Saturday, October 8, 2016

What Does "How Are You?" Mean?

My husband has been dead now for over seven years.  That seems ridiculous to me.  He is still so present in my life.  I just e-mailed someone whose son died and I was talking about a movie and the e-mail came back around to how sorry I was that he will never have grandchildren and how much I miss my husband.  I may not always talk about it but in the center of my heart it is as if everything leads back to the fact that my husband is dead.

When people ask me how I am - I say, "The same."  They tell me I am different - that I am more alive, that I do so many things.  This is true.  My husband used to say, "We only have moments."  I have over the years found ways to have more productive moments - more happy moments.  Sometimes people say they have no joy any more.  I have redefined joy.  It is not any where near a permanent thing for me but it would be wrong to say I don't have joyous moments.  Some of them in the present, some of them in memory.  Sometimes I even feel a little lightness like a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

Grief for me is living a complex life.  I have learned to let - most days - my husband's life mean more to me than his death.  I take his hand (such as it is) and let him lead me.  I am proud of my Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/GriefSpeaksOut) which has over a million likes and provides support to people all over the world.  I'm not someone who follow through all the time but in over three years I have only missed one day and it was because I could not get internet in a hotel in of all places, Los Angeles.  A woman in Uganda posted a picture of her young child who has died and told me that her mother doesn't speak English but she shows her the pictures and tells her what I say.  I find that unbelievable - and yet I know many people who have found either small or large ways to create something that gives meaning to their lives because they want their loved one/s to be proud of them and to be remembered.  I purposely schedule many things to do each month.  I may not always want to do them - but usually when I go I have a good time.  I am grateful for the friends I have made over the last seven years.  Many of them new as old ones walked away - but also some of them old.

At the same time I am not "better".  I have not "healed".  I don't want to be fixed.  I miss my husband because I love him and I believe he stills love me.  I don't believe I have to let go to lead a full life.  I think of an aunt of mine who was alone her entire life.  She never knew the kind of love I was lucky to find.  I get angry - even at him - for being alone.  I wanted us to be alive together.  This insane presidential election we are having in the United States - how he would have loved to discuss it with me.  So many times something happens and I run down the list of people I could call and I don't call anyone because my husband is the only person I want to talk to.

Some people think there are positive and negative emotions.  I don't.  I am happy, sad, angry, confused, lost, found, joyous, despairing and many more things all at the same time.  It's more important to me to be who I really am than to pretend things I don't feel.  If I get stuck in one emotion I try to be present to what else is happening.  I give myself time to feel this daily exhausting pain of loss and time to find things that give me contentment.  I couldn't do that in the raw chaotic first months of grief.

How am I?  Layered.  No one knows how dark the dark is.  They hear my laughter and think all is healed.  Sometimes I remind them.  They ask, "How are you?" and I say, "Great - but of course my husband is still dead."  I'd rather folks acknowledge the pain and then that frees me up to have a better time.  If you only see my joy and my accomplishments and do not see my pain and struggles then you do not know me.  That is what I know about other grieving people - to mention the name of the people they love who have died.  To talk about them.  To give them the freedom to feel what they are feeling without somehow being judged.

One woman said that her grandmother had a child who died and she grieved for her daughter for 74 years.  There is no time limit on grief but there is no limit on filling the empty dark void of grief with color and happy moments - when you can.  When you are ready.

I'm just a normal person.  This blog has been around for a while and I decided to post again partly because Google was impossible and my domain name changed from griefspeakout.com to griefspeaksout.net.  But the other more important reason is to say I'm still here.  I wish I could be with my husband but to me being here means I have to keep figuring out how to make being here mean something.  I hope to be reunited with my husband some day.  He called me Panache.  I want him to say when he sees me again - "Wow!!  You fell down a lot but you kept getting up and doing things.  I'm so proud of you."  It helps me to remember that what seems like time crawling slowly by in an unendurable way is only a blink of an eye in terms of eternity.

How am I?  Might as well ask me the meaning of life.  I'll tell you - but it will just be words and words sometimes don't say very much at all.  xo

Friday, August 26, 2016

I wanted to let everyone know that the web link for this blog changed from griefspeaksout.com to griefspeaksout.net due to the impossibility of working with Google to renew the old domain name.  I apologize for any confusion this created.  It has made me look at the blog again and I see it has been over a year since I have written any new posts.  I may just start writing again.  I think I should after all of the trouble I went through to make sure it stayed alive.

Grief...still alive with it - sometimes with grace and panache - sometimes with falling down and not bothering to get up for a while.

With love. xo

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Grief: Have I Stopped Writing Blog Posts? I Don't Know

I can't tell you how many times I think of all of you who come to this blog that means so much to me.  In the last few posts I have been apologizing for not writing more often.  Now...even though I often think of writing - I don't seem to make time to do it.  I am sorry for that.  I post every day on my Facebook page Grief Speaks Out:  www.Facebook.com/GriefSpeaksOut.  I look for material, write, answer questions, and post seven things.  I think that is taking all the energy I have for dealing with grief in a writing way.  The page has over 700,000 from all around the world and some weeks reaches over a million people. It is not more important than this blog.  It just became so much bigger than I ever thought it would when I was trying to figure out how to set it up and maybe get the first 100 likes.

Mother's Day is coming up and so many people are sad.  Mothers whose children have died, children whose mothers have died - and also people we don't think of sometimes - women who desperately want children and can't have them.  I didn't like my mother much so it's not a bad day for me - but I am conscious of how hurtful it is for many others.  Then Father's Day.  It seems it never stops.

Someone called me a radical griever.  I like that.  I haven't stopped telling people that grief is a normal process.  It is not a mental illness or disorder.  It didn't happen in the past.  The date my husband died was July 17, 2009 but even almost 6 years later the trauma happens every day - several times a day.  My life is magical in many ways but the ache I have for him, the loneliness, the pain of living without him continues.  Each morning when I wake up it is a challenge to make it a day when I accomplish something - when I laugh - when I am inspired by my grief instead of deadened by it.  Inspired by my grief?  Yes because it measures the height of the love I have and how lucky I am to have that kind of love in my life.  My favorite question to ask people is "With all the pain you are experiencing now - was it worth it?"  I have never had anyone say no.

I have tried over the years to make my husband's life - and our lives together - more important to me than his death.  I try to live for him and for me.  I have other relationships - not romantic - I'm still wearing his wedding ring - but I do think about dating - then I don't.  My relationship with my daughter is much better after therapy and my granddaughter Gwendy is already three.  She is delightful.  I am lucky in my friends.  Especially the young ones who live in some ways in such a different world.

In my years of writing this blog there is a good compilation of things to read. It can stand on its own. A journey I never want to take.  A journey I still don't want to be on. Some things have changed a lot.  Some things seem to always recur.  I still have days of true darkness.  The fifth year was very difficult.  It is exhausting to miss someone so much every day.  I gave myself permission to be a sloth until Valentine's Day was over.  (My series of dates, except for July, is Dec - V-day.)  That worked.  I hid out and isolated and found that my energy came back after taking a break.  I always follow my rule of making plans so I don't spend too much time alone.

I tell people I'm not better and that is because the place that hurts doesn't heal for me.  Yet the layers around it make me better in a lot of ways.  That first year I was all tears and thoughts of death - feeling lost and without meaning.  Then I wrote my first blog post - thinking if I reached even one person it was enough to create meaning.  I had no idea I would have the ability to reach people all around the world.  So many people talk about being lost.  I was lost - and in some ways I still am - but I also was able to be found.  I learned to let my husband guide me and to slowly regenerate myself.

A new question I ask people is if there is another relationship that is not the same - never the same - yet equally important.  Being a grandmother is to me as important as being a wife.  A lot of the love I shared with my husband gets shared with my granddaughter.  It occurred to me that if I had no one - which some people do - have no one - that I probably would have found some volunteer work - something maybe with children.  Meaning doesn't always come to us - sometimes we have to go out and search for it.

I have done what I wanted to do - and what I still work on - shifting the balance so I can have a greater number of productive and happy moments.  Still haven't written the book.  Still haven't gotten my body fit.  I'm traveling again though - reading a little more.  Sometimes it's the little things.  I'm watching the last season of a British TV series - Foyle's War - that I used to watch with my husband.  I remember laying in bed with him  - my head on his lap - watching one of the episodes - and being angry because I fell asleep and he didn't wake me up.  What comfort.  What luxury.  Imagine being able to fall asleep on his lap.  How can a lap no longer exist?  How can they keep making the series when he died so long ago.  I want to share it with him - talk to him about it.  Blah blah blah.

So much of grief is wanting what we can't have.  My temper tantrums are just like my granddaughter's - I want I need I want I need.   So - a bit of that and then - what now? I can't have that so what can I do instead?  A blink of an eye this life is in terms of eternity.  Hopefully when my life is over I will be dancing with my husband in what I call the great party in the sky - but if I am merely dust - that is okay too because I won't know how much I miss him any more.

I am going to Ireland at the end of the month to see friends I haven't seen in over 30 years.  I'm going to be 65 next year and am thinking of changing my name.  Seriously.  I have always hated the name Jan - so maybe I'll be someone else.  I'll never give up Warner though.  I love being Mrs. Warner.  I still hate checking the unexpected widow box.

I'm going to put at the end The Mourner's Bill of Rights which I always find helpful - but first a quote from Julian Barnes which I think is the best description of grief I have ever read.  I am damaged, I am tarred and feathered, I am grieving.  Always.  But I am also laughing and loving and helping people and having adventures.  It's the best thing we can do to grief - grab it and ride it - let it take us somewhere.  It's like when huge waves pummel the shore - some people drown - other people surf.  I think I still paddle about gasping for air - but sometimes I land in wonderful places.

Each of you is accomplishing a lot - you are breathing - you are searching - you are having one moment at a time.  You are doing the hardest thing a human being can do - live without the person/pet you love more than anything.  That is why I call us grief warriors.  We fight a brave fight.  Every minute of every day.

You don't have to let go to move on.  My grief - my husband - they come with me every where I go.  People say you have to start over.  I'm not starting over - I'm continuing.  People say you have to let go of the past. How foolish would it be to forget a rich past that makes me who I am?  Living in the present means being your past and hoping for your future.  This living only in the present idea is very strange to me.

It took me about four years to connect grief and gratitude.  Gratitude that I am grieving instead of my husband. What a gift that was to him.  Makes me angry sometimes too.  I wag my finger at his picture - "You're not supposed to be dead.  It's not fair!!"  More importantly the gratitude is for experiencing such great love:  that I love someone so much and he loves me so much that his death causes me pain.  I think I'm going to be like Betty White or the Queen Mum - one of those women who live a full life but don't fall in love again -

but then - I saw Candace Bergen who so completely loved her first husband Louis Malle and then to her surprise - three years after his tragic death - fell in love again and is happily married.  I know it's not just her - it's many people.  Will it be me?  I don't know.  I don't think so...but then...but then.

We can't see around corners.  I don't know what will happen tomorrow or the next day.  I just have to keep on making choices about what I say and what actions to take.  In my world that means time to just retreat sometimes and sleep too much and cry.  I am still devastated by my husband's death.  But that isn't all I am.  I am a hurt grieving person, I am also someone who loves theatre and traveling and being a grandmother and a good joke and a beautiful picture.  Who else am I?  What else do I love?

I'm an ordinary person.  Sometimes people write me and ask me if something they are feeling is normal.  I am eating ice cream in my pajamas watching TV and I laugh.  I laugh because it is sadly all normal.  The question I ask myself is not, "Is it normal."  - but "Does it serve me?  Is it how I want my life to be?"   Sometimes I can create change - sometimes not so much.  But normal was never my strength.   Anything I have done - you can do - maybe better.

My friend whose husband and only child both died was right.  Grief - if you let it - doesn't go away - but it does gentle down.  Life surprises you if you let it.  You have to let it - and you have to notice it.  I had lunch with a woman once.  She said she was always sad.  During lunch she told me a lot of interesting stories and was very funny.  She laughed a lot.  I pointed that out to her and she said - no - she was always sad.  She wasn't able yet to say - part of me is always sad - but part of me is funny and interesting etc...

So it is never goodbye really - just hello in a new way.  I won't say I won't write another post because you know if I do I'll post again.  I won't say I will though because my life has gone in many other directions.

There's one thing you can count on - I am thinking of you with love.  xo

The Julian Barnes quote (you might cry when you read it - I always do):

“You are not at first surprised. Part of love is preparing for death..Afterward comes the madness. And then the loneliness: not the spectacular solitude you had anticipated, not the interesting martyrdom...but just loneliness. You expect something almost geological-- vertigo in a shelving canyon -- but it's not like that; it's just misery as regular as a job. 
What do we doctors say? I'm deeply sorry, Mrs Blank; there will of course be a period of mourning but rest assured you will come out of it; two of these each evening, I would suggest; perhaps a new interst, Mrs Blank; can maintenance, formation dancing?; don't worry, six months will see you back on the roundabout; come and see me again any time; oh nurse, when she calls, just give her this repeat will you, no I don't need to see her, well it's not her that's dead is it, look on the bright side. What did she say her name was?
And then it happens to you. There's no glory in it. Mourning is full of time; nothing but time.... you should eat stuffed sow's heart. I might yet have to fall back on this remedy. I've tried drink, but what does that do? Drink makes you drunk, that's all it's ever been able to do. Work, they say, cures everything. It doesn't; often, it doesn't even induce tiredness: the nearest you get to it is a neurotic lethargy. And there is always time. Have some more time. Take your time. Extra time. Time on your hands.
Other people think you want to talk. 'Do you want to talk?' they ask, hinting that they won't be embarrassed if you break down. Sometimes you talk, sometimes you don't; it makes little difference. The words aren't the right ones; or rather, the right words don't exist. 'Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.' You talk, and you find the language of bereavement foolishly inadequate...
And you do come out of it, that's true. After a year, after five. But your don't come out of it like a train coming out of a tunnel, bursting through the Downs into sunshine and that swift, rattling descent to the Channel; you come out of it as a gull comes out of an oil-slick. You are tarred and feathered for life.”
― Julian Barnes

The Mourner's Bill of Rights: 

The Mourner's Bill of Rights

Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain "rights" no one should try to take away from you.
The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.

No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.

Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don't take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.

5. You have the right to experience "griefbursts."

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, "Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clich├ęd responses some people may give you. Comments like, "It was God's will" or "Think of what you have to be thankful for" are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Grief: Another Mountain Top, Another Valley

Oh my blog.  I don't write you often enough any more.  I think of you, but I don't write enough.  I'm sorry to those of you who don't do Facebook where most of my writing is now.  www.Facebook.com/GriefSpeaksOut.

I have almost survived my time where the climb from the valley to the mountain top is difficult - and where I slide down into the valley much too quickly.  My husband's birthday is Dec. 11th.  That is when it starts.  Then all the holidays.  Then my birthday/wedding anniversary (for those of you who don't know - my birthday present was getting married) and then Valentine's Day.  Can you believe Friday the 13th is the day before Valentine's Day?  If I were superstitious....

I read a quote somewhere that you shouldn't compare yourself to another person because you know your whole life and you only know their highlight reel.  That's kind of how I've been.  I just seem to be back at why bother?  I've been spending a lot of time in bed watching crap TV.  This week I have a bad cold or the flu or something which I rather like because it gives me permission to do this without guilt.  I had given myself permission anyway.  To not really accomplish anything until after Valentine's Day.  People who don't experience this don't understand how sometimes emotional paralysis sets in and the smallest thing seems impossible or not worth trying.  So that is my valley.

My mountain tops are there too.  So many times we (I) look at what I am not doing instead of what I am doing.  I did still follow the rule that I can only stay indoors one day in a row.  My parents became reclusive when they got older and it made them nasty and sad.  I don't want to be them.  I did go out with friends when I was in NYC and I did have a good time.  I did plan less than I usually do.  I did do things like take showers and keep breathing.  Then - the main thing - the important thing - is that i truly did celebrate with my daughter and granddaughter.  It didn't matter how much I wanted to snuggle into the valley - I left and chose to spend many days including these dates with my daughter and granddaughter.  On those days I managed some times to actually be celebrating.  I love playing with my granddaughter.

Gwendy is 3 so 64 is very old to her.  So old she ask me if I was going to die.  We talk about death in our family.  I said - yes, some day - but hopefully not for a while.  I told her that when I was dead I wouldn't be able to come back any more on the train - because I wouldn't have a body - but that I would come back with love - and would always be in her heart like she would be in mine.  She is trying to figure out what her Mom calls the Great Unknown.  She has had some fish go there and knows that her Mom and I have pets and people there.  She asked me if my husband was imaginary!  Which was interesting - people we love and talk about and can't see - are they imaginary like the pink dragon?  No - because once they were alive and now they are still real - at least to me.

Gwendy said the most extraordinary thing.  She asked me, "Do you miss sleeping with your Mommy?"  I said, "No - I haven't slept with my Mommy for a long time - but I miss sleeping with my husband - with Grandpa Artie - a lot.  I really liked sleeping with him."   She said, lovingly, "You can use your imagination and pretend he is with you."  I told her that is exactly what I do.

So it has been a strange time since I have last written you.  Full of dead moments that I wish I no longer have - but I still do.  It comforts me to know from so many people that even after 20 or 30 or more years these moments - these deep valleys - these dark places come.  I miss my husband so much  every day that sometimes all the energy is sapped right out of me.  Especially this time of year.  But I also made new memories.  Went stomping through snow up over my knees with Gwendy at night with our flashlights to put out food for squirrels and birds.  I want to have adventures with her. Gwendy managed to stay up until midnight on New Years Eve and the three of us made lots of noise and wore funny hats and had a group hug.  We did a new thing this year - we lit candles and put out pictures of the people and pets we have loved on a table in the middle of the room on New Year's Eve so they could be with us.

I had my unhappy birthday cake.  I ate the part that said unhappy.  I still don't deal with my anniversary very well - but I posted about it on FB.  I appreciated the people who acknowledged it.

In NYC I saw some great plays; ate some delicious dinners; had wonderful moments with friends.

People now often ask me if something they are doing or feeling is normal.  It is.  I remember going to a bereavement group in my first year of grieving.  I hadn't changed the sheets on our bed for three months and thought that was very strange.  I met someone who hadn't changed them for a year.  I met someone else who never changed them - just sleeps in another room.  We all do whatever we have to do to survive something that is so difficult, so challenging.  Some people seem to move through grief with more ease than others - but when you see someone who does that - you do not know what is in their hearts.  A lot of people go silent because it is easier.  Someone called me a radical griever.  I liked that.  I know many people who pretend to be fine and then they tell me about their grief and their sadness.

Although it is comforting to know I am not the only one doing something - I don't ask myself if what I am doing is normal.  I ask myself if it is serving me.  I have a life to live.  Each day.  A life that I want to live fully to honor and respect my husband.  Sometimes - like now - I give myself permission to collapse and wallow.  I love wallowing.  I'm not ashamed of it.  But I also don't want the rest of my life to look like this.  I haven't missed a day of posting on the Facebook page Grief Speaks Out.  That's good.  But if I can get my motivation back into place I have a lot I want to do.  I found myself saying that I want to live for a while.  Usually all I feel deep down is that I want to be with my husband.  That's a big change.  I don't always feel that way - but that's the challenge every day - to say - oops - I guess I'm still alive - how will I be alive?

Maybe I should build a lodge halfway down the mountain so I don't go so deep and don't have such a steep climb back up.  Maybe my husband will be in the lodge and when I start to fall he will catch me and give me a boost back up.  Or maybe even the middle isn't such a bad place to be.

I always tell you to take tender care of yourself.  I need to learn to do the same.

Sending you much love and wishing you the courage you need every minute of ever day. xo

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grief: Another New Year Without You?

I threw out a couple more of your things today.  Not much.  But a little.  I still have your phone book. What for?

I have many things I am grateful for.  Good holidays with my daughter and my granddaughter Gwendy blue eyes who turned three on December 20th.  I'm going back on the 30th because after five and a half years I feel brave enough not to hide myself away.  I'm preparing for this fun sharing of the new year coming in by isolating - watching crap TV - and eating too much.  All those healthy options.  Why don't I do the healthy options?  I could be meditating, taking bubble baths, developing a taste for kale.  Okay - developing a taste for kale is never going to happen. I am cleaning up and throwing away a lot of my own unnecessary stuff as well.

For some odd reason my wedding ring and my husband's wedding ring were irritating the skin on my finger so instead I have been wearing a band with three rows of tiny black diamonds and two rows of tiny white diamonds.  Like my life...sparkly...but all the lovely moments are still surrounded by darkness.  There is so much I have done since you died that I love, that I am proud of.  I especially love my relationship with my granddaughter.

I just can't stand the though of starting another new year without you.  We had many fun and loving New Year's Eves together.  The last one you asked me to come upstairs with you but I was angry and I said no.  I didn't know it was the last chance I had to celebrate New Year's Eve with you.  I want another chance.  I want another chance for so many things.  I can't stand it but I will.  That's what we do.  Stand what we can't stand; bear what we can't bear.

I keep my husband alive in so many ways.  My granddaughter talks about Grandpa Artie - even though she never met him.  People all around the world know about us - about him.

I have made plans for the new year; in the new year.  I am going forward - I don't have a choice.  Time goes forward and drags me with it.  I was thinking of e-mailing all the people I still have e-mails for who knew Artie and ask them for stories about him.  Why?  They might make me smile but they won't be him.  He's dead.  There are no new memories.  Is this the year I'll try to date since I miss so much being held?  I don't know.  I want my husband to hold me - not some random man.  Yet maybe some random man will do a good job of holding me.

I need time to feel sorry for myself.  When I'm with my granddaughter I don't get much time for that. I don't even want much time then.  I like playing.  I like cuddling her.  I love it when she says something clever or when she just looks up and smiles at me.

I'm blessed in my family and friends.  I alway plan adventures for myself.

Who knows - I might even start that book I'm so good at not writing.  I don't do New Year's Resolutions.  I make a gratitude list - all the things that happened last year that I am grateful for.  Then I make a forgiveness list - things I would have liked to have done but didn't.  Some things on the forgiveness list (forgiving myself for not accomplishing them) go on the list of things to do this next year.  Or not.

A young friend asked me if I feel guilty about what I haven't done or don't do.  I said no.  Finally after 63 years I feel that what I do is enough.  Who I am is enough.  I could do more - but if I don't - nothing wrong with what I am doing.  I'm capable of so much more than I was in those desperate devastated first days after my husband's death.

But I'm not finished grieving.  I don't see how I ever could be.  I can do more and more and more.  I can have many exciting and content moments.  I can even triumph.  Nothing I do will ever stop me from looking up and wishing I could see a very loved face that no longer exists.

My new year will, hopefully, be full of many new things.  It will also be full of something old.  Death took my husband away.  The one person in the world who totally understood me and who tried so hard to take care of me is dead.  Dead doesn't change.  People often don't get that.  I don't believe in being happy about something I am sad about.  How can I be happy my husband is dead?  That would make me a liar.  I am happy about so much of the time we spent together.  I am happy about our love. I am happy about many things in my present.  But I cannot "follow my bliss".  My bliss is dead.  I must create a new meaning for bliss.

I take my grief with me into 2015.  Hopefully it will come with me in many new and exciting directions.  Hopefully my husband will be proud of me.

i don't know how to end this.  A new year is supposed to be a beginning not an ending.  Maybe what I wish for us all is that our beloved dead become more alive to us not less.  I wish for us all that their lives mean more to us than their death - that their love inspires us. That they make us laugh remembering so many things.  I wish that we continue to transform grief from something dark and deadly to something that shimmers and skips about leading us into wondrous places.

A Happy New Year?  A new year with happiness in it.  I love you my husband.  You love me.  That still makes me happy.  xo

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grief: 'Tis the Season to Be Sad, Confused, Exhausted and Angry - Oops - I Mean Jolly

Welcome once again to the holiday season.  I apologize for not writing before Thanksgiving.  In the midst of all this cheer, I thought of myself hanging on the meat hook of the holidays.  Here's my run - Thanksgiving. My husband's birthday is December 11th, Chanukah, Gwendy's Birthday is Dec. 20th, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.  My birthday and my wedding anniversary are Feb. 3rd (my husband married me for my birthday present) and finally - Valentine's Day.

Thanksgiving.  Am I thankful?  Definitely.  I am thankful for little things like a cosy blanket and big things like having a smart, healthy and beautiful granddaughter.  Gwendy's birthday is a good day  When my daughter was pregnant I didn't know if I could love this new person.  I can.  I do.  I love being a grandmother.  I love that she looks at my husband's picture and says, "There's grandpa!"  She may have never met him when he was alive but she knows all about him - and I have this strange feeling she's seen him more that once.


The holidays. I'm working on it.  I have so many presents in my hallway it looks like a toy store.  I'm going to have to choose which ones to bring to Marblehead near Boston which is where my daughter and granddaughter live.  I couldn't possibly carry everything.


I'm going out on my husband's birthday.  Never did that before.  I'm spending New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with my daughter and granddaughter. It's the first year I've been willing to do that.  I did go out with a friend once - wasn't very happy. My birthday.  We worked that one out.  We sing "Unhappy Birthday to You" and I laugh but no one is allowed to mention it's my wedding anniversary.  I love that I have a wedding anniversary but I can't handle spending that wonderful day without my husband.  My daughter tried singing, "Unhappy anniversary to you." but I stopped her.  I can laugh about having an unhappy birthday - and actually have a happy one.  I can't laugh about having an unhappy wedding anniversary.  I miss my husband too much.


This is what is going on now after almost five and half years. Things are different.  I am doing more.  I am enjoying more.  I am also having to accept that around these dates everything falls apart.  I'm going out - I'm cleaning up - I'm taking care of projects - but I'm also laying in bed watching lousy TV and eating ice cream to numb out.


In between the good times I'm a mess.  I couldn't find my purse this morning - it was on the door knob where I had put it.  I thought Dec. 26th was a Monday - I think it's a Saturday.  Oh - I just looked at the calendar - I think I'm leaving on Tuesday the 16th - the 16th is Wednesday. As if to prove my point, I just talked to my daughter. This is an edit.  The 16th is Tuesday not Wednesday.  And then she was quick to say - not TODAY.  I actually knew that one. 


I've been meaning to write a blog post for days.  I got a stupid taxi driver who was taking me to the wrong address - I told him he needed taxi driver lessons - he laughed.  I cursed him out.  Unnecessary - maybe.  There are lots of times now when I feel like a person.  Times like that mixed in with times as I am going to meet someone I say, "Please let me look and sound like a person."  There are things I would like to do that I'm not - but I finally at the age of 63 feel that what I do is enough - who I am is enough.  If I do more - okay.  If I don't - okay.  If I'm better behaved - okay.  If I'm not - okay.


I'm meeting with someone who thinks she is my friend to tell her if she can't be sensitive to who I am - and respectful of who I am - I can't be friends with her anymore.  I'll call her D.  Why did I feel punched in the throat?  R told us botha long time friend had been killed in a car accident.  R was willing to be vulnerable and take the risk of saying how sad she was. D responded,  "Something good has come out of his death because you are reconnecting with people."  I couldn't believe it.  In front of me - the radical griever.  I rounded on D and probably shouted, "Never tell a grieving person that something good has come out of the death of someone they love."  D said she was providing "comfort".  First of all - there is not comfort.  Second of all, comfort is never given by someone thinking the most painful thing that has ever happened to you is good - especially when in R's case it had only happened a couple of days ago. I asked D how she would feel if her phone rang and she found out her son was dead.  What would be the good in that?  Her eyes teared up and she said, "That's hurtful."  I said, "It's meant to be.  I have thousands of people who tell me how hurtful it is when people say things like you just said.  They won't tell you that - but I will."  I was so angry I couldn't sit next to her.  D. waited a while and then said - "I can't help loving you."  Blech.  R said I shouldn't feel bad about my reaction.  I don't.  I thought perhaps D said she couldn't help loving me because she thinks I'm always angry.  I sent her an e-mail saying that I have been out with a lot of people this week and had good times with all.  Not angry once. (Of course all my other friends are my friends because they understand about the not jolly part.)  I even sent her the Henri Nouwen quote:


“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

I'm not sure why I'm ranting about this.  Maybe because I know similar things have happened to you.  Maybe because I am still so hurt by it.  The truth is D doesn't get it.  She probably won't get it when I explain it again for the last time.  I'm too hurt to be hurt by people who are not only  careless and insensitive but also not willing to be educated.  It's a new thing for me - consciously setting boundaries for myself.  


I need people to understand that grief goes on forever.  I am sad, confused, exhausted and angry.  I'm also happy, content, grateful and silly.  If you don't get the sad part - you don't know who I am.  If you don't get the happy part you don't know who I am.


I admit to watching true crime stories on television.  The ones that respect the victim's families.  The grief on their faces.  The homicide detectives who carry the picture of a victim with them even after 20 or more years.  The grief on the detectives' faces.  It doesn't stop.  It doesn't go away.  


I am aware of the ways my grief has shifted over the years.  More and more I am daily inspired by my husband.  More and more my gratitude for our time together fills my heart and soul.  I have done things in the past five and half years I am proud of - and I know he is proud of me too.  Now his life is more important to me than his death.  There are things I would have missed if I had indeed died when he did.  I say to him, "It's time.  Come and get me."  He always says, "But you want to..." and mentions something I want to do.  I say, "Okay...but after that."  But then there are new things.

It doesn't stop the shrieking.  I want to be in the same form as he is more than anything.  I also want to be alive to play with my granddaughter more than anything.  


It all tumbles together.


Maybe this is a holiday season to be simultaneously miserable and jolly.  Wouldn't it be something if I could pull that off?  Isn't it something that I am even considering the possibility of jolly?


I wish for you that in the midst of the genuine - real - normal - tumultuous pain that is grief - you also - when you are ready - find time for love - for sharing - for laughter.  Why?  For me it is now partly for myself - but largely it is because I want my husband to see what I learn from him every day.  I want him to know that I open my heart because of his love.


I also take too many naps.  I also numb out.


That's me.  Be on your guard.  You don't know when I show up who is going to appear.  There's one thing you can know for certain - don't ever tell me that there is anything good about my husband's death.  Everything I have done, everything I have achieved, every laugh I have laughed is hard fought for and the fight occurs every day when I wake up and have to accept all over again that he cannot come back.  The person I most want to share things with, the person who understands me, the person who is my reason for being has died.  No matter how much fun I am having when I am with you - if you love me - you must never forget that about me.  


Have a moment each day - when you are ready - for the possibility of beauty and joy.  


I leave you with a Mary Oliver quote.  It is a question worth asking yourself - and when you can - with the guidance of those who have died before you - answering - as only you can answer for your self.  If you don't know the answer - it will come to you - slowly over time or maybe in a split second.  Maybe you already know the answer and you just haven't become of aware of it yet. 


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 


xo


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Grief: Can't Catch Up With Myself

Some people say they can't let go of grief.  Me, mine comes with me everywhere.  I don't expect to ever leave it behind.  I woke up the other morning and said my husband's name out loud.  Over five years and I miss him and long for him and will never get used to living without him.  However, it doesn't stop me as much as it once used to from doing things.

That's what I mean by I can't catch up with myself.  My life has gotten very busy lately.  I am traveling again.  I am spending time with my family.  I am putting myself in places where I don't have time to sit around and feel sorry for myself.  I don't have much time to crash any more.  I need that time.  Sometimes when I get home by myself that's what I do.  The first day I just stay in bed and don't move.

I'm not grieving less - just moving more.  That first year I did almost nothing.  I just wasn't capable.  Now I am.  But sometimes I still just don't care and it is difficult to motivate myself.  That's why I make plans.  I have to keep showing up so I don't become a hermit.  Nothing wrong with being a hermit - but I think my husband would want me to be part of the world.

I'm finding grief overwhelming though.  I have been meaning to write a blog post for a while and keep putting it off.  I still post every day on my Facebook page Grief Speaks Out - but I don't respond very much to individual people.  Grief is exhausting.  I don't want to write a book about it and do workshops.  I have read where people stop writing grief blogs saying they want to return to the land of the living.  I'm not going to stop writing - my grief comes with me into the land of the living - but I have realized that I will write less often.  I am sorry for that.  I know people are helped by what I write.  I just can't face it any more.  It's like I want my grief to be a solitary thing for a while.

Maybe it's the holidays and my husband's birthday coming up.  Grief, after more than five years, still makes me sad and irritable and confused.  I don't want to go through this season again.  Yet - I want to go through this season because of my granddaughter - who - can you believe it - will be three in December.  I told her I was 63 - much older than her.  She asked me, "Do you have to die?"  I said yes - but hopefully not today.  I told her that I will always come back and I will always love her but when I die I won't be able to come back on the train in my earth body any more.

So here I am - caught between two worlds.  When my husband first died all I wanted was death.  In spite of that - and because of him - I have made a life for myself.  I want to die to be with him - but not today.  Today I am supposed to be packing to go out of the country again.

I didn't want a life after he died - but I got help and showed up and did things for other people.  I wound up with a life.

I'm still married.  Someone wrote me to "help" me about someone she knew who was happily remarried.  As if I didn't know.  As if I live in a cave.  She wanted me to have love in my life.  I have a lot of love in my life.  My husband isn't replaceable.  She missed the most important thing about grief - the person we love is not replaceable.  Even if I did change my mind and started dating - I would miss my husband.  If your child dies and you have other children it doesn't matter.  If your sibling dies and you have other siblings - it doesn't matter.

Most of the time I make friends with my grief these days.  But...as you know from the last post - sometimes it all collapses again into the dark place.  The place where everything seems impossible.  Yet everything is still possible.  Maybe I don't have to catch up with myself.  My living self will go on if I let it - my grieving self will feel overwhelmed and sad and everything it feels.  It will lag behind, resist going, and yet will come anyway.

I have to go and pack for a trip I don't want to go on - yet I know I will have a good time when I get there.  It's who I am these days.  I wish my husband was here to kiss me goodbye.  I wish I could call him twice a day.  I wish I could rush into his arms when I come home.  I can't.  He is on a trip where you do not need to pack - and I have to wait to join him.  Maybe he is kissing me.  Hugging me.

Sometimes I feel foolish lying in bed hugging the stuffed animal he gave me, wearing his jacket.  But it's what I have left.

That's how it is these days...self pity - loneliness - then - gotta go.  There's life to be lived.  I want him to watch me and be proud.

That's what I'm thankful for this holiday season - all the wonderful moments of love and laughter.  I don't have it now - but how lucky I was to have it at all.  I am still grateful for the depth of grief that measure's the height of love.  I asked people with all the pain they were in if they thought it was worth it - if they knew about the grief that was to come -would they do it all again.  Everyone said yes.

So...here is my attempt - to make my husband's life more important than his death - to make loving him something motivates me instead of crushing me.

I wish for us all those moments of joy and even peace to balance all the pain and anguish.  There are pinpricks of light even in the darkest abyss.  May they shine brightly - because they are coming from those who have died who are trying to show us the way.

Take tender care of yourself.  You deserve it.  xo