I love where I live. In Australia, seasons vary dramatically according to our geographical location. What my family and I experience living in North Eastern Victoria, is vastly different to the experience of people living in Far North Queensland, which is extremely different again to those living in southern Tasmania.
I enjoy the fact that I have the opportunity to experience the variety of sights, smells, sounds and experiences that each season has to offer. For me, knowing that each season has its end comes with a mixed sense of relief and anticipation for what the next season has to usher in.
In my 43 years I have accumulated countless experiences with the changing of seasons in my world. Unlike the natural seasons, there is no definitive time frame for the seasons that come and go in our ‘inner-world’. There have been Autumns that lasted weeks; Winters that spanned months and Springs that faded after days; and Summers that endure for years.
At the age of 13, early on a scorching hot January morning I remember receiving the news that my sister, a year and a half younger than me, had died. This was something that my family only weeks earlier could never have conceived being a reality for us. However, on that January morning our world was turned upside down as this shattering news become our reality. Everything inside of me felt as if it were going to explode. The questions, the shock, the disbelief, the injustice, the emotion were overwhelming. In that moment I couldn’t imagine how life could possibly go on for our family…for me!
This sudden change (or ‘Autumn’ season as I’ve since affectionately named it) took months to journey through as I struggled to accept the reality of losing my sister. This enormous loss had most definitely brought about an unexpected, unwelcome change in our world that none of us were ready for or knew how to navigate!
As the deep, dark ‘Winter’ set in for me, the lens that I was viewing life through became tainted, shrouded by a misty haze, as I began to process the painful reality of not ever having my sister to talk to again, to share a bedroom with, to walk to school with and joke around as we once did with our younger brother, to share the many things that sisters share as they grow up together. Wondering if anyone could ever understand the pain I was living in from day to day took me to a very lonely place. Waking from what I’d hoped was just a bad dream, with the hope that I might see my sister in the bed across the room again. Wondering if there was something else I could have done to avoid her becoming so sick. The tormenting thoughts, the what-ifs, the daydreams, the endless stream of tears…all painfully familiar encounters on the journey that was to follow.
As I learnt to adapt to life without my sister there were many waves of emotion to be encountered. The birthdays, the memories of so many moments we had shared together – the good and the not-so-great, the celebrations we all looked forward to so much, the family holidays, and so much more…somehow carried an intense twist of sadness simply because she was no longer there!
Over time that ache still remained, but became a little less intense as each year passed. And we moved forward…there were new additions to the family, new experiences to be had, a new ‘normal’ to establish. This could be likened to ‘Spring’. This wasn’t without its own heartache and doubt at times, but it was our life. Life had changed for us. It would most definitely never be the same. We would never be the same. I would never be the same. For each member of my family this event would forever be a turning point.
What we chose to do with this experience of loss was unique for each of us. Our perspectives. Our way forward. One thing we all shared in common was our desire to find ways to allow our connection with my beautiful sister to live on in ways that were meaningful to each of us personally. For some it was visiting her gravesite regularly and laying flowers. For myself geographical distance now prevents such activity, so talking fondly to my children about their aunty – who she was, what she meant to me, times we shared – is one way that I choose to allow my sister’s memory to live on in my family, even decades later. For others, it may be that they choose to remember their loved one by awareness raising, fundraising, writing a journal or blog, penning the story of their loved one’s life – their successes and challenges. The means by which individuals can achieve this is limited only by their imagination.
In the midst of embarking on a ‘new life’ there are so many ways for individuals to find that ‘enduring connection’ with the one they’ve lost (the loss that may not have been a person, but something else as mentioned in my first blog post: ‘The Labyrinth of Grief’). Regardless, it is important for each person journeying through grief to know that their personal experience will never be an exact replica of the experience of another, regardless of how close they may be. In saying that, there are still many who have the ability to empathise and offer support on this journey, as you make your way forward toward a ‘new-look life’ – perhaps not the one you’d hoped for or even expected – but one nonetheless that will bring meaning and purpose to you personally, once again.
This is but one small snapshot of the seasons in what I can say was my first significant grief encounter (of many and varied kinds) to date. Each loss is unique to the individual encountering it. Each grief response unique to the individual experiencing it.
YOU have YOUR personal story.
How are you navigating your journey?
Have you allowed yourself to process your pain, or have you stuffed it inside hoping it will one day disappear? Or do you believe that you’ll just ‘get over it’ sometime in the future if you keep yourself busy enough until then?
Have you reached out to someone in your world, or perhaps a trained professional in this field to assist you in making your way through these ‘seasons’ in your grief journey?
I believe change is within your reach…Consider what you can do to keep moving toward it today.
With you on this journey,