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The thing about grief . . . Part 2

January 11, 2013

wordIt has taken me a long time to write this blog for a myriad of reasons. The largest one is the bare “nakedness” of sharing something that is difficult to admit even to myself. But in the end, I feel that God wants me to share because somehow by talking about my challenges someone somewhere might be helped. The things (both good and bad) that I am sharing in this series come from hidden places that very few know.

Losing someone is hard. Grieving that loss is even harder.

Grief is messy work. So messy that at times, things just don’t make sense. One of my challenges is the inability to retrieve words when I am speaking. It has slowly gotten better over time, but at one point it was so bad that I spoke to my doctor about the possibility of early onset Alzheimer’s. When I slow down and really think, I can retrieve the word, but sometimes it just doesn’t come.
To help you to understand, it is often a common ordinary word like refrigerator. I might want to ask my kids to get something from there, but no matter how hard I try I cannot get that word out. Eventually I settle for a sort of word version of charades, akin to “Can you get the hamburger out of the thing – you know – the thing that keeps food cold?”

I have been reassured that I do not have Alzheimer’s disease. I simply have a word retrieval issue as a result of grief brain. It has gotten better over time, but I do still encounter it. I would liken it to one of those pesky August flies in Minnesota that you just can’t seem to swat. For someone who uses her words professionally, this lapse is frustrating, at best. My challenge isn’t something I can just make better. It is completely involuntary.

The Monday following the Newtown tragedy found me travelling with students that I help coach. I was doing my normal coaching duties when suddenly the entire page looked like hieroglyphics. Numbers and symbols that I adore – became gibberish. I was still so emotionally raw that I became teary-eyed and explained to the fellow coaches that my brain was trapped right back to February 19.
Instead of treating me in all the ways my imagination thought possible, one cried, one jumped in to do my job, one hugged me, and one reassured me that I was in a safe place and that he was praying for me. It was a good reminder to me that being truthful was sincerely better than attempting a façade of sunshine and fields of daisies. Instead of holding inside my messy bucket of grief, it was okay to let others help me carry the load. They couldn’t walk through my brain, but they could hold my hand and guide me. For that I am eternally thankful.

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