An open book
I wrote this post about 51 days after my 26 year old sister took her own life, its taken me a little longer to actually publish it. I can’t even really explain to you why…. maybe I needed to go through more of the process first to understand what I was doing here in the blog space. I now have a clearer perspective & understand that this way of doing things is part of who I am… This way of processing is part of who I am. If I am anything, I am open. I don’t hide who I am or what I feel. I think thats what my clients appreciate about me. That I am human. That I am not invincible. That I go through stuff just like anybody else & that I share my story because I know that there is hope! That I trust. Easily. That I am an open book & that from that open book, I invite you to take as many pages as you need to so that you might recognise bits of yourself & remember….
In my previous blog LIFE, I break down my initial thoughts regarding my sisters life, her death, her legacy & I begin to piece together some thoughts around this tragic event that has completely rocked my world.
A chapter titled grief
Grieving & mourning is such a hard & tumultuous but apparently necessary process. I think the thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it feels like waves…. but not in a soothing, gentle ocean kind of way. More like an overly populated, litter strewn, sea weed infested, Summer season beach kind of way. I don’t know if that makes sense but thats kind of what it has felt like to me. Like I am trying to find a quiet spot to put down my many bags & beach equipment, dragging my hangry kids who actually just want to wade in the ocean & all this while knowing I actually forgot to pack my bathing costume & its hot AF. You get me? Not pleasant! and theres sand in EVERYTHING, including my eyes.
I think one of the reasons why I struggle with grief so much is because it feels like it never settles. Never is a strong word, so I suppose this reflects my impatience & discomfort with not knowing what the emotions that come next might be. This is such because you move between the phases, sometimes haphazardly I’ve heard & the movements are sometimes jerky & disturbing…. theres nothing gentle & graceful about this process. Well, right now it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
So let me break down the phases for you & where I am at in my thinking about them. Please do note that this is completely from my perspective & while I aim at giving you a basic description of each stage, the purpose of this blog is to share the authentic part of grieving from my own personal perspective.
The official process
Most articles & information available details 5-8 stages. I am going to list 7 today for the purpose of reference & then I will break down each stage in separate blogs to follow this one, reflecting on my own process throughout. I may move through breaking down the stages randomly, just following the flow of when the words appear for me to write them down here in the blog space. I invite you to follow my journey by clicking on one of my social media accounts Facebook or Instagram or following this blog to get notifications.
Stage 1-Shock & denial
Stage 2-Pain & guilt
Stage 3-Anger & bargaining
Stage 4-Depression (Reflection/ Loneliness)
Stage 5- Surrender & Release
Stage 7-Choosing Life (acceptance & hope)
Stage 1: Shock & denial
This is the first level of dealing with the loss. Denial may be your body’s way of slowly attempting to process the loss. This may be drawn out depending on the extent of the trauma, the closeness of the person to you, the suddenness of the loss etc. It really, in my opinion is the human minds way of preventing your body & heart from completely breaking or shutting down. So this is good place to begin…
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes…” This verse got me through these first few weeks of the grieving process because it kept reminding me that even though I had no idea how I might get through this process… God has the ability to litterally use any situation to His purpose & He always has a plan of action.
Dazed & confused
I remember driving home after learning of my sisters death. With very little knowledge of what had transpired leading up to my dad discovering her, I was in complete disbelief about the reality of the situation. I sat in the car in a daze, mind just racing around different scenarios & desperately wanting to just get to my moms house & SEE my sister. I think, in looking back now, SEEING her was my minds way of stepping through the gateway of the trauma of her death. I think I knew that if I saw her physical body, that I could begin the process of facing losing her. And yet it felt completely unreal, this entire process. Driving, thinking, crying, speaking but not fully absorbing any of what was happening around me.
Fight or flight
When we got there & began the long, painful process of trying to piece together the reality…. my survival mode kicked in very strongly. I think this was part of my body’s denial process. Flight or flight comes to mind in this process because we all have similar experiences when faced with situations that shock us or shake us. I have never been much a a runner…. so my fight mode kicks in very strongly. You see, in those first moments, I think my brain defaulted to what it was trained to do. It defaulted to my purpose. Awareness, empathy, planning, strategy, vision. To coach. To find the connections. To find a silver lining with which I could build a Vision. To motivate, myself & everyone else. To handle it. To deal. To help everyone around me to deal. To be what I thought everyone, including my sister might need in this moment. The shock made my brain go to its default space. To control the parts of the tragedy that I was able to control. I think people looked at me & thought I was very strong. I think they must have wondered why I was not more emotional. I was in shock…. and my way of managing with the process was to be of use to everyone around me & to put my own inner thoughts about the situation on the back burner until I had time to find out the facts of what had happened. There were not many tears because there was not much thinking. There was a lot of doing but not much thinking.
Do, Do, Do
You see, I am a solutions person. I am a doer. I love to look at situations from an eagles eye view & to find the connections. To decide the direction it would be best to move into & to put together an action plan to go there. Thats part of my God design you see. I have been that person for as long as I can remember & since being trained as a coach I am able to follow the process more efficiently.
Wait… but why?
The shock of my sisters death would soon wear off & give way to the disbelief & mental denial that I think is only natural. The next few days, looking at pictures of my sister, preparing for the memorial service & going back in my mind to moments shared became like a maze. You look at pictures of the loved one you have lost & you go back to while they were living & you cannot fathom that you will never see that person again. I saw my sister getting out the the car in the front of the house & calling at the gate. I heard her asking me questions she would usually ask & have a go at me for being so strict & serious about things that she handled more casually. I remembered amazing things about her & also the things that got on my nerves. In all that time, the thing I did most was shake my head, uttering her name under my breath & just asking the question WHY????
But there are no answers that take the pain away. Some answers help me process other emotions… but none of the answers erases, nullifies or discounts the plethora of emotions rising & swelling inside me. In those first moments, nothing made it easier to accept. Nothing made it feel like a reality… not even reliving seeing her body on the floor.
Into the shadows
And so I fell around in the shadows of grief. Back & forth, wind tossed & weathered, ambivalent & all the while…. SHOCKED. My sister, Stacey, took her own life at the tender age of 26. She hung herself in the bathroom of my parents home from a 4mm nylon rope. She didn’t leave a note. She’d had a fight with someone she loved dearly. She didn’t feel that there was hope. She may have been depressed. Its never just one thing but rather a multitude of things, moments & perceptions. And I have been told by a suicide survivor that there is pain. An unbearable, indescribable, insurmountable pain that is tangible. Death feels like it might be the only solution in that one treacherous moment. Had my mom or I been there at that moment, on the other side of the door to speak reason or break it down… might that have helped? We will never ever know or understand. I will never know all the facts & I may never understand but this is part of my story…. and my life will never, ever be the same again.
Sending love always,