One morning while on holiday, the shocking and unexpected loss of her fiancé forever changed her life. This point in time marked the beginning of her story and the day her struggle with grief began. His death sent her entire physical, mental, and emotional constructs of life into a tumultuous rollercoaster of bewilderment and disbelief. Culminating with severe vertigo and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, she considered all options, including suicide, as an alternative to living the rest of her life, forever in grief.
In these pages, she discusses the sensitive issues embedded in death, loss, and grief, and the energy and fear these issues hold over us. She takes us through the trials and tribulations of her personal grieving process, so we may learn ways to heal, rather than become a victim of life's circumstances. It is her wish to share her experience and provide support to others who are making their own journeys from grief. She offers deeply personal insight to help understand what you, your family member, or your friend may be struggling with or keeping locked inside during grief and major life struggle.
No one needs to suffer alone or resist a life transformation unwittingly. If you are suffering from a devastating loss of a loved one, a career, financial downfall, or even facing retirement, Journey from Grief will be your companion in healing to encourage and promote discussion with your innermost fears and thoughts. With stillness and insight, everyone may find light within the darkest days and love that lasts forever.
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Read an Excerpt
Journey From Grief
Life Transformation After Loss
By Andi Fraley
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Andi Fraley
All rights reserved.
What has just happened?
Crisis & Reaction
How you and others react in a crisis situation is vital to the health and well-being of all involved. As your head is spinning and every cell of your being is overwhelmed, no matter how complicated the situation, you will have two choices. The first is to shut down and melt into an unresponsive puddle, fainting to avoid sheer and utter panic. The other is to respond in the best way humanly possible to find a way to detach your emotions, remain calm enough to help and save a life, if possible. For the latter, it will feel like you have shape shifted into an incredible hulk, though the reality is you are a human doing the best you are able at that moment. All we may do to help one another in an accident or crisis situation is just that, the best we are able to do, no more no less in that moment. To realize that we have no control of life and death is to know we are human. We must not attach ourselves to the outcome, for if we do, we are being unwise and unrealistic of our human capabilities. To know and accept that people will die, our loved ones will die, and we cannot change this fact no matter how much we know, wish, want, demand or insist. None of us will live forever.
What we do have control over is our thoughts at all times, and, especially, at the time of a life and death event. We may feel that we do not have any control over the thoughts that run through our mind in those seconds, but we do have complete control at all times. In that flash, what is our immediate first thought as we instantly realize that a loved one or a stranger near us is in danger or worse has fallen into a non-responsive condition? Consider what your personal reaction to a life or death crisis may be in order to be better prepared and aware, for that moment may be before you when you least expect. Know that the thought and reaction you have in that split second may forever impact life and lives. Is it possible that split second thought may be a basis for understanding a core human condition we all share? What is that thought? Is it unique to each of us or do we only have a few finite possibilities to consider from human experiences? What role does that split second thought mean to us at that moment of initial loss, and how does that thought play out in our lives as time marches forward after loss?
There are many possible reactions in response to a crisis situation. Are we the one who will rush in without a thought of self-preservation to help another? Are we processing and assessing at light speed in our subconscious mind the potential risks of all involved as we rush in to harm's way contrasted to those who may stand by frozen unable to process what is unfolding before their eyes? Perhaps, some will choose to keep walking by too busy to notice or care, or, honestly, not have the presence of mind to register the intensity of the situation. Another reaction may be to totally disassociate from the event and consciously choose to do nothing. Not helping another person in danger for fear of getting someone else's blood on their hands or choosing not to give another human mouth to mouth for fear of exchanging bodily fluids, some may stand by as the person dies in front of them. We shudder to think that it is possible for a human to not help another, though this is real and it happens. What about someone who has the initial urge to help, but may feel incapable or too scared to do anything to help? In that split second for a life and death situation, some may fear that should they try to help, they may be sued if the person does die after all. Does someone help, do the best they are able and find out it was not enough to save a life? Could they have done something more effective instead or would anything else helped? Was it enough to simply comfort someone injured and ease their suffering? How do we know the proper response to administer unless we are trained emergency medical technicians? At what point do we let go of the outcome and accept death?
At times, death is shockingly unexpected. At other times, a passing is expected and anticipated in losing a loved one to a terminal illness or knowing an aging relative with a congenital physical defect has reached a maximum life expectancy. We try to prepare our minds and hearts of the impending death, raise our attentiveness to their condition and needs in order to be better prepared. What is being prepared in those moments? In these situations, are we able to come to terms with the death of a loved one and our own life expectancy? Whatever we may do to come to terms with death, we will not feel fully impacted until the physical loss is felt as an endless void in our lives. No one may really prepare our heart and soul for the absence a person leaves in our life after they are gone, no matter what we tell our minds to believe. Does our initial reaction to their death indicate how we will manage our mourning and Grief following their passing?
When we experience the shock associated with a death of a loved one, how will we react?
Shock & Suicide
Our instantaneous reactions are just as important to consider when we are delivered shockingly unexpected news as when a life threatening crisis is unfolding around us. The furthest thing in our minds to consider is how we will respond upon hearing devastating news, as often we may have no memory of our immediate reaction or be conscious and able to control of our own reactions. Others, who are trained to deliver and communicate disturbing and upsetting news to us, will be concerned for our safety and aware of what ranges our reactions may take. More importantly, they will be concerned with our ability and keenness of self-preservation during the moments and days to follow after experiencing devastating loss. It took months for me to look back and to realize why everyone was so concerned for my safety that fateful day; so much so, a complete stranger offered to sit with me and accompany me to hospital. During this time, it was uncertain how I would react in my state of shock. After a devastating loss, one is never truly in command of their faculties. The word "react" by definition refers to an action we perform in response to an event or situation.
If we are compelled to react immediately and guided by shock, fear or utter hopelessness, the worst possible scenario may unfold. This split second thought and decision may, in turn, impact our own fate and those we love. The potential to layer tragedy upon tragedy is real during these times. The worst way to react would be to mirror the story of the fate of King of Athens or Aegeas of whom the Aegean Sea was named. In this myth, Thiseas, the son of King Aegeas, was to hoist and fly white sails on his ship upon his return home as a sign he had survived battle. King Aegeas reacted instantly and jumped to his death off the cliffs from the Temple of Poseidon upon seeing his son's ship flying black sails. His son survived battle and had simply forgotten to change the sails, making his father's death all the more tragic. The reason I reference this myth of King Aegeus is for us to be aware of the extremes we may encounter upon our worst possible fears and nightmares becoming reality, and how we may fall victim to our reactions moments, days or years after a life changing event has occurred, and how the negativity of our own thoughts may take over our best judgment.
Over an emotional blur of the previous two days, I had attended a wedding with his family and struggled to come to terms with how life and God could so horribly cheat him and them of love and happiness. As I mingled with his family trying to be the vibrant person he loved, all I really wanted to do was withdraw and melt into a puddle of tears. The same weekend, I saw with the heaviest finality my Finance's name carved into granite, as his headstone was finished and installed. There was something less final, less weighty, with the temporary brass name plate and wood cross grave marker. His passing was dramatically final, now. All these emotions, feelings and dread were percolating during the long flight across the pond. Upon arrival, the location, sights and my emotions created a whirlwind, and being with his family in his home, made his absence all the more intense for everyone. His passing and my mid-life crisis were crashing in on me, at once. Life was forcing me to face a massive difficulty and insisting on a re-examination of my life yet, at this time, I could not see the forest for the trees surrounding Grief.
After, flying to Athens with this whirlwind inside me, I went to begin a pilgrimage to Greek mythology. I had dreamed of this pilgrimage since childhood for happy reasons. Now, for completely different reasons, here I was unknowingly overloading all of my circuits. After arriving at Poseidon's temple, my head was spinning beyond measure and my soul was aching beyond words. My mind was flooded with all my and our failed dreams and life plans. We loved, laughed, and felt fate was in our corner for at least 60 more years for us to grow old together. Considering the geographical distance and life obstacles we had overcome in order to find each other so late in life and with such intensity, we felt it was only fitting and proper our life ahead was filled with golden years. It was not to be for us.
My reality was my loved one had drowned in the ocean while we were on holiday. Two years later, still pursuing any form of solace, I had traveled to the Temple of Poseidon making the pilgrimage and stood on the cliffs gazing across the blue waters. Here, in my mind, was the source of the ocean and home to Poseidon or Neptune, one and the same of the ocean that claimed the life of my love. The Earth's body of water covers around 70% of our planet, and we, ourselves, are about as much made of water, too. Being an advanced scuba diver and lover of all things marine, it was difficult and incredibly overwhelming to wrap my head around how the very environment I loved and found so full of vitality had taken the life of someone so integral to my life. I had made this pilgrimage in the hope of making peace with the ocean for taking him away, and to find answers and insight to begin life anew. At that moment, standing there, I was caught up in a swirl of negativity and had trouble focusing on reasons to want to continue to live a life that would be riddled with more challenges and struggle. I completely had forgotten my intention to make peace with the gods of the ocean and move forward. Feeling so tired and drained from the last two years and being emotionally combustible, I just wanted to give up the struggle. I had not been prepared to even consider losing him in such a way and felt I simply did not have the strength or desire to take any more direct hits life had to hand out after his passing. Life only seemed more difficult and lonely. If I were to live out my life, I knew I was not up for anymore heartache and hardship and knew no one was insulated, apparently not me that was certain. Besides, who else but me could really say enough is enough. His death had taken the fight and will right out of my veins. Really, what was the point in all these trials and tribulations we endure throughout our lives, I thought to myself? Why did anyone have to endure such heartache and loss? Where was God in these times and what was all this human suffering and my suffering for anyway?
Why suffer any longer? I thought if only I could take my ticket for this life back to the sales window and tell them I no longer wanted to continue this trip. This was a ride I had not intentionally signed on and these details unfolding in my life were not fair or satisfactory. I was certain it all needed to stop and start over with a different outcome, immediately. As I stood there on the cliff edge, the winds picked up speed after the sun had set and I really wanted to put an end to all my heartache and suffering as the rains came. I did not want to continue and make the best of the circumstances which I had been given by life. I was shattered and did not have the energy to muster a happy face and continue any longer. What was the point? I had lived a good life and had seen so much more than most people living the same number of years. I wanted to join him on the other side. What was "over there"? Whatever it was, it had to be better than here, didn't it? I considered the story the tour guide had told of the King who over reacted and threw himself off the rocks as all my thoughts and questions were swirling intensely like the winds around me. As darkness fell over the sea, it also fell over me. I compared my situation to the King and thought about how he felt thinking his son was killed in battle. I thought about the loss of a son, and tried to imagine how Simon's parents must be feeling.
I considered my options. This plan or any plan to terminate my life could fail, I thought, just like the life plan we had for a happily ever after together had failed. Absolutely nothing in life was guaranteed. Men and women plan and God laughs. I literally thought and simulated in my mind what it would take for me to jump from this height. What did that King feel or want to avoid in his last moments as he jumped thinking his son was dead? I had jumped into water filled rock quarries before and it was a plunge, the water was a hard surface at a fraction of the distance where I currently stood. What if death did not come to me or worse, was not instant? I knew I had never wanted to even jump from an airplane to skydive, let alone into water from this height. I knew jumping from a plane with no parachute would bring certain death, but was not sure in this case jumping into the water. I thought about the risk and the veil you breakthrough in order to expand yourself facing risk and potential death. To know and feel how it is to be alive, the adrenaline rush you get from extreme sport and being on the edge. When you push the limits, it seems there is a program of risk calculation running in the background of your mind, your subconscious keeping you safe somehow. You keep the reality of the risk from coming to the front of your mind and instigating fear, fear is the enemy. I literally meditated and visualized on the feeling to soar and to land. Would I have slipped into a surreal consciousness and not feel any pain or feel the impact? I had taken a nasty accidental tumble from a cliff down into a river gorge years before and knew how it felt to fall and to live. There are moments you think it would be easier to die than face your situation and physical pain. I remembered how much my body hurt for weeks after the fall and how difficult it is to push through physical recovery. Was I really going to risk another of God's curve balls with my life? What if I failed in my willing attempt to jump from a cliff and ended up a bedbound vegetable plastered back together? How could I be certain to finish the job? Was it even my decision to make? I thought about the people who had tried to shoot themselves only to ironically miss or suffer a glancing blow. Is this because they did not really want to succeed and their deep subconscious mind made their aim miss? Or was it because it was not their decision to make? Is our fate our fate even with suicide and accidents, or do we truly have free will?
I was not sure I would be allowed to reunite with my love or my ancestors if I took my own life. Would I have to endure a hell to even start a search to find him or them? Would the powers that be even allow us to find one another under the circumstances of taking my own life? My mind reeled with thought after thought at warp speed. In reality, time was passing so slowly. I stood with indecision, utterly shocked by my own negative thoughts and confusion. In my mind flashed the consequences of a soul if you choose death by suicide? I realized I had not fully considered this action and had not formalized my own view on afterlife and re-incarnation. How was hell or heaven structured? Was there really a heaven or hell; what did I believe? I did not know the answers to all the questions taking over my mind. The one thing I did seem to know was my current life condition was miserable and predictable rolled into one and had not been improving the last couple years. The saying "jumping from the frying pan and into the fire" came to mind. The fear of the unknown, of taking my own life, and being more alone on the other side and not connecting with anyone or just being lights out dead was more overpowering with a greater fear of the unknown. My dread to keep living the dull existence I had been living since he died was less than the other options I was now considering.
Excerpted from Journey From Grief by Andi Fraley. Copyright © 2015 Andi Fraley. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 What has just happened?, 1,
Chapter 2 De-mystify Grief, 33,
Chapter 3 The Mile Markers of Grief, 61,
Chapter 4 Questions, 109,
Chapter 5 Love Never Dies, 172,
About the Author, 223,