On August 30, 2009, my daughter Sheri passed away while giving birth to her second child. She was thirty-three years old and left behind a loving husband and two small children. Her sudden and unexpected death brought grief to those who loved her and who still struggle to accept their loss. I have established this blog with two purposes in mind: to create a space where I can share my experiences in dealing with the death of a loved one and to provide resources for those who find themselves in a similar situation.
I was unprepared for the intensity and duration of grief I felt, and continue to feel, with the death of my daughter. I had experienced grief before following the deaths of my parents. But they were older and suffered health problems when they died (ages 71 and 88). I almost felt relief because their lives seemed complete, and I didn’t want them to suffer anymore.
But Sheri’s death was different. She was young and had everything to live for, including a loving husband, a three-year-old daughter, and a newborn baby girl who needed her. The shock and accompanying grief I felt was almost unbearable.
Furthermore, I had (and continue to have) a feeling that there was something wrong with me because my grief was so intense. I was angry about it and wanted the grief to go away--immediately. This feeling was echoed by one of my children, who posted the following letter on her blog entitled, “The letter I wish I really could send.”
“Dear Death, I hate you. I never want to see your ugly face again. You and your best friend, Grief, can both just go to hell. I am sick of you in my life. Go away.”
It was my ignorance about grief and my attitude that I should “muscle through it” that has made grieving so difficult. The problem with this attitude, according to Meghan O’Rourke [in “Good Grief,” an article on finding a better way to grieve found here] stems from the American fantasy that we should avoid grief. This only compounds the issue: we grieve for our loved one and grieve that we are grieving.
I am beginning this blog on Memorial Day 2010, our only national holiday for remembering those who have died. Unfortunately, in the past the real meaning of the day often got lost as we enjoyed a three-day weekend or rushed to begin summer vacation.
Charles Ives, the American composer, wrote “Decoration Day,” a work that depicts the events of his childhood: his father’s band played a mournful tune as they marched to the town cemetery where a trumpet played “Taps,” and then the band played a lively march as they returned home to normal life.
On past Memorial Days, we would fly the flag at half-mast, participate in a national “moment of remembrance,” attend a VFW flag ceremony, and then head off to the park or to the mountains. Somehow we thought we could grieve for a moment and then “get on with life.” But now we have lost our precious daughter, we find that life never returns to “normal” and our grief is always with us.