I’ve been away from my home for a few days helping with my sister who has Alzheimer’s. As if grief doesn’t surround my heart enough already, I am now grieving the loss of my sweet sister’s mind, personality, and joy. Prayers are welcome.
I have also been hanging out with my mother, 77, who is challenged by painful neuropathy and arthritis. Life can be so cruel – even as it can be beautiful and sometimes even merciful. Tender mercies for all who are suffering this morning.
My heart was heavy over the past few days, but I’m home again and I am happy and doing well, except for a sore throat.
My mom said something to me the other day that really sort of took me by surprise. She said, “Mija”, which is Spanish for my daughter, “you seem so unhappy. Are you?”
I do well most of the time with either genuine joy or honesty about my heartbreak, but lately, except for watching my sis and my mom struggle, I’ve done well. Some days are better than others, and of course, as I’ve said before, there will always be a vein of sorrow that runs through the rest of my life.
I will always have a tug at my heart when I hear Rikki’s name spoken, when I see his picture, when I think of him, every day for the rest of my life. I am still afraid of triggers. When I go to my hometown where my mom lives, I am afraid to have to say the words to someone asking how my son is, “Oh, Rikki died almost three years ago.” Saying that is still really hard for me. I can’t stand the sympathy or the gushing condolences. No words are quite sufficient, are they?
I guess I am a tad more serious than I used to be, but I work really hard to create joyful moments with those I love. Just as I could always tell with Rikki, I guess my mom can tell with me, when I am struggling. This time, however, I was struggling over hers and my sister’s challenges. I am capable of feeling and empathizing with others’ pain and suffering. As the saying goes, “It’s not all about me” --.
America is having a rough go of it, and I feel it. It doesn’t matter whose “fault” it is; it’s just a palpable divisiveness. I try to avoid it as much as I can, but still, it’s all-pervasive, and I grieve the diminishing respect and concern for my countrymen and women. I grieve for the people in the tsunami in Indonesia this morning. I grieve for my friends who are going through trying times. I grieve for homeless people, sick people, dying people, wounded people, and there are all kinds of situations that attach themselves to the grief I already have in my heart for my Rikki.
I tried to explain this to my mom. “Mom, there will always be sadness in my heart, and that will never go away, BUT – there are other things I’m sad about too. The world provides plenty of sad situations, but I’M OKAY.”
Does that make sense? We all must go through our own hell until we find ourselves here again, on solid ground, and can navigate our new lives gracefully – without our babies.
We all carry some kind of pain with us. I thought at first there is no pain as deep as the one that comes from losing a child, and I thought I would never be able to find myself in a position to be graceful or grateful again, but here I am.
Trust me when I say...I still have one million triggers, I never know when one will strike me, but the fact of the matter is…I don’t stay down for as long as I used to. And, for me, that’s a very good thing. I work hard to be emotionally resilient; oh, it takes work alright, hard work, and I do the grief work I’ve learned from grief therapists, grief workbooks, and my own spiritual work that frees me a little bit at a time.
Am I in pain? Yes. Will it ever go away? Probably not. But the cracks in my heart fill and heal as I release my need to hold on to the pain…not entirely, mind you, but as much as I can – to find joy and to live in the world and function optimally.
I’ve rambled enough. I was just disappointed that as hard as I work, my mom saw only the pain.
I am more than my pain, so are each of you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR-------------------------
Sherrie Cassel is a student at a university in San Diego, California where she majors in psychology. Ms. Cassel will be attending seminary in the Spring of 2019. She lives in San Diego with her husband, Ben. She has published a book, LOVE SONGS TO A JUNKIE SON, a collection of poetry she has written about her son's struggle with addiction, and it is available at Amazon. She is also published at Addiction.com.