Each year in Canada, we pause on November 11 to remember those who secured our freedom and those who continue to keep it secure. It’s always been a day dear to my heart.
Growing up, my grandpa lead Remembrance Day services in my small home town. His booming voice would read the names of the fallen and instruct the soldier to their formations. It was a full day affair capped off with warm hot chocolate at the Legion. Later in life, I participated in services with my son, Jacob, so that I could honour my grandpa who died a year after Jacob was born.
November 2007, three and a half months after my eight year old son, Jacob, died, I found myself participating in Remembrance Day services in our nation’s capital, Ottawa. It was thrilling and sad at the same time. It conjured feelings of missing my grandpa’s voice, yet pride in his services. The day also sparked sadness about the death of my apparently healthy eight year old son (at that time, we didn’t know he had a heart defect that caused his death). As I honoured the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers and support staff, I remembered Jacob too.
But why bring up this day in a grief blog? A trip to Ottawa for Remembrance Day services doesn’t seem to fit, but it does. I doubt I would have been there if I hadn’t been grieving.
An opportunity arose for me to go to Ottawa on Remembrance Day weekend and I impulsively followed my heart and took the chance and went. I didn’t care that I had only met the people I would be visiting. I didn’t care how much it would cost. It just felt right.
At this point in my grief, when faced with something new, I would literally say to myself, “The worst has happened, so nothing scares me anymore. Nothing bad will happen.” I became fearless (not my usual way of being, I might add). I was acting “out of character” for my pre-loss self and nothing, not even my own personal safety, would hold me back. (Years later, my doctor labelled this as “risky” behaviour. She was right, but I didn’t see it that way at the time.)
Now I know that I was in shock and numb and using my grief to “embrace life” as a means of coping. While I was still having flashbacks and paralyzing moments of raging grief full of tears shed in the fetal position on the floor, at other times, I was brave, leaping into the unknown. I experienced extremes.
I ran head long into living and experiencing everything that I could for a good eight months, probably longer. My grief involved pushing my limits early on, but I couldn’t maintain that level of energy. Grieving, processing, feeling and healing takes energy and I soon had a limited supply. Perhaps that was my body’s way of taking care of me – slowing me down kept me safe. As I slowed down, the risky behaviour lessened. I moved toward a quieter, more inward way of coping, something more akin to my pre-loss self.
Do you find yourself doing things that others would consider out of character? How does it feel for you? Are you safe? Thankfully, during this period of my grieving, I was surrounded by people who kept an eye out for me and reined me in when I needed it. Who do you have around you to ground you and keep you anchored?
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