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October 12, 2019

Dead Ends – Living Through Grief

“Dead Ends”

I was fairly absent after spending more than five hours in the emergency waiting area. Staring non committed into space, I was only mildly aware of the usual activity taking place around me.  The ten year old to my left was still kicking the magazine table, his mother was still ignoring him, and the young woman to my right was still curled up under her coat snoring lightly. Just a typical day in our local hospital. The young lady snoring was spread out over a four seat “settee”, yet no one seemed willing to rouse her to make space for the stream of bodies that kept moving though the entrance doors. Perhaps she had dozed from her pain. No one really knew and therefore all were reticent to waken her.  So they stood, leaning on doors and windows.

My attention was firmly recaptured as I watched the triage doors open ahead of me. A mid age lady was being half carried, half pulled from the trauma bays on the other side. The gentleman with her had his large hand across her left brow as he pushed her face into his shoulder in a protective way. As they stumbled past me I glanced to them and her face came into clear view. Tear stained and contorted, she was quietly sobbing and trying to do it privately. It was her contortion, the grimace across her lips that told me all I needed to know.

Dead ends.  In the last breath, dead ends normal.

And the face becomes distorted in confusion and not knowing where to begin.

Dead Ends. It ends conversations, traditions and how we do things from here. Dead ends families, ends friendships and romances. It ends routines and it ends what we expected for the day after.

My heart shattered for her as I watched her move away into a new way of normal. I don’t know who she lost that day. I tried to not interfere in that story because it’s intrusive and not any of my business. It didn’t matter. What mattered is the blessing I sent behind her that she once again find life after dead just ended it.

Dead ends. It ends the taste of your morning coffee. It ends the sound of a voice. The aroma of the perfume or the aftershave. Dead ends how well the roses grow, the way the hand-towels are hung. Dead ends how good the pie tastes, and how we laugh at funny movies. Dead ends Santa pictures and boy scout meetings. Figure skating and proms.

Dead ends life as we have learned to live it.  So when someone is grieving, it is not only grieving the physical loss, it is grieving the normal that we have grown to know and to feel safe inside of.

The rest of the waiting area glanced up cursorily, their lives unchanged. The chatter returned, the slurping of cold coffee resumed and the child beside me finally bored of kicking the table.  But beyond that door, dead just ended.  And I felt it with her.  It reminded me…

Be oh so gentle on those that are grieving loss.

It matters in no way what type of loss someone is struggling with.  For those grieving a child, dead ends birthday cakes and Christmas mornings, graduations and wedding plans. For those that lose a spouse, dead ends the weekly grocery list, the way the bed is made and how the toothpaste tube is rolled.  For those that lose a parent, death ends the rules of sibling engagement. Death ends the Sunday roast dinner. It changes the landscape of the family.  For those that lose a pet, dead ends the usual morning snuggles, the daily walk, or the warmth across cold feet during the evening TV ritual.

Dead ends. It ends text messages and phone calls. It ends greeting cards filled with love. Dead ends what’s normal and the best made plans. Dead ends arguments, cheating at Monopoly, and sharing KFC on the beach. Dead ends routines, ends expectations and how we dance from this day onward.

And that’s why it hurts as hard as it hurts.  Dead ends what we have come to accept as living.

Dead ends and life begins in unfamiliar surroundings. And yet we want to rush it along.  We ask a lot from those that grieve.  We ask them to return to life as normal, yet dead ended everything normal for them. Be kind. Understand that they don’t have any idea how to be normal from this moment onward. Because normal included…

Waking up before their five year old to enjoy the moments of solitude before he/she came bounding down the stairs demanding waffles.

Knowing mom will bring her homemade pie to Thanksgiving so dessert is covered.

Looking forward to the birthday card that holds the typical 25.00 cheque because Grandpa refuses to do gift cards. And being grateful because you are 25.00 overdrawn this week.

Giggling with your best friend over bad wine in pajamas and bare feet with badly chipped polish.

Popping three pieces into the toaster. Two for you and one for the dog.

Dead ends more than one life. It ripples and changes the rest of our story.

And we have to allow for that. We have to give time to those who grieve. We are not allowed to decide for them how long that will take. We are not allowed to tell them to get on with it, to find something new to replace the old, or to demand that they heal according to our plan for them to heal.

Toothpaste tubes rolled up the wrong way have started many fights that have ended on hugs and giggles. Demanding waffles at 7 am has ended in sharing wild variations of the monster under the bed dreams of the night prior. Chipped nail polish has ended in spa days with good wine and chocolate desserts.

Every action becomes a habit and every habit becomes a breath of the life we know.

So let them be. Let them cry and grow angry over waffles. Let them sit with old greeting cards and the cheque that was never cashed. Let them sit with the leash and stare through the window at the trees they once walked through. Let them never want to make moms pie because they can’t make it taste the same way.

But let them.

Let them learn to walk again. Let them learn to live.

Because dead ended that.

Stay gentle with each other.

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