Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Surprise Insight

My friend wrote a free verse poem for me a while back, and I wanted to share it on here. She has never gone through loss like this so I was incredibly surprised by her insight into what grief is really like. Not many people have wisdom like this.

The New Reality
Loss grips your stomach and ties it into knots no one can untie.
Loss, of a loved one, is an evil spark that eats at all of who you are,
Consumes the life you thought you knew.
Loss is all you think about and all you want to forget.
No longer is the sun bright or the joke funny,
Everything is dull.
Life seemed to fall apart at your feet into sad little crumbs,
In one disgustingly unbelievable moment.
Worse than the drop off a rollercoaster,
As your gut slides into your throat.
Worse than a heartburn that cripples, and sends you to your knees.
Questions that weren’t needed before drown a once-free mind.
So much change, so much pain.
Loss shuts you down—logic is no longer a consideration, and
Laughter no long a friend.
The joys of others make you angry and God becomes a fool.
Loss is the new reality; life without them isn’t life at all.
Facing the truth is walking into a cold, wet cell and turning off the sun forever.
Dear friend, don’t steal the key—
Give it to someone you trust, so that when the time is right,
And faith has untied those once unbearable knots,
You may be let out into the sun.
And it will be brightly shining on your beautiful face as you laugh, finally,
And return to your once-foolish God.
-Megan Pierce

Monday, February 25, 2013

Grief Lesson 101

I wish people had known what to do and what to say to me when I was going through my deepest pain, so I put together a list of 10 things that I think are most important to know when someone close to you is going through grief.

1. Never, I repeat NEVER, say that God has a plan
Now this may sound hypocritical coming from a Christian, but hear me out. In the days after my brother died I heard that more than a hundred times, probably 10 times that, and all I learned from it was that no one knew what to say. This phrase become so overused that I ceased to hear what the words meant, there ceased to be any comfort in them for me. This was just a phrase that people who had no idea what to say would blurt out so that they could pat themselves on the back for comforting a grieving person. DON'T USE CLICHES. It just says that you don't care about the person.

2. Dont just say you are there for the person, FIND A WAY TO BE THERE
Yes this is somewhat like number one but it is worth being said. So many people came up to me and said "if there is any way I can help just let me know". At the time I didn't know how to help myself much less tell other people how to. If you really want to be there, do something for them. Clean their house, make them dinners, do the menial stuff. It may seem like they don't notice you at first but rest assured, they do. So many people sent flowers and cards but the people who ended up meaning the most to my family were the people that stuck with us and did the little things.

3. Silence is okay- presence is necessary
I think people today are scared of silence, are scared of the awkward moments with a grieving person. So many people don't know what to say so they avoid you. I really thought that people would be there for me, but never was I proven more wrong. Best friends became strangers in the matter of days. I lost countless friends because they didn't know what to say to me. What they needed to know what that I never expected them to know what to say, I only wanted them to be there with me, to feel my pain with me.

4. Don't pretend like it never happened
So many people think that they can't mention the person's name that you are grieving for fear that it will set you off. But I cant stand this. My brother lived, and he lived every moment of every day, and it is a shame to his memory that people pretend like he never was even there. One of my "friends" asked why I like to talk about Patrick because "wouldn't that just remind you of the pain?" What people need to realize is that I will never forget, there is no reminding for me because it is always on my mind. Hearing stories about my brother makes me happy and makes me realize that I had something so special. My family tells stories all the time about my brother and we laugh at them . We miss him but we still love to hear about him.

5. Time is different for grieving people
"Time heals all wounds" is probably the stupidest thing I have ever heard, not because it isn't true but because it is misleading. In two weeks it will be one year for my family and I don't think I have even begun the journey to healing yet. Time is the ultimate paradox in my world. Each day could not go slower, it feels like I wake up in the morning and immediately long to have the day be over and in my bed again that night. Yet when I look back at this past year it feels like it was a blink of an eye. The pain is still as real to me today as it was on March 8th.

6. Grief can feel so much like fear
If you want to know somewhat what grief feels like imagine the time you were the most anxious, most worried, most afraid for something and apply that to every day. I am terrified all the time but I have no idea of what. I worry for my future, that this pain will never end. I am scared that I will forget my brother. I am afraid that this pain will go away (as contradictory as that sounds). It feels like there is something missing in every moment of every day, there is no contentment.

I have learned through my journey that there are many different types of hurt and each are very valid but there is a line. You do not compare grief. So many people came up to me and told me that they understand me because their 85 year old grandpa died last year. I completely get it that you may have been close to your grandfather but don't tell me that you understand. I lost my 18 year old brother. Completely different. The best was when someone told me that they understood because they lost their dog. I wont even begin to describe how bad that is. Although even when there is severe pain and loss, do not compare grief. It will become a battle of who is hurting more and instead of being comforting, it tears you apart. Just be with the other person in their pain.

8. Don't overdo it on the God stuff
Let the person find out what God has to say about death and life themselves, don't shove it down their throats. I had a really hard time finding comfort in the scriptures at the beginning and so many of my christian friends kept feeding me bible verses and christian sayings because they thought they were being comforting. I would come to realize everything God had to say on my own time but in the mean time I needed people to understand that I wasn't blaming God, I just was not exactly a fan of His, and that is okay.

9. The issue will never go away
There are times when I feel really bad for my friends. They can listen to me for hours on end saying how much I miss my brother, and then the next day I will say the same exact thing. I will tell the same stories, cry over the same picture,and repeat all of my worries and fears, yet there is nothing anyone can do to make them magically go away. Just be prepared to listen again, and again, and again.

10. Grief is so not pretty
You know when you see people cry in the movies, with one tear staining their cheek and still being able to ramble off some eloquent speech, ya it's not like that at all. I now know the meaning of the word "weep". A lot of people think it is just crying heavily, no. It is something so much deeper than sadness. It is an outcry of the pain that is in one's heart. I have experienced tears in many public places over the past year and I can't even begin to describe the looks people have given me. When I cry my face takes on a strange resemblance to someone suffering from a severe allergic reaction and stays that way for quite a long while. Even I have to admit it is repulsive. So if you want to be there for a person who is mourning, brace yourself.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Start of the Holidays

And so it begins....
all of the hoop-la over nothing, or in other words the holidays. It is now 4 days until Thanksgiving and I could not dread it more. All of the traditions that have been upheld for all of my life are now going to fall like dominoes. There is no way I could do them but no way that I could ever forget.

This year we are having pulled pork sandwiches at home and watching football (even though I hate football). As much as I wouldn't be able to make the journey up to my aunt's, like every year before, the absence of that journey is still painful in itself. I feel lost...lost without the tradition, without the anticipation just to eat food and laugh over the most stupid jokes. Although the feeling of being lost is one I have become well acquainted with.

And it isn't just Thanksgiving I'm dreading, it is the procession. After thanksgiving its black Friday  and then after that Christmas is in full force. Not to mention it is winter and me and snow do not have the best of memories. My family and I would always go to our closest outlet mall at midnight after Thanksgiving. It was funny because we would never buy anything, we would just walk around and complain about how cold we were. There was something about that day that would finally tell me I could be excited, my favorite season was finally upon us.

Christmas was always so special to me. More than I can even say. When you have a perfect family, perfect friends, basically a perfect life, Christmas just makes that all the more evident. It would be a time of happiness  of joy, and all the other Christmas cliches. I would live for the smell of the pine tree, and the puzzles, and the holiday movies. I would live to find the perfect gifts, and to see their face when they opened it. I would live to feel alive.

That is all gone for me. The smell of the pine tree just burns the edges of hollow heart. The pain inside just intensifies. 

Not only do the memories burn, but the very holiday just seems childish. I look around at everyone and the looks in their eyes, the very look I exemplified for my whole life, and all I see is greed. Greed for presents, greed for a perfect life, and greed for status. It is a time that everyone strives to be perfect, and if you're not then get ready to throw the white cloth over your bones in the closet. It just makes me sick. Why is everyone so ashamed of their secrets? Why does everyone feel the need to hide them? And to judge others for the very same sin? I will be the very first to say that I am a dirty rotten sinner. I have messed up more times that I can count. But I also know that covering them up will not do anything. And yet I look around and see everyone hiding their wrong just to seem perfect, just to receive better presents. Maybe I am just ranting here but I am disgusted by the materialism I am surrounded by.

My mom made a comment the other day that I thought was very fitting, "our circumstances just make everything we though so dear before seem- seem insignificant". I could not agree more.

Now I will be viewed as a grinch, because I am not excited to receive presents or relive past Christmases, but in some ways I look forward to this Christmas the most. I will truly be able, for the first time in my life, to look at Christmas not as a way to receive presents, but to rejoice in my saviors coming.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Laments of My Soul

The laments of my soul
Are apparently too much to bear
My pain is private pain
Because no one seems to care

They say that God feels my pain
Then why doesn't he take it away
Doesn't he worry
That my faith is going astray

All areas of my life are being torn apart
everything's ripping at the seams
I mourn each and every day
For the loss of my once reachable dreams

My dreams of a happy future
Of a family so perfect
Now every time I put on a smile
My happiness is just counterfeit

Doesn't God want me to be happy
To find joy in my life
Now all joy does is mock me
And cause me so much strife

Everyone else is laughing
So why can't I
Water falls from my eyes
But my soul's river has run dirt dry

College Essay - Pewaukee Triathlon

My stomach clenched as the butterflies settled in and made my stomach their home. Ten minutes until the first shot would ring and I was nowhere near ready, in fact I was weeks behind. Normal athletes train for this event for months, but I had signed up just a mere month and a half before July 8, race day. Why am I doing this? I thought to myself, but the answer was on the tip of my tongue. My brother. Just the thought stung my eyes but there was no time for tears. I approached the front of the line.  There was no turning back now. “GO!” the announcer shouted, and I plunged into the water.
Thirteen minutes of actively drowning passed and I emerged and sprinted to my bike. A third of the way done, I thought, trying to encourage myself. My legs slowly took to a rhythm and I remembered why I love biking so much. I reached the 11 mile mark and felt good but I knew this feeling was going to end very shortly. I turned the corner and started biking right past my house. The memories flooded over me and were almost too much to bear. Memories of just one year ago when it was my brother in my place, and I was cheering from the sidelines. I pushed on.
After 58 minutes I had finished the bike and transitioned flawlessly into running. Each step toward the finish line became harder and harder both physically and emotionally. Eventually the finish line came into view and the cries of all of my supporters reached my ears. “Go Laura!” was repeated again and again as I crossed over the line. This is so wrong! I cried silently. I looked around and was met by so many declarations of pride over what I had just accomplished. “Laura, you just finished your first triathlon!” I smiled and nodded while the only words I could hear were those of my brother just four months before. “Laura, I am so proud of you. I always knew you could do it!”
I finally let myself think about what July 8th meant to me as I stood on the finish line. July 8th was not only the four month anniversary of my brother’s death, but also the day I pushed myself to accomplish one of his passions, a triathlon. That day I came to grips with the fact that my brother would never race again and took it upon myself to live the life that he couldn’t. I raced in honor of my brother and best friend, Patrick Sievert.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Distinguishing Frienships

One thing I have discovered through the past four months is that I have a lot of friends. But what I am just beginning to realize is that I have very few real friends. Before the accident there was little difference between the two, both were equally as important to me. My real friends were there for me through the hard stuff, and my accessory friends were there to keep me looking good and to have fun with.

I also had trouble distinguishing between the two. Every person was good for different things. I would go to this person for guy troubles and that other person for friend troubles, everyone had a role. I would classify each of these people as real friends. How naive was I. Now I have trouble filling even one hand with real friends. This is because my definition of real and even of friends have changed. I still value each person but I find every day another person leaves my life and goes from the status of real to accessory.

Last week all I wanted was for someone to say "Laura, how are you?" and not just to be polite. I needed someone to seek me out to want to spend time with me but not just to distract me. I have way too many distraction friends but hardly any friends that will be there with me even through the tears. It has now been four months and the tears surprise people, even those that were closest to me. People don't understand that it is going to take more than four months for me to heal and to be normal. My friends want the old Laura back but the sad realization is that she is never coming back. I have changed, and it is permanent. I will be forever different but I need friends that will be okay with that and embrace it.

But now I have a dilemma. Some friends I just don't want to lose. Two of my closest friends barely even talked to me for a month after school ended and every day that passed was a new struggle for me. The sad part is that I understand. I understand that they are 16 and don't want to have to deal with this. The pain of death is new and strong every day and it can be overwhelming. I understand why they left. But I needed them not to. Their words "Laura we will be here with you for the long run. We know people will leave your life because of this pain but we will be here with you, to cry and to laugh," hurts me more every single day knowing that it was all lies. Now I have two options: 1) to call them out on it and to express how much they hurt me every single day or 2) lose them, just as I have been doing for the past month. There are problems with both. The problem with calling them out on it is that it will be a pity friendship. The only reason why they will come around will be because they caused a grieving girl even more grief. I don't want a pity friendship in the least bit. But the problem with the other option is that they have been my closest friends for minimum of a year, one of the girls has been for three. I miss them, a lot. I need someone that will know without me having to tell them that it is a rough day and will be there for me even when I can't get out of bed it hurts so bad, even though that is not fun in the least bit.

As for now I feel alone. I am surrounded by people when I'm doing okay but when I'm not they all suddenly vanish. I walk through the darkness with fewer and fewer people by my side as the journey becomes longer. My heart breaks every day as everybody's life moves on, and mine can't. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Life is a series of tragedies...

The days and nights directly after the accident are a completely blur to me. All I remember is people swarming my house wanting to show their sympathy. There were people I've never seen before of my mother's friends and even my friends from years ago showed up. It was a strange time. That time would've been happy if not for the circumstances. I can just imagine my mother going into her host mode that suits her so well. I can imagine my father, as the night wore on, getting  more and more exhausted and the sure signs that this was not his cup of tea appearing. I can imagine my feeling of contentment, knowing that life couldn't get any better. But there is this funny thing about imagination, it creates a world that can only exist in one's fantasies. Instead it was a much different scene. My mother had women surrounding her doing the things that mom normally would've never have let them do. Her role of host was torn down and the only thing she knew how to do was to let others love on her. My father had given up all shreds of superficial conversation and all things demanded by our society as considered "polite". He had abandoned trying to make small talk and holed up in his room until everyone eventually left, which turned out to be days after. I remember my aunt and uncle were sitting on the couch laughing at a joke my aunt made and my father turned and looked at me with tears in his eyes, "How can they be laughing? Laughing!" as he returned to his room. And finally me...the feeling of contentment had long deserted me and left me feeling utter despair. I didn't know what to do or how to feel but one thing was for certain, I felt alone and scared. The ironic thing about that was I was never alone. My friends rotated sleeping over every night so I wouldn't have to sleep alone. They would be there when I woke up sobbing in the middle of the night to just hold me. But even through all that, the feeling of being alone was so very present. In those days and nights life could not get any worse. I went from being on top of the world to barely even wanting to be part of the world. The other day I went with my adventure gym class to Lapham Peak. Lapham Peak is the place Patrick and I spent hours training for our birkie, so it held many memories for me. "It's hard knowing that the last time I was here...I was happy," I told my friend. "You're not happy now?" The answer came easily, "No."

 My cousin, last week, said something that stuck with me..."Life is just a series of tragedies, and joy is what you feel in between them." I guess I just have to hold on until I am able to feel joy again, however long that might be.