Mission Statement: Provide a Platform For Opinions, Innovation, and Inspiration for the Community

Layers of Grief

By Arline Rowden

On June 2, 1969, 49 years ago today, my mother, who was 59 years old, died on the way to the hospital after being in a car accident. I was at work when one of my sisters called me to tell me what had happened. I was in shock. At 24, I was the youngest of her seven daughters. My grandparents and an uncle had died before but I was not prepared for the death of my parent. It’s unlikely that any of us are prepared for the sudden death of someone close to us.

I remember going back to work the day after the funeral. I was a mess emotionally but I believed that if I expressed my grief that no one would want to be around me. Being alone with my grief was scary and I didn’t know how to process my grief. So it was pushed down and I moved through each day as best I could. I’m sure it wasn’t the first grief that I didn’t process, so this new grief was added as another layer to the grief I was already carrying around.

Later that month, I realized that I was pregnant. I was in a relationship but not married. We talked briefly about marriage but I decided that I didn’t want to get married and I didn’t feel emotionally stable enough to raise a child. I also felt that my experiences growing up in such a dysfunctional family didn’t give me a foundation to be a healthy parent. I had decided I would give the baby up for adoption so it could have a better chance at a good life than I felt I could give it.

At the beginning of September, I left my job and was going to stay with a friend for a few months until the baby was born. I went home to spend a week with my Dad before moving. While I was there, we received the news that one of my sisters had been murdered (9-13-69) by her recently divorced husband. I remember not being able to sleep that night. It didn’t feel real. How could all of this be happening? My sister had 7 children ages 5 to 15. What would happen to them? Another sister who lived close to her was so traumatized by the event that she was hospitalized.

That week of the funeral was a blur. Our oldest sister and her husband from out east decided they would adopt the 7 children. So I helped them gather some clothes and belongings from their home. At some point, I left and went to live with my friend and her husband. I don’t remember talking about it to my friend. I don’t think she knew what to say.

Those next months until February 5, 1970, when my son was born are a bit of a blur, too. As I look back at that whole time I realize that when one doesn’t process their emotions they actually fog one’s perception of life. I gave up my parental rights in April and moved to another city. I needed to find a job and move forward. At this point, there were many more layers of grief that were stored away within me.

I experienced a lot of depression for years after that time. One therapist called me a high functioning depressed person. I don’t think that was meant as a complement. If I hadn’t tried so hard to hold it all together I might have moved through the pain sooner. I’ve since learned that one needs to go into the pain of the emotions to be able to understand and release them. I needed to acknowledge my feelings and accept them and find a new way of seeing all of these experiences. What were the lessons and how could I use what I had experienced to be of service in the world?

As I healed, I realized that I was able to find compassion in my heart to hold a space, acknowledge and listen to others as they find their way through their pain. It is all part of life. If I resist parts of life, I miss the parts of life that are beautiful and heartwarming. It’s been quite a journey and I’m in a much better place in life now. The layers of grief can be released.

%d bloggers like this: