‘The new me I didn’t see coming’

Published 9:56 am Monday, January 1, 2018

I can remember the first few times I encountered my grandmother after my grandfather died.  She was different.  Her skin was still soft and gentle to the touch but for some reason she felt “harder”.  Her smile appeared to be forced at times and there were words that were biting and short, a far cry different from the grandmother I knew and understood to be filled with love, wisdom and tenderness.  And I didn’t understand.

Many times I found myself becoming angry because I felt like my grandfather’s death stole my grandmother as well.  It was like she had decided to just “wait to die” and I wanted to shake her and tell her that there was so much left to live for, that we were still present and needing of her love.  And yet, I realized fairly quickly that death creates this change in the ones who are left behind.  Death steals our joy and robs us of our identity.  It leaves us scrambling to understand who we are and what our purpose is in life without them here, and for many, that is simply too much to bear.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that grief was changing them and that they didn’t like the person they were becoming, I could retire early.  Seriously.  This appears to be a real concept, a real event that occurs to many individuals as they travel their grief journey, wandering endlessly trying to accept that change has happened and that it is affecting them in countless numbers of ways.  For some, the change is filled with bitterness and anger; for others it is confusion and a sense of feeling lost, always searching to be found.  And almost always, those who are grieving struggle with creating an identity of self that no longer includes their loved one.  They resist the change, unwilling to embrace that it is forever and thus it affects personality and life choices that can create additional problems.

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The truth is that death does change us- it is inevitable.  We are no longer the person that we were while they were living because our physical relationship with them has been dissolved.  However, we can create positive change for ourselves, even in our sorrow.  We can discover an identity that has morphed into something that feels foreign, the person that resides within us, the skin on the outside the only barrier to our emergence into our new way of living.  Because as much as we despise it or wish it not to be true, life goes on and we must find ways to embrace the change and create moments of joy not only for ourselves but for those who love and support us.

I know, that last statement probably crawled all over you as you question, “Why should I have to change?  Why should I embrace life without them?”  You see, that is part of it- the questioning, the anger, the “moving on.”  Healing hurts and the transition into healing is filled with many twists and turns.  It truly becomes a challenge that we must face, a challenge that forces us to decide if we wish to find inner peace or remain locked into despair and anger.  Initially, this choice is difficult to see and it is normal to resist the changes, but eventually, as we progress through our grief, we find that we are different.  We can’t go back to the way it “used to be”, only forward.  So ask yourselves this question:  “Now that you see that death changes you, are you willing to embrace and seek out the positive?”  Truly, it is ultimately up to you- it is your journey and those of us that support you are just waiting for you to decide.