Friday, February 7, 2014

There Are No Shortcuts, Only Wrong Turns

Unless you’re willing to have a go, fail miserably, and have another go, success won’t happen.
Phillip Adams
So on to almost the last of my lessons for you:  which is that there are no shortcuts on the journey of grief.  And you will pay the full toll.  The other thing that book I was so horrified by tried to tell me is that there would be a long journey before I could claim to feel a little better.  The author herself claimed four years.  At the time she might has well have told me a century!  I didn't have four years to give to my grieving!  I had all those other obligations I mentioned last time.

Well, here I am, well over that mark, and I still have days that kick me around.  Moments that trigger me.  As I was watching figure skating last night, I had to be honest and admit, for the first time ever actually, that I didn't fall away from that sport because Michelle Kwan isn't in it anymore:  I can't follow it slavishly like I did because Kelsey was a skater, and it was because of my pushing that she was.  I've taken back, gradually, a lot of the things I once couldn't face because they reminded me way too much of her, but there is still that one.  Maybe after Meryl Davis retires I can conquer that one, but not right now because, I'm sorry, she doesn't look healthy to me.  Maybe she just has a natural dancer's build, but whatever, it's triggering to me, and little girls watch her and want to be like her, and I'm a little freaked out by that thought, just honestly.

Anyway, whatever I did to shorten the grieving process just dampened the flames in one location, only to have them pop up some where else.  If I lost myself in hockey, there was a lockout, and I was left alone with my thoughts.  If I just tried to power through it, I would end up snapping at people or generally losing it.  I moved clear across country.  Sure, I tell people I did for the sports, and I did.  And for my family, and for the fact that I just love it here.  But, let's all face facts, I did it because my house was haunted and ruined for me.  For all of us.  Moving was the smartest thing I did I think, but the grief followed.  In a way that was a good thing because in those first months when I was living here alone with Cheyenne, I really faced it and dealt with it in the quiet hours.  And that's when I think I knew the truth, and the one thing I can tell you that is an absolute:  you just have to do the work and spend the time.  Trite maybe, but fitting, to say that there simply are no shortcuts.  And any you try, whether they're "healthy" like throwing yourself into causes, or destructive, like drinking or drugs, will not save you from that.  At some point, you'll either sober up and still have to face the grief that sat patiently waiting for you, or you'll die too.  I don't have a lot of statistics to back me up, just anecdotal evidence and my own personal experience, but you can take what I say to the bank.

If you're like me, and that hits you like a cold slap in the face, I can offer this hope:  just because I was grieving doesn't mean there weren't good days.  It doesn't mean that I wasn't able to cope or meet my obligations.  And it doesn't mean that, at some point, just like Ann Finkbeiner said would happen, I, without even realizing it at first, spent more and more time just feeling normal.  As I've said many times before, there is a new normal to contend with, but you gradually find that the loss isn't the first and only thing you think of in a day.  Your loved one is never far from your thoughts, but you can have a life after loss.  Really, you can.

And that is hope.  It's not punishment.  I missed that at first.


  1. I think I say at the end of that book, Cheryl, that I worried about parents who are newly bereaved reading it and feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to aim the book at people who are on this road about where you are now, 4 to 5 years along. I am REALLY sorry that the book gave you too much information too soon and that this caused you problems. Really, I am sorry.

    About the marriage stats: that 85% number came from a marriage counselor my husband and I saw, and I didn't believe it so I looked it up and the real stats ranged from 20% to 75%, and with a range like that, you know that they don't know what they're talking about. Several years ago the national Compassionate Friends did a survey of its members and found only 9% had divorced after the child's death. So we're on our own out there but definitely our marriages aren't doomed. My husband and I fought a lot, gradually fought less, and are still together.

    - Ann Finkbeiner

    1. I am extremely touched that you a) found this blog and b) thought to spend the time to reply to little old me. I have to confess that I never made it to the end to see that. My husband did. He read the whole book and it was helpful to him. And I think some of the other people who have reached out to me privately to ask for the title have read it as well. So, please don't feel the need to apologize - even though I did liken the book to Voldemort in the post before... What it shows I think is that grief and the journey through it are unique for each person. And I just couldn't handle being told the truth at that moment. My personal way to move through the darkness was to remain blind for a time.