Accepting Loss

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


I was fortunate to be in my later twenties the first time that I was confronted with heartbreaking loss. My grandmother Mary had been a constant in my life from the time that I was a baby and I loved her dearly. I had recently had a daughter of my own and was experiencing the joys of my newly expanded family life. Logically, I understood that my grandmother had lived a wonderfully long and contented life and that her passing was part of the circle of life. I was grateful that she was physically and mentally healthy until the ripe age of 93. However, we all know that emotions are not logical. My tears would not subside during her funeral service. All of the memories of our time spent together replayed in my head as I wept uncontrollably, while trying to listen to poems and loving words spoken, acknowledging my grandmother’s sweet character and remarkable life. I thought that I would never overcome my heartache. I returned from her funeral to my hectic life of balancing working full-time and raising our daughter, and my thoughts soon became overfilled with the daily grind of our chaotic day-to-day life. To be honest, there was not much time for me to think of anything else other than how I would get through my hectic days.

Best-selling author and Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote many books on death and grieving. In her revolutionary book “On Death and Dying” she outlines five stages of grief that terminally ill patients experience: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages have since been applied to understanding many different grieving processes. After losing a loved one, the author is also quoted as saying “the reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not get over the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same.”  For my loss, I think that it was the busyness of my life that helped me to accept the loss of my grandmother and to learn how to live with her no longer a presence in my life. Many of us immerse ourselves back into our daily routines in order that we can focus on less painful thoughts, while still keeping our memories alive. To this day, I have the warmest memories of my time spent with my grandmother that make me smile whenever I think about her. It is quite common for people who lose loved ones to return back to work right after a short bereavement period, so that they may divert their attention from their raw emotions and feelings.

My next devastating loss occurred a few years after the passing of my grandmother. I learned of my sister’s terminal cancer diagnosis on my 34th birthday, and she passed the following month in June, at the young age of 36. I now had two daughters in my expanding family and had to abruptly leave them under my husband’s meticulous care in order that I could take the three-hour flight to Florida to be with my sister before and at the time of her passing. This was the first time that I witnessed up close how a disease could ravage a body. My sister’s healthy weight of 160 pounds plummeted to under 100 pounds, and she coughed non-stop and had tremendous difficulty catching her breath. In her palliative care room at the hospital, she slept in an upright position with several pillows behind her head so that she could breathe. She ate only tiny morsels of food when she was not coughing or gasping for breath. As heart wrenching as it was for me to witness her physical deterioration and to see her suffering from excruciating pain, I felt blessed that I was able to hold her hand and be with her and that we were able to communicate all of the important messages that we needed to share with one another. I was relieved that she was at the acceptance stage of her own grief process and that she was not afraid of passing. While she was at peace, it would take me much longer to process my own grief and to accept the untimely passing of my beloved sister. My healing process from her loss eventually led me to my own spiritual journey of understanding life and death and to finding my faith. It would be my steadfast faith that would help me to heal and to accept her loss and, in the future, to build a continued life around the loss of many other loved ones.

Everyone in my husband’s and my original nuclear families has now passed, with the exception of my brother, and we have also lost many extended family members. My spiritual faith and strong belief in the after life has helped me tremendously to live with and accept our losses. The passing of my mother, Mary, was the most traumatic loss for me. It was the first time that I had to rebuild my life without the person that I loved as dearly as my husband. My mother was my best friend throughout my life and, after losing her, I could barely get out of bed for the first few weeks. I wept every single day for well over a year. Many days, my husband witnessed me bursting into tears throughout the day for no reason. Even after returning to work and our daily grind, I cried whenever anybody mentioned my mother. This time, escaping to my busy life was not helping ease my pain. Unconsciously, I would pick up the phone or start to write an email, and then realize that my mother was no longer physically here. Losing my mother left the biggest void in my life that took the longest time for me to come to terms with until I was finally able to heal.

After a couple of years, I reached a point in my grieving process where I only cried occasionally, whenever I thought or talked about my mother. They say that time heals, and I think that is what happened for me. Signs and messages from my mother also helped me to not feel as alone, because she confirmed that she is always with me in spirit. Today, I rarely tear up. I have found peace and can rejoice whenever I think about my mother and remember all of our beautiful times spent together. There is no doubt that my spiritual faith has helped me with my grieving process and the acceptance of her loss. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is correct in identifying that I have learned to live with the loss of my mother and have become whole again, and that I will never be the same. While I have now accepted her loss, a part of me will forever grieve no longer having her physical presence in my life. Grief is a very personal journey. Every loss is different and we all process our grief in our own unique way until we reach the stage of accepting loss. Many others have confided to me that their personal faith has been instrumental in helping them heal as well.

The global pandemic has created the loss of the life that was familiar to all of us and that perhaps we took for granted because we thought that our lives could never change that dramatically. For close to two years now, we have all had to change our plans, our work, and our social life and learn to adapt to staying home and being by ourselves. While we have just started to resume some of our previous business and social routines, the reality is that we now must adjust to and to accept our new normal. The end of the pandemic is not yet in sight and so it is crucial that we all take every precaution dictated by our health experts to ensure the spread of COVID is minimalized.

A global pandemic has caused us to experience a universal grieving process that was unfamiliar to many of us. I believe that most of us were in denial last February 2020 when we first learned of our fate. We became angry that we were forced to cancel our plans, were worried when we were laid off of our jobs, and sad that we could not see our family and friends. We then started our bargaining process, pleading for a magic formula that would permanently eradicate COVID and for the pandemic to be over. When months went by with no magic formula in sight and vaccinations not yet approved, many of us became depressed, particularly because we still could not see our extended family and friends and we were despondent having to spend Christmas and other holidays alone. When vaccinations were finally approved and started to be administrated, we found our first glimmer of hope that would lead to the acceptance stage.

The reality is that we all had to go through five stages throughout our personal grief journeys and some stages took longer for some of us and were more difficult than other stages. As Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has stated, some of us may grieve forever and may never get over it. Many of us are now in the final stage of our grieving process where we are learning to live with our new normal. We are trying desperately to rebuild our lives and to become whole again. We are learning how to live with a pandemic and accept that the life that we once knew may never be the same again. We are accepting loss.

 


Submitted: November 03, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Denise Svajlenko. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Moomin


I recognise the anguish in your words. I too have had to watch my loved ones struggle to breathe and exist. You describe the futility and frustrations so clearly. I am so sorry for your losses and pain.

I also read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' book, years ago, and while I would not want to intrude on your personal perspective and beliefs, I have to say that, I do not agree with Miss Kubler-Ross about death. I did experience many of the stages that she describes, but I did not feel "Bargaining, and acceptance." To me, and in science, death is illogical. In fact I have written an article about this. I would appreicate your opinion on it, especially since we are both people of deep faith, that sustains us.

I wish you peace.

Sat, November 6th, 2021 1:53am

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Reply

Thank you for your comments. I think everyone experiences their own unique grief process and her five stages are a guideline. I hope we all come to accept loss, We may never be the same, as she is quoted as saying, but acceptance means we are able to move forward in our life and rebuild our life around our loss. If we aren't able to eventually accept loss, than our hearts will remain closed because we will be living with hurt and possibly anger. I do appreciate your comments and I look forward to reading your article.

Sat, November 6th, 2021 4:57am

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