Home' LOTL : April 2007 Contents 34
In our culture people often don’t know how to respond
to grief. Friends and acquaintances say, “Time will heal”,
“It’s time to get on with your life”, or any number of well-
intentioned, meaningless clichés. The person who really
understands will quietly acknowledge the unspeakable:
life will never be the same again.
My sister Lynne died last year. During what was to
be Lynne’s last stay in hospital I lived in the hospital
residence to be with her at whatever time she needed. I
didn’t know these would be her final days. The day she
died I met a woman from the residence who asked me
how I was. I said, “My sister died today.” She launched
into telling me her spiritual beliefs and that it was all for
the best. All I could see was her mouth moving, but like a
mantra inside my head I heard my own words: “My sister
is dead.” I could only feel gut-wrenching heartbreak and
could barely stand. I didn’t need words of wisdom or
looks of pity. Nothing was going to make me feel better.
I didn’t want to feel better. I wanted my sister alive and
The journey we take when someone we love dies is
unique for each of us. Grief becomes our companion
and our experience is unique. Plenty of books and
experts explain the cycle of grief and loss and that is a
good thing. It allows us to know we are not going insane,
that we are not alone and that it is natural to grieve. The
reality is that the cycle of grief is not a perfect circle, just
as we are not perfectly predictable beings. We can feel
depressed one day, angry the next; in denial, on our
knees, or peaceful. There is no set pattern.
Marina, an artist in Vermont and a dear friend, cried every
hour for four years when her lover died. Other people I
know have tried to out-maneuver their pain and sidestep
their grief by not slowing down enough to really feel it. At
times I’ve done the same. When I need someone who
understands, it’s Marina I call.
I like the Oxford dictionary’s definition of insanity: “A state
of mind that precludes normal perception, behaviour and
ordinary social behaviour.” Grief and loss of a loved one
is beyond these norms and irrationality becomes normal.
Everything is upside down and this can tear away any
pretence in our lives that served to protect us from
feeling our feelings. One great loss can plunge us into
feeling every loss we have ever had. No wonder we feel
insane. Yet if we invite feelings and really feel them we
release so much that has blocked our hearts.
If I remember anything of those last days with Lynne it
is her pain and her smile. I wanted to kiss her exquisite
forehead forever. Her hands moved slightly and delicately
each time she touched one of her children, or gently
held a straw to her lips, or rearranged, ever so slowly,
the objects on her tray table. Her eyes, blue dawn, were
awakening to new life, yet were filled with the sadness of
leaving this one. Her tears were a heartbreak, her touch
a blessing. She knew there was so much she had to live
for and so did I.
The night before Lynne died I was sitting in her room
and she looked at me. Her eyes told me she knew she
was dying. I kissed her forehead and my body began
to shudder. I wanted to hold her forever and every
intense feeling I had ever felt broke through my façade.
I left the room and moved through the corridor to the
KIM CAREY SHARES
HER EXPERIENCES OF
GRIEF AND LOVE.
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