Some readers may already know this, but my step-mother passed away on December 1st. It was sudden, but not that unexpected. She was 81 and expecting to have a triple bypass in a few days. While she was my step-mom, she raised me from the age of 7 up, so she had a significant impact on my life in many positive ways. She was "momma" to me.
The day she died I was preparing for a quiet Saturday, but was suddenly whipped into a frenzy of driving up to their house in Central Texas. We starting dealing with all the typical things after a death and comforting each other. In those moments, I was "okay" and I operated out of deep concern for my family and especially my father. Having worked in the "grief business" for several years, I was seeing all of the typical behaviors and hearing typical things. I was also trying to monitor my own reaction to her loss.
Through the following weeks, we were handling funerals, wills, disposition of clothing, and starting to go through her things. Dad was trying to formulate a workable plan for himself in the midst of his grief, and I was doing my best to help him along with my brothers.
Even though we had had a significant loss, we had planned to visit our son in South Carolina for Christmas along with his beautiful wife and our first grandchild. Through a lot of hustle and bustle, we got ourselves to South Carolina with gifts for the family. At our son's we started making pies, cookies, and food for Christmas day. We were also enjoying our five month old grandson. It was busy.
On Christmas morning, I woke up with a real "funk" for the day. I was very sad and wanted to isolate. People commented that I looked very tired, but I wasn't willing to tell them how I was really feeling in the moment. The hustle and bustle of the previous four weeks had stopped, and here I was with very little to occupy my mind and the grief settled in on me quite unexpectedly.
Six and a half years ago we lost our oldest son to a drug overdose and sense then neither my wife or me have had much Christmas spirit. Our lives were turned upside down then and we were really hoping for the joy to return with our first grandchild's first Christmas extravaganza. Unfortunately, the death of my momma reinforced the sadness and lack of spirit.
My wife and I spoke in some detail about how we were both feeling and we resolved that so many things have happened to upset our normal patterns. Our children had married and moved long distances away, our oldest had died, Christmas became a family experience with our son's in-laws, and my mom had passed away. Add on to that my concern for my dad. All of this is change.
The Grief Recovery Institute defines grief as the "conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior." It seems that we have this in spades right now and it is apparent that we need to work through each of these losses.
So, in the moment on Christmas, in my sadness, I spoke with my most trusted person who would not be judgmental... my wife. I told her I was sad, sadder than I had been in a long time. She said she felt very similar and we hugged and held each other. We gained strength from each other to continue through the day. I think this is the key to healing in most every case - having a trusted person that you can open up your heart to in moments of difficulty.
So it is December 27 now and what do I feel? Well, to be honest, I am still sad. I will be teaching a grief recovery group in early January and I will be working along with my class on my most recent loss. It will be good to feel better again after taking correct positive steps to recovery.
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