I am currently reading a book on grief and mourning called “The Heart Does Break” by Canadian writers, George Bowering and Jean Baird. My partner read it and bought 10 copies to give away to anyone he felt would benefit from it. It got me thinking about my own story of grieving, or at least parts of it. There is always some aspect of grieving in our experience when we are letting go of anything or anyone and our stories and experiences of grief are so personal. Acknowledging that aspect of ourselves and allowing ourselves to feel what we need to feel is part of our process to heal.
I was reminded of when my sister passed away. I was processing a lot in my life at that time. My marriage ended nine months earlier, I quit my job a month before, and then she died, in surgery for a double lung and heart transplant.
While she was on a waiting list for surgery, she assigned different family members with different responsibilities, for when she had her surgery and if something were to happen to her. My job was to call everyone that needed to know: family, friends, professors, past employers, etc. So as soon as she was transported to London, Ontario that was my job. And when she died, I was focused on my job of calling everyone.
With everything I was processing at the time, the only way I knew how to function was to take my grief in bits and pieces. If I totally let go, I wonder how or if I would have got through it. Of course, sometimes it would sneak up on me when I wasn’t expecting it. When I would be driving in my car, and Madonna’s song, “Masquerade”, came on the radio, when it would get to the line “…The show is over, say good-bye…” I would burst into tears every time. Grief is like flowing water. If you try to contain it, eventually it will find a way to break through.
When we were planning her funeral, my mother remembered Brenda saying to look for her bible if she were to pass away. I was living in her home at the time. Her belongings were stored in the basement. I went downstairs to look for her bible. I thought I was looking for a Will or a letter with instructions or something like that. Instead, I found some pages paper clipped in certain places marking particular verses. There were four passages marked – messages to our family. The first verse I found was a greeting – kind of like a greeting from heaven. I started sobbing. I felt her with me in that space in the basement. I knew that was what I was supposed to find. My siblings laughed when they read that verse. Brenda always had a bit of a warped sense of humour so she was probably laughing when she chose that particular greeting.
Because I was living in her house, with her things, the days after the funeral were particularly difficult for me. My family came over to sort through her belongings and divide them between everyone. Pictures were taken off the walls and everything was being ripped away from what was comfortable and familiar to me. I felt violated. Somewhere in the middle of the process my siblings became aware that I had grown very quiet. I am sure I looked like I was going to cry. I am sure I was doing everything I could to hold back the tears. I felt powerless, like I didn’t have a say in what stayed or what left.
A month after she died, I received a card from someone that triggered a downward emotional spiral. It was the beginning of my unravelling into deep grief. I would go to sleep at night praying that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning, because the pain was too great. I stayed in my bedroom for three days. The only thing that would get my out of bed was my young dog, waiting in the kitchen to be let out, or fed, or to receive a bit of attention. I often give her credit for saving my life. On the third day, a conversation with my older sister pulled me out of this space and I carried on.
There were other moments or periods of darkness, but over time, the veil lifted, and living began to feel a bit lighter. I found moments of joy and inspiration that gave me the motivation to move forward. It took a long time. Every year on the anniversary of her passing, my siblings (or at least my sisters) and I would get together. We would go to a bookstore, go for coffee, or have a meal together. We did this for several years. Not a March 3rd passes without remembering and acknowledging what day it is.
For a while, every time our family got together, we would light a special candle to acknowledge Brenda’s place in our lives and in our family.
Even ten years after she passed away, my siblings and I went to see the movie version of “Phantom of the Opera” on her birthday. At the end of the movie, when the credits were rolling, one of my sisters made a comment that Brenda had wanted to see the live production in Toronto, and we all sat there, crying, until the credits were done and the lights went on.
Seventeen years have passed. I am grateful to be in a space where I have more of a sense that when people die, they may be finished with their physical bodies, but their spirit, or energy is still around us. I have more of an awareness of the connectedness of all things because everything, broken down into its smallest form is energy. Energy never dies, it just changes form. There are still moments when I think of my sister and emotion is triggered, but the physical pain of grief and the weight of that energy is gone.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
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Leah Schroeder is a Reiki Practitioner www.lifeforcehealingservices.ca and Financial Advisor. “I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. For most of my 46 years this has been and currently is the place I call home. I have been working as a Financial Advisor for the past 15 years educating people about their finances, helping them restructure and reduce debt, invest for the future and properly protect their families. A strong sense that there is something more I am supposed to do in the world, a fascination with energy and a series of intuitive nudges has led me to begin practising Reiki. I have a desire to learn and practise other healing modalities, as well as serve children and empower young women around the world. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts and stories with you.”