Grief and Loss

“Loss is a jagged pill, and grief, a constant companion in varying degrees.”

Stephanie D. Zimmerman

My last post was ~2 weeks ago in response to the death of my cousin, Sherry. This past Sunday, I learned that my uncle Red married 50+ years to my aunt Jeanie, who passed away 2 years ago, had died of complications related to a urinary tract infection.

While his death was unexpected at this time, he was 92-years-old, and the quality of his days was phenomenal despite his dementia. He was a joyful dementia patient living independently within an assisted living community in my neck of the PA Wilds.

At the end of the day, whether someone’s death is expected or unexpected, really doesn’t matter regardless of how old or young they were. What matters is that those of us left behind feel the absence of their presence in our lives every day for the rest of our lives.

I’m not suggesting that we unpack our bags and live there; however, cursory grief, if you will, is just that cursory, and ultimately, damages the healing process, in my opinion and my personal experience with loss.

I wasn’t able to attend services for either my cousin or my uncle; however, I am heading to PA on Wednesday for a long weekend with my extended family at our annual family reunion.

Being with my family-extended will be a comfort to me, but I am bracing myself for the emotions that will no doubt overwhelm me at times. I have a very tender heart, and I love my family deeply. Each loss leaves me with a broken heart, tears free-flowing, and yet, a heart that ultimately heals when given the time and space to do so.

Time and grieving are interesting concepts to consider within the context of our culture as there is most definitely an unspoken timeline on grief in modern American culture. If you said timeline, then something must be wrong with you. You must be lacking in some way whether emotionally or spiritually.

Those of us who have grieved the loss of things like our childhood, friends we’ve known along the way, the potential loss of the idea of long life, or the ability to have children, have come to understand that loss is a jagged pill to swallow, and grief, a constant companion that varies in intensity across time.

I have found through the years that grief will not be rushed. It knows no timelines, and it resists them, as it is impossible to walk away from the death of loved ones or a life-threatening illness unchanged.

Fellow traveler, there is a lot of shaming cast in our direction. Though most people are well intentioned, they simply don’t understand. Thus, making the building of community among us of even greater import as we live out the cure and encounter the physical and emotional consequences of cure. Whether it’s chronic pain or fatigue or another life-threatening event, it can throw us back into the grief cycle in a skinny minute, and if there is one thing I’ve seen and experienced at times through the years, it is there is very little tolerance grief when others hold rigid ideas about grief.

So, it truly circles back to finding your tribe, recognizing their roles, and loving them hard. There is always room for one who is tribal here.




PS If you have not found your tribe, I invite you to check out Surviving Survivorship, a closed group of long term survivors of various childhood, adolescent, and young adulat cancers. we’d love to have you join!

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