Grief is a gutting experience.
It cuts through all our façades and presumptions and hang-ups; it strikes at the core of who we are. It can drive us to reach out and connect with others, or recoil from the world to look inward for comfort. Everyone deals differently. And depending on your relationship with the person who has passed away, it can alter your life’s course, and force you to rethink your priorities.
For all life’s uncertainties, I have been particularly blessed in the area of grief. That is to say, I have not experienced it much. I didn’t attend my first funeral until grade eight, when a friend’s father died in a work-related accident. Even then, it was far enough removed from me that I was there more to support my friend than to grieve her father, who I barely knew. After that, my aunt passed away from cancer 10 years later, and she was the closest person to me who has ever died. It was a tough one to swallow, as she was particularly close, and I really thought she would pull through. My grandpa passed away a few years ago at a healthy old age, but he always lived on the other side of the country and I rarely saw him. He even travelled out to the West Coast from Ontario for our wedding, but had a heart attack the morning of the big day. He survived, of course, and really impressed all the nurses at the local hospital (a charming fellow, he was). But a couple of years later, he passed on. My parents have both endured parental and sibling loss, but mostly before I was born, so these grandparents and uncles have always been family history and stories to me.
Now that I’m a wife to a soldier, and a mom to small children, worst-case scenarios are frequently on my mind. It’s what we signed up for, isn’t it? Let’s be clear: I do not live in a perpetual state of fear. That is a waste of life and a major cause of undue stress. However, I do have a healthy awareness of how life would change dramatically in the event that something happens to my husband or children. Or me. Maybe I’m just a glass-half-empty kinda gal, but I’ve always considered how my odds of experiencing devastating loss increase as heartbreak seems to happen to other people. Is that morbid? Even so, I suppose my motivation is to avoid being blindsided by the pain and anguish that can come with spontaneous emergencies. So I make myself aware of the possibilities. But truly, no one knows our life’s outcome, and I’m sure this contemplation is all in vain, a defense mechanism for the Type A in me.
My heart has been touched recently, though, as Brandon’s neighbouring communities have banded together to support a local family who did experience the extreme pain of a tragic and sudden death. And I really believe that, even though we all operate with the knowledge that life is short, many of us are shocked that it can be so fragile, that plans, hopes and dreams can be ripped from us so abruptly.
In our hearts, we always want to believe it won’t happen to us. But there it is, right there in front of us. Sadly, the most common lament I hear is, “I wish there was something more I could do.” Don’t we all?
This month’s loss is an injustice felt community-wide. And being part of the greater military family means a lost life is always felt: maybe directly, maybe indirectly. But witnessing the generosity of our neighbours as they banded together to support a grieving family makes me grateful to call this place home.