the gift of the recent grief

…or where’s the gift?

We only knew the kitten for two months and yet we loved her whole-heartedly. She was so cute, lovable and loving to our young children. Her death came as a complete surprise and my reaction to this loss was an even greater shock to me. That day, I was filled with such a deep well of grief that I spent the whole entire day sobbing. As one hour passed to the next, I began to realize I was grieving way more than just this little kitten. What was going on inside me that I could not stop the grieving? Something inside me had been cracked open and I was being given the opportunity to feel griefs that spanned 25 years or more. Three deaths defined my past and the same three deaths shaped my future.

Losing three baby siblings, each one dying at the age of three left mysteries for each member of our family to unravel for decades to come. My three remaining siblings and my parents each grieved differently, separately and incompletely. Defined by the age we each were when each baby sibling died, our vulnerabilities were also defined. I don’t know if it was worse for me to lose siblings at age 6, 10 and 13 or if it was more difficult for my younger sister who would have been 4, 8 and 11, or my older sister who was 9, 13, and 16 or my older brother who was 8, 12 and 15. With each age comes particular sensitivities and the age of 9 has been documented an an exceptionally challenging age to lose a loved one. Regardless, pain is pain, and pain will wait to be healed for as long as it takes. Our family must have come here to learn about grief. It is a thing that shapes how you see the world and how you fit in it.

My griefs have been great teachers to me and the lessons are still ongoing. As I share lessons learned, I learn even more. Stella the kitten was a gift to our family, especially to me. The gift she brought was a huge heart opening followed by a deep grief which cracked open all my other griefs. The vault which contained my griefs for so many years had been sprung open, like a thief in the night, she removed the barriers to my own self healing. Well-hidden emotions were exposed for reflection and review. I was given the option to look at my pain and I took it. I did not know when the opportunity might present itself again and I was tired of holding on to all that was unresolved.

There are rare times in life where we are given a second chance to get it right. Once I started to look more closely at my griefs, the second chances continued until I found the key to my own self healing. I had read books on grief by Levine, Kubler-Ross and finally the lesser-know Rosen. Rosen was the one who dealt specifically with sibling loss. I had explored every imaginable form of alternative healing, always looking for ways to finally heal my grief. Amazingly, the answer did lie within and I found my own answers to releasing this pain.

While looking at my grief that day, I wrote in my journal about the pain of the losses. I began to write, “I hate you, I hate you.” A chord of truth was struck and it reverberated throughout my whole body, the visceral response in my body was palpable, every cell in my body woke up. For the first time, I was hearing truth. A huge wave of relief moved through my whole body as I felt heard for the first time. My secret was out; I hated the babies for dying. I hated them for leaving me behind and I hated them for taking away my one source of unconditional love.

Once I admitted to the hatred, anger easily rose up to be acknowledged next. I was angry at the babies for dying. Soon, I was feeling guilty for hating them and for being angry at them. As each emotion was accepted and admitted to, I began breathing them out, one by one. Again, the sense of relief was palpable, my whole body relaxed more and more. The gift of the death of a kitten has been a gift that has kept on giving. Eventually, only love for them remained.

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