I said I would speak about Stefanie’s murder, and although I’ll reference it, I don’t plan to sensationalize or exploit her life or death in any way. If you click on her photo, the sordid details are there written by an excellent author and friend of mine Marina Jimenez. Also, if you Google her name, there are countless articles, and those written by Christie Blatchford resonate most closely with how we felt, especially during the trials.
It’s hard to know where to start. For anyone just beginning through the journey of grief, it’s laughable to think that one day you’ll feel good again. Grief is both emotionally AND physically draining. It steals everything from us and holds us hostage. It’s as if you want to crawl out of your own skin and leave the pain in that shell. Tasks that were once automatic become extremely difficult to complete – even breathing.
For those of you at this point, there is nothing anyone can do for you to relieve the pain. It is as simple and as difficult as trying to just get through each minute, then each hour, each day etc… How I wished for sleep to escape the pain, even momentarily. Our bodies need the rest to heal – physical exhaustion is a very real symptom of grief. The weight is physical and feels impossible to carry around. I constantly felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest. Do whatever it takes to rest – it can only help.
As important as rest, is food – healthy food. Avoid alcohol as much as possible (yeah right) but let’s be realistic here. I loved wine before Stefanie’s death and I appreciate it a whole lot more now. I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t take the edge off, it does, but it’s a slippery slope and one better avoided if possible, especially when feeling so vulnerable.
Harder still – exercise. I don’t mean to run a marathon (unless you already do), but getting outside in the fresh air can be a distraction. In the case of a very public homicide, it will be hard to leave your home because the media will pounce on your every move. One of the things I most wanted to do after Stefanie’s death was to sit alone on the snowbank on which she died – as if it was calling me there. Only once, in the middle of the night did I try , and still the media chased me down. It’s one of my biggest regrets. Later we can discuss managing the media in very public situations.
If you know anyone going through this raw grief right now, the very best thing you can do is to be with them, even if they say they want to be alone. Unfortunately night always comes and there is far too much alone time. It’s not easy because there’s nothing to say that makes it any better, so don’t try. Talk about your life, things that you have in common, talk about the person in the normal context you would before. For example, if you’re talking about cooking, you could say “Stefanie and Ian loved those grilled cheese sandwiches I made for them last summer” and then continue the conversation. Your friend needs to talk about their loved one, so just listen. You can’t make them feel any worse – only help by distracting them momentarily from their pain.
The main goal is to pass the time and get them though the next minute, hour, day etc… A very special friend of mine, who was Stefanie’s grade 8 teacher, took the time to write 14 pages of memories he had of her. I have read and re-read those pages so often, the paper might disintegrate soon – a truly amazing gift. Just yesterday a young girl posted a note on the Facebook site “In Loving Memeory of Stefanie Rengel” about some fun she and Stefanie had on a bus once, a story I hadn’t heard. It made me so happy to have something “new” of her to smile at – again, I’m so grateful.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, only what my own experience has taught me, but feel free to leave any comments or suggestions in the “comment section” and maybe in some small way I can help.