Celebrating The Journey Through Grief
By Jacqueline Nannini – My journey from remaining alive to being alive
Death is a word many people understand the meaning of all to well. According to the dictionary, the definition of death is the end of life, or in other words the person involved has come to the end of his life. What the dictionary meaning does not refer to is that the family who loved this person has also come to the end of life as they know it. The obituary will most likely read “survived by “and list the person’s family. Death has taken during my life time my mother, my father, two husbands and a granddaughter; I know that the term “survived by” is not an accurate description. The word survives means to continue to prosper, to exist or function. The person in grief is not able to do any of this. Even though our loved one who is “dead” has come to the end of their life, in so many ways this definition is also true to those who have “survived”.
Another meaning in the dictionary for the word “survive” is to remain alive. This definition is where we must begin our grief and find a way to heal. Just to remain alive sounds very simple, but in reality it is so hard to do. Many may ask, “How do I even start to feel alive again”? For myself, I started with time. Hours, minutes and seconds really had no meaning, they were all the same. So I began to set a goal of time for myself to get through, some days it was an hour, others days were only minutes or seconds. I would spend time writing, crying, remembering or doing nothing at all but hope to get past an increment of time. No matter how hard it was, I always made it. I may have not always felt better but I made it, I remained alive.
As I stumbled through the hours, day, weeks and months to follow, I found I was remaining alive. I thought many days that this would be how I would continue to feel forever. I would remain alive I just would never be alive. I often wrote in a journal, I called it good days and bad days. It was several months before I put a notation on the good day side. My writings were all the works of someone just trying to remain alive. Well wishers would see me and tell me how very sorry they were I had lost my loved one. I thought and wrote about this comment often. I had not lost my loved one, lost infers to something you can find and I would never find them again. More accurately it was I that was lost. How do I find myself again and do more than just remain alive?
I began by continuing my journal writing, and attending grief counseling. I started a project to make bears out of the clothes of my loved one to give to family and friends. All of these things helped me begin my journey through grief. I cried when I felt sad and I laughed when I felt happy. I realized at some point that remaining alive was not enough. If I were to only remain alive for the rest of my life then in reality when my loved ones died, I did also. This would leave the rest of my family mourning another death.
Somewhere in the blur of months and years to follow, I wrote in my journal of a celebration I attended. Celebration is another word that was not usually in my vocabulary. The dictionaries definition of celebration is to observe a notable occasion or to honor. As I thought about this word, I believe I turned a corner in my healing process. The death of my loved one was certainly notable and I could honor those I had lost, I could “celebrate” their life.
I began by writing on the good side of my journal, the good memories I had. I talked often to my family sharing stories and remembering the great times we shared. I organized a golf outing to raise money for charity in my loved ones name. It was this outing that changed my journey from remaining alive to being alive. I began to feel again and through those feelings I found a purpose, a mission. With the help of my children, we began a children’s grief program. Realizing as an adult how hard I had struggled with my grief, I know it must be even harder for a child. Together my family and I created a safe place for children to come and talk about their feelings. A place they would not feel alone, a place where they could take this journey through grief and learn to celebrate again.
Each of us has our own journey through grief and each of us feels our loss differently. It is not necessary to begin a children’s grief program, hold a golf outing, write in a journal or make bears out of clothes. It is only necessary to remain alive until you discover what makes you want to celebrate your loved ones life. By celebrating my loved ones life rather than mourning their death, I found the true meaning of the word “survive”. I have learned to prosper, to function to live, and I have done more than just remain alive. In that process of living I have also found a way for my loved ones memory to remain alive.
For those of you feeling lost in your journey through grief, it is my hope that you can one day find a way to celebrate the life of your loved one. Find a passion, a meaning, a purpose and celebrate in their honor your achievement. Death is not then the end of life, but rather a notable occasion where we can continue to honor our loved ones life. They become the survivors by remaining alive in our hearts and we can say we have survived and learned to live again.
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