• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • jordan barton
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Steve Thorn
  • Leigh Tate
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Greg Martin
  • Mike Haasl
master gardeners:
  • John F Dean
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • Nancy Reading

A Year of Loss - Learning to Grieve When You Were Never Taught How

 
gardener
Posts: 663
Location: British Columbia
499
2
monies home care forest garden foraging chicken wood heat homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello Permies,

I've felt inspired to write today after a long absence from posting articles on Permies.

I have come across the year 2021 being described as the "Year of Loss" both in conversation and in popular articles. I can image that this description is accurate for many people, in may ways, in association with the pandemic. However, it rings awfully true for me in ways completely unrelated to a virus.

Before this year, I would say I was 'privileged' enough to have never experience a deep or traumatic loss. I had been witness to family or friends passing from old age or chronic illness; I was either far enough removed from the person in the terms of physical distance or my personal relationship to them that the loss was simply part of the flow of life, I could see it coming and it made sense to me.

This year I experienced a traumatic loss that felt like it made time stand still, then turned everything upside-down, and it proceeded to shake everything still till today. I had never before experienced a loss that resulted in everything in my life being subsequently altered in such a substantial, tangible, and in escapable way.

I also came to realize that I didn't know how grieve or how to help someone else that was grieving. I'm would normally describe myself as a person who cares deeply, who has close emotional connections to the people around them, and who wears their heart on their sleeve. I suddenly found connecting to my loved ones felt "clunky" and for someone who is usually a ball of emotion I felt numb or distant.

There is a silver lining however, my experiences this year have shown me how I have previously gone through life without taking time to properly grieve. "I'll be sad for a day or two and then I'll be fine" or "That was awful but there is nothing to be done about so I should suck it up and move on".

I learned there was 'big grief' (such as a traumatic loss or injury) and 'little grief' and everything in between. I've learned that each loss deserved to be acknowledged and approached in its own way. I'm working on making space in my life to sit with that grief.

I also learned that people suck at both grieving and helping someone who is grieving (myself included). My best friend lost her partner this year. I couldn't believe the things people were saying to her to be 'nice'. These were the same sentiments I would have said to grieving person, but now I could clearly see how deeply hurtful they were. Not just any people: her friends, family, and community members! People I had previously admired, I had to give "restraining orders" too. I had to call strangers and tell them to 'STFU' because they were spreading hurtful rumours. Rumours, that in retrospect, I would have also talked about behind closed doors, not knowing how easily they would get back to the griever and how incredibly hurtful, sometimes deadly, they could be.

The only 'experience' I had for dealing with grief was, to be honest, watching movies. Where the person who has experienced such deep and profound loss had their friends and community rally around them. Or, the hero/heroine would search the depths of their soul to come out the other side a better human being, with a prophetic new purpose in life ... all in 6-months to boot!

I felt stuck, I felt helpless, I felt incredibly clumsy in a situation that demand such delicacy. Luckily for me, I found help.

The two greatest gifts I received this year are:

#1)  It's OK That You're Not OK - Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand: by Megan Devine



I can't recommend this book enough. It's referred to as the "grief bible". Well I'm sure it's not perfect, no book is, it has been the our manual our whole support group in this time of loss. I honestly think I'd be in a much bleaker reality if it wasn't for the presence of this book.

#2) A New Friend - Someone who has already lived though sh*t hitting the fan.

I made a new friend who had pretty much lived through exactly what I was going through. I wasn't expecting to grow so close, so quickly. I had someone I could ask the hard questions to without feeling judged and knowing she understood the urgency of the situation. Questions like "She's not eating. Is that normal? What should I do?". I know there are professional out there that are trained to deal with these situations, but sometimes they fall short or you simply can't reach them (distance/time/$$$). Being able to reach out to them felt like grabbing a life-line when drowning.

I also learned to make sure that "the support network needs a support network". It truly takes a village. I assembled a team a friends that included psychologists, councillors, suicide first-aid attendants, healers, bakers, and fitness professionals in order to help my friend... and I was still exhausted! Again, I was fortunate enough to enough to have family and friends checking in on me too, ready to carry the load when needed.

So why am I sharing this on Permies?

I think a strong community needs to be able to acknowledge grief, learn how to approach it, and know how to support the griever and each other. I think this is not only something that should be address in a permaculture community, but a fundamental aspect of communal living.

Thanks for reading <3

 
pollinator
Posts: 1769
Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
457
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am glad you have found your voice. A beginning!
 
gardener
Posts: 5261
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
1995
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ashley, I totally agree with you that our current culture doesn't teach people how to grieve. Personally, it goes deeper than that - we don't teach people how death is part of the cycle of life so we struggle to hang on to friends or family that have no hope because we don't know how to say good-by with dignity. Our medical system often seems to push for more and more treatment to stretch out the inevitable another week or month, because many of our health care professionals haven't learned how to talk comfortably about death either.

This is not something we're born with. It's not something being modelled in a society that pushes "young forever". It's a skill, just like so many other skills we encourage through permaculture, so I totally agree with you that this is a place it can and should be discussed. People grieve in different ways and people support in different ways.

I know that I was not good at helping my friend grieve the loss of her daughter to cancer at age 17. I was so angry about what the medical system put her daughter through for 7 years despite knowing her odds were slim to none of living through it, particularly after her first remission crashed with such intensity, that I didn't have space for my friend's grief. My friend was so proud of her daughter being such a fighter. From the outside, I could see that her daughter was scared that she was the glue and her family would fall apart if she died, so she fought for them, despite the pain and misery many of the treatments caused.

I'm glad that you sound as if you feel you've learned some of this skill, and hopefully taught those around you some of this skill. That's a great way to celebrate a loss. You can't undo that loss, but hopefully you feel that something good has come out of it.

Thank you for the book reference. Our regional library has 22 holds on 2 copies of it, so I guess I'll be hold number 23!
Hang in there, and I hope you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
 
Posts: 115
Location: Middle of South Dakota, 4a
25
hugelkultur fungi chicken
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well written post, full of truth!

As a very young adult I lost my fiance as well as my three year old son within 3 months of each other. We had also recently relocated to a place I only had one relative and no friends yet. Our
community was 12 hours away and it was the worst 6 months of my life. That began 16 years ago, tomorrow. Had my share of people I barely knew trying to help and saying all the wrong things. My boss of 3 weeks picked me up in a limo the next day and drove me the 20 minutes to my father (living off grid he was unaware of the event).  My first and only limo ride was six hours after the father of my children was killed, in a fog of carelessness. I still don't know what prompted that... That Christmas we had more gifts under the tree than ever before or since, a real mountain. I remember thinking "as if that makes up for our loss." It wasn't enjoyable at all and created a huge mess I had to deal with later, alone.

Not to be a downer, just an example of good intentions gone totally wrong in the midst of grief. People say stupid shit because they don't know what to say. My default is "I'm very sorry to hear that." Because I am. A prayer, hug if appropriate and food if able. Eating was a huge issue in the months following, I dropped 35 lbs living on snickers and JitB chicken sandwiches. Glad my other children made it through.

Looking back, it was worth it. Every bit of suffering was worth the memories, the experiences and lessons those two gave me. The love, patience, guidance, confidence, all of it. There's something to "it's better to have loved and lost..."


 
gardener
Posts: 2265
Location: South of Capricorn
950
dog rabbit urban cooking writing homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ashley, I'm sorry to hear about your year but thank you for sharing. I know I've still got plenty to learn about how to be a good friend in terrible situations. Heaven knows we were never even allowed to talk about death in my family, and when things started going sideways I really had no resources. Thank goodness for the good (and wiser) friends who were with me.

I have said this in a few different places but I've found it to be true as time goes on: grief doesn't go away, we just get better at dealing with it. I'm sorry for your loss.
 
pioneer
Posts: 113
Location: Suffolk County, Long Island NY
15
2
forest garden foraging food preservation writing
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I sorry for the grief that has ripped everyone.  It is so hard to even breathe with deep grief, and the fact that "everyone goes through it" doesn't lessen the pain.

Grief.
Feeling like my heart and soul had been beaten with a lead pipe and were hanging outside my body bleeding.  Feeling like all my skin had been scraped off as if I had been dragged through glass and gravel and then had rubbing alcohol poured over for an added sear of pain.  And the world was carrying on.

Stuffed Grief.

I remember my mother in her casket, looking beautiful, seeing the woman she  could have been and the woman she was good and bad.  She got a Masters degree in nursing in the 1950's and raised 5 kids with my Dad all while addicted to alcohol.   I was chastised by a close relative ("She didn't care about you!  Why are you crying?!")  for bursting into tears at seeing her dead for the first time. I swallowed my confused grief .
And that cruel comment?   She loved me the best she could with what she had;  a broken love, but at least it was something.
Some good-byes are more complicated than others and that's okay.  And that's what I say to to people that are grieving a complicated relationship.

A few days after my son was born (after months of serious complications and bed rest) , a soul-mate friend overdosed after seemingly successfully dealing with depression and addiction.  My husband's aunt and uncle were visiting to cuddle my son when I got the call. As I sank to the floor sobbing and my husband whispered "What are they going to think?  You just had a healthy baby!"  I swallowed my grief. That was 22 years ago, and my husband still is appalled that came out of his mouth (As he should be!  Yes, we have dealt with it in depth and can laugh about HIS demented responses to grief!).

Misplaced/Assumed Grief
My son is now 22 and is on the autism spectrum, but very high-functioning. He completed 2 years of community college, he has compassion and empathy, he shows love, and can see all sides of an argument to extent that we call it his "Superpower" .
        ("How could that be autism?" I can hear the masses say". Well,  I gave you a snapshot, not the person.)
I mentioned briefly to a new acquaintance about my son being a person with autism and she actually said "Oh, I'm so sorry!"
I felt the world go wavy and turn on its side as, through 2 long seconds,  I processed through wanting to break her nose, rip her a new one, humiliate her with her ignorance.  SORRY? For the child that is perfect to me just as he is?  I then realized she just didn't know what to say and she thought she was being kind.  Sometimes, we say stupid stuff when we don't know what to say.  

Grief and Regrets over stupid negativity
August 2020 I was shopping with my sister-in-law for dresses for my daughter's wonderful backyard pandemic wedding. We are polar opposites, my SIL and I, in lifestyle: me with my foraging and dirt-digging and her with Jimmy Choo shoes, but we are so close, sharing open hearts, absolute adoration for each other.
I was envious, as always, of her blonde-haired beauty, her 52 year old flawless body that day, and one month later at the wedding we joked about getting our mammograms on the same day.  By Christmas we knew my vibrant, health-conscious, perfect specimen sister-in-law Nicole had triple-negative, stage 4, de novo metastatic breast cancer.  Metastatic to the spine and liver.  Her mammogram less than a year before hd been pristine.  She has a twelve year old daughter.
And I had been envious of her beauty.  We all have crappy little pieces of ourselves.  





 
pollinator
Posts: 1666
Location: Massachusetts, 6b, suburban, nearish coast, 50x50, full sun, 40" year-round even distribution
166
3
kids purity trees urban writing
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for sharing this, ashley.  It is all right to feel whatever you feel.  I wish you and all of us had the kind of support we needed, and I believe we can build that world a bit at a time.  In Dagara culture they grieve each death fully as a village for three days and everyone is expected to come to the ritual.  Even non-Dagara neighbor villagers or Europeans in the area.  They take it seriously.  There is no emotion forbidden inside the ritual space.  Rage, joy, fear, they just don't have an industrial society rulebook for emotions.  I wish we all got that kind of space and respect for a fact of life.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 235
Location: East of England
112
cat forest garden trees tiny house books writing
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you so much for sharing that, Ashley, and opening a discussion on an often undiscussed topic.

I almost wrote "grief sucks", but it isn't grief that sucks, grief is the process of healing rather than stuffing down our plain over loss. Loss sucks. None of us want to experience it. And yet, loss is a part of life. Not one of us gets through life without it.

I'm grieving now. October is the anniversary of the death of my unborn daughter, twenty years ago. And I'm spiralling around a process of pain and healing over the loss of a close friend and colleague, exactly my age, who died back in the summer with Covid after two weeks unconscious in the ICU.

It's such a process.
 
Ashley Cottonwood
gardener
Posts: 663
Location: British Columbia
499
2
monies home care forest garden foraging chicken wood heat homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you so much to everyone for sharing your stories. I'm beyond words for how thankful I am. It's a load off my chest when I have a reminder that "I'm not crazy".

Melonie Corder wrote:

Looking back, it was worth it. Every bit of suffering was worth the memories, the experiences and lessons those two gave me. The love, patience, guidance, confidence, all of it. There's something to "it's better to have loved and lost..."



I think Melonie hit home with something my friend as be grappling with. I really hope she can come to a place were she can believe that, to eternalize it.

Jay Angler wrote:

Thank you for the book reference. Our regional library has 22 holds on 2 copies of it, so I guess I'll be hold number 23!
Hang in there, and I hope you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.



I'm not surprised. It really is a 'life line' during times of grief. I honestly don't know if my friend would have made it past 2 weeks without this book, and I say that in all seriousness.

I'm happy to purchase a copy of the audiobook for you, if that would be of interest for you. It would be my pleasure.


In Megan Devine's book she mentions how we must become grief advocates; that it wasn't a responsibility that we wanted or asked for but that in order to create change that we need to speak up, however we can, so that grief can be acknowledge and therefore tended to. So again, I thank everyone for sharing and doing what they can when things are already so heavy.
 
Jay Angler
gardener
Posts: 5261
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
1995
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ashley Cottonwood wrote:

I'm happy to purchase a copy of the audiobook for you, if that would be of interest for you. It would be my pleasure.

Thank you so much for the offer, but I really try to support my regional library for all the people who don't have the space or money to own books they'd benefit from reading. If the book takes too long to come, I'll pester the Manager to buy a couple more copies! I did that with Restoration Agriculture which constantly had a long list of reserves on it, and they bought two more copies. I'm at the point that if I bring home a new book, I need to give away an old book.
gift
 
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic