TITLE: Letter to a Young Woman on Grief
By Kim Sandstrom
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Grief; the new frontier. Response to a young friend’s question: “Doesn’t time heal?”.
When I was young, like you, and an excited Christian, who believed in all the possibilities "out there", I thought like you. I believed that time took care of everything. And for many things, it seemed that time and distance helped a lot. Then the unthinkable happened. The thing I never believed would happen to me, happened. Because, believe it or not, we all think we are pretty invincible, and that 'bad' things really only happen to other people. See, I was like you even two weeks after Diana died. I went to a Parents Grieving Group. I walked in there, speaking “Christianese”, looking very brave and strong. I was armed with the mind-set to be the best darn grieving mother you ever saw. I was bound and determined that I was NOT going to hurt like I had the first two weeks any longer. You see, I was going to approach this awful thing, like I did with losing weight and working out...full steam ahead. I was shocked at all the parents there who were 2, 3, 4, 5 yrs ahead of me on this road, who were in pretty bad shape still. I walked out, thinking 'what sad losers' they all were and how 'I would never be like that'. Remember, only fourteen days had elapsed since my daughter was gone. What that first year showed me, was that I knew nothing. I hadn't a clue. I didn't know how long the year would be, or the next year. I didn't know you don't 'pull yourself up by the bootstraps' and get on with life, like you do with other 'disappointments'. You see, this isn't just the biggest disappointment of my life; it is the deepest, bloodiest, deadliest wound ever inflicted upon me. If you can think of it as a terrible physical accident, full of complications and infections and setbacks, you will understand it better. Imagine something happening to your body so traumatic that you are burned and broken and infected and diseased and bloodless from the damage. The only people who have a clue, are those who have lived this, or lived with one who has lived this. What I have discovered is that it is at about the five year mark, that people do seem to recover a sense of who they once were. They see glimpses along the way, enough to keep going, but at some point far down the road, they begin to breathe again in a more normal way. It does not happen at a year, or two, or even three. I know it takes a long time now. Part of my difficulties with friends and family, is how they all wanted me to be "fixed" right away, so impatient they all were. Everyone wanted the 'old me' back. For some, they didn't just lose Diana, they felt like they lost me and man, they were mad about it.
I am posting my reply to your question as part of my blog. I hope you don't mind. These are things I have been thinking about long before you wrote your question.
I know you are into the arts and are very well read. You should read CS Lewis' book about losing his wife Joy. He comes very close to what I am talking about. I am so glad I read his book the first year. Also, Zig Ziglar lost his precious daughter and wrote a very compelling book about it. All his positive thinking couldn't 'put him back together again' for a very long time. Not even Jesus works in us that fast. It is not God's way to splice us together, prop us up and send us on our way. That is man's way. God moves in His own way and time and if you want the 'real work of healing', you better be patient. He works His way in us deeply, slowly, purposefully. Trust me when I say, time does not heal this. Time makes us forgetful and distances us, and fuzzies our mental pictures, but the raw pain is revivable at a moment's notice and this is until heaven.
I have learned that healing doesn't just come because you ask for it and sometimes it comes much later than we wanted it. I prayed and asked people worldwide to pray for Diana's healing. It came not. Her healing was for eternity: not here. I don't ask for healing; I ask to make it through the hours and days.
It is not bad that you feel and believe the way you do. It is appropriate for someone in their 20's with a baby to feel so bright and optimistic. I am very glad you believe in all the “possibilities” of life. This is the best way to be for you and your little girl. You should believe so sweetly about life. I was once like you and I am glad of it. Forgive me that I am not like that anymore. That is not my place anymore. I have a new place to abide.
When I write my poetry, it is to express how I have survived this. Some of my poems have been given to other parents who have gone through similar pain. The response has been very good. It is helpful to know that one is not alone in feeling these kinds of things. I was desperate for a year to know that I wasn't crazy and wasn't alone. I write to help someone else who may be feeling crazy and alone in their grief.
Thank you for always reading my work, for always commenting and for the kindness of your spirit.
Today Julia is two years old. I will be fifty in two more days. Diana would have been 26 this year. We do celebrate with thankfulness and heartbroken smiles.
God bless, Kim
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