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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Tsunami of Grief

I just finished reading an amazing book called “Wave” written by Sonali Deraniyagala. It is the story of her escape from the Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2004, which also resulted in the death of both of her parents, her husband, and her two young sons.  It is also the story of her struggle with incredible grief– she talks about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of her journey. Ultimately it is her telling of the seven year journey through her grief and how her life has changed in every aspect of her existence.

I found the book extremely raw and truthful in explaining the aftermath left for the grieving person to face in a world suddenly changed.  I also liked that Deraniyagala did not shy away from telling the negative and flawed ways she tried to deal with her grief in the early years.  I thought her story was compelling and I related to her feelings about no longer being a mother and how devastating and empty that can seem.
In her book Deraniyagala describes a time when she is on a plane with a woman who begins to ask her questions about her parents, is she married, does she have children?  Deraniyagala is not only annoyed by the stranger’s questions but also knows how devastating it would be to that person if she were to tell her the truth.  I understand that feeling. 
One time, a couple years after my son’s accident, I was visiting a quaint little store in my home town and the owner struck up a conversation with me because I was the only one in the store.  She asked if I had any children, and I hesitated, weighing whether or not to answer truthfully.  I don’t like the feeling of denying my truth so I explained to her that I had a son who had died in a plane crash.  She asked more questions about him and the crash and I answered her.  She began crying and now I was left with the task of comforting her and helping her to feel better.  As Deraniyagala writes, “I keep it under wraps because I don’t want to shock or make anyone distressed.”  It seems that it is a constant juggling act to decide when and to whom to tell my story even after all this time.
I also appreciated how Deraniyagala explained her life seven years after her loss.  She noted that she no longer felt the shock but she felt fully the absence of her family and her life as it would be now with them in it.  Deraniyagala stated that she realized that she was only able to be herself and live her life if she held her sons and husband close to her.  When she tried to distance herself from them and the loss then that was when she felt unsteady.  I have found that true in my journey also.  In the beginning years the shock would not allow me to feel my son’s loss completely but now I am able to embrace my son and his memory. 
It also was refreshing that her book did not end with her “new” life tied up neatly in a bow.  Although she is successful in her work and appears to have a good support system of friends and family she does not allude to having built a new family or home to take the place of the one she lost.  She leaves the reader with the understanding that she continues to feel the loss while she continues to move through her life.  I liked that.  It felt real and doesn’t give other grievers false hope or the worry of comparison of their lives as being “less than” and the worry that “I’m not grieving correctly or I would be…”  We all travel our own path; none is better or “more right.”  Deraniyagala seems to get that.

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