Grim Reaper Girl – Part I


I’m afraid to share what I have to say. 

I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me. 

I’m afraid you don’t want to hear it.

My name is Megan. I am the Grim Reaper Girl.

Just incase you don’t know my story already…in the last three years TWELVE people in my life have died. I have sat at the deathbeds of five. I watched Cancer (and yes, in my book it gets freaking capitalized because it’s a monster) eat four of them alive, slowly and painfully.

90% of them were under the age of 50. One was five.

If I averaged it out, I’ve been to a funeral every other month for three years.

Oh, and I’ve moved, I’ve moved a lot, running around trying to make a better life for our family in this recession…we have moved four times now. We had the American Dream, and lost it. Thank God, because let me tell you trying to hold onto that ridiculous image of perfection was only an American nightmare.

I have had to redefine my meaning of home, because it so often changes.

I once called myself a “City Widow” and I have also given myself another certification: self-made Grief Specialist.

But, not a lot of people know all this about me because well, I’m the Grim Reaper Girl. Maybe they think if they stand too close to me, they’ll get cooties, and death and pain will rub off on them, too.

In the Spring of 2010, after my latest slew of tragedies had taken my three year old daughter’s best friend, my husband’s job, our new life and new home, a friend of mine informed me, politely, that the general population of Facebook had deemed me…

Duhhn…dunnnn…dunnnn….duhhhhhhhhnnnnnnnnn…

A downer.

Yup, it was official. I was singlehandedly bringing the entire cartoon-posting, music-streaming, “did you see the latest Lady Gaga video?” mood of Facebook down by keepin’ it real.

I was…the Grim Reaper Girl.

I’m keepin’ it light here, because, well, I did title this post “Grim Reaper Girl” and I’m a little worried I might scare ya off if I get too real, and then I might turn into a downer…but really, that whole Facebook thing was pretty tragic for me. It sent me, bags packin’, into a self-induced hermitville where I stayed for quite awhile, painfully afraid to tell the world what was really going on with me because I didn’t want to…bring anyone else down.

Then, my Grandpa died. Then, my Grandma died. Then, we had to move…again. 

That’s my Grandma on the left there, reacting to the news that I was pregnant with our 2nd child that I miscarried 2 weeks after this photo was taken, one month after my Aunt’s death. On the far left, that’s my Grandpa Bob who died last year. One photo. Three soon-to-be ANGELS.

But, I didn’t post about any of it on Facebook, and I didn’t tell too many people…I was too scared.

It was just a couple months ago, right after my Grandma died, that I reached my darkest point of the last three years. I stayed in bed for days because it had reached a point where it hurt too much to be alive. Life had become synonymous with too much intense pain. And, I hated myself for not being able to pick myself up yet again…and be a good Mom, wife, lover, friend. I felt so…alone.

My husband called our parents and siblings and said, “What do I do?” He’d seen me down before, he’d seen me grieve A LOT. But, after all the losses, he’d never seen me like this.

I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to continue to live a LIFE OF LOSS either. I’d stopped being able to see the beauty outside the pain.

I’m blessed to have amazing family and a few friends in my life that always show up for me, but it really is rare to find someone, anyone, who can face death alongside you.

My Grandma had faced her own inner demons, and because of that, she had developed an unusual sense of compassion and an ability to honor and acknowledge all the little deaths in my life. She was one of the only people who called me up after every single loss, big or small, to sit with me in the pain and acknowledge it.

She never treated me like the Grim Reaper Girl.

I think it was because of this that her loss hit me harder then any of the rest. Plus, well, the whole slop of all the losses piled on top of each other like a cheap Carl’s Jr. hamburger kind of made me feel like the “meat” on the bottom of a dogpile.

Worse then the pain itself, though, was feeling like I had to hide it from the world, like no one could really understand or see the pain I was in.

Then, my husband’s Dad called me. This is a man who isn’t necessarily spiritual in my mind. He’s simply a good man.

And he said to me, “The amount of stuff you’ve been through the last few years…and all you’ve been doing is trying and trying and trying to find a way to make it all better and it just keeps getting worse…it must be getting really old. I’m so sorry sweetie.”

In an instant, my heart melted. The tower I had built around it came down brick by brick. I took the metaphysical gun away from my head and light came back into my world of darkness.

He was a simple and profound reminder that I am not alone. He looked at me and didn’t just say, “I’m sorry.” He said, “I see you…I see the pain, I see how hard you’ve been trying to survive all this loss, and I get it.” His words gave me the strength to pick myself up off the bottom of the dogpile and start seeing the beauty around the pain.

Oprah said on her final show, and you’ll hear me quote this line again and again because I have learned that this right here, folks, is really what it’s ALL about (not the hokey pokey!)…

“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common — they all wanted validation. They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”

My question to you is, do you see the person sitting next to you at work? Do you see the man at the gas station swiping your credit card? Do you care about them? Do you let them know that?

Can a SOCIAL NETWORK be a SOCIAL SUPPORT GROUP? Can we go past “Likes” and also dole out, “I see you’s” and “I care’s”???

And what about Facebook? Its called a SOCIAL NETWORK. Every day, in 468 characters or less, or with one click of a “like” button, you have a chance to say, “I see you, I care,” to 499 of your closest friends and family. Do you use that power? 

Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I wonder how we would treat each other if we all walked around with signs on our backs bearing the terms of our battles.

The night my two year old nephew died, I left the hospital for a few minutes to run a family member home to her kids. I hadn’t eaten in two days. I hadn’t slept. My entire world had just changed, as if a movie set had been broken down and another completely different backdrop had been put up in its place. I stopped at a gas station to get a snack and I looked around at the people in the gas station, just going about life as usual, and I thought, “Do they have any idea what I’m going through right now? How would they treat me if they knew what I’m about to have to do?”

A man cut me off on the road on the way home, and I thought, “Would he have done that if he knew???”

How would you treat every stranger if you looked at them like they were fighting the battle of their life?

If you’d run into me in that gas station and seen a sign on my back that read, “My 3 year old nephew died last night and I’m about to go hold him for the last time,” would you have stopped to shake my hand? Give me a hug? Hold my hand? Would you have taken the time to say, “I’m sorry” ???

I bet you would have.

The next time you’re out grocery shopping or filling up at the gas station, the next time you glance at a stranger and feel that urge to look down and just go about your business back on your little island in your little realm of the atmosphere, I want you to stop and look at them again. Look at them and ask yourself, “What battle are they fighting?”

Then…ACKNOWLEDGE THEM.

It doesn’t take much. Just a smile, a word, a gracious opening of the door or a, “No, you go ahead.”

I can tell you right now…that ONE LITTLE THING…could save a life. 

Sometimes, the most basic form of acknowledgement is the most profound gift you can give a person…especially if they’ve started to think the world doesn’t see them, doesn’t care.

A smile has saved my life a million times.

A few words have eased my pain more then 10,000 hours of therapy could.

A few brave friends…willing to stand beside the Grim Reaper Girl…have made my life worth living. In fact, they’ve made a life of loss turn into a life of beauty. I can honestly say, I’ve never been more at peace, more filled with joy then I am today. I’m not a wallowing mess of depression, I am a strong, courageous woman on a mission now…my mission? To tell everyone I meet, “I see you, I care.” 

So, the question is, can a SOCIAL NETWORK be a SOCIAL SUPPORT GROUP? Can we be real or can we only go so far as Lady Gaga will let us go?

Take a risk, post something brave, something real. Maybe someone will tell you they see you. Maybe someone will CARE. 

Remember what I always say…
Life’s greatest question is “Why are we here?”
I believe the answer is, “For each other.”
This post is dedicated to anyone who has ever looked at me and with their eyes, heart or words said, “I see you, I care.” You are the beauty in my life. You remind me of the beauty and joy that is always surrounding the pain. You’re bigger then the pain…you’re the best Band-Aid a Grim Reaper Girl could ever ask for. 🙂  

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38 thoughts on “Grim Reaper Girl – Part I

  1. Megan, this is such a wonderful post. I do not think of you as a downer at all. You have gone through so much, and have handled it with a lot more grace than I would be able to muster. You have stumbled a few times, but you always get back up with an even bigger heart and more compassion than before. Please know, that I do see you and I do care.

  2. Megan, what a beautiful, thoughtful, deep, caring, inspired and inspiring post. I applaud you for being brave enough to share what you’ve been going through — and what you’ve learned. The dark places you have passed through have given both you and your words power. Instead of feeling the urge to pray for you, to perhaps ask the universe to give you a little peace, I feel the urge to cheer you on.

  3. BRAVA. Everyone has a story. Everyone has something to teach us. And yes, everyone is grieving something, somehow, somewhere. brilliant post – and something we need to read again and again. Thank you!

  4. Well said Megan. I too have been guilty of minding my own business but this reminds me to acknowledge others.Its not like I am asking them to be my BFF I can just smile at them in the store and say hello!

  5. Wow, Megan. I, too, had no idea what you’ve been dealing with. My heart goes out to you, and I am also deeply grateful for your courage to come through it all and bring it back to us in such a beautiful, moving, profound way. My life has now become more enriched because of you, and I intend to take your words to heart and be a more actively kind person. Much love to you and your family, Megan.

  6. I am so proud of you! This blog is a great way to use the gifts that God has given you. It is a unquie thing indeed when someone can recognize what these gifts are inside them, and share them with the world.

  7. Megan, we have not had personal contact for a few years now. I knew you back then when you had the miscarriage and I kept your blog on my bookmarks for a long time waiting for you to write again, waiting to hear how you were. I always liked your blog, and I’ve always loved your writing. I didn’t realize you were blogging again until someone linked me here.

    You are NOT the grim reaper girl. You are Megan. I always saw you as the bubbly, positive girl from Arizona that loved life and had ambition. When you lost the baby, i saw how you are when you are sad. I silently mourned for your loss but I never contacted you because I thought ‘she has so much love surrounding her, I’m just an ‘interested and sympathetic reader’. In short, I didn’t feel like you needed me. Had I ever known that ANYONE was making you feel bad about sharing what you were going through, I would have told you ‘I’m here – and I want to hear what you have to say – I care.’

    You are not the grim reaper girl. You’re an amazing, inspiring person who just has happened, by some horrible luck to have suffered a great deal in a very short amount of time. I would be proud to stand beside you.

    • Your words mean the world to me…thank you so much. I replied below, and hope you’ll see it. And please stay tuned for Part 3, I think it’ll bring it full circle for us both. I so appreciate you being here for my journey, more then words could ever say…thank you for speaking up today, thank you so much. I’m so glad to know you now and you’re here with me! I hope you will feel inspired. Thank you so so so so so much and please give me a link or contact so I can reach you personally somehow???

      • Me again, 3 years later. I saw Parenting Alive in my bookmarks (which i hadn’t read because it hadn’t been updated!) and googled to find you here. Was surprised to see my own words and your response. It’s three years later, but I’d be happy to contact you if you’d still like. 🙂 I’ll be watching this space and updating my bookmarks 😉 Glad to see you are doing well!!

      • Thank you so much for looking me up again!!!!! I am so grateful to be able to reconnect. Look me up on Facebook so we can get in touch! So glad to have you back with me on this journey. You’ve been such a loving source of support over the years. Hope you’re doing well yourself.

  8. I want to find the time to sit and respond to each of your posts thoughtfully…but with 2 kiddos a mass reply will have to do.

    I just want you to know I am not identifying myself as the Grim Reaper Girl, I just feel that’s how some people have seen me.

    My story is one of hope and inspiration. I didn’t post this to say, “Hey you jerks, why haven’t you been paying attention to me?!”

    I posted it to say, I did it, I came out the other side, and look at all the gifts I have found! I am blessed. And the greatest sorrow has given me the greatest opening to joy in my life. Now I need to post part 3 so you understand the whole picture. Will do that next.

    I’m not sitting around depressed anymore guys, just so you know. Yes, I still have hard moments. Yesterday a song came on Serius that reminded me of my Grandma and my friend Mike and well, that’s what got me to post this!

    But the thing is I have indescribable (sp?!) joy in my life every single day! I am not the Grim Reaper Girl…that’s the point I’m trying to make. I am so full of life and love and abundance and blessings and I’ve used all this tragedy to spark my dreams. That’s my message! So, don’t feel sorry for me…be inspired by me…DO YOUR DREAMS, FIND THE JOY & BEAUTY IN EVERY MOMENT. FIND YOUR PEACE WITHIN. That’s my message. Go live a life of joy…then come back and tell me about it, ok?! 🙂

  9. Hi Megan, I can understand your pain and loss, and it is real. While I haven’t had as much tragedy as you, I have suffered loss too, and it is hard. And how you deal with it is really how it all works. Will happily follow your blog, and give you encouragement and postiviness when you need it! 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing, Megan. This was one of the points I spoke about at a mom’s group sometime after the loss of my son. I’ve heard it from many who lose someone and it still hits my the hardest . . . those people are right there next to you. I try to remember that and show them grace. I truly believe the world would be different if we could always remember that — myself included!

  11. That is a lot of losses for a lifetime, let alone such a short period of time. I know how long the grief process dragged on when I lost my mom, and can’t imagine compounding grief upon grief. There is a very special purpose for the woman you have become through these. Yes, there are some of us on Facebook who are reaching out to others, and view it as a ministry field. I’m glad the light has returned to your life, shine on!

  12. Love you Megan. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us go through but haven’t been able to break down the barriers yet. You’re never the Grim Reaper Girl to me – you’re just my friend!

  13. What a rich and beautiful life you have had. So filled with love. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading what you had to say. So honest and so full of depth. I am so glad you shared your feelings in such a truthful and profound way.

  14. This is a great post…of course, I weep in recognition. And yes, I know you are not a downer, and you are in a place of joy now…you don’t get that until you let yourself feel the pain. I’m so glad you found me at Heartbreak and invited me back to you. I was so discouraged the last two days feeling like my blog was a waste of time and didn’t really benefit anyone. This was just what I needed. Please don’t be a stranger…patrice

  15. I love you Megan, its amazing how even when you aren’t readily available to me when Im hurting, one of your blogs or posts or shared pictures pops up in my facebook feed and its always EXACTLY what I need. I needed this blog RIGHT NOW, and here it is ❤ Thank you for seeing me ❤

    • Thank you for reading and commenting Lifeboat, and for the acknowledgement of what I’ve been through. I am grateful for these experiences now, as they have given me a deep, overflowing sense of compassion, empathy, understanding & wisdom. I lost so much, but gained so much more. ❤

  16. Sometimes it’s easy to hear one person’s opinion and believe it is what everyone is thinking. Even worse, sometimes that one person will act as if they are speaking for “everyone else.” Don’t believe them. By pulling away and isolating yourself, you are believing a lie from one person about everyone else. Don’t pull back. Another bit of advice: when you give yourself a label, you start to believe it more and more, every time you repeat it. Stop calling yourself “The Grim Reaper Girl.” You didn’t cause anyone’s death. Don’t be the one who is telling yourself lies.

    • Hi Windy Tuesdays. Thank you for reading my Grim Reaper Girl post & sharing your thoughts. ❤ As you may have noticed, I wrote this a couple years ago. I wrote 2 follow-up pieces, Part II and III to Grim Reaper Girl. In Part III you'll see I did give up my status as the GRG. You can read it here if you'd like. https://meganaronson.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/grim-reaper-girl-pt-3-death-has-made-me-more-alive/

      I love what you said about not believing one person's opinion speaks for the whole. I agree. I constantly ask myself, "Are my perceptions accurate?" I think we tell ourselves a lot of lies & I fully believe our minds & misperceptions are the greatest source of our own suffering.

      I also believe there is a stigma around death and the sharing of our grief experiences openly. Negative emotions make us all uncomfortable, so we try to avoid them. My experience as the GRG was very real. I am a very open person & I share my heart quite freely. I did this time & time again, only to watch people completely shut down, dodge glances, get squirmy, change the subject, fumble for words. It's very hard not to take that personally. Even though I am a person who strives not to take anything personally – I'm also human.

      I believe this often happens for one of 2 reasons. A) When we see another's pain, it reminds us of our own, and if we have not fully attended to our own pain, we cannot share another's. B) We tend to believe as a society that negative emotions need fixing. We don't know how to fix another's pain, so it makes us uncomfortable. Sometimes, we don't know the right thing to say, so we say nothing at all.

      This is why I am an advocate for sharing, teaching & spreading the art of Compassionate Communication. It gives us all a language to say, "I see you, I hear you. What you say matters to me."

      What I've been working on in the 2 years since first posting GRG are a set of steps I wish to share with the world for facing & embracing our attended pain & living a life of self-examination so we can learn how to deal with negative emotions – from minor daily annoyances, to the death of a loved one.

      By getting to know myself more deeply through each loss experience I've gone through (now 20 deaths in 4 years), I have learned what causes me to retreat from the world when I'm in pain – the fundamental "lies" I tell myself. Reprogramming the thoughts in my head is where the battle begins every time.

      Yet, I am also an advocate for true human connection through compassion and empathy. I believe, with not an ounce of naivete, that this is where world peace begins – in the way we speak to ourselves and each other. This form of human connection requires a willingness to allow others to be real, openly express their true feelings & never ever feel like a GRG, whether they've had one death, or 20. The point of my story is that ONE person saying "I hear you, I see your pain," can drown out the voice of 10,000 saying, "I don't want to see your pain."

      Thank you so much for sharing, I am really enjoying this dialogue with you.

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