I attended my first Grief Group meeting last night. I’m not allowed to talk about the other members so I’ll just share my experience. I will say I felt like crying as soon as I entered the room. That’s not a bad sign, I don’t think. It’s just that I knew I’d be asked any minute what happened to bring me there. I felt young. I felt that I was in a different place than many of the others…but I also felt like I was allowed into a special club of people who had experienced something similar.
I never felt like that when I was dealing with Vernon’s injury and ‘recovery.’ Then, whenever I happened upon someone dealing with TBI, I felt like I couldn’t relate to the other’s story: I might get jealous that they were improving or feel like they had better resources or feel like their injury wasn’t nearly as bad as Vernon’s. It was easier for me to talk to people who had loved ones with cancer or other terrible illnesses than it was to talk to those involved with Brain Injury. For that reason, TBI support forums were not a safe place for me. Even reading ‘inspiring’ true stories of recovery that well-meaning people passed my way became dangerous territory for my mind. But whenever I hear another story of someone losing a spouse, a parent, a child, etc, I feel no jealousy at all, just sadness for their loss. I have a better idea than I used to of how hard that must be for them.
The particular Grief Group I joined is going through a workbook together. I came into it mid-workbook, but they say its ok to come in whenever, that even if you do the program a few times, you’ll get something different out of it each meeting, just because we are all in constantly changing, moving forward in our journey, and we’ll be in a different state of mind each time. At this point, I don’t know if I’m grieving the loss of a mate from this earth or if its just that reality of the last two-plus years are beginning to dawn on me. Right now, those are the memories that trigger anxiety and sadness when they come. But that’s right now—tomorrow, next week, next month may be different.
One thing they offered me (and everyone else there) last night was a lot of grace. Grace to be wherever you are at any given point in the journey. No judgement, no assumptions that you should feel a certain way about things, no rushing the stages. I was told the one thing that seemed common when you lose someone is that in the early days especially, you can feel very much in a fog (and for some people, that takes a long time to move out from). I liked the permission to call what I’ve been feeling a fog, though I hadn’t called it that yet. Now that I heard someone else’s word for it, I was able to give it a name. (Strange, because that seems like it would be an easy one to call.)
Today, I’ve been looking around the web for more grief forums. I found a few: Modern Loss and Planet Grief, to name some. I found the comment section of this particular article very interesting, with 200 readers sharing their unique accounts of loss in one convenient place. But actually, the way my own readers and friends have opened up their stories to me over the past couple of months since Vernon started hospice has been more meaningful than any article I could be reading. I feel like I have learned so much from them, from you. I feel more prepared because people have shared. It’s a lonely time of life in some ways, but it’s not a lonely club.
“Grief is itself a medicine.” ~William Cowper