It's interesting that when we experience some great loss or have a huge life event how we can feel guilty about the way we feel. In my last post I noted that I often feel guilty about the way I have felt over the past 5 years since Henley passed.
There are two huge points I want to address that I've been ruminating on since yesterday.
The first point.
I think a large part of why not fully acknowledging my grief over that time frame is because of that sense of guilt. Negative self talk about how I shouldn't feel the way I feel because "imagine what Henley's parents (my sister and brother-in-law) must be feeling." It was their daughter, their soul, their blood. If they can deal with the monumental loss and negative life event, then why should I feel so bad? Of course it's all smoke and mirrors. I knew they were having a hard time and working tirelessly to learn to deal with their loss and still function. But I always told myself everything they did to grieve was warranted, I told myself that what I felt was not warranted. So instead of dealing with it, I allowed it to turn into a semblance of the very thing that took Henley's life: cancer. Grief and guilt started small, unaddressed it began to metastasize throughout my entire body until it became a part of me. So much a part of me that I've gotten incredible at disguising its symptoms. Or so I thought.
The second point.
5 years! That's sort of a ridiculous amount of time to allow something to impact you without taking much action. Allowing a cancer to spread without any resistance is like going into battle unarmed. With added life events that we all experience, both positive and negative stress, to continually feed the cancer of grief and allow it to further disguise itself, it can subconsciously creep into your soul.
In a 5 year time frame here are some life events that my wife and I went though that have compounded stress on top of my un-acknowledged grief and guilt ridden feelings:
Henley passes away on July 19, 2013. Shortly after I drive, alone, to Texas for a 6 week training for a job that, due to timing of everything, I felt awful and guilty for being so excited about. After 6 weeks, Kelly and I move to Chicago and start new jobs in a new place. July 23, 2015, we have our first baby, Matthew. By that very same winter in 2015, we are moving back to Indiana and starting a business from scratch. I open my practice in February of 2016 and then just like that Kelly is pregnant again, we are buying our first house, and our second little man, Luke, is born December 14, 2016. By August 2017, I am changing jobs again, merging my private practice into an ortho group, taking on another career challenge and opportunity to continue my pursuit of trying to take my unique form of treatment and accomplish something bigger (probably a different blog later).
That's hardly an exhaustive list and I'm exhausted just writing and thinking about all of it. To think that I was trying compartmentalize all of those events, daily life, and having that guilty grief that I was trying ignore... Yikes.
I think it's safe to say that how I have felt is completely warranted. What's the point of feeling guilty with how you feel? How you feel is just that... how you feel. You can't compare whose loss is greater, who's grief is greater, etc. Negative life events suck regardless, trying to quantify how much they suck and comparing it to other's situations doesn't accomplish anything.
Allowing yourself to feel your feelings is crucial. That's not something I do well. Then doing something about those feelings so they don't overtake you negatively, for say, 5 years is also important. That component I'm even worse at. If we don't address the stress, it will take over and creep into our lives in so many ways. It could manifest as physical ailments, mental health issues, ravage personal relationships, and keep you from realizing your full potential in this life. The fact that I've somehow ignored my feelings about Henley and allowed it to impact my life for 5 years is almost embarrassing. To see it written, it just seems so obvious. "Hey Michael, you imbecile." More negative self talk. Now that's a hefty topic for another time. I'm beginning to ramble and all one of you reading are likely bored by now. If you made it this far, I appreciate you and thank you for humoring me.