Anyone who has read my writing knows that I find meaning and messages and inspiration and hope and healing and connection to my daughter, Dannica, in numbers and blue sky rainbows and signals and signs and in the synchronicities of every day life. My daughter’s death is the most painful of the many earthly losses I’ve experienced.
It is a very long story, full of numbers, blue sky rainbows, signals, signs and synchronicities that recently led me to become a participant in a Grief Recovery Method support group and to then become a certified Grief Recovery Specialist in order to continue my own healing work as well as to gently guide others in this direction.
Dannica loved worms. She loved all living things. She even treated inanimate objects that resembled living things with the same respect and compassion she’d have shown the living version! (Other stories for other times.) As a child, whenever it rained and the worms would come out on the driveway and in the gutter, she’d pick up as many as she could and put them back in their happy, dirty places. She gave them names and talked to them before finding some dirt for them to squiggle into and she loved them with all her little heart. She didn’t know it, but I watched her, and loved her and was her enthusiastic student the entire time. Now, I think of her every time I save a worm from becoming road jerky, and I *have* to do it! I can’t stop myself.
I saved a worm on the path between the hotel and a coffee shop just before my first day of Grief Recovery this past June. I found a beautiful feather where I bent to return the worm it to it’s dirty home; then a butterfly… it almost let me brush its wing with my finger and it followed me and it stayed close. All of these, were whispers (to me, anyway) from the spirit of respect and compassion, from the spirit of Dannica, the spirit of my daughter, winking at me, giving me a hug, seeing the genuine joy through the tears as I took a deep breath and thanked her for lighting my way. She got me there, to that place, to that class, to the next step in my own recovery and to the next step in fulfilling her purpose of making this a better world to live in for all living beings.
I’m not going to talk here about my experience in the group other than to say it was an emotionally intense and extremely challenging experience and I’m deeply grateful to have had it. I believe from the moment of her passing, my Dannica has been telling me there are greater, higher purposes for her passing just as she did, just when she did. We had an agreement (well, that’s what I believe); a sacred contract, that she would contribute in this way to making the world a better place and that I have a part to play in it too, and she’ll help me with that because this is not something either of us can accomplish on our own.
I’ve felt in a bit of a whirlwind since I got home from my class; web site stuff, facebook stuff, making flyers and plans, completely restructuring my business and private practice with this new focus. Now some of that’s done, I’m getting out of my business mind and back into my heart. It’s a better place for me from which to live and from which to be in my daily life.
Sometimes, a lot of times, as others in their lives go on with their lives, grieving people tend to feel isolated. Their hearts are broken. My heart is still broken. I, as many do, heard a lot of the hundred plus comments, one generally hears following a loss; all of them made sense to my brain, none of them made sense to my heart. I believed them and have even passed some of them on to others, each statement perpetuating another myth of grief and loss and grieving. “Don’t feel bad, at least _______.” “She’s in a better place.” “Time heals all wounds.” “This, too, shall pass.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Only the good die young.” As logically acurate and emotionally unhelpful as all of these were, the one that truly sent me reeling over the edge was, “It could be worse, honey. I know of a woman who lost not only her daughter but also her husband in the same accident. It was easier for her than it is for you though, because she had her church and her faith, and you don’t. Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”
Yeah, if I had those things I wouldn’t be feeling any of this, would I? But, I’ve lost those, too. I couldn’t push her out my door fast enough. I couldn’t slam my door hard enough when she was gone. I coulnd’t have cried harder than I did in the hole I felt my own life to be in that moment.
Many of the things I heard from others didn’t make sense to my brain either, but I believed people meant well and probably had no idea what to say instead. I don’t believe they consiously intended to shut me down or minimize my feelings to remain comfortable in my presence, nonetheless, that is how I felt, and many relationships have faded or vanished completely from my life. More loss. More grief. More time alone. More believing there is something wrong with me. It must be me. I’m the one who changed, right? Mine is the only life now different than it was before November 14, 2012.
Over time, I came to feel as if the world was just tired of hearing from me. There are people in my life who continue saying things like, “We make our own happiness.” What I hear, what my heart understands is, “GET OVER IT ALREADY! Move on. Let it go, I have. Be happy… just be happy so I can feel better about being near you. You’re such a downer. Life’s too short! I don’t have time for this… I don’t have time—for you, Melissa, for you—not as you are – not like this.”
So, while my heart is broken and while I’m bleeding to death on the inside every day, I put on my happy face and I pretend to be happy. That way I can tell myself I don’t need people anyway. I’m all I need, right? That might be true, but not when it comes to grieving. Not then. I know this now. I didn’t know it before.
Day after day, I drift up from sleep into a panic in the pit of my stomach and part of me always wants to scramble back down again but it’s time to face the world with my happy face. The door to the world I’ve awakened from has slammed shut. Day after day, I am the academy award winning griever playing the part of the amazing, strong, brave woman who’s daughter died and yet still buys groceries, still does laundry, still manages to work at a job (more or less), see a movie, have lunch or coffee with another human being and talk about the weather and the world as if she cares about those things at all.
There are days when I feel superhumanly powerful for walking from one room of my house to the next as opposed to crawling or just giving up on the trip altogether and taking a nap on the floor between rooms. No one else knows that. No one else sees that now because it’s been four years, 11 months, 9 days and that’s way beyond plenty of time for someone to be over this and move on with their life just like everyone else. “That’s life,” and that phrase makes me want to take my own life every time I hear it.
The mantlepiece in my broken heart is lined with little golden Oscars. One for each and every time I answered, “How are you?” with the word “fine” and someone believed it. One little golden Oscar for every holiday I’ve “celebrated” pretending to actually care about the centerpiece, the menu, or whether the toilet was clean, even when I wanted to sit in the closet until it was over but felt obligated to “make an appearance.” One for every time I fooled even myself into believing, “now I’ve felt it all… nothing could feel worse,” and then it feels worse.
The Grief Recovery group and the specialist certification don’t mean I’m “there” yet even though I so wanted them to mean that. I have a new direction in life and I have some new ideas and a new understanding of myself as a mother and as a human being and as a facilitator of healing in others.
Recovery from the pain of grief is a journey more than a destination; made a step at a time but in a direction I hadn’t intended when I first set out. It feels like a detour because it is a detour… a different path, well defined by others who see the bigger picture with better understanding than I do in order to get me safely from here to there with the least resistance and the most efficiency possible.
I still feel sad that my Dannica isn’t here with me physically, but I no longer push sad away from who I am in a given moment. Permission to feel sad feels so different than feeling shame for feeling sad. It’s my new way.