Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Old Rag Trail…..or a stinkin long post about grief

I have not posted for a while.

Not because my head wasn’t full of things to say, but I wasn’t sure how to say it.

Newtown threw me for a loop. As it did everyone, as it should.

And what to say about this? There is nothing to say….there is no feeling this, there is no finding the good in some obscure place, there is no good.

I was listening to the news a week after the shooting, the newscaster said that this was a town that is on the journey towards healing.

I laughed out loud to this- how quickly we move from a horrific incident…..the tragedy and endless coverage……to political debates about gun control and mental health.

And now we are healing. All in one week.

But no one talks about the grief. Because no one wants to talk about the grief- it’s messy, it’s personal, it’s raw and it’s its own ravenous, gluttonous, inconsolable beastie.

It is not healing, it does not feel good….especially during the Holiday season.

Ah, the Holidays.

This holiday found us in Virginia; along the Shenandoah Valley visiting Hubby’s Mom. It is always a quiet holiday that I look forward to.

I even knit a scarf….and it is soooo good I even wear it! Proudly

Hubby, my new scarf and I went on a hike- The Old Rag Trail….which I think is a funny and not a very flattering title …..The Old Rag Trail….to its credit it is a beautiful hike.

We started on this trail together but hubby soon outpaced me and went ahead. I walked alone, cracking the thin puddles of ice that had formed on the trail and thought of what has been on my mind for nine days- those 40 parents in Newtown; the way they must feel right now and this long, sad complicated journey they must walk with grief.

I was alone in the valley, well not really alone. Hubby was only 2 minutes ahead of me but this hike was mine….me and Winter desolation, with a cool breeze down my back. This was my journey. Hubby is on the same trail but walking his journey, at his pace.

This is grief.

And as I hiked I thought of my path and our 3rd Christmas without Our Miss and 40 newly grieving parents in Newtown on their own journey.

Do you remember Sleepless in Seattle? I loved that movie. Tom Hanks had a great quote about losing his wife:

I’m going to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while, I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed in the morning and breathe in and out. And then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while

Lovely but I do not agree. In those early, raw days of grief, I would not have reminded my lungs to fill with air. I would not remind myself to keep going, my heart to beat, my lungs to fill.

In fact, this seems to be one of the cruelest aspects to grief; your child is gone, your breath is taken from you but you continue to breathe. Your heart is broken yet somehow in some horrible sense of irony, your broken heart still continues to pump blood through your body and feed your poor soul.

Stupid heart, stupid lungs….keeping us breathing.

I turned the corner on my Old Rag Hike and there stood Hubby looking over a ridge. I stood with him and give him a pat on the butt.

“Water?” he said, and handed me the bottle.

I took a slurp, handed the bottle back to him and we started on our path.

Some people might have called my Grief journey inappropriate. Month two after losing my Sammaroo I sat on a beach for three days with fabulous girlfriends and got shitty drunk.

It was fantastic….But God I was mad. I was mad, drunk and determined to let the universe know that I would make a name for my girl…and that I would survive. That I was not done, nor was she. 

At month six I threw myself a 40th birthday party that from what I remember was fabulous.

At month six, I had to remind myself that if I had to keep living this life, I had to grieve my way. I was (and sometimes still am) loud about my rage, my robbery and my undying, absolute love for my girl.

I have to do this my way.

Grief still kicks me in the ass……hard. I have found myself outside in the middle of blizzards lying in the street in my penguin pajamas screaming about a life I did not sign up for.

The loss is so intense it feels that my skin will burst open. In fact I want it to burst open. 

Like that scene in aliens? Where the monster burst through the body and then scurries off? I have often thought that my body cannot contain the intensity of my grief.

Fortunately during those sessions, I get cold, my penguin pajamas start to freeze to my butt and the street we live on is not that busy. Hubby greets me at the door with a towel and a full body, all-encompassing hug.

Will he grieve in the street with me?

No, his grief is different. But he will meet me at the door. That is all I can ask.

And he looks silly in penguin pajamas.

There are people who walk this journey with me. Some have been welcome and some have not. Some I embrace with gigantic open arms and some just piss me off.

I am not the ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ type of person nor am I the ‘God only gives you what you can handle’ sort of girl or the ‘She is now an angel in heaven’.

She was an angel here. I would prefer her here.

And I would have been perfectly happy living this life weak and mediocre, thank you.

What I have realized is that people don’t know what to say, they panic, get flustered and the whole angel thing pops out. It does not make them bad people, just a tad panicked. These people usually walk the Old Rag with me for a while and then get ‘lost’ and end up on another trail.

That’s okay. I don’t know I would walk this trail either, if I didn’t have to.

I found Hubby at the next turn. “We only have an hour of daylight. You ready to turn around?”

“Yeah, my toes are cold.” We took a second and looked over the vast Shenandoah Valley, desolate and gray in the winter but still vast and stunning.

And we walked back to the car; both on the same trail but at different speeds.

This is me, and my walk.

And those 40 parents will find their own path, and it will all be different, and heartbreaking and at some time peaceful.

It may include God

It may not include God

At a recent support group, I spoke with a bereaved couple. When asked how they found support, they said they found a lot of comfort with their minister at church “Yeah” I said, “God and I are still battling.”

Really???? They let me talk to bereaved parents and this is what I say? God and I are still battling???? And we are, but not so much nowadays.

God,….by the way was not a part of this…..God is what good may become of this.

It may include a support group

It may not

I personally do not do great in support groups. I prefer one on one therapy where it is all about ME! That and a good anti-depressant. …but this is my journey

You may testify about gun control and mental health

You may not

You may redesign your entire house or you may move

You may keep your child’s room a shrine forever

After two and a half years, I can now donate her bed….I think

We got to the car and Hubby pulled out a Heineken for us to share as the sun set over the valley. This man, this good man who was an amazing father to our daughter…this man who misses her so very much.

This man has grieved differently than I. Our paths so different at times. But at the end of the day we understand our love for our family that has been torn apart, and our love for each other, and our respect for each other’s path with grief.

On our 3rd Christmas, I guess that is all we can ask. That and a Heineken over a sunset.

Crap, I found something positive.

And for you parents of Newtown… are not alone. Find those who respect and honor what YOU need to go through…..your rage, your depression, your manic stages, your complete pain.

And hold your child in the deepest part of your still beating heart. They will always live there.

1 thought on “Old Rag Trail…..or a stinkin long post about grief”

  1. You know, I thought of you a great deal when they kept showing those stricken family members again and again on the news. Their grief was everywhere, plastered for the world to see. I couldn't watch it…not because I didn't feel for them, but I thought how horrible it must be to not be allowed to find your own way of grieving. How they had a microphone or camera in their faces from the minute they found out their child was killed. I always appreciate your perspective on life, death, God, and grief. You keep it real…and in a world that is so unreal, that's a good thing. Love you much…happy New Year to you!


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