On March 26, 2012 six-year-old Cadi woke up as her usual happy self but by noon it was clear something was seriously wrong; she died later that night.
Complicating the situation, there were questions and concerns about Cadi’s medical care — questions and concerns that were never adequately addressed.
This post, originally published March 2012 and revised for inclusion in this site, reflects the raw pain and grief that can follow in the wake of a death.
My intention in sharing is to normalize and educate about what can and does go on inside of us when we are grieving. Additional grief resources can be found at the helpwithgrief website.
The Look and Feel of Grief
You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair. (Chinese Proverb)
How to do that — prevent the nesting? I suspect we just have to keep marching.
Grief is so isolating — you feel such a disconnect from others because nobody really understands — they can't because they are not you. Yes, people go through similar losses, but the experience and meaning of a loss is always filtered through what is unique about us and therefore while grief is universal, it is profoundly personal. And lonely.
When you are grieving, you feel kind of crazy — even though you are not. But other people sometimes act like you are — like you should just get over "it" — whatever "it" is. And like you should just calm down. Don't tell a grieving person to calm down, unless she is your BFF — and then maybe you should because she might need to hear it.
It is normal to process everything that happened, and to ask questions about it because you just need to know.
I am reminded of a couple who came in to see me — haunted by the idea that their child who died in an accident had suffered. I did not tell them to let it go. Rather, I arranged for them to meet with the ER doc who had taken care of their sweet little girl, and he told them she had not suffered and why he believed that to be true — and they were able to stop being tormented by that particular part of The Terrible Event.
Sometimes you just need to know. And that is okay. And sometimes even professionals with the best intentions (including me) do not get it right — but if they do not know that, how can they apologize and do better?
Sometimes you have to say hard things — and ask hard questions — so it can get better for someone else. And so you can believe that what happened was not a complete waste. And that is okay. If you are nice about it.
Grief makes you very tired. And not hungry because you are sickened by what has happened. Then your BFF has to send you an email to say, "eat breakfast." You still might not eat breakfast but you are glad someone still cares about you even though you feel crazy and might be acting that way.
When you are grieving, nothing matters anymore. Everything seems meaningless and wrong. How can people still smile? Why are people having joy? Don't they know Cadi died?
But you do understand — kind of — that it isn't the same for them so it is not their fault — but you still might want to slug them (but you shouldn’t).
And it is easy to be mad at God — what the heck was God thinking?! But maybe this is not God's fault — instead just maybe God wept at my broken heart and sent angels to show Cadi the way home.
There is not any part of our being that is not impacted by grief — it has physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual consequences. And nobody can make it stop — you have to just float down the crazy grief river, trying not to drown, while your friends shout encouragement from the shore.
You can't be embarrassed that you are there on your small boat with all of your 100 Little Soldiers who are wearing tiny life jackets and clinging desperately to the boat as it pitches and rolls — being embarrassed that you are on that crazy river makes it worse. It is okay to grieve someone you love — even and maybe especially — if she was your dog and you loved her so much. People who matter will understand and those who don't need to be left behind anyway.
Grief: The steep price we pay for Great Love.