Sunday, August 24, 2008

Different Types of Grief

My dad died in 2003 at the age of 76, and my younger sister Becky died last year at the age of 49. I realized something: The experience of grief is different for each of them, just as the grief I'm experiencing for my dog, Toby, who also died last year, is unique from some of my other pets who have died. You wouldn't know this until you experience it.

I'm not ready yet to tell how my dad and sister died. I've blogged about how Toby died (see entry of June 15).

With my dad, I felt sadness at his loss, but I also felt relief because he had suffered so much from the complications of diabetes. I felt guilt, which will be clear when I write another time about him, and it took grief counseling to help me work through it and put it behind me. I didn't cry as much as I thought I would, and I found it easy to get back to my life. I thought of him often, but he didn't consume my thoughts. I know he had a long life, lived to see his grandchildren born, and enjoyed many years of happiness and sometimes heartache. He didn't talk about his regrets too much, especially about his four kids. Maybe he had them, but found it difficult to articulate them. I felt he had lived a relatively long time and it was his time to go. As time passed, it didn't hurt as much. Some days I don't even think of him. Sometimes I think of things he would say, like "I paid darn good money for that" or "Don't push it!" I have fond memories of him, but some are bad.

My sister's death, on the other hand, has been very difficult for me. It's not just because she just died last year. I do find that things get easier, but I think of her everyday. There is a big void in my life with her loss. We spoke everyday and had long conversations. She was my best friend.

Even though we were very different and didn't always agree, we were very close. When we were growing up, we had a lot of sibling rivalry (she's younger by three years), but we were always together. She always wanted to be with me. I tried to do things without her, but she always ended up tagging along.

As adults, we were much closer, became roommates, worked at the same place, and went dancing together. Eventually, we went our separate ways with very separate lives, but still stayed close.

Now every morning when I drive to work, something triggers thoughts of Becky, especially a favorite song of hers. Then I start recalling how much she loved to dance. My thoughts then drift off to a scene at the dance club we used to frequent and Becky putting on a show with her moves. Every time I think of these things, I get a big lump in my throat and try real hard not to cry, but mostly I do.

Sometimes so many things are going through my head on the way to work--problems and trying to find solutions to them, funny things that happened to me (which I always want to tell Becky right away, and it's painful when it hits me that she's gone), or planning my day. No matter what it is, my thoughts drift to Becky, and I cry. I usually get control of my emotions once I pull in the parking garage at work. Ofentimes, my coworkers don't realize I've been crying--that is, until I talk about it.

Anything can trigger my grief for Becky--talking to her daughters, being in her house with all her things around, see photos of her (I still can't display any photos of her yet), wanting to discuss something wit her, wanting her opinion, etc. I'm not sure when, or if, my grief for Becky will end. It's easier, but it's with me everyday. It feels like her loss will always be part of my life.