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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Keeping the Knees Bent

Ya know, a death is always a shock. No matter how well prepared you are, when it happens it's still a shock. When it's unexpected it's a body blow. And no matter how many deaths you've been through, there are some that gut punch. When it's someone close it's close to Hell to live through. It's not easy to get to a peaceful acceptance.

There have been a lot of deaths in my life. Each one taught me a bit more about grief. It took years to hone my grieving skills, and they are skills. They can be learned if they aren't natural to you. People have a tough time processing it all. Death isn't like anything else in life. There's no reference point. There's only one death after another. They're all different and all the same. Those steps of grief put together years ago are a framework but don't cover everything. Not everyone goes through them all or in order. But at the end of the process there need to be peace and acceptance.

What works for me is to immediately fall apart. The times I've had to conduct the funerals and had no time to fall apart were the worst deaths. Bucking up and carrying on while you're still in shock may be necessary but it's not a good way to take care of yourself. Deaths can bring ridiculous amounts of pressure and if you're already fighting for self- containment it'll leave a mark. I've learned that when I can immediately go to pieces, for however long it takes to get it out, recovery is faster.

The worst is the series of deaths. You barely get settled with one when another happens. Or when several people die at once. That's the closest to unbearable as I ever want to get.

We are grieving all together in my town tonight. Separately, but all together. Melinda Bussino knew people in every walk of life, from the homeless and destitute to the landed and rich. And everyone thought well of her. She was that rare thing, an altruist. She was "our age" and we thought she'd recover from this heart attack. She was so tough. It seems impossible and so unfair. But her mission was done.

Instead of flowers, I'm sending ten meals of food to the Drop-In Center. That'd be more to her liking.


The Elephant's Child said...

Grief is such a wicked thing. I find just when I think I am back on an even keel there will be sharp bony fingers poking into my eyes.
I think you are right about the need to come apart.
The deaths that I have been close to, I couldn't (or told myself I couldn't) fall apart and two of them haunt me still.

The Elephant's Child said...

PS: I didn't know the person you have lost but think that ten meals to a Drop-in Centre is a lovely life affirming gesture. Be kind to yourself. You are important.

Anonymous said...

Of course you are right, it is best to fall apart and let it out. Sadly, I have never been able to do that. I keep it all inside and consequently I never get over it. Sometimes I think if I could just have some privacy and peace I could sit down and deal with it but I don't know. I love your idea of sending meals to the Drop-In-Centre and I'm sure Melinda would love it too. Take care.

Austan said...

EC- I know it's better if I fall apart because the 4 funerals I had to run are the 4 deaths that haunt me. If you don't get that time, it never heals properly. And you mention telling yourself you can't come apart- yep, I know that one.

Thank you, EC. You're very kind.

Austan said...

Lawless- In the first deaths that was it- no privacy or peace to do the meltdown. We really don't deal with death well in this culture. That "get a grip" thing shouldn't apply to deaths.
Melinda founded the Drop-In Center. Helping it keep going is the best thing I can think of to honor her memory.