Wednesday, April 20, 2011

As I Travel Down the Grief Canal (Part 1)

Photo by hotblack.

Within five minutes of receiving the shocking news of my brother's sudden death, I found myself--without a suitcase or itinerary--standing on the deck of HMS Uncertainty, cruising through the waters of the Grief Canal.

Six minutes earlier, I had been talking to my visiting uncle, who sat just ten feet from me in our den. Immediately after The Call, I stood waving in confusion to my uncle, who now watched me from the banks of the Grief Canal.

Of course, I didn't know I was on the Grief Canal and that someone else had booked passage for me. I only knew I was alone, the skies were dark and threatening, and a painful lump had replaced my heart and was pressuring on my tear ducts.

Soon, someone--I don't know who--steered me to my room. People walked past and smiled, their faces fuzzy and out of focus. People I knew from home--my husband and children, friends, other family members--called to check on me. But their voices--though thick like peanut butter with concern and love for me--sounded distant, like I had slipped down a tin tunnel, far out of their reach. I slept. I cried. I felt the aching lump in my chest and wondered if my eyelids would ever return to their normal, smaller size.

Stewards left food for me. Sometimes I ate. Mostly, I pushed the food from one side of the plate to the other. I slept again. After several days, I opened my door and looked down the long hallway. There on the floor outside my door, was a pair of slippers in my size.

I slid my feet inside the slippers and stepped into the hallway. Stewards passed me, smiling and nodding. Can I get you anything? How are you doing today, Mrs. Beers? I don't need anything, but thank you. I think I'm doing better. Thank you for asking.

Shuffling down the hallway, the warm breezes beckoned from the deck. I breathed deeply. My shoulders relaxed, and I closed my eyes in the sunshine. When I returned to my room, I called my husband and said, "I feel better. I think I'm okay now!"

That's what I get for doing my own thinking.


Kansas Bob said...

Grief is such a personal, yet universal, experience Heather. I remember thinking about how great I was doing after my first wife passed away. I did not know that I was in denial. Then denial ebbed and I began to sink. Thank God for the grief counselor who helped me to navigate through my pain.

Natalia said...

I can only imagine what you have been through while on this canal. I am glad to see that you appear to be back on the dry side of the world. :)

Heather Trent Beers said...

Bob, "navigate" is a perfect word when it comes to dealing with grief. Yes, thank God for those who help us get through the grief and find our way back to shore.

Heather Trent Beers said...

Natalia, thank you. Although, I have learned that appearances can be deceiving. I am doing better most days, though. :)

Sally said...

Grief is a strange thing. It jumps up and bites you in the behind when you're not looking. Sometimes it pops out when you sniff a certain fragrance, sometimes a song on the radio.
Glad you're further down the canal than when you began. Praying for you, my dear.

Anonymous said...

Looking down the long tunnel, passing down a canal...I totally get these metaphors. On a ship you're not steering, but it is on a course. Well put. Now my chest hurts.

Heather Trent Beers said...

Thank you, Lisha. My heart hurts sometimes, too. Maybe if we both hurt together our pain will feel like half? That would be good. :)

Heather Trent Beers said...

Thank you for your prayers, Sally. I hope I'm further down the Canal than I think. But I don't know, this journey can be kind of tricky. Don't stop praying.