Grief Before and After the Storm

“Feeder bands” of grief-tinged déjà vu arrived ahead of the hurricane.

Hurricane Matthew surges toward my state after devastating the Caribbean and taking lives there. My ties to the islands are indirect — a young friend’s anxiety for the family in Haiti she hasn’t been able to contact; a daughter’s concern for students she worked with in the Dominican Republic; local friends’ worries for people within their ministries on the island of Hispaniola …

24-hours before Matthew's arrival, Central Florida grocery staples disappear (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

Empty bread aisle 24 hours before Matthew’s arrival in Central Florida (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

Here in Central Florida, I’m stocked up (water, food, dog food, and battery-operated fans). I’ve lowered and secured window awnings and stowed away outdoor items — I’m as ready as I can be.

Wednesday night, on the way home from a writers meeting, I stopped at a grocery store to top off my supply of stress foods (chocolate chip cookies and crunchy cheese-ish snacks). I’m glad I had already purchased the basics; as you can see by these photos, the staple aisles were depleted.

But my heart is heavy for the families of those who’ve already lost loved ones. I too clearly remember how new, raw grief felt — and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

48 hours before Matthew's arrival (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

Empty water aisle 48 hours before Matthew’s arrival (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

The advent of this monster storm also brought back memories of the years when my late husband and I weathered earlier hurricanes and tropical storms. This is the first BIG storm I’ve prepared for without him.

Six years after his death, “firsts” still punch me in the gut. Not as hard as during earlier years, but enough to make me suck in my breath, feel a moment’s panic that my wedding ring isn’t on my finger, and revisit the anger I felt so often while adjusting to widowhood.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but as I stowed away outdoor items and braved the general icky-ness of our backyard shed, I wanted to tell off my husband. (WHAT was that thing skittering past my foot? It looked like a short, striped snake with legs.) I wanted to gripe at him. “This isn’t fair. You’re supposed to be here. How dare you leave me here to get ready for this storm — and for everything else I’ve had to do — since you died.”

It’s not fair to blame him (and his absence) for this storm. It’s not reasonable to be angry with him for it. It’s not nice to wish him here in harm’s way with the rest of us.

But grief isn’t nice, or reasonable, or fair. It’s a monster that sweeps the ground out from under mourners, floods them with confusion and distress, empties them of planned-for futures, and blows over the concept of “normal.” 

Empty fruit aisle 24 hours before Hurricane Matthew (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

Empty fruit aisle 24 hours before Hurricane Matthew (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

After someone dies, life does not “go on” the same for the bereaved as it does for everyone else. It takes years to build what most of us call a “new-normal” life plan without the loved one who figured prominently before.

I don’t know what this (or any) hurricane will do to the physical landscape around me. I didn’t know what grieving my husband would do to the landscape of my life, either. 

If your friend or coworker or neighbor has lost a loved one in the last two years, please be patient with them as they rebuild their new normal. Stand close beside them, and let them know you are aware of their grief. Lend them your strength as they sort through the debris of dead dreams.

If you’re in the path of this storm — or others — please, please, please help each other be safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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