The Picture of Grief

A couple of weeks back, after a conversation with my Mom about her grieving process (if you don’t know, we lost my Sister on December 19, 2013), I suddenly had the strange feeling that 4+ months into this gig, I had not even begun to grieve her passing. Never mind the stuff I’ve written about her death, the talk/song I shared at her funeral service, and all of the tears already shed …

A day or so after that conversation, I ran into a wonderful blog site about grief; specifically the post dealt with grief having no expiration date. It occurred to me that being so far from her (in proximity) for so many years prior to her death along with her inability to carry on our normal phone conversations during her final couple of years combined to make it that much more difficult for me to know she’s really gone. While I have no clue what the next step in my process will be, I suspect it involves some intense ‘realization.’ Not something I’m particularly looking forward to.

On Wednesday, the following photo showed up as the Friday Fictioneers prompt (I won’t even try to explain why a Friday photo prompt shows up on Wednesdays):

Copyright – Björn Rudberg

My gut reaction was how familiar the picture was – not that I’d seen it before, but that I saw myself in a similar photo-memory of what I now think of as my former life. The emotions that boiled up to the surface when I saw the prompt surprised me a bit. A mixture of nostalgia and excitement, fondness and regret coalesced inside me to produce one clear thought in my head: “I can’t write a story about this. Not now, not maybe ever. This isn’t fiction; in fact, it’s too real — it’s me.”

In a conversation with my son about humor I told him that for me to find something funny, it has to be true, to ring true. Fiction for me is quite the opposite. Sure, the characters have to be true – to themselves, and believable – to the reader. But the more fantastical the story, the more I am drawn to it. Maybe that’s why I prefer tales about dragons, fairies, magic, and aliens more than historical fiction (Seabiscuit notwithstanding).

As I’m sure you’ve already begun to grasp, seeing what looked like the scraps of an old life of mine reminded me again of my recent loss. It was as if writing about the picture would have been a step in the direction of dealing with my sister’s death. I don’t feel ready for that right now, for lots of reasons.

First, I’m daily faced with the raging hormones of a 15-yr. old son. Having raised 2 daughters, you’d think I’d have been up to the challenge. Whole. Different. World. I’m literally at the end of myself and my ideas about how to navigate these waters. Most days I throw up my hands and just ask God to take it. Hopefully He’s listening.

Second, there are huge financial outflows facing us right now: my husband has been renovating the upstairs of our house having been out of work for 7 months; June 1, 2014 he will restart his counseling business; my daughter is getting married in October; and I would love to find a way to block my noisy neighbor before then. Being the primary breadwinner (hubby still serves as a Reservist) can be stressful in today’s economy – especially as a woman.

Third, my parents have both had rough years health-wise. 85 and 84 respectively, my Dad and Mom continue to manage on their own, but we all lose the battle against Father Time eventually. With the recent loss of my sister, their well-being is pretty much on my mind 25 hours every day.

Sunday afternoon I did some shopping to find a dress for the wedding. I knew it was a mistake when I looked into the mirror and saw almost the exact replica of the one my sister wore to her son’s wedding:

My Sister dancing with Hubby
My Sister dancing with her Hubby

It wasn’t exact, but the color, the tiers … I said out loud to myself, “I can’t look like her.” Fortunately, it was the last of the 3 dresses I tried. I hung it up with the other disasters and promptly walked out, giving up the search for the moment. So many memories, at every turn they hit me.

I looked back at the photo prompt Sunday night, glad I had left it alone. I want to push myself to write like I want to push myself to get through the grief – I’ve never been known for my patience. I’m not ready. I’m learning to be okay with that, to give myself permission to breathe. Sometimes even that hurts too much.

*Actually, my favorite part of this video is the (probably drunken) man dancing in front of me. 😀

15 thoughts on “The Picture of Grief

  1. I haven’t been as faithful to Friday Fictioneers as I’d like to…life seems to get in the way. So I’m very sorry not to have known about your sister’s passing. Just wanted to let you know that this post was well worth the visit. Learning from others is a God-send. With this piece you’ve taught me to reflect on what it is to be mortal…and human…and what lies between and beyond. hugs for all this…


  2. No amount of words can express my condolence for your loss. Clearly, you’ve got a lot on your plate right now, and I believe you’re doing the right thing by taking time to nurture your heart. The grieving process isn’t something that can be forced, but it also isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like it to be. I wish I could share more substantial advice, but you seem to have a better grasp on dealing with loss than I do. I just wanted to let you know I admire your strength and am praying for your recovery.


  3. In addition to being trained as grief counselor, and working at hospice, I have had a LOT of grieving to manage, in my own life. Grief is unique to each person, but one thing I am sure of: grief can not be rushed. It can not be pushed or ignored. Allow it in, and it will find a gentle place to rest. Fight it, and it will only shove harder to be expressed. Metaphors aside, I hope you find some peace… with your grief, your loss, and the time it will take to lovingly make peace with your loss. Sending you sincere, loving thoughts.


    1. Amen to that! A friend passed a little book on to me today. It’s called “Good Grief”. I hope to get to it soon. Meanwhile, my son has offered to type up my nephew’s words about his mother (given at the funeral) for me to share copies with my family members at this year’s summer reunion. I think many things will be “realized” when we are all together again and she is missing. It’s going to be an important weekend for me.


      1. It’s so important to share our memories and grief experiences with those who knew and cared about our loved one, as well. It really makes a difference! I hope you find some shared joy and peace in retelling stories, etc.


  4. Grief and writing are strange bedfellows. I lost my dad last July and although, yes, fathers are supposed to die before daughters, he was too young, hadn’t yet retired, and it was all such a shock, so unexpected. I wrote through some of my grief, and used it as catharsis. But sometimes, you just, cannot, do it. So don’t. There’s no need. Do what you need, for you. Wishing you well. Come back when you’re ready.


    1. Thanks so much, Freya. It’s interesting that sometimes I HAVE to write through it and sometimes I can’t. All part of the process I suppose.

      Today my dad asked me if I ever dream about my sister. I think I’ve had 1 dream about her since she passed. But whenever I think about her I see her laughing. 🙂


  5. First, I’m so sorry for your loss. Only you know what you need to grieve and how to grieve. My sister lost her husband only three months after they were married. It’s true what you say that grieving has no expiration. I can understand why you wouldn’t do the prompt. And part of thinking it through is part of your process, for writing and for grieving. I wish you the best.


  6. Grief is hard. Through my own life events, I know exactly what you mean about your parents.
    There’s no schedule for grieving. You can take as long as you need.
    And when you come back, we’ll still be around.

    Rock on, Judah.


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