My Grief Journey...Through The Flood

I was still living, correction; I was existing in the house that Dave died in two years earlier. Although, my family was hoping I would move back to New Jersey where they lived but the thought of moving never even crossed my mind.

Remember, I was working way over 40 hours/week plus volunteering almost every weekend. #keepbusy #griefmyths

It was the end of the summer of 2008 and my Mom had come to visit. I had great plans to make this a  really special time for us; to take her places and do things that she had never experienced in her life. I took some time off (because it was about her and not me) and we went to Beaufort, NC for a few days. Beaufort is a quaint little beach town with a lot of  history so we did all the typical tourist stuff. Plus, she had never experienced staying overnight at the beach. I am so grateful for that time, just my Mom and me. 

I had been away from my home for almost a week when I drove my Mom back to New Jersey.

I started my drive back home the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I left Jersey about 3:00am because I was on a mission to get back home. I had missed so much time from work, I needed to get back, get some work done that Sunday and Monday to be ready for work on Tuesday.

This drive home from New Jersey was an emotional one for me. Even though this was not my first NC-Jersey-NC trip since Dave died, something just hit me. I had driven that …….many times with Dave and now I was making the drive alone. I cried for most of the drive. It was a holiday weekend, I had just left my family and I was feeling very alone.  

When I got home, I immediately noticed a strange odor as soon as I walked in the door. My first thought was that I must have forgotten to empty the trash before I left. As I walked into the family room, the carpet was “squishy” and I heard a noise like water was running. 

A pipe had broken and water was pouring into the house from the laundry area. I had no idea how long the water had been coming into the house. 

I jumped into action and tried to “fix” this myself. At some point I realized it was bigger than me so I called my best friend because 1) I didn’t know who to call since it was Labor Day Weekend and “everyone” would be away on vacation and 2) I knew she would be mad if I didn’t call her :) . I barely explained to her that my house was flooded when I heard: “We are on our way.”

The flooding in the house was much worse because I was ignoring the fact that water had even started to “wick” up the wall and mold was now a huge issue. My friend stepped in and simply advised that it was unhealthy to stay there even one night. That let to guiding me to take the steps to getting unstuck. This is a great reminder that we have have people in our lives and we must be vulnerable and be willing to accept help, even though it can be difficult.

The next day a team of people came and packed up my house. The extra blessing was that there were still many of Dave’s things that I had not been ready to go through and now I didn’t have to do it alone.

But I did have to permanently leave the home that Dave and I shared together for 5 years. I remember the last time I pulled out of the driveway and realized, for the first time, that I was not living but I was only going through the motions of living.  It hit me hard. Everything familiar and routine was gone. Moving was a loss.

It was the wake up call that I needed.

I have moved many times and each move has been unique in it’s timing, reason and location.  

I moved when I got married. 
I moved because we bought a house. 
I moved because I was now single. 
I moved to a state far away from family where the only person I knew was my fiancée.  
I moved because of “The Flood”. 
And most recently, I moved to another state because my best friend lives there.

Whether the moves are happy and willing moves or if they are out of necessity, moving is stressful and, make no mistake, it is a loss. A loss of familiarity.  A loss of community.  

We can build new communities and become familiar with the new surroundings but we are also letting go what we left behind.  Even though my most difficult moves came with a lot of tears, they also became periods of my biggest personal growth.

Looking Back

The Flood forced me to make a change that I thought I wasn’t ready for but I needed to make. It was a step towards moving forward into living the rest of my life. A turning point to help me realize just how stuck I was. But it still took time for me to actually dig in and do the work necessary to heal. 

Because It does require work on our part to recover from grief - which can add to the hardship - but I can confirm from personal experience that it is worth it. 

The Myth: Grieve Alone

At the time of The Flood, I was feeling very lonely. I lived over 30 miles from where I worked, volunteered, and from where my friends lived. So it was easy to believing the lie that being alone was how it was suppose to be and I played right into this myth.

The Truth: People do care and want to help you

I did not let people know how much I was struggling. Give yourself permission to let people (the right people - you know who they are, if you don’t, see below) know you are struggling, regardless how insignificant you think the loss is, it is still a loss. 

They may be the right people if:

  • When you spend any time with them, they fill you up instead of draining you.

  • They don’t give up checking in on you. 

  • They show up, regularly, with a hug, a mowed lawn, food or as a sitting companion. 

  • They look you in the eye and listen when you talk...about anything. 

Tell them. They want to know. And you need them to know. 

Michele Woodall