A detail from an 18th-century oil painting depiction of the Dance of Death.
WELLCOME IMAGES, LONDON/ CC BY 4.0
Can one recover from loss?
Recovery means acquiring skills we should have been taught to allow us to deal with loss directly. Sadly, most of us have not been given the necessary information with which to make correct choices in response to a loss.
A year after my father, John, died my youngest brother, Jacob, died. He was a dancer, funny, handsome, and eager to start his adventure in the world. As a 24-year old dancer he was fit, strong and had grown to be fully alive in his body. As a child he tripped over his feet and now after studies in dance, he owned every part of himself. Except one.
At eighteen, he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.
I’m one of five children in a tight knit family. The loss of my father was incredibly hard on each of us and our mother. Jacob was struggling with college, type 1 diabetes, and normal living before my father’s death. Yet after, in each of us there became a deep need to “seize the day” not matter what.
He struggled with his diabetes, graduated college, and then decide to move to NY city. Taking with him so many piled up losses over the last several years: loss of health, loss of community, moving, death, a fractured family structure, loss of a sense of self, graduating again, and moving again. He avoided talking about diabetes, changes in his health or how it was progressing. These losses are hard enough as a griever, and then another level as a person with diabetes, large changes in a pattern can be really hard on the body.
Not to long after moving to NY city, he was found in his apartment dead. It is suspected his blood sugar was low causing hypoglycemia. He fell and may have hit his head. My mother, my brothers, and I went to claim his body in a NY city morgue. Looking at his lifeless body, I can tell you it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I do not regret being there as I loved him. I still love and miss him. We are left with the uncertainty of the events of his death to this day.
After that, I had a significant amount of emotional grief that I stuffed deep into myself. I had to stay strong for my mom and my siblings. I kept busy taking care of "things," and stuffed the pain and loss into the depths of my being. Not even when I was alone would I take it out and work through it. Then it became worst, a fond or beautiful memory of him would turn painful as all I could remember was that day in the morgue. I made a choice in that moment that I would look for tools and actions that would help me to celebrate, love, and remember Jacob while being able to let the grief, pain, and loss go. Even writing this, I’m remembering his smile, the curls in his hair as a little boy, his ability to make me laugh, and the way he could dance. That day in the morgue has become just a fact in his death and never overrides the memory of all the good stuff anymore.
Good tools and a series of small and thoughtful choices made by a griever can support recovery from loss. I found the Grief Recovery Method and my art practice invaluable in this process. With these tools and actions, recovery becomes the ability to feel better, to find new meaning for living, enjoying fond memories while also being able to work with ones that might not be. Most importantly, recovery is acknowledging that it is perfectly all right to feel sad from time to time and to talk about those feelings no matter how those around you react. Recovering from a loss is not as easy task. Taking the actions that lead to recovery will require your attention, open-mindedness, willingness, and courage.
Do you want to go deeper?
Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the Griever.
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