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Grief

Tonight I went to the memorial for the student who was killed in the car accident a week ago.  I didn’t know the student and wanted to have a better sense of who she was and to feel more of the grief that the community is experiencing. 

Handling crises is my least favorite part of my job. I don’t do well with things like grief.  My emotions are naturally very intense even at baseline, so when there’s a crisis, I shut down.  I guess this is my brain’s way of protecting me from being overwhelmed by my feelings.  In a way it’s helpful, since I need to be there for the students, but sometimes I’m afraid I’m so emotionally removed that it’s affecting how much support I can provide.

I do feel bad for the parents.  I don’t have children but I can imagine how hard it would be to lose a child, how unnatural and unfair that is.  I wonder if they will celebrate Christmas this year, and if Christmas will ever be a happy time for them again. 

And I feel bad for the driver.  He may go to jail for drunk driving, and for the rest of his life he will have to live with the burden of her death.  I hope that he finds a way to forgive himself for what happened and find peace.

Often my friends on FB will post something on the birthday of a loved one who has died and say how the sadness never goes away.  It’s daunting to imagine living with never-ending pain–a hole in your heart that never gets filled.  That’s why death scares me so much.

For awhile I was really into books about near-death experiences.  I think I read them as a way to be OK with the idea of death.  I found comfort in reading that all of the people who went to heaven and came back to earth thought heaven was so great that they were depressed when they didn’t get to stay. 

My favorite part of these books is where they describe how entering heaven is like a pep rally where all of these people, including your loved ones, are there cheering you on and welcoming you.  I don’t know if you get to pick your job when you’re in heaven, but I think I would be an awesome greeter.  That makes the idea of dying a little easier, too.

The biggest loss I’ve experienced so far is losing my first husband.  He didn’t die but we are not in contact and he does not wish to have a relationship with me, so it’s been like a death to me.  

I know I’m probably taking this too literally, but sometimes I wonder, if it’s really true that your loved ones greet you when you get to heaven, would he be there to greet me, since we’re no longer married?  Or would he just be there for his second wife when she dies?  I imagine that when you are in heaven you can be in two places at once and you don’t have to choose which loved ones you will be with like you have to do on earth.

Even though it’s been almost 10 years since we’ve been apart, I still miss him.  We shared so much together that every day I encounter something that triggers a memory of him.  But at the same time, I am happy with my life and feel fortunate that I will get to know more people than I would have if we had stayed married.  So it’s possible to be happy and sad at the same.  It’s possible to miss someone but still go on with your life.

I guess since we all experience losses throughout our lives, these losses just become a part of who we are.  I have always felt that if I had to do my life all over again, I wouldn’t change anything, because every mistake and every loss has played a role in the person I have become.

Plus I believe that our task in this lifetime is to experience what it means to be human, and suffering and death are a part of the package.  Often in therapy clients want me to take away their pain, and I have to tell them that I can’t, but I am willing to sit with them while they are hurting.  I guess that is the best gift we can give to anyone who is grieving.  So at least I’m getting that part right.

This is my favorite doodle because it looks like a magical land, like Oz, minus the yellow brick road.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

2 responses »

  1. This is an extremely moving post & parallels closely with emotions that I've been struggling with myself as Christmas approaches. I am glad that you acknowledge that suffering comes in different shades for different people & I appreciate your realism with the way you answer your client's pleas to take their pain away with, “I can't do that. But I will stay with you while you're hurting.” When I first saw that your post was about a family losing their daughter in an auto accident, I felt slightly ashamed to even mention the source of my own current grief in the shame breath as grief connected to loss of life. Almost everything seems trivial when compared to the grief connected with loss of life; but after you shared the grief that you've experienced over your divorce, I feel comfortable sharing what I'm about to share. I don't mean to compare the grief that I have with that of the parent's of your young client, but we all hurt in our own ways. And we should all retain the right to speak about the sources of pain in our own individual lives. Nothing that bother's us emotionally can be considered trivial.
    ——Romeo

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  2. Thanks, Rome. Yes, grief comes in different shades and we can grieve anything we've lost–even if other people don't agree that it was a big deal. Our feelings are never trivial. Sorry to hear that you are also struggling during the holidays. I'm right there with you.

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