|My goodness, where do I start? I guess that I should probably start here...
Theresa was not my first brush with the emotions regarding grief and loss.
That happened in the summer of 1981, when Allen John Robert, my dad, passed away. I was 15 at the time and was totally unprepared for what was to come. And as much as my father's guidance helped to shape me, for a long time I felt it was his loss that defined me.
For the longest time I held onto what memories I could. While some advised me to "move on" and "let go", I was terrified that if I did, whatever part of him I still had would be gone, and I would lose all of him forever.
It is amazing how time tends to give one perspective. It's been almost 22 years since my dad's been gone, and, for the most part the bad stuff is gone. Don't get me wrong, I still get "what if" moments wondering what it would be like if he was here. I still think of him when the anniversary of his passing rolls around. But the memories I have tend to be good.
It has been years since I had the vivid flashback dreams I used to have. You see, when he had his fatal heart attack, I performed CPR on him for about 20 minutes, to no avail. And, initially, I used that fact as solace, telling myself that I did everything I could to try and revive him, but he was beyond anyone's efforts at that point. And I thought of what kind of shape he would have been in if we had indeed revived him. For a while, that did serve to comfort me. But, while being there and doing what I did provided some solace in the wake of it all, it also left me with a few rather decided unpleasant images. So, after a while, that is what dominated my thoughts. Not the love he showed me during the first 15 years of my life. Not the fun we used to have, the ball games we went to, our weekly "Friday Night Sandwich Run".
For a while, only one thing about my dad seemed to be etched in my mind. The visual image of the most influential person in my life to that point, laying on the ground, with an unaffected stare coming out of those lifeless eyes.
To be honest, I probably should have gone in for grief counseling. You live and learn, I guess.
Yeah, I know that was pretty heavy, but it is a real concern in a situation like this.
And yet, even with that experience, I was still totally devastated when I got that 4:30am phone call from Theresa's cousin Nicole telling me that she died that morning. My previous experience in dealing with my dad's passing proved useless here.
Maybe because it was a different kind of relationship here? Maybe, but I do not know. Was it because she was so young and her life was cut short in such an untimely fashion? Probably not. My dad was only 50 when he died. That is still too damn young.
It is especially interesting in this era in which our country seems to be defined by grief. Not even nine months after Teri died, thousands were slaughtered by some overseas madman trying to make a point.
There is an old saying that "one death is a tragedy, one thousand is a statistic". How many people's perceptions changed on September 11th?
At the time I remember thinking a lot about the whole thing, and I did not see it as a statistic. I pictured the loved ones of each person as I pictured myself. It was like thinking about 3,000 Theresas.
I remember asking myself, "How is a human supposed to deal with this?" The answer that came to me much later was "by surviving".
Not an easy thing, I know. These things tend to stay with you for the rest of your life. The key is to put them in their proper place.
Do I miss Teri? Absolutely! Do I still dream about her? Yes, still, every once in a while. (I've even had dreams where she shows up with my dad.) Do thoughts of her reduce me to tears? At times, they still do. Do I still love her? Yes.
But, hard as it may seem at times, I try my best to put another foot forward and move on.
Now I know that those of you looking for resources on this page have so far been subjected to me editorializing and expounding on my own situation. I do this in order to qualify the advice I am about to give, to show that I have been there and this has helped me.
Is there any hard, fast way for dealing with grief and loss? Hell, no! It varies from person to person.
Now I am not an expert on this subject in any way, shape, or form. If you need serious grief counseling, there are professionals out there who can do an infinitely better job than I can. What I offer are some simple suggestions which have helped me in my low times.
1. DO WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO: If you have hobbies, pursuits, activities that you love. Things which can grab your attention and get your mind off of things for a while. In my case, it was writing, and playing around with audio/video, and computers. I even put together a few web sites and started my own on-line magazine while I was in "the depths".
2. MUSIC: How many times has music come to our rescue? Whether it be a bad breakup, or something like what is described on this page, sometimes listening to some of your favorites can help. Now I am not saying it's an instant panacea that will instantly put a smile on your face. However, in my case, I can say that it tended to take the edge off of things, which, some days, is the best you can hope for. My eternal thanks go out to Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Jane Monheit, whose music I listened to an awful lot while I was going through this.
3. TALK: Do not avoid the subject. At times, those around you may become quiet out of awkwardness at not knowing what to say. But sometimes, what you are feeling gets bottled up and confused, and getting those feelings out and addressing them can prove quite positive. Whether it be with a counselor, or a good friend (a friend who is up to this task is as good as gold), sometimes just talking about it can help relieve stress and pain. (WARNING, do not do this if you do not feel up to it...sometimes, in this case, it can do more harm than good.)
4. WRITE: This could be the same as talking about it. Either way, you are externalizing all of the feelings churning up inside you. In this way, as well, you have a written record of what you are feeling. Sometimes seeing your feelings on paper can provide you with some much needed perspective.
In fact, here are a couple of samples of things I wrote about Teri, while in various states of mind.
Like I said before, I only offer these from my own experience. They may or may not work in your particular situation, but they did work for me.
www.webhealing.com - A site for exploring and discussing Grief and Loss Issues, operated by Tom Golden, LCSW. Tom is a psychotherapist based out of Maryland.
www.counselingforloss.com - A good collection of grief and loss resources, including tributes, stories, and print references.
griefnet.org - Another great place for finding Grief and Loss support and resources.
www.languageofloss.net - A site run by a group of grief counselors based in Alexandria, VA. Good info and resources for grief counseling and education.
http://www.nmha.org - The website of the National Mental Health Association. As many (if not all) Grief and Loss issues are psychological in nature, this is another terrific resource for those in need.
www.lossandrenewal.com - A site run by Ben Cirlin, CSW, and Miriam Benhaim, PhD. Ben and Miriam run a practice in New York City called the "Center For Loss And Renewal". They offer therapy and workshops dealing with Grief and Loss Issues.
If you have a site, or have seen a site which you think would be valuable to visitors of this site, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"On Death And Dying" - By Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Although this book deals more with the dying than those surviving, it echoes some of the psychological stages present on either side of the equation. These stages include denial, anger, depression, and, finally, acceptance.