I don’t know how I do it—how my husband and daughter do it— either. We just do. I realized in the first few days after my oldest daughter died that I was still breathing, still waking up, still putting one foot in front of the other. So I just kept doing it.
I’ve said many times since Jocelyn’s death that shock and prayer are two really good drugs. Shock got me through the first month and then began wearing off … slowly leaking from my mind and body, allowing me to gradually adjust to the trauma that was leaving behind a shattered normalcy, a broken and jagged new life.
The prayers sustain me. A lot of people say they are praying for us and even if only half of them pray, thousands of prayers are being said weekly on our behalf. My own prayers may falter; they may fall silent on my lips some days. But others are praying and I trust that God is listening because I feel supported, held up by the shoulders and gently pushed and pulled through my day.
Some days we laugh and smile and act like normal people. Some days the tears leave small puddles on my yoga mat or blind me while folding laundry. Sometimes I do my Iraqi woman wail, as I call it, the one you hear in funeral crowds on the news. I understand their pain and their need to bellow it out.
Grief isn’t pretty. We are fortunate to have a lot of loved ones willing to let us get ugly.
There was one morning I got out of bed and then crawled back in. I thought about staying there. But then I got mad. I decided I didn’t choose not to live my life, so I had stuff I needed to do—stuff I wanted to do—and I was going to get out of bed and do it. And I did.
|WHAT HAS JOCELYN TAUGHT YOU?W.A. Hough High School student and Davidson resident Jocelyn Desmond took her own life in March. Her mother, Jaletta Albright Desmond, wants to share lessons and memories with those who knew her.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all the lessons people have shared with me that they learned since Jocelyn’s death. It brings some comfort to hear them. And, those lessons may help others. Even if you didn’t know her, her suicide at 17 might have made you look at life differently somehow. If you feel you have something to share, would you please email me what Jocelyn taught you … either with her vibrant life or in her tragic death. Your answer may be shared privately with me or be used anonymously in a column, whatever you prefer: What has Jocelyn taught you? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org
The day may come when I choose to stay. And I’ll go ahead and do that, too.
That’s how I deal with grieving. I read a lot of books, I see a therapist, I speak freely about my daughter, I cry and laugh and make fun of her, I text or talk with her friends, I post on her Facebook page, I run my fingers over her pictures, I smell the clothes in her hamper that I haven’t yet had the heart to wash, and I cry when the tears come and don’t try to hide them, fight them, or be ashamed of them.
And I live. I go on dates with my husband, shop with my youngest daughter, have dinner with friends, dance out my pain in Zumba classes, or breathe and silently weep out my sorrows in yoga. I lift heavier weights and push myself to do another set.
I hug people more. I tell more people I love them. I pray more for other people. I am slightly more forgiving and slightly kinder. I thank God for the good things in my life.
But sometimes I let my Bible sit untouched and my prayer journal unopened. Sometimes I’m spiritually quiet.
Sometimes I am angry and impatient. It just depends on the day.
I don’t write. I miss it. This is the first attempt at writing and it feels and reads like it is. This practice that has been a part of my life for 10 years, a way that I process my life, has been paralyzed.
But it feels like it is time to try again.
Grief is very personal. In my family we all grieve in different ways, different rhythms, and at different times. Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief are not numbered steps that one can count off through the journey. I’m finding them to be intersecting circular paths that you cycle through and out of, and then circle back into.
Four months have passed since Jocelyn committed suicide in what appears to be an impulsive and emotional reaction to long-standing depression and short-lived cyber bullying. I still wake up every day with my first conscious thought being some form of, “This is not a nightmare. It is real life. She is really gone.”
There are moments of acceptance and determination to redefine our family and our lives. But there are also moments of debilitating sadness, loss, and despair.
If we are smiling and laughing, the sadness is not far below. But we choose to try to appreciate the good in our lives and celebrate the vibrant person who is missing.
Jocelyn is a passionate and outgoing person who struggled with deeper pain than the rest of us can imagine. That pain has been transferred on to us, but that was not her intent.
I believe she is at peace and happy now. I feel it in my most desperately heartbroken moments—I feel her trying to share that peace with me, pour it down on me.
We will never “recover” from this. But I believe we will eventually learn to carry the burden differently.
Now we carry the weight of our grief, the loss of our beloved daughter and sister, in front of us, our arms and hearts straining under the pressure. Eventually, I hope and pray we shift the heaviness to our backs, where we can better withstand the burden—still there but not out front, threatening to bring us down, break us. Eventually, the weight on our backs may make us stronger and propel us forward, so that we carry into our future—and share with our world—the lessons we’ve learned, the grace we’ve experienced, and the love for life that we choose every day.
Jaletta Albright Desmond is a self-syndicated columnist who lives in Davidson and writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. Contact her at email@example.com