I've written about the death of my husband here -- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin-meekhof/the-moment-i-knew_25_b_3414936.html -- and I've written about the challenges that come with loss. Within months of my husband's funeral, his older brother died. I flew to Florida to attend the funeral and obtained support from his family. From my perspective, much of this support faded and eventually diminished. Sadly, my husband, Roy, had predicted that this might occur. Soon after we found out that his cancer was terminal, I remember crying, and asking Roy if I would be alone. He looked at me with deep pain in his eyes, put his arm around me, and said, "I'm afraid you may not get what you want from my family." He then gave me the names of other loved ones he felt I could trust.
This didn't mean that I was sitting home alone during the holidays, but the loss of contact with his family was a secondary and painful loss. Before Roy died, there were some tensions with some of his family, but I had this magical thinking and believed that I would always be a part of his family. It was not an immediate disconnect, but it occurred over time. Could I have handled things differently? Absolutely. If I could have worn a T-shirt with a big red heart on it that said, "Forgive Me" to all of the family events I would have done so.
The first two years, yes, especially those first 24 months after Roy's funeral were filled with awkward and strange conversations. In the face of grief and everything else, I was a mess. I did the best I could to show up at family events, write thank you notes (when I could remember), and reply to emails. Who knew I would struggle so many months after the funeral? Who knew I would be haunted by Roy's words, so many years later?
The truth is that when you mix death and family you will fall apart all over again. At times, I felt total love and then I felt lonely and then came grace, and boom, back to feeling love. There's often not a rhythm and the cycle is called grief. As painful and horrible and traumatic as it can be this is part of life. Grief, as you know is filled with disappointments, and that includes the loss of relationships.
Grief is not for the faint of heart. After death, you do not know what remains. You may hope for certain things to occur and for people to reach out to you, but you don't know exactly what will transpire. This, however, is certain -- you will be hurt all over again. You will feel wounded and want to give up, but as soon as you realize this too is part of the grief cycle, you will be okay. If I had accepted this earlier, I think it would have lessened my pain.
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