Why does death so often rob us of goodbye, leaving us regret that may forever be unsettled?
Neither of us thought much of it when our schedules wouldn’t mesh, leaving us with no chance to meet prior to Shelean Marie’s trip; she’d visit her parents in Montana leaving in late May. With Global Warming again evolving much sooner than anyone expected it would be the hottest Summer on record, blistering our region with sweltering spans of scorching 90-107 degree heat. Prognosis? Stay low and keep cool. There were other things ahead neither of us had any way of knowing; epic changes that would make the heat seem like a small nuisance; life changing events that swelled like sudden Tsunamis. Our revelations arrived with no warning, no premonition.
I had given her copies of my books: http://www.livingtwelvestepsrecovery.com/ to take to her father who had been “tipping” for 20-30 years,….hard. Her plan was to manifest a life-long repressed event by confrontation with him. I don’t know if she found that moment, but rumors had reached me that the trip was cut short over family problems. I’ll probably never know what that was all about, but I do know she’d logged-in over a year clean and sober after a 2013 relapse.
We were Sobriety ship-mates In our mutual recovery and like me, she’d had an epic journey of using and gulping. Just like many others she had slipped,..hard,.. a couple of times. I was glad to be helpful to her in putting down the wine-box, the one she drew her all day and half the night plastic glass from,… for her very last time. She had been happier for it. I was too, for my small role in which as always, such helping had fortified my own 14 years in recovery. That’s how it works. You carry it and it comes back to you in strengthening your own resolve. It’s a surety, rewarded with humility. We know who and what we are,…………
In anticipation of her return, a few weeks ago, I IM’d her on FBook saying how happy she looked and that I missed her, looking forward to her coming home soon. She sent me back a emoticon thumbs up and a smile. It would be her last reach,…ever. In checking her status one evening last week, wondering if she was back in town, there was a time stopping – shocking revelation: she had died suddenly in her sleep of a brain aneurism,……. “just like that she was gone.” Not even 50 years old.
No chance of goodbyes. Death is permanent. Dead is forever. Sudden death is personal and shocking. Maybe it’s time we had a little humor on this constant mortem.
Initial Shock and Grief
THESE are the immediate reactions to the sudden death of a loved one, but in the initial onslaught, shock and grief can be profound. In a soul wrenching state of mental stress, we repeatedly ask ourselves,…..Why?
The simple cause is often an explainable medical condition, accident, death in war, but that isn’t the question we are dying to resolve, “the why” we are asking of the universe. It’s more like: “Why them, Why us, Why now,… Why ME? This can easily become a counterproductive obsession. What’s more important is to ask ourselves: How can I pick-up the pieces and move on from here? But all good things in time. We are never ready for the huge loss and separation anxiety we feel, in which every moment seems like an eternity.
But, we are in recovery and we must take special care in remembering our need to allow time to process,…. and so we wait awhile. We must remember our principles in spiritual survival, because death is often a trigger; an excuse or justification for us — no matter how long we have been clean and sober — to reconsider our resolve and become tempted to begin drinking or using again.
We know this must not happen
Surely we know our loved ones would not want that.
We have our fellowship, our clean and sober friends and there is no shame in going to them for support. They will understand while being of counsel in our time of tremendous need for their listening ear.
We have principles to use… providing us with guides to cope as we move towards eventual understanding and acceptance. We can and will adapt for we know with certainty that: “This too shall pass”. As we take time to allow ourselves to respond, not react, we find it could be awhile before our survival instincts fully kick in, but they will. We begin by not counting the moments. Any inventory of agony is counterproductive…..
We have to feel our feelings, remembering,……
In death, nothing is lost but only changed.
There is a process to grief:
- denial and Isolation
Everyone goes through these phases yet not necessarily in that order, intermingled with the potential for guilt, despair and hopelessness, vulnerability and heightened anxiety. These are emotional reactions, not responses, yet a very real part of the adjustment towards acceptance and eventual peace. When we are going through this during death and loss,we remember: Feelings are not facts !
Difficult as it may be, we recall that all flesh is mortal – no amount of love can outlast that fact. We will all die and it is as much a part of life as birth. Our human culture has always made a dark and demonic funeral dirge of death, (save the anticipated ascension into “heaven”) but in this new millennium of pragmatic Humanism, we celebrate the lives of those who have come to their ending, cherishing their memories and promising to find our own peace and contentment at some point. We know that is what they would have us do. When we obsess on loss, doing so is just just another form of our old nemesis, self-pity.”
When we recognize a benevolent spirit of love in the universe that flows through all life, it prevents us from reverting to the absurd: that this loss is our punishment, that our loved one was taken by some selfish deity to be with it. Life is born and then it dies. Do we need to complicate that fact with religious superstition and morose mythology? Isn’t that practice well passed in human intelligence? Not for some and they are entitled to their own way and solution.
“To thine own self, be true”. We have a primary responsibility to ourselves of care, especially during mourning.
“No-one needs me more than I when death comes knocking”.
How about this mantra that aids the preservation of our recovery: “Anytime we look to an outside source for our primary happiness, we are setting ourselves up for a fall.” It’s difficult to except, but in my heart it rings truth.
When we face the death of someone we love so much, we look into the specter of FEAR and that old acronym: False. Evidence. Appearing. Real. sweeps us with its cold and clammy non-reality. So very often, we project irrational outcomes on future moments only to find out our anxiety was wasted and We were wrong!
Let’s look to our 12 Step Spiritual Principles for insight in living with death:
- Step One: We are powerless over death and for awhile, it can make our lives somewhat unmanageable.
- Step Two: Our insanity is temporary and we can find recovery from it.
- Step Three: We willingly turn our emotions over to the universe of our understanding for it’s care.
- Step Eleven: We made an effort to rely upon our conscious contact (through prayer and meditation) for the serenity to adapt to death.
- Then, having taken these steps and practiced them repeatedly through this transition,we found acceptance by learning to live with our loss.
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