Grief Without God

Posted on December 23, 2020


My sister, Sheree Stebbins, died two days ago, from cancer, just one month after the death of my sister, Karen, from a similar cancer.

Yesterday I was in shock. I slept little after getting the news Monday night, and since then, I’ve been riding great waves of emotional and physical pain. I have no appetite–not for food, not for conversation, not for reading, or other, normal pleasures.

I do deeply appreciate all the kind written messages from loved ones who acknowledge, via social media and/or physical note, my losses and pain and offer to support me through the grieving process. I wish we could gather; I wish we could hug…but I’m unable to talk right now. I apply balm to the wounds when I read your words.

I know that the shock and hysteria will pass, and I’ll need to talk, but for now, I take comfort in silence, in stillness, in the beauty of the sky and land, in music, in petting my dog, Bernie. When the physical pain feels too intense, I take a HOT, HOT shower. Yesterday I took two.

As I experience the agony of grief and loss first hand, I am glad that I taught my students about the inevitability of loss and grief, the kinds of experiences they can bring, and some ways to practice self-care during the grieving process. I remember getting a letter from a young woman whose mom died suddenly, right after graduation: she said that what she’d learned about grief in my literature class was a lifeline for her. I feel that way now.

I know that I am experiencing many physical and psychic symptoms associated with grief, so I treat myself with gentleness and patience, sitting with my grief and sorrow, listening to them, giving them my attention, feeling all the feels. I know there’s no “right” way to grieve. I have to find my way.

One thing that is not only no help at all, but is actually harmful, is the idea that a supernatural being is in charge of the universe and allowed three members of my family to die of cancer of the digestive tract–after suffering great agony. I reject that nightmarish scenario.

I accept reality. My sisters were mortals, and they have died, as I, too, will die, and nothing can change that.

I must carry on, find comfort where I can, and grow through the grief. For today, I’ll just be here now.

As one would expect, I have no idea how much I’ll be able to blog. As with everything else, I’m just going to let things unfold, and if I am able to write, I’ll be here. I’d like to keep a regular schedule, because the positive pressure to stay on track with “normal” life can be helpful; on the other hand, every decision is on a moment-by-moment basis. If, as now, my mind composes itself well enough to write, I will. I trust that writing will come when it comes, and I will get stronger with time.

Thank you, dear reader, for being there. I appreciate you. I know that you, too, may be grieving. Be gentle with yourself. Make time to sit with your feelings; if your schedule is busy and you have to hold yourself together to meet obligations, make an appointment to BE with yourself, ask, “What do you need?”, and listen to your feelings.

Grief is a process, but not linear. As we move through the process, there will come moments when we are not engulfed by sorrow, and those moments will grow into hours, and even days, but if we don’t give grief the attention it requires, it can morph into depression, addiction, and/or self-harm.

Grief is a dark, dark night; every act of lovingkindness shines like a star and gives me hope for daylight.

lisa eddy is a writer-for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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