Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Scarf of Grief

About the time the lunar eclipse hit Chicago land last night (approx. 1:30 a.m.), it was cold, overcast and snowing. I was up reading - a frantic, rather annoyed and angry mother because my oldest was out and hadn't checked in, nor was he responding to my calls to him or texts. The book was "Second Chance" by Jane Green, an author I very much enjoy. The plot revolves around four school chums who are reunited after 20 years when one of the group is killed in a terrorist attack. The following words about grief so well stated how I have felt over the years:

"The problem with grief is that it doesn't go away. As time ticks on, the rawness dissipates somewhat, and you find yourself settling in to the pain, becoming accustomed to it, wearing it around your shoulders like an old, heavy scarf.

And life has to go on. There are children to look after, meals to cook...playdates to organize. Grief has to be filed away, compartmentalized, allowed out only when the rest of your life is sufficiently organized when you can have time to yourself to give in to the pain."

I love the analogy of wearing grief around your shoulders like an old, heavy scarf. And I know that it can be terribly challenging to go on with life, putting grief on the back burner for lack of time, feeling as though there may never be an opportunity to fully mourn.

At same time as I was reading this passage and the solstice and eclipse collided, my father passed away. The hospital had my brother's work number as a contact and of course when they called his business there was no one there to answer. He had been aware that my father had been taken to the hospital but due to the heavy snow and late hour did not travel the 45-minute distance from his home to the hospital. In the morning he called the hospital to be told that my father had been discharged! He then called the assisted living facility to be advised of my father's passing. A confusing, strange exchange of messages and phone calls to say the least. I guess the hospital should have better informed my brother that my father had been "discharged" to the morgue!

I decided to go into work but felt shock and numb, sad but happy that my father is no longer suffering physically on this earth. He was in the hospital around Thanksgiving and I refrained from mentioning it because frankly, I had become so sick of the medical efforts to always heroically "save" my father's life only to have him back in the hospital the next month. When I sat in the hospital back in November with my brother we had an opportunity to talk and heal and then over Thanksgiving, the same occurred between my sister and I and we have been talking, emailing and texting regularly since. A small blessing of my father's last hospitalization was that it did bring family back together, perhaps in anticipation of what would happen less than a month later. I predicted my father would be back in the hospital by Christmas but did not think he wouldn't pull through this time. He has had more than nine lives - always making it. I should add that the last charge for his ICU room in November was $90,000.00! For a single day! Incredible!

It is tough to be a widow wearing the scarf of loss once more. There is no one here to put comforting arms around me. I read the draft of the death notice to be placed in the paper and got upset seeing that I am the only family member with no spouse's name beside mine in parenthesis. A trivial thing to be bothered about but it I can't deny that it didn't. When you lose a spouse, much of the grief borne is a solo experience because the person you relied on before is gone.

There is a different sense of loss with that of my father's passing. He was 89, in ill-health, not 54 like my late husband, in the middle of life and career with young children to raise. But there is still loss and grief and sadness. The mere knowledge that I am now without my parents is sobering.

I think between the snow, the eclipse and solstice last night that there was some magic in the air. I see my father being picked up by a sleigh, possibly even being driven by Santa and flying through the sky as he is transported to his next destination!


  1. I'm so very sorry for the death of your father, but thankful, too, that he is no longer suffering. It is an altogether different grief, but grief nonetheless.
    Praying for comfort, strength and arms to hold you.

  2. This is a very beautiful post, even though it contains the news of your father's passing. I am sure he is relieved to be off this plane and free of suffering. For you it does mark entry into another phase of your life. Having one's parents gone is a strange feeling, one which is rather fresh for me, too, having lost my father less than 2 years ago, and passed the anniversary of my Mum's loss this week. There is a rational sensibility about it all, as you have reflected, but there is also the loss.
    I am sorry you are going through this right now.
    Hugs and comfort to you.

  3. I am so sorry to hear of your father's passing. Another loss. Especially at the holidays. I am sad for you

  4. I am sorry to hear about your father. When you mentioned being taken away by Santa's sleigh it reminded me of a funeral I went to where a beautiful gospel singer sang "Swing Low Sweet Chariot", and I imagined the chariot coming down to take him to heaven. It is a lovely thought and I hope it gives you comfort at Christmas.

  5. oh I am so sorry to read of your loss. Just because he was 89 doesn't mean that it makes the loss any easier to bear.

    Please be kind to yourself x

  6. I am so sorry you lost your Dad. Hugs. Of grief, I'd say it does dissipate when felt fully in the presence of kindness. The scar it leaves can be a gift. I didn't learn the value of kindness until I received it in my brokenhearted state. Before, when I was feeling vulnerable, I inadvertantly shut others out. I aspire not to do that now. Wish I could say I succeed more!

  7. May your grief scarf become a symbol of something conferred to you, a strength, a vocation of compassion and truth-bearing... something beautiful.

  8. Thank you all for your words or wisdom, condolence and kindness. All are greatly appreciated.