Sunday, April 25, 2010
"Who will be our next survivor?" The famous question asked at the begining of the reality tv show "Survivor." To win the game of Survivor contestants must often be and say and do things that would not normally describe who they are in real life. They are put onto an island with other people and are told to survive the game. Many will do whatever it takes to win the million dollars at the end of the game. Deprived of food, family, and the comforts of daily life...and placed on unfamiliar territory with a bunch of strangers, they must push through each day just to make it as far as they can.
I have many "labels" in this life. I am a wife, a mother, a cooker, a cleaner, a gardener, a daughter, a friend, a nurse, a sister...and much more. Now I am simply a survivor, along with my husband, children, and our extended family. The game of "survivor" lasts only a short while...But this game..my game..my life...will last a lifetime. We too have been placed in a foreign land. We are separated from our child, our sister. We are depraved of the joy we once knew. We have become strangers to each other and strangers to ourselves. The working family unit we once knew has been destroyed...and finding a daily routine that works seems impossible since we are all changing from one day to the next.
As a nurse, I was taught that there was a grieving process. It was a linear progression in which a person would move through the "stages of grief." There was shock, denial, anger, acceptance and so on. I always thought that these phases could be marked and that as one phase was "passed" and another phase had begun, there would be no "turning back" to the old phases of grief. As if there was a start and a finish line. As if grief was a fog that you could "get through." In reality, grief is not a linear progression at all. Each of the "stages" of grief are never accomplished and not visited again. Grief travels around. It likes to go in circles or bounce back and forth visiting one stage after another...staying at length or for only a minute...and then going on to the next one. My friend tells me it's like an upward spiral..we begin at the bottom and work our way up as we continually visit each component of grief. Someitmes we stay for a while, then we move on upward. Something might trigger a painful emotion only to cause us to fall lower on the spiral. Like the game of chutes and ladders (the unending childhood board game) you advance a few spaces...then you climb a ladder moving far ahead. But on any given turn you hit a chute...sliding you down to the begining again. I've always hated that game. I secretely sent ours to goodwill the other year. Now I am a permanent player in that game. Heaven is the end and only God knows when we will get there.
This real life game of Survivor or chutes and ladders gets real messy when you add more than one player and then expect them to live together and figure out how to survive together. Because everyone "plays" this game of grief differently, and everyone responds to each stage of grief differently...you soon realize that you don't know the people you love anymore, and you don't know how to "read" their survival tactics. Every once in a while you might find that you might be visiting the same stage at the same time...and if your lucky, you might even be responding to it in the same way. Those are times when it is a relief to connect after being so lost from each other most of the time. Even though we all live in the same place, often times we feel like strangers to each other.
I've heard people say to me "it seems like your having a hard time making it through"...or "it will be a while before you will get through this"...or "how are you getting through this pain?" I don't like the word "through." That word fits into most of life's challenges, but it doesn't fit with grief. I am not getting through it, I AM LIVING IT! and I will continue to live it until I die. It will get better, I know that. But getting through something is living to see the end of it. I/We are SURVIVING it. I am doing whatever it takes to make it. Sometimes I don't recognize myself, or my husband, or my kids....but that is because we are all different people just trying to do what we can to survive.
All of this sounds depressing, messy, and chaotic. Frankly, that is how I feel about it most of the time. It is exhausting trying to read each other, trying how to help each other, trying to find some sort of energy somewhere to be there for each other. And this is just the grief side of life now...not to mention all of the events and demands of daily life in general. I won't say that there is no joy in our life now. We still have laughter, the kids still play, we still have fun times along this journey. I know that as we "advance" in the game, there will be more good times, and less tough times. I also know that 11 years of beautiful life with our sweet little girl, is not going to be "gotten through" in a few years...we are talking a lifetime of healing.
Yes, I still claim all of the labels describing who I am. But the heading in bold print is SURVIVOR by the GRACE OF GOD!