It has been almost 8 weeks since Libby passed and 5 and a half since my grandfather. So much of my energy has gone into just making it through. It seems just as soon as we are through one storm, something else comes up. I could go through all the things since this time last year that have gone on, but I won't. I already woke up this morning feeling incredibly sad.
You see, this isn't my first go around with death. My parents never shielded us from those things and were very open and honest about the inevitable parts of life. When my grandmother died in 2004, after developing lupus during her battle with cancer and Hodgkin's disease, I was 16 and was more aware of the complexities of grief than all the other times we had dealt with it in the past. I was sent to a bereavement counseling session and was walked through the "stages of grief". However, in the last year, I have experienced some things relating to grief that I never experienced before and I thought I would share.
1. Death and grief make people uncomfortable.
One of the common clichés about death is that it is a natural part of life. You know, it is one of the two things "you can truly count on". Despite how natural it is, death makes people so uncomfortable and as a result you end up with some pretty awkward interactions.
2. People will bring you food because they don’t know what else to do.
I never noticed the influx of food that arrives following loss. I think it is because my grandmother's fridge was always stocked, so when people dropped off food it went into the place where my grandmother's home cooked meals and groceries would have gone. This time around, within the first 24 hours, there were so many people dropping off food, the already full fridge was bursting at the seams. As a result, Berke's dad innocently turned down a few people at the door dropping off gluten tainted extras from their own dinner. We all felt like jerks afterward. Even though it was something we didn't need and could not eat (Berke's dad is allergic to gluten) we decided to take food no matter what. Later, we were told not to feel bad if we just have to throw it away or pass it along to someone else.
*sidenote: if you have a friend or loved one that is grieving/overwhelmed/new parents etc. and you want do something for them, I suggest making specific offers. Instead of just dropping food off or saying "call if you need anything", make a plan with the person, bring them a grocery gift card (especially if they have dietary restrictions), or offer to take them for coffee/lunch/etc".*
3. Some days you will feel like you are in a haze and others you will feel sharp as a tack.
From day to day, I would go from my brain being so muddled to remembering every detail of a 4 person conversation. On a related note, some days seemed to fly by and some were an utter crawl. The first few days and the day of the memorial were a blur. So many people to talk to and so many things to do.
We experienced this A LOT! Berke's mom did so many things, had a ton of hobbies, and was an amazing networker. As a result there were so many different people, from different circles were thrown together in the week following her death. It was so weird seeing people passive aggressively compare who had more clout with her, who had the most right to be upset over her death and who had the most say in her final arrangements.
This wasn't even unique to Libby's passing because I was witnessing similar behavior at my grandfather's memorial. The worst was the pastor that delivered my grandfather's eulogy. When we first arrived and sat in the pew near my mom he was asking "And you are?!" to all of us in a tone that was rather rude. He ended with multiple poorly placed statements to convert/baptize/condemn nonbelievers! Even as a believer, I felt it was a little inappropriate but I am just attributing these misplaced comments and behaviors to death and grief making people uncomfortable.
5. You should go somewhere to decompress after care giving...
... Or you may just end up strangling those people you have been caring for. Many times the sentiment is that you need to surround yourself with supportive loving people. The truth is that everyone grieves differently and we all just need to walk away and have time to ourselves. I noticed that when I had not taken enough time for myself, to relax, take care of myself and deal with my own emotions, my feelings would get hurt more easily and my own brand of crazy would start to come out. Or I would just turn into teary-eyed mess.
It is not the most eloquent thing I have ever written, but I am sharing these things because I feel like death is a topic we really don't talk about. We gloss over it with some pretty stupid canned statements. Instead of helping, these statements don't comfort anyone and mask real things that might pop up. Thankfully, there were only a handful of people that really made these things apparent to us. Otherwise, everyone that has been there for us and supported us throughout this time has been wonderful. I know we couldn't have gotten through this without a lot of those people by our side. And if any of you happen to be reading this: Thank you for that!