Giving the Elephant Wings

Tracey Watson

I've heard it said that grief is more painful than death. For with death, comes peace. With grief, comes a series of life-altering confusions. Confusion between head and heart; between love and pain. Confusion between what one has always believed, and what is presently real. Confusion between being angry at God and desparately reaching for Him.

There are no words to describe what I felt the day I was told that my Dad had been killed in a truck accident. When the reality of that news began to sink in, the pain was pure, raw, gut-wretching. At the point when I myself thought I was going to die from the pain, something took over. Looking back, it is as if I watched the entire chain of events from outside my body. Family and friends were there, the phone kept ringing, people dropping in. Many say the first several days after a death are like a blur. For me, it was the opposite. I remember every word, every scent, every sight and sound. My senses were hyperly aroused. I can chronologically re-live the events of that weekend. When I do so, there is a feeling that takes over my body, a feeling that is difficult to describe. My mom refers to it as "an elephant on her chest". There is no better analogy that describes the weight, pressure, and pain the memory brings.

During those first few days of grieving a tragedy, the elephant pressed against my heart and lungs making it impossible to breathe. I could not feel anything but pain. I was numbed as the enormity of the weight consumed my thoughts. After the rituals of the funeral and burial were over, I went through my days in a semi-vertical, crumpled mess. My entire belief system of "everything happens for a reason" was shaken from its very foundation. The elephant would awaken me during the night, push me back when I showed any signs of moving forward, and jump on me surprisingly out of no where. I never knew when or where the elephant would find me - often in a crowded public place, often in the privacy of my own home. It made me aware twenty-four hours a day that my life would be forever changed.

The presence of the elephant brought with it many tears, many regrets, and many unresolved feelings. On many occasions, it caused me to look up at the Heavens and ask one simple question "Why?" A simple question, with no answer. No one could have prepared me for the way I would change after spending time with the elephant. There were days when I did not recognize myself. I did not understand my actions, and wondered who this weighed-down, hazy-eyed woman was.

It has been almost two years since I was first introduced to the elephant of grief. It has been two years of challenges, and two years of "firsts". Occasions that once brought joy, bring a sense of emptiness and longing. But, we get through them, somehow. Throughout the last two years, I have seen glimpses of hope, and glimpses of life without the elephant on my chest. I can recall happy memories without it's presence, and laugh at good times once shared with Dad. Just as elephants don't forget, on days when life is hurrying past, it makes me stop, reflect, and appreciate. And on days when I feel light-hearted, I envision the elephant with wings. It will never completely disappear, but I have learned to live around it

Tracey Watson

You can send email to Tracey Watson at [email protected]

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Anniversary date - 4-14-00
Date of post - 2-14-02

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