Grief

Spending time with a fellow nurse these days. Not only is she a nurse but she works in “homecare”. She works with the dying elderly and I used to work with dying children, both in the home.

When you have something like that in common it frequently flavours the conversation. There are places you can go, joys you can speak of, grief you can process, things that you see and know that are quietly forbidden in conversations with most of the world’s population.

This morning I am remembering a house I went to many years ago. Death was coming to this household. The death of a 6 year old boy. He was an active boy until cancer took control of his remaining days. In a brave decision that brought on a flood of judgement his parents decided to bring the boy home for a quiet passing with family in his few remaining days. They rejected brave attempts of hopeless heroism that they saw as violent. With outsiders screaming and judging, they took him home.

I was taking care to include the expression while sleeping, the kiss of a little sister and the caress of a mother’s hand in my nurses notes. I knew they wanted to keep these notes as a reminder of his final days.

The final night I was there at this house, the boy’s mother would keep calling relatives and close friends.”I think that this is his final night,” she would say. Over and over again.

The father sat by me and moaned.

“Why must she do that? Why can’t she just stay quiet?”

I wondered at this myself. Then I realized that these small declarations were, in some strange way, healing her. In nurse talk we say, “it was therapeutic”. She was processing her grief externally. It is strange many times it is the introvert that becomes an external processor in times of extreme grief. The extrovert becomes an internal processor. We go outside our norm to try to find deep healing.

Grief is experienced for many reasons. Sometimes the death is that of a healthy self, or an ideal, a symbol of success, a lifestyle or a relationship.

Grief is never comfortable. We fight it all the way. “Why can’t things just go back to the same way.”   The other grievers can become uncomfortable with the amount of personal, relational and family secrets that are being exposed in such times. Is death ever comfortable? Is life ever perfect?

If we truly love we need to allow others to fill up the room with their painful honesty or to hide in a corner. We are all unique. We are all beautiful. We all make mistakes. We all get our turn to grieve.

We need to allow those we love to heal in their own way. To allow them to find a way their best way to heal, even if it makes us terribly uncomfortable and we would do it completely different.

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