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Saying Goodbye

I just got home from my aunt’s funeral.  By the time the service was over, I had a pounding headache from restraining my emotions.  There were times when the girl inside me sobbed and sobbed, while the shell that held her in blew it’s nose and wiped away any tears that managed to escape.  My friend told me last night not to do that, to just let myself have whatever emotions I felt.  But that’s easier for me to imagine than do.

My main method of emotional coping is escape. Perhaps in some part, small or large I don’t know, it’s denial.  As long as I don’t face it, it’s not real.  It didn’t happen.  It won’t turn out the way we all know it’s going to turn out.

My aunt has been sick for a couple of years now, and when I was told that they found a cancer, I thought, “Ok, so now we know what to fight against.”

The next week I was told she had between a month and a year to live.  My heart sunk, but then I thought, “Ok, a year’s a long time…there’s time to fight or to make peace with it.”

The next week I was told the doctors couldn’t do a thing for her and she probably wouldn’t make it through the end of the year.  I thought, “Ok, I’ll go see her next week when she gets settled back at the house.”

Two days later I was told that she died.

In all that time, as quick as it seemed to pass, I only called them once.  As long as I stayed away, as long as I put off a visit or call, then I could believe she was well.  It was the same after she died, when I should have called or stopped by to offer whatever support I could muster – I didn’t.  I sunk further into myself and the shield that denial and escape offered me.  In my mind, I could still almost believe that she was walking around that house, the same.  Alive.

So, guilt tinges my grief.  I feel guilty that I didn’t say goodbye.  I feel guilty that I didn’t offer support to my uncle.  I feel guilty that I wouldn’t believe I had  any amount of support to give.  I feel guilty that I chose to believe staying away was better, since it was all I could do not to cry all over him in that last phone call.  Even today I kept my distance, because I could barely look at him without bursting into tears.

(So instead I came home and started crying all over you.  Thank you and also sorry about that.)

I’ve been alone for a while now, and emotionally speaking I’ve been alone most of my life.  That’s not on anyone but me, because there have been and are people who love me and are available to me.  But I am so much more comfortable – and safe – inside of myself.  Even today, as my mom or dad showed concern for me, I wanted to turn away from that.  I don’t want my uncle to have to comfort me in my grief, when his is so much greater.  So I abandoned him.  I don’t want my parents to worry about me, so I shut their concerned words down.  I just want to hide away – I want to worry about no one but myself and I certainly don’t want anyone to concern themselves with me.

I have been as open and honest and vulnerable to my aunt and uncle as I’ve ever allowed myself to be with anyone.  And in some ways, much more so.  And yet when this all happened, I sucked right back inside myself.  I disappeared again.  These are people who nurtured my relationship with Christ, who challenged me and helped me build my faith, who led by example.  And as much as they’ve done for me, as much as they’ve given me, I ran away instead of being there.  That sucks.

Death sucks.  Saying goodbye sucks.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Despite what happened earlier in October for me, I know I don’t have the experience or ability to know truly what to say. This situation was terrible, because it was unexpected, but you had to see it being played out, and no matter the age, cancer takes people when they aren’t ready. Pounding headache? I know the feeling. Let it all splurge out. Grab a cat or a dog (whatever is handy) and use them as a hankie, a snuggie, a best friend and a cuddly toy all in one – and trust me, you can be any age to have a cuddly toy. Let out huge, shoulder heaving, racking, earth shattering sobs, sobs that mean you yell and cry and perhaps scream and use up too much toilet paper – I don’t know how and why but it helps, it really does. You still feel sad and drained afterwards, but that pent-up anguish that is locked away and cannot, no matter how hard you try, be expressed in words, just NEEDS to come out. I really, really feel for you, I feel for your family, your uncle, your parents, and I pray that, though grief has no expiry date and you don’t know how long it will take to stop feeling so upset… I pray that God will help you through it, and you can always see His hand in everything.

    November 10, 2012
  2. Virginia #

    Oh Michells I feel your pain and I think I do The same thing.But do not let the devil win telling you that you have nothing to give or that you cannot support. We all love you and it is a great pleasure to be around you. I really miss you,you have so much to offer people /do not shut that down,Virginia

    November 10, 2012
  3. I am so, so sorry for your loss, Michelle. I have always hated goodbyes, and death is the worst goodbye of all. I can certainly understand keeping your grief to yourself, but I hope you allow yourself to feel all the pain on your own, away from everyone else, if that helps you. There’s no right or wrong way to react to someone’s passing. It just takes time. Let go of the guilt. Your aunt would not want you to feel that way. Remember all the good things about your aunt’s life. And don’t forget that your family and friends love you and are there for you.

    November 10, 2012
  4. That brought tears to my eyes. It was beautiful. You found a way to come out of your shell. You wrote the words that you weren’t able to say. You are starting to open up and let it go. Letting go isn’t a bad thing. Letting go doesn’t mean that you are forgetting. Letting go just means you are Living. My heart goes out to you. I so understand the guilt you feel and up until this year I din’t let go of the guilt that I held onto since 1986. That is a very long time to hold onto something that just eats at your soul. Please I ask of you to let the guilt go. You can’t change the event so feeling guilty only holds you into the past. Take the time to grieve, take the time to write about it, take the time and ALLOW yourself to feel the feelings you feel.
    I send many hugs and love your way.
    Take care my friend

    November 11, 2012
  5. I am sorry for your loss.

    November 11, 2012
  6. Sending you some good Canadian hugs. I was at a funeral on Friday. It wasn’t family; it was a 53yo man from church who has a daughter the same age as Vivian and William. Cancer.

    I am sorry for your loss.

    It’s interesting how the blogosphere converges some time. You may be interested in checking out this piece by Leigh Kramer:

    Hugs again, M!

    November 11, 2012
    • Thank you for sharing my post, Leanne. You are a dear one.

      November 11, 2012
  7. I am so sorry for your loss. I must admit reading some of your experience is eerily close to the recent loss of my own aunt- it took me by surprise. Grace and peace to you as you mourn.

    November 11, 2012
  8. So sorry for your loss. It is never easy to have someone you love die–even when they are sick and the only healing will be the final one when they get to Heaven as a perfect person. I hate to cry when I am with others but I am learning that sometimes tears are our gift to them.
    Guilt and tears are part of the grieving process–let ‘er rip!

    November 11, 2012
  9. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for your loss and I’m sorry that you feel you didn’t handle its approach or its commemoration properly. This may be a turning point for you that you look back on later as a reason to let people in more. Or maybe not. There is no real “right” way to handle loss in the immediate days that follow it. Get through, ease up on yourself, remember your aunt and live a piece of her in your heart. That might be all you need.

    November 11, 2012
  10. Perhaps you should go later, when you’re calmer, and talk to your uncle. I doubt he will hold anything against you for not being there when you yourself were so grief stricken, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about this.

    Death sucks, and the death of a loved one sucks even more.
    I used to be so terrified of people dying and leaving me alone that I thought not making friends, or not getting into a relationship was actually a wise decision. Of course, that didn’t last long.

    I’m sorry for your loss. *hugs*

    November 12, 2012
  11. I’m so so sorry for your loss *hugs*. I hope you’re feeling better now. We all deal with death differently, and I’m sure your uncle understands. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    November 16, 2012
  12. I am so sad to read about your loss, and about your isolation. Here are some non-binding e-hugs! Please let go of guilt. The people who know and love you know your heart and that you are struggling with your loss the best way you know how. Be present to yourself now, and one day you will be able to be present to your uncle. I believe, really believe, that your aunt understood what you were experiencing. All the love you’ve given her over the years was there for her in those moments.

    November 24, 2012

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