Thursday, October 1, 2009
Why counting blessings doesn't really help - and yet how at times, it does.
Tuesday evening at my chorus practice, our director gave us an assignment. He asked each of us to write down five things we are thankful for each morning at breakfast time for the next week. There were a lot of groans among the chorus. It sounded like a class of teenagers complaining about homework, though I think the youngest of us is probably my age. He said it was an attitude-changing exercise.
I didn't object. I've tried this before, several times since Leif's death. I am well aware of all I am thankful for, of I have to be grateful for. The trouble is, even enumerating it doesn't make me FEEL truly grateful when I'm feeling sad about Leif's death. I know what I have to be thankful for, but it's hard, very hard find the joy in all the good things in my life when Leif's death hurts so much.
I read about the stages of grief and I wonder when I will pass this point, when I can let go of grief itself. It's not just letting go of Leif, which is hard enough, but letting go of my grief over his death. It's hard to even remember what it was like not to feel like this, though I look at all the pictures and remember all the good times we had.
I AM thankful for so much, and I have been truly blessed in my life, but that doesn't negate the sadness. It doesn't bring Leif back. Does that make me an ungrateful person who doesn't appreciate what she has? I don't think so. I think it makes me a hurt person who has to take time to heal.
I was working in the yard last week and an neighbor who also lost a son to suicide several years ago said that it's never the same, "You can have good times, but you want to share them and you can't. The loss always comes back."
I fear that. I don't want my life to be like that forever. Somehow, I want to regain that sense of joy I once had, not only for myself, but for Peter W., Peter Anthony and my grandchildren. There are glimpses of it sometimes. I savor them, but I wonder how long it will be before they are more than glimpses, before the tears are not so close to the surface.
Sometimes I wonder how terrible a burden Leif's life was, that he would take his life, how hopeless it must have seemed to him, and I know how much better my life is . . . but that doesn't lessen my sadness. If anything, in multiplies it. It hurts deeply, so very deeply, to know my son suffered like that and we didn't know and couldn't help him.
No, counting my blessings doesn't really help . . . not if it means taking away the pain today, but it does help in another way, which is why I continue to do it. It helps me keep perspective and not succumb to the downward spiral of negative thinking. It helps me to hang on to those blesssings and hope that someday the pain will lessen and shrink away to a smaller corner of my being so that all that's good in my life can shine forth again.
These photos of Leif, Peter W. and me were taken by my sister, Lannay, when we were visiting her and her family in Greenbelt, Maryland in June 1990. We were in the Charlottesville, Virginia - Washington DC area so that Peter could attend the Judge Advocate General's School course for Staff Judge Advocates, and we were in the middle of our move from Fort Sheridan, Illinois (Chicago) to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico.