Grandpa – 1973, Grandma – 1989, Chris – 1990, Dad – 1999, Jean – 2006, Carol – 2013. In less than five minutes my paper is full, filled with so many names, the dates of their deaths and the tear stains that show my sorrow. My therapist has asked me to write their names down and my relationship to them and then to reflect on each of their lives.
It is a daunting task, this walking into my grief and doing this work. Honestly, I would rather do anything else than revisit this pain, so I procrastinate staying busying with other tasks and avoiding my grief.
Then I get angry! What’s the point? Why do this when so many others never have? My wish for healing is greater than my anger however, so I finally accept the challenge and I get down to work. I cry, I write, I talk to them out loud and I now feel drawn to complete the task and two hours go by. Exhausted after this inward journey, I wake from a dream filled night, feeling better than I have in days. I can sense that something has changed…
As I reread my ramblings, I find wisdom in my words and I now see them; I see the gifts! The gift that reflects each person’s life, the gift that each one of them has left for ME!
There is the gift of being comfortable around the elderly; understanding that they are rich with history that comes from Grandpa living at our house while receiving chemotherapy treatments before his death from lung cancer.
The lesson of living in the moment, embracing life and having fun that comes from a man who died way too young. The ability to forgive that comes from an alcoholic who loved me, but couldn’t love himself, and the love of nature that comes from my summertime exposure to a place called Pembine, a gift from my great-aunt and uncle.
Healing is always found by moving toward the suffering, so when you are ready to do the necessary work toward wholeness, honor the gift of life that took human form through the people you love and have lost.
Tell their stories, name their legacy and heal old wounds. Grieve for them in your own personal way – crying, writing, talking to them out loud or pounding your fists into a pillow to release your anger. Don’t forget to give yourself the gift of time, so that someday despite your suffering you too might be able to answer the question, “What is their gift?”