Permission to Grieve (Part 2)

Grief is a strange thing, because the idea of loss encompasses so many different things, including the loss of an abstract concept.

I know that an acute grief reaction can occur in women who are expecting to have a well baby, but instead have been told their child has a birth defect – the grief over the diagnosis is just as real as their grief over the well child that existed only in their imagination. In some cases, the pain can even feel as visceral and as violent as if the well child has been murdered.

I once met a lovely and vivacious girl from Australia at a friend’s wedding. The both of us didn’t know anyone else there other than the bride (who was of course busy making her rounds of all her guests), so we just ended up chatting to each other most of the evening. She told me about how she’d worked as a lawyer to please her family, saving up all her earnings in order to pay her way through achieving her dream of becoming a veterinarian. At the time, she was finishing up her final year of veterinary training in Australia. We traded stories about our clinical work. Towards the end of the evening, we got up and danced with the bride and groom, giggling and laughing like old friends. I had to leave the party early, but not before promising that I would drop her a line if I ever headed out to the land of Oz.

It was almost two years later that we were planning a trip to Australia, I remembered my promise and I contacted my good friend (the bride who’d invited us both to the wedding) to ask for her help in connecting the two of us via email.

My friend was completely flabbergasted that I didn’t know what had happened to that beautiful girl. She’d died a few months after the wedding, in a horrific car accident.

I couldn’t believe it. Dead? No way. But it was true. It happened when she was bringing her family back to the Perth airport, after they’d attended her graduation from veterinary school. Her family members all survived with a few injuries, but she was killed instantly.

In telling me the story, my poor dear friend had to relive the devastation and despair that she felt upon receiving the news of the death of her best friend and had been asked to give a eulogy at her funeral. The accident was so terrible and so tragic that it had even been reported in our local newspapers – I’d completely missed it because I’d been pregnant with Little E at the time and had turned into a hermit crab for nine months.

For the rest of that day, I felt utterly miserable but I didn’t quite think that I had a right to feel so upset. So I pushed the feelings away and just tried to carry on with the rest of my day. After the kids were in bed, the Barn Owl asked me why I seemed to be moping around the house, and I just burst into tears.

Debs G: There was a terrible accident and she died!

Barn Owl: That’s bad. Was she your friend from school?

Debs G: No. I didn’t know her at all.

Barn Owl: I don’t understand.

Debs G: I don’t either! I never knew her, and I’m sad about it! And now she is dead and my friend was very sad about it, and I wasn’t there for her! I’m sad about that too!

Finding out about the death of someone you know, even someone you’ve only known very briefly, is always a shock, and it’s important to remember that the right to grieve does not need to be earned. If you feel bereft because death has stolen someone from you, that in itself gives you the right to grieve.

Although I had only known this girl for the space of a few hours, she still left a lasting impression, and that is worth something to me. I’ll always regret not following up on our meeting sooner.

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17 thoughts on “Permission to Grieve (Part 2)

  1. Its amazing how people meet… (whether for a brief couple of minutes , virtually talking online etc) and yet we can feel the connection as if we know each other for a long time. I met a friend from overseas since ICQ era 14 yrs ago and even though we dont get online to chat frequently but when we do, there’s so much to share… I share your thoughts and hope you are feeling better.

  2. I think it’s always hardest to hear of people who have passed suddenly, however briefly we might have known them. It’s the suddenness that probably is the hardest to bear for their family and close friends too.
    Good of you to share that we should always give ourselves permission to grieve. It’s a key life skill to maintain emotional balance!

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. A very dear friend whom I was very closed with but didn’t keep in contact since I moved overseas passed away recently too. It takes time for the shock to sink in and we always blame ourselves for not reaching out/keeping in touch sooner. I think we are also very affected because it reminds us of our mortality.

  4. Life is fragile and it pays to be present when we are in our family, loved ones and friends presence. At least you got to know her for a brief moment and she left a deep impression for you to remember her. May she rest in peace.

  5. I’m sorry to hear about the lost of your friend.. friendships aren’t about how long we know someone, we just form instant connections to some people. I feel sad reading about this now too.. so sorry to hear. Big hugs..

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  6. Grief differs in intensity. The other person can be a complete stranger, someone close to me or even a brief acquaintance. I grief about how fragile Life can be, and the thoughts of how surviving members still have to move on.

    regards, Andy
    (SengkangBabies.com)

  7. Life is so unpredictable! Losing near and dear ones is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. It just fills you with sadness. Explaining to kids is hardest!

  8. Sorry to hear about your experience…I share your grief to some extent as I have friends whom I’ve not stayed in touch until…yes, until I see their obituary. Death is always at the back of my mind…as I’ve experienced death since my dad died when I was 13. Since then, church friends, school mates, family members etc…have all taken their ‘turn’ to pass on…It has always driven me to cherish each moment with people…especially close loved ones…to grab every opportunity to leave a meaningful memory…in particularly so with my own family. When we live with death, life becomes more meaningful.

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