Gleaning Grief

I have hesitated to write about this.  But, after all, I think I need to, if only, ever, for my own processing.  And, because this blog is my way of processing…and maybe, with a little luck, my way touching on a point in common with some of you out there too…I’m putting it up.  Please, don’t flame me.  It’s a nervous making post.  But it’s honest.

So, with disclaimer all claimed, here we go:

We have had an odd summer of grief here at the coffee house.  We knew some of it was coming, we could see it on the horizon.  But some of it….well, some of it hit us like a beam smacked up side our heads.  And it’s been exceptionally difficult, as grief is and will be.  And it’s been exceptionally nuanced, as grief is and can be.  And it’s been healing in it’s own exceptional way…as grief sometimes, with luck, can be.

Now, I will also add, on the front end of all this because it’s so important….  In no way will I ever say that grief is something good in and of itself.  Grief is an evil in that it defines loss.  Grief is a hardship.  Grief is a….grief.

But here is what I’ve been thinking about and what I’ve been trying to tie together in my own heart and mind.  I think it’s even Catholic in so many ways – but mostly in the transformation that can come through suffering. (C‘mon, you knew I had to tie that in sooner or later.  Might as well throw it out there right now).  You see, grief is a suffering.

Yeah, I’m gonna repeat myself: Grief is a suffering.

But, with a great deal of grace and the eyes and heart to see it, PARTS (NOT all) of grief can be a transformation.  Ahh, I’m getting ahead of myself.  What a surprise.  I guess I’d better back up and explain.  Deep breath….

I killed our dog.

I know! It was as horrible as reading that is.

In fact, it was much much worse.  It was hands down the worst thing I have ever done.  Just typing this makes my hands kind of shake and my stomach flutter with sick and nerves.  {Whoa, did you hear that? Those tens (I’m not kidding myself, I’d love to say hundreds but this is my dinky blog….less than tens??) of clicks of readers clicking away in disgust??? I know! I heard them too….. See I told you this post wasn’t gonna be pretty or popular…..But this blog is not only ponies and rainbows….}

Anyhow.  I couldn’t eat for a week.  I still can’t park in the same spot.  I ran her over. I didn’t mean to, and wasn’t even racing out. I had no idea she was there. I’m still simply horrified by it and some nights I wake up thinking about it.  Because I loved her.  But even worse, my kids loved her.  And she was just sweet and stupid and it was just the most horrible accident. Literally, Horrible.  I got out fast and saw and I think I must’a screamed (and I’m not a screamer despite what you might imagine). My big sons came running out and I had to run in to stop the girls from doing the same.  And I had to tell them.  And then I had to run after them as they ran screaming.  Quickly I had the two who would take it hardest corralled next to me on the back steps and we wailed and cried and I kept saying “It was an accident, I’m so sorry.”  And they kept forgiving me and wailing from the shock.  All this time my amazing awesome manly sons took care of it all. They cleaned up, made the phone calls to Tom and the vet and my best girlfriend.  They helped the smaller kids and the teen sort out what to do and what not to do.  They canceled appointments and then they helped hug and console.  And then we all hunkered down, to begin to get over the shock.  We all piled onto our big huge sofa and found mindless movies so that we could pretend we were watching. We began the steps of grieving.

And here is where it was awful and horrible and hard and exhausting and yet, and yet….. where some of the good can be found.  Because I have to pull from this. I have to or I will go nuts.  I can’t not, I’m not made that way.  [Perhaps to your pain but for those of you who couldn’t stand my ramblings you’re gone anyway. I heard the clicks.]

Anyhow.  I prayed and prayed for a way through this.  Because you know, that pup was intended in large measure to be a “therapy” pup for my girl from hard places.  And ya know, accidentally running over the dog is not on the worksheet in the therapy-parenting workbook….  No. It’s not.  So, how do you do something so antithetical to TWO years of hard work and slow progress and not have it all slide backwards to back beyond the beginning? How?  I don’t know.  But even my first screams of horror were prayers, “Oh my GOD help!”  Literally.  Oh, my God.  Help us all. Right now. I don’t know what or how to handle this.

And I didn’t know.  I didn’t know.  So I just kept doing the next thing.  And that meant, I held the kid, each of them, together, separately, in pairs, however I found them.  We cried together.  We looked at each other, knowing what wasn’t being said.  The sad.  When one kid would drift off, I’d give them a bit of time, minutes maybe, but I’d find them and pull them into my lap and cry with them.  Let them tell me again and again and again how sad they were.  I told them, “I know.  Me too.

Really, it was hard work.  Is still some days.

But, of course, the first shock of grief ebbs and the days get filled with time and distractions.  And life continues in it’s messy busy way.  And it did.  We hung close to each other for awhile, but even that, soon enough was replaced with the schedules of summer day camps and hot sports outside and swims to cool off.  And those things helped heal too.

Now, none of this is the gleaning.  All of this is the normal, if there is that, grieving after a loss, and this loss was only a pup.  Not a human.  So it was a smallish loss, in some ways, considering what it coulda been.  Really.

But, in this loss, what I have seen is that it has added a new layer to our family.  It has added a new bridge to our new daughter, the one who has had so much too much grief in her life already.  The difference with this one, and perhaps the reason she actually did surprisingly well through it, considering….is that this grief was shared.  By us.

This grief was the first big grief that we all shared together.

Yuh.  Read that again.  BIg big stuff.  We’ve had some family losses; but most were  before she came home, before Gabey came home.  But since she’s been home, thankfully, nothing.  She’s lost so much, so many.

But those losses were all BEFORE.

And she had them alone.

They are separate for her.

Even when she processes them now, here, I can’t share them with her.

None of us can.  It is apart.  Which can only add to it, it seems.

But this one, we did it together.  In fact, this one, we went through all the steps of processing: the shock, the wailing, the angry denial, the dumbfounded sinking in of it, the aching hurt of it, the remembering, the finally being able to talk about the puppy, remember her, laugh about her, the sometimes heart-bruise showing up again.  We did and do all that, together.  Separately, but also, together.

And that, that processing together is  bonding.

That’s what you do with family.

It’s not a bonding process anyone would choose.  Really. Not.  But it does still fill the function.  And the hopefully healthy stepping through the cascade of it….that too, has tremendous value.  {Which is NOT to say that we did so fantastically at it all, we stumbled our way through just like anyone ever does}.

Gleaning from grief.  Sounds kind of morbid, like a vulture even.  I don’t mean it that way.

But that opening horrible day of our summer; I really think it helped us to prepare for the other griefs that were lining up for us.  Chris was leaving in a big way.  Jon was gonna leave again too.  It was a big deal.  Great grief amidst excited joy.  But for the sibs, grief, change, hard.

This horrible event beginning our summer gave us a little road map and the assurance that we could get through it.  We’d cry.  We’d wail.  We’d sniffle and run to have time to ourselves, then come back to check in, sit near each other pretending to watch bad tv.  But mostly, we’d be together, sharing that change, sharing those looks.

Without that process, together, we’d never be able to move to the open clear land after grief.  That’s the place where you can laugh, even after the loss.  We can joke that Chris has tripped on his habit up the stairs as he learns how to wear it.  We can laugh about Jon and his new crazy roommates.  We roll our eyes with a smiling wink over using Brother Peter Joseph’s new religious name and the strangeness of it.  We can even joke that the puppy was not so terrifically bright and remember that really, every single time she saw Tom…….. she’d pee on the floor.

And then, we can smile, a real one without tears, and laugh.

9 thoughts on “Gleaning Grief

  1. Beautifully done, as always. Grief is a separate place. Only when you have some experience navigating it can you even begin to understand others’ travelogues.

    • thanks Nora. It is. And this was, admittedly, only a small one, relatively speaking. But it was a good practice run for what surely must arrive sometime (hopefully a very long time) in the future. And it was a building block even so. And it helps me to consider it from all angles w/in our complicated family dynamic. I know you get it. Thanks!

  2. When you find the beauty in suffering, you are showing gratitude. It is from a place of humility(the good kind) that allows you to see through the grief. It is a place that is very close to God. I would never choose the path that brought me to the times of feeling that holy closeness but it isin those times that allow me to know, without a doubt, that God will always be there for me. It is those times that give me the courage to walk through the pain instead of continuing to avoid it. Lovely post….although as you set the scene,I never imagined it was going…..there!!! I love my front row seat in the sitcom of your life!!!

    • Hi Jean – I’m an old friend of Michelle’s from CA. I love your line about the front row seat in the sitcom of Michele’s life. I feel the same way reading this blog from the mezzanine. Thanks for the humor, Michele, in the midst of hard-core life.

  3. Kate here, from Sweet Ridge Sisters. You are so right about grief, it is a suffering, and it can and does deepen our understanding of the boundless love and grace of God. I am a birth mom, and in the past few days have stumbled upon a treasure trove of blogs full of eloquent, passionate, incredibly intelligent birth mothers writing about their experience- which means writing about grief. Over the past ten years I have been struck with the realization that we humans are created with the capacity to deal with so much more grief than the average modern day American can imagine. Our reserves are deeper, the love of God is deeper, and the potential for grace is so much greater than we imagine. God is so infinitely generous in His response to suffering, if we are open to that grace. All the best to you are your family, and thank you for writing about your summer of grief.

  4. oh sweet friend. that is hard. so deeply hard. thank you for sharing. i really understand the “grieving together” thing too, and how you do have new “bridges” to one another, having gone through that valley. been there. a shared grief can and does lead to deeper, more solid connections within a family. reading this, i see a lot of healing and beauty. thanks for writing it out!

  5. Wow. First, I am so sorry to hear about the trauma. I can only imagine how awful that must have been for all concerned – especially for you. However, you so beautifully describe the bigger picture of providing your daughter’s first experience of mourning in a collective, supportive family. Your sweet pup seems to have been a therapy dog after all. xo

  6. A few days late in reading this (thanks, stomach bug.)

    Thank you for sharing your heart. We haven’t been there yet… not the big losses, nor the little. But I know they will come. And I hope I remember this. Thank you, dear lady.

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