where in the few months preceding her death, holding a conversation on the phone was becoming increasingly challenging.  She had no energy for it and I did not want to burden her with my troubles.  I grieved the loss of her before she was gone.

So here we are almost two years since her passing.  I find myself in a strange place.  I find myself grieving the loss of my mother as though it were yesterday.  It is so fresh right now and I'm feeling a lot of the raw emotions I was feeling back almost two years ago.  I've been struggling.  It has been a while, and I finally recognized that I was in mourning for a loss that happened a couple years ago!

What has happened to cause this??

Quite honestly, it's the fact that I am having an exceptionally difficult time seeing the one person who is  closest to me in this situation being exactly where he should be in his grief process.  My father.  You see, while he moved through his stages of grief all the way up in Canada, I returned to South Carolina and was instantly immersed back into the world of having a very sick child.  A child for whom we had to discuss DNR orders with her doctors during one particularly horrible hospital stay.  My focus on Peyton was been 100% of me.  In fact, even the day my mother died, I still had all of the responsibilities I've always had with Peyton.  That didn't go away because my mother passed.  They actually intensified because Peyton was so sick - sick to the point where she could have died. 

I realize now that while I felt at the time like I'd really dealt with my mother's passing exceptionally well, in fact I had not.  I had to set aside my grief to deal with the constant daily struggles of having a medically fragile child.  She's much better today but she is still very much a concern in my life.  But while I've been going through the motions of my life, setting aside "me" for the benefit of my child, my father has moved forward - as he should.

Now, I don't fully comprehend exactly where he is at in his process.  We don't really talk about it.  But what has happened that has stirred up incredible emotions is the fact that he has found a companion.  I couldn't say when it happened, but it's been some time now.  I first want to say to my dad that it's ok that you have found someone.  I do not begrudge you your happiness in finding someone you can spend time with.  I want you to be happy - do not think I don't.  I can't imagine the loss of mom from your perspective and if you have found some happiness today, I think that is wonderful.

That said, the problem lies in me.  I don't believe I've moved forward with grieving my mother as I thought I had.  I find myself to have had several "down" days in the past few months.  I sought out and joined a GriefShare group through my church.  We meet weekly.  I felt odd joining since I felt like my loss was so long ago.  There are people there with losses more recent, yes, but there are people whose losses are far longer in the past than mine.  I am finding that this weekly support is something that I really needed and that I am not alone in my grief.

I also attended a retreat put on by the Sisterhood women's ministry at church this weekend.  It was the icing on the cake of our eight-week spring Sisterhood semester.  The couple months of meeting weekly was wonderful, but this retreat...well, there will probably be a post on that in the future.  Suffice it to say that this retreat was very emotionally draining, but wonderful very spirit-filled to be sure.  The course was called "LIFE" which stands for Living in Freedom Everyday.  It's about breaking free of the strongholds that are keeping you from a full relationship with God.  By the end of the last session yesterday, I was all cried out.  I'd been prayed over six times throughout the retreat.

Can I just say that healing and letting go of baggage that is weighing you down is incredibly exhausting???  I went to church today and the message was wonderful.  During our response time, I went to communion then got in line to light a candle.  I was doing ok.  A little emotional over the events of the weekend - a lot of my baggage has to do with the grieving process I am currently in.  Then I saw her.  There is a woman at church who I always see with a young girl.  The woman is very slight and she wears a turban.  When I see her, I wonder what her story is.  You have to know she is sick, right?  I don't know her or her story, but I saw her in that line today and it broke me.  I had been considering going for prayer at response time.  There's a prayer team - a married couple - always there on the windows.  They weren't praying over anyone when I first made my walk past them to head for communion then the candles.  I wanted to go, but didn't.  Then I thought, well, if no one is with them when I'm through lighting my candle, then I'll go for prayer.  Then I saw this woman.  She looked more frail than I've seen her.  I wept.  I lit my candle, but whatever prayer was offered up as I lit it is known only to the Father, because I had no idea what to think.  The prayer teams are just beyond the candles, and wouldn't you know there still wasn't anyone with this couple {there were two prayer teams}.  I went to them and I just wept.  I told them about my loss and my grief and my not understanding what to do about these feelings I have that I know are not right and I just asked for prayer over all of it.  Again.  These were all prayed over just yesterday.

So, I share this because I know I haven't been myself lately.  I wanted you all to know why - in case you were wondering or maybe thought something was going on but were afraid to ask.  I want you to know you can ask me anything.  But I wanted to share this grief letter with you so you'd know where I'm at right now.  It is highly recommended in GriefShare that you write a grief letter.  I'm not sure they meant to blog it for all the world to see, but this is the forum I use all the time to communicate with so many.  I figure this platform would reach everyone my message is intended for.

I ask for prayers during this time.  I know I need them.  This is a hard journey.  It's different for each person.  I ask for prayers for healing because in August, we will be remembering the 11th anniversary of the loss of our son, Jeffrey.  I realize now that in my GriefShare group, I haven't even mentioned him because my focus was on grieving the loss of my mother.  While it was a stillbirth, I still lost a son.  I didn't know him alive on this earth, but he was still my flesh and blood and it was as big a loss as any I've been through - the biggest, in fact.  I am just afraid right now that August 14th this year is going to be more difficult than it has been in the past few years because of where I am at with the loss of my mother right now.  It is my hope and prayer that by the time that date is here, I will be in a much better place than I am right now.

As I move through this healing journey, I still plan on sharing stories of blessings and hope here on my blog.  I just find that some days are a lot harder than others at the moment.  Thanks for allowing me to share this with you and for your prayers!

{Note: Time does heal, but often slowly.  A second grief letter was published on March 1, 2013.  It can be found here.}

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