A chief revelation of the weekend for me is that my family was very logical in its handling of death and in getting the grieving "done, over, end of sentence, done!" While reflecting on past losses of ancestors I actually knew, I realized that I had never really grieved for them. The announcements of their deaths were made usually via telephone, we gathered (often I was not present) proceeded to the funeral home, greeted family and friends, to the cemetery, back to the house, ate a lot of food and everybody went home. Each to grieve the loss in their separate way or perhaps to not grieve at all.
Certainly, when I was a young teen, a beloved Uncle died of a brain aneurysm, my parents - leaving me behind with a very capable aunt - drove day and night to reach the hospital prior to his death, (our home several states away) attended the funeral, came home. I was weak with despair at their departure, fearing that they might not return and devastated that I was never to see my Uncle again. I suppose all assumed there was no reason a child or even a teen should be burdened with grief.
Two of my grandparents had dementia at the end of their lives. When "their time came" the words echoed were - "it was time, they didn't know anything" (meaning we shouldn't feel anything, our own loss?) Other of my uncles and aunts died from cancer - the words being - "they were delivered from their pain, it was a blessing at the end, they're in a better place now" - I, living in another state, barely heard of their deaths.
My point #1 is - how could I have allowed these precious people to pass from their lives, out of my life with so little recognition of what they meant to me? My point #2 is - why didn't my parents let us grieve, why didn't they grieve more openly, didn't they realize that their loss was my loss as well? And my point #3 - the BIG revelation for me was and is - they didn't share their grief because no one ever taught them how important that sharing that grief was for them and for the balance of their loved ones.
That point #3? - I am so over "blaming" my ancestors for not sharing more of themselves with me and with my siblings in time of grief. They didn't know any better than what their parents and grandparents taught them. Grief was private, not a big display, and "getting over it," I think, must have been very important in order for them to continue their daily lives.
Feeling the nearness of my ancestors this past weekend and upon sharing tales of childhood, youth, and adulthood with 10 other women, I found that in some ways my experiences with death and grief were sometimes very close to that of others. Sharing stories in a trusted group of women can be a powerful tool for facing one's own mistakes, misgivings, loves, losses, and living.
I am the one that was honored this weekend to realize that my living family and my ancestoral family are both essential to the person I am, the person I am becoming, the person I want to be. I am grateful for the love, encouragement and steadfastness that has come to me from the persons of my immediate family and from those ancestors of whom I know little or nothing about. They are truly to be honored by my existing family and me.
SS Photo - Hood Canal - Site of retreat