We lose our pets, our money, our friends, our significant others, our physical capabilities, our children, our marriages, and so on. Not all loss is equal, but no two losses are comparable. Slow, gradual loss is painful. Unexpected, tragic loss is shocking. Total loss is often jarring to our entire world. Partial loss is a constant reminder of what was lost. Let me explain.
Today is September 22nd. Twelve years ago today a bubbly, 15 year old girl collapsed in her high school gym class. She stopped breathing. She wasn't given CPR. Her skin turned cold and blue. She was rushed to Children's Hospital intensive care unit. Things did not look good. This was my best friend, my big sister, Colleen.
|Colleen learning to stand up|
After spending weeks in a coma, Colleen's eyes began to open. She re-learned how to breathe, eat, drink, talk, and eventually stand on her own two feet. After a few months in the hospital we brought her home to our farmhouse in Watertown, Minnesota. But we brought home a different person than the 15 year old girl who left our house on September 22nd. The new Colleen had suffered an anoxic brain injury. The new Colleen needed me to get her dressed. The new Colleen could not remember what she ate for breakfast. The new Colleen was my new sister.
To this date, September 22nd marks the biggest loss I've ever experienced, but also the biggest blessing. I lost my big sister and gained a little sister. My sister will always have the cognition of a 10 year old, and she will always need constant supervision and a caretaker 24/7. But through Colleen, God has blessed me with joy, patience, compassion for others, and perspective. And through Colleen, God has inspired hope in so many people.
|Visiting Colleen in the hospital after school|
Now I'm not saying that we should put a positive spin on every loss, because I believe that fake positivity is only more draining to your spirit. Instead, I think that we need to understand the process of loss for the sake of ourselves and others. I believe that a lot of guilt is associated with grieving. We feel as if we need to "get over this" faster and "get happy" faster so that we can get back to normal. We feel guilty for dwelling on loss, and after a certain point we feel like shouldn't mention it anymore. Many people see grief as a line with a start and a finish. In reality, grief is a process that circles through stages…. some days you revisit feelings, and that is okay. Some days it will feel as if you have made no progress in "getting over it" but that is okay. And I have accepted that on September 22nd, it is okay to grieve the loss and celebrate the blessing of Colleen.
|Colleen at Special Olympics|
|Colleen on the 4th of July|
, by Dylan Jahraus