Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Trauma of Death


Danielle Adby 1992- 2020 Forever Loved. 



Today, on March 3, 2020, we are burying our nephew Quentin.  He was short of 30 years old.  Yesterday, March 2, 2020, I received the news early in the morning that my niece Danielle, not yet 30, passed away overnight.  The quivering voice asked:  “Is this Danielle's aunt?” I could tell right away that it was serious. Her father said I was the only aunt listed on her phone. The paramedics were already on the scene and were desperately trying to revive her.   My family has still not gotten over Quentin’s death, but already we are going through the motions of preparing for yet another funeral of a young person. 

Danielle was a vibrant, happy young lady.  She was studying and looking forward to a bright future. The coroner described her death as “natural causes” but I find it difficult to wrap my head around how a young 28-year-old could pass from natural causes. 

I first thought of starting a crowd source funding like GoFundMe to help her mother pay for funeral costs, a traditional feast, and gas for people that wanted to attend Danielle's funeral, but crowd sourced funding is generally not successful, unless you are a celebrity.  By and large people are not interested in helping someone they don't know or attend the funeral of another person they don't know.  On the other hand, a few years ago, I created a GoFundMe campaign for my daughter's cat, Luke.  It was successful, and we reached the goal of $4,100 to pay veterinarian bills. That would unlikely not happen for an unknown young person, no matter how wonderful she was, and how great our loss.   

I know that people will donate generously for an ailing cat or dog, as they did for Luke the cat. My daughter was very grateful to be able to pay for his operation. It got me thinking about what we as humans feel deserve our compassion and empathy.  If my niece or my nephew, who passed away within a few days of each other had been a dog or a cat I would definitely create a GoFundMe page to help their mother. But of course they are not animals, they are human beings; they are a son or a daughter, a brother or sister, a niece or nephew.  A father.  Real people are mourning their loss. People are wondering how the world can keep on spinning after unexpectedly losing these wonderful souls. There is shock, sadness, anger, disbelief and not enough time yet for acceptance -- all the emotions when something tragic occurs to someone we love.  Both Danielle and Quentin were absolutely loved. As I write this, I see their big smiles and I hear Danielle’s soft voice and her giggle when I spotted her pet bunny hopping on her bed when we Skyped.

Quentin was a father. Danielle, was a student, was just starting her life, a young woman with a bright future.

We are mourning the loss of a bright future for these two young people. There will be no happy future for them.  Instead, we are dealing with unbearable grief: one barely completed, and another one days old. And the solemn activities of preparing for the funeral. One is taking place today. This after having buried our brother Max just a few short months ago.

Our story is typical many for families particularly Indigenous families, who face trauma on top of trauma with no time to completely go through the stages of grief when they are hit with another trauma. When you are submerged in trauma you have no understanding that you are in trauma.  You go through the motions to get through your day, putting one step ahead of the other. Perhaps, like me, you react to things more deeply. Maybe being short tempered, or irritable.  I recall years ago speaking to an elder who said when you are in the trauma of grief it is like you are living in a fog, difficult to see, and at times it is too unbearable to breathe.

He cautioned me. “Don't make any important life-changing decisions”. You need to go through the grief process and get through the other side of your trauma when the fog lifts and you're able to see clearly before you can make decisions. I always remembered those words each time I went through the loss of a family member.  I remembered not to be quick to make decisions to wait until the fog clears. And for everyone that process is different there is no right way or wrong way to cope with a death.

If you have been following my blog you know that I process experiences through blogging. I needed to write my feelings on how unfair it is that fur babies and human babies are not treated equally.  I understand the attachment to fur babies. I too had a wonderful one, a standard poodle who I absolutely adored he passed several years ago.  I could not get myself to get another dog until a couple of weeks ago. Inasmuch as I adored our dog Bodhisattva, I value and love people in my life more deeply than I could ever have loved Bodhi. That is the difference. I adored our dog, but at the same time, I understand that a human being’s life has much greater value, always, whether you know them or not. That is where true compassion for all humans is realized.

Today we lay to rest our nephew.  I cannot comprehend what my niece’s mother and siblings are experiencing. The pain must be greater than anything they have ever experienced since the passing of their grandpa. The grief, especially for her younger siblings who may not understand why they will never see her again, why their mother is inconsolable and crying for days.  Why she is closing up.  Being quiet. 


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If I were to offer any advice, I would say when someone dies it is a poignant reminder to all of us that death touches everyone. Life is short and precious. A reminder that we must put aside petty differences, forgive one another, tell people often you love them, laugh often, that deep belly laugh. Don't take yourself seriously. Give yourself permission to have fun. Indulge in simple pleasures that make you happy. Know that you are doing it.  Don't worry what people think. Be happy.

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