In talking about early grief, I consider it as two separate categories. The first can be called a “life-defining” grief, in my case, the grief I felt soon after our daughter, Leah died. The second is the grief you accumulate early in your life.
For me, this early life grief was a series of incidents that I dug up during my sessions with the grief recovery method or (GRM). Part of the GRM process is to look back at your life to recall all of the moments when a loss occurred. For example, my little league baseball career was not the brightest spot in my childhood. I believe that on my team, I had the most walks of any of my team mates. Not a single hit in two consecutive seasons of play between years 7 and 8.
That was my baseball story, until the championship game of my second year. With one out, at the top of the 9th inning, I got up to bat. I was nervous, and closing my eyes, I swung at and hit my first fair ball. I got a single. I was elated! It might make the difference on how the season ended. However, the next 2 batters couldn’t connect, the game ended. Championship lost!
My team didn’t go to Dog and Suds for the celebratory ice cream treat.
Seems like an insignificant loss, however, when you are 8, it was crushing. It wasn’t until I looked back at this seemly small loss that I realized I had never let go of the feelings that went along with not having my contribution count towards the success of the team. It didn’t affect the outcome of my life and certainly wasn’t a life-defining loss. Yet, it factored into how I had accumulated an unnecessary burden.
The story of the death of a pet is a similar story of loss. A loss associated with the death of a beloved pet teaches you a life lesson. It doesn’t hurt any less and as a child it was traumatic. I was not taught how to complete the feelings and say a proper goodbye and so the emotions lingered. Whether it is a pet gold fish, a turtle a beloved dog or cat loss is hard for a kid. Parents have a teaching opportunity but often deflect and minimize the loss because they don’t want to see their child suffer.
How many losses are you aware of that you still carry?
The early grief associated with Leah’s death was entirely different. The impact of the loss affected every part of me physical, mentally and spiritually. I have spoken about the disconnect I felt and the numbness that came once I felt that I had been unmoored from anything that resembled my past. Nancy and I talk of the uncharted territory of grief and it is a very strange land indeed. Nothing is familiar and the weight of the sadness and the pain of the loss was too much to bear at times. I had to retreat to a place that gave me some relief. I had a hard time concentrating and decisions were difficult. I had lost a daughter and with it nothing seemed familiar.
I didn’t feel comfortable in my body. Everything hurt. Spiritually, I felt disconnected from anything resembling what I grew up believing. How could God take my daughter? I felt abandoned. Even our Church community shocked us. There was initial sympathy and support from a few friends, but when we attended church there was a barrier because the congregation as a whole didn’t have the words or the skill to bridge the chasm that separated us from what was normal and comfortable. We were an anomaly. The feeling of being alienated because no one knew how to respond to a couple who had lost a daughter felt surreal.
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