Hollie Grimaldi Flores: A heavy heart
My heart hurts. Still. It’s been 10 days since we learned two community teens, while on their way to spending spring break at Pismo Beach with family, were killed by a drunk driver.
This week my husband, daughter and I attended the funeral service of one of those young men. We grieve the loss. My heart breaks for his parents and family, but also for the teenagers who can’t begin to process this new reality.
The empty chair in their classroom. The empty space these boys once filled.
We will attend two fundraisers and another memorial in the coming days. The hope is that by coming together, and by doing something, we as a community will be able to endure and we will find a way to make sense of the senseless.
Frankly, I am a bit concerned writing about this grief two weeks in a row will turn people off, but it is all I can think about. People are dying all around me.
A friend’s mother-in-law was buried just a few days ago. An acquaintances mother just passed on his sisters’ birthday who had died a year before from cancer. A Facebook friend reported on the unexpected death of her sister and unrelated but on the same day, there was a rumor that an 11-year-old in our school system had also committed suicide.
Really? Hopeless at 11? How can that be? So much pain for those left behind. How do we make sense of any of it?
Some people in my circle have discussed the possibility that the end of life as we know it is closer to an end than we think and those making an untimely exit, may be the most fortunate.
I don’t know what to think.
Finding a way to cope
I know I am not great at doing nothing when tragedy strikes, and the feelings of helplessness are hard to endure. I find myself tapping into less than healthy coping strategies.
My first choice, generally speaking, is to imbibe in a cocktail or two — something to numb the pain and help me to forget for just a bit. That option doesn’t feel quite right when considering the deaths caused by someone who was drinking and driving, so even though I am home, I turned to my next favorite vice for comfort, namely, sugar.
Easter candy is everywhere and currently on sale at most retail locations. I am powerless when it comes to a good sale. So, there are jelly beans and chocolate within reach. A binge was inevitable.
Once I managed to make myself physically ill from over indulging, I moved on to mentally berating myself over my lack of self-discipline. It is a viscous cycle I work to avoid on a sadly regular basis.
So how does one cope in a healthy way? I have heard the mantras: Feel the feelings. Don’t eat the feelings. Feel the feelings. Don’t drink the feelings. Feel the feelings.
I see friends who cope with more socially acceptable behaviors — though no less obsessive. There are those who run or ride bikes or swim themselves to the point of exhaustion. Sure, it’s better, but it is also still a trade.
Seemingly positive behaviors but simply a tool to avoid what lays beneath the surface, exercising their way to exhaustion rather than feeling and processing those emotions. What choice do we have when nothing makes sense?
Let the feelings flow
I am not a licensed therapist of any type, but I know there are healthy coping strategies to get through the grief process.
Websites like mentalhealthamerica.net, state in part “… The best thing you can do is allow yourself to grieve. There are many ways to cope effectively with your pain including: seeking out caring people, telling others how you are feeling, taking care of your health, postponing major life changes, being patient and seeking outside help when necessary.
“ … If someone you care about has lost a loved one, you can help them through the grieving process by sharing the sorrow, offering practical help, being patient and suggesting professional help when you feel someone is experiencing too much pain to cope alone …”
I know time will ease the suffering for those who have lost their loved ones. I think at this point, the grief, the feelings of helplessness and not being able to fix it for those who are suffering and the desire to do something (anything) are normal.
As for me, I am giving away the sugar that is still left in the house to make room for the feelings that need to be felt. I am going to do my best to be present for those in my life.
I will make every effort to let those I care about know I care about them. I will keep in mind that one day they too will die and so will do my best to cherish each moment we have together.
We work to find a purpose so that these deaths can be a catalyst for change. That our loved ones are remembered for years to come and so we can be an example for those who may be struggling today.
Our hearts hurt. Feel the feelings. It’s the only way to feeling okay.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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