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The elephant in the room and grieving


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I am up early this morning and so much is going through my mind. This past week as I have tried to be there for Michelle in some small way has helped me in many ways. There are just so many things that I relive each year at this time. That is what I have been doing this past week.

I have gone over the story I wrote about my life and the place that Johnny filled in it so completely. I have also gone back and read many of my journals that I kept those first couple of agonizing years. I have watched myself grow from a bitter lonely and heartbroken woman who felt all alone to someone with so much compassion that I am able to reach out to people at a time when they so sorely need someone. I remember those first months and how alone I was the year before I found this wonderful place.

As I think back I see so many things about grief. Things that I somehow learned along the way but could just never put into words until now.

When I saw the post Michelle made suggesting a memory thread. A glimmer of those words started in my head. She knew some things I had shared with her and suggested that I post them. As always I got a little carried away and probably went a little too far. Still it got me to thinking about grief and the reactions to it.

Not long after Johnny died someone sent me a poem called The Elephant in the room. I don't remember the words but the idea is still with me. It tells about there being an elephant in the room and no one wanting to acknowledge it even though it was very visible to all. In our case the elephant was our loved ones death.

I think one of the hardest things for me to cope with after I lost Johnny was that I had no one to talk to. I had no one to share those special memories that I needed so desperately to hold on to. No one to share my pain or know how much I had lost and what it was doing to me. I felt like everyday I was losing more of him and more of myself. Then Johnny's niece and I became even closer than we had been and that helped. Still she was the only one. No one wanted to talk about him. Everyone wanted to pretend that he wasn't there in every conversation and every thought in my mind and heart. I felt so alone.

The truth is most people have no idea how to handle someone elses grief. They are so afraid to say or do the wrong thing that they don't say anything. They end up pulling away when the person who is grieving needs them most. They are not intentionally being cruel in most cases. They just don't understand. I think also that we tend to push people away without even realizing it.

People who have been a major part of our life were there in a life that was full and happy, a life where our loved one was alive and full of life. Suddenly we find ourselves pulling away because that life is gone. We can't fit those people into our new life of pain because they will never understand the total devistation that we are feeling. There will be those who will pull back until we are ready to accept them but there will be many more who will walk out of our lives and not look back.

There are also the other people who loved the one we lost. Each of us grieve differently and for different periods of time, at least that deep gut wrenching grief that eats at our hearts and minds. It just depends on our relationship with the one we lost. Often the others will lose someone else and start out on another road of grief, sometimes we can be a part of it but just as often we will be the one they pull away from.

Life can be so complicated. Grief is such a major part of our lives at times. We learn something new everyday, often without even knowing it. I have had so many lessons taught to me in this past 7 years, some good and some bad. I don't want to quit learning and I don't want to stop sharing. This board and especially this forum have saved my life, if not my life at least my sanity.

I want to give back in any way that I can. I know there will still be times when I come here in need, when my own heart will be so heavy that I need all of you. I know too that each time I can find one word that will bring just a glimer of hope or a moment of comfort to someone else I will be one step closer to my own purpose for being here.

So my dear friends I guess what I want to say is Thank you once again. I want to tell you how much it means to be able to share, to not only share my grief and loss but my love for my Johnny and a picture of the wonderful loving sometimes outragous person he was. If I go to far give me a cyper slap on the hand. If you can see the love and feel the hope then the time I spend here will be well spent.

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Hi Lil,

I think this is the poem...clearly feelings that you are identifying with. Blessings to you during this difficult time!

The Elephant in the Room, by Terry Kettering

There's an elephant in the room.

It is large and squatting,

so it is hard to get around it.

Yet we squeeze by with "How are you?"

and "I'm fine" ...

And a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.

We talk about the weather.

We talk about work.

We talk about everything else -

except the elephant in the room.

There's an elephant in the room.

We all know it is there.

We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.

It is constantly on our minds.

For, you see, it is a very big elephant.

It has hurt us all.

But we do not talk about the elephant in the room.

Oh, please say her name.

Oh, please say "Barbara" again.

Oh, please, let's talk about the elephant in the room.

For if we talk about her death,

Perhaps we can talk about her life.

Can I say "Barbara" to you and not have you look away?

For if I cannot, then you are leaving me

Alone ...

In a room ...

With an elephant.

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Yes that is the poem and as I remember those early days I can't help but think how true those words are.

I hope that having this place will save some others from feeling that terrible loss of our loved ones over and over again just because it is an Elephant in the roo,.

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Lily, thank you for taking the time to write your lovely post. My husband passed away on Dec. 30 of 2008, merely 4 months after diagnosis....far too young. I continue to mourn the loss of him and the loss of our future. I look to strong women like you who have walked the walked and survived this devastation. I post a lot on the Widownet forum....www.widownet.org It is very helpful.

thanks to you, dear lady. You are giving back....

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Lily and Linda, thank you for this lovely poem. I hope it will be read by many. The message is so important. I know the difference. With my friend Jim, I can always call his niece and say I'm missing him so much right now. My friend Jack has been joined by his loving wife Vicki now and I'm happy they are together. They lived a long life. With my friend Al, that isn't possible and there is no relief for the sorrow. These are people I lost last year together together with all the friends here this and last year who made their mark and left our family in body but not in spirit.

Judy in Key West

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First of all, I would like to say something that I have wanted to say to you for a long time.. You are truly a gift to us. I've read many , many of your posts and I have watched you throughout the grieving process. Lily, you have come a long , long way and as you progressed to this point you shared the best of yourself with all of us. You write so eloquently and I have, oftentimes, felt comfort in your words because I could identify with them. It is a lonely world when you are grieving alone and as you say , most people don't know what to say and "that elephant is sitting in the room". Oh yes, I can relate. Today, I thank you for this post and many many others. Thank you for giving back.



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Oh Sue you can not imagine how much I appreciate your words. Today is one of those days when I question my purpose. I wonder why I do and say the things I do. Sometimes I am so sure but others like today I feel like maybe people just see my words ans empty of meaning.

Yes I have come a long way but still there are days when I feel the pain as fresh as it was that first December morning 7 years ago when a light in my soul was extinquished, the day my Johnny died. He was not only my first and last love, my first and last lover and soul mate and love of my life but he was my best friend. We shared so much of ourselves with one another. Then he was gone. I still feel those feelings so I guess that is why I can relate so easily to all of you who are grieving too.

I never had much self confidence except when I was with Johnny. All of my life I felt that I was different and that different meant bad or wrong but he made me feel that different meant special. He gave me his heart and I will always treasure it as the most precious of gifts. He also gave me confidence in myself, but there are often times when my self confidence waivers. This past few weeks have been like that.

So now I will rest a little easier because I know that what I do does mean something. If just one word I write or say can help one person not to feel so alone , it is worth every minute I spend reaching out. My personal life is pretty much non existant other than my family. So when I get a boost like your words and those of Linda gave to me it takes me back to a time when I felt loved, needed and appreciated for who I am instead of just what I do for everyone.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your kind words. They mean so much to me. Please remember it is alright to talk about those who are gone. We we talk about them they live again in our minds as well as our hearts.

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