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  • Writer's pictureSusannah Castro

Coping with Grief and Loss

Coping with my Grief and Loss

(Repost from August 2016, The Cree Project) Today, at the end of my morning walk, I sat in my grandma's chair in my front yard for a few minutes and looked at the sunlight coming through the mesquite trees and making the grass and plants shine. I have all of my grandmother's old wrought iron lawn furniture that she purchased when we moved to Tucson in 1973. I am a little bit sentimental, but I find a lot of comfort in being able to access physical items that my loved ones touched at different times in their lives. It is as though bits of them still remain within those items - they are memory containers. My grandma passed away in 2001. Next to her chair in the front yard, I have a wooden kitchen chair that my son Cree used to like to sit in out in the yard while he smoked cigarettes and talked to his friends on the phone. 

Cree overdosed on a combination of heroin and Xanax with traces of cocaine on May 5, 2015. The heroin was a lethal dose, but the Xanax amplified the effects. He was 19 years old and had battled an opioid pill addiction for 5 years, that moved to intravenous heroin use in the last 2 years of his life. His loss is something I process on a daily basis. Some pain is so big that it must spread out over the years to give your heart and soul time to learn, little by little, how to live again. I can only describe it as feeling as though the fabric that is you has been torn to pieces. At first, there is no way out of that feeling - and you experience shock. Your body and brain cope with this by shutting out a lot of what is going on around you and taking you to a semi alpha state - which is why so many experience memory loss in the first months and years of traumatic loss.

Then - slowly - the pieces start to knit back together. As that happens, you begin to recognize yourself again. You begin to see the world around you again. You can do things that brought you joy and actually feel happy instead of crying. Whether it is dancing, or watching a funny show, or even taking a beautiful walk in the morning. This change and this healing is not something you choose. It happens in its own time and at its own rate. Nobody can tell you how to grieve or that it is time to stop grieving and let go. I think often people misunderstand what this type of grief is like. This is not a holding on to the past. This is simply developing a new relationship - in the now - with the person that has moved out of this life and into the next. 

What others can do to help to sew those torn pieces back together is stand with you in your grieving - let you know that you are important - and maybe just give you a big hug. One of the hardest parts of grief at this magnitude is the incredible pull that your child has on you to leave with them. At first, holding yourself here in this world seems an incredible burden. This is why it is so very important for people experiencing grief and loss to have loving support during that time. We must continue to feel connected to the here and now even though a part of our heart and soul has flown away.

I do not believe that these things happen to us for a reason or to somehow make us into better people. However, profound grief and loss is part of the human experience. I am not the first person to lose my beloved child and I will not be the last. The intensity of the love is equal to the pain of the loss, which means I will mourn with every fiber of my being until I see him again. That being said, the beautiful side of loss of this magnitude is that when you walk out of the fire, you find that it is very easy to spot what is no longer meaningful or important in this world. There is a clarity and a depth to the love that is left behind. As my heart was broken, so it cracked open and more love can come out then ever before. I am a better person now, because I see that life is simply about experiencing every moment of beauty in the best and most conscious way that we can. Because life is short. 

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