Friday, December 31, 2010

Grief - My New Year's Gratitude not Resolution List

I said I would write this - now I have to!  I have to quiet for a moment the part of me that wants only to whine and cry and shout and moan that Artie's dead and how can I start a whole new year without him?!? The thing is I can - and when the clock strikes midnight - I will.  I suppose learning how to grieve and live life fully at the same time is being able to do that - not ignore the sad and painful part - just let it quiet down for a while to let other emotions have their turn.  Grief knows I will always come back to it sometime during the day.  It can wait for that time.

I said that I would write things I am proud of and things I am grateful for instead of resolutions - because I can use these things for a mental trampoline to jump into the new year with good feelings and not set myself up for failure which I sometimes do when I make resolutions and find I can't keep them.  It is especially difficult to keep resolutions without Artie's physical presence.  That is part of my work - to do it with only his spirit or my imagination of his spirit - and with - of course - the help of those who understand and those grief warriors who march with me

I do have to say that I am glad you are reading this instead of hearing it - because sometimes when I say positive things I get a rather snarky or sarcastic tone in my voice that makes people laugh.  The other difficult thing about this (are you noticing me procrastinating?) is to make my critic be quiet as well so I can say the things I have done without saying how I have failed - to say the things I am grateful for without saying the things I am NOT grateful for.  Down, critic, down.  Sit. Stay.  (These lists could probably be longer but I hope some of you will use your time to write your own.)

I am proud of myself for:
Getting out of bed.  That sounds simple but when you are grieving it can be very difficult.
Figuring out how to write a blog, turn it into a web page and figuring out how to have a facebook page.
Finally learning how to use the scanner so I could put up the picture of Artie and me.
Taking classes and going to workshops that force me to use my creativity. 
Showing up for most of the classes and workshops I sign up for.
Writing some poems.  Submitting three sets of poems. (Two rejection slips - one set still out)
Using Facebook to find support on grief sites and commenting when I have something to say.
Spending some time at the gym.
Paying my bills on time.
Being able to go to theater without falling asleep and missing everything - being able to enjoy it again.
Keeping the apartment reasonably clean.
Making an effort to stay in touch with friends who understand - not hiding away all the time.
Getting a massage so that my body feels human touch.
Not being afraid to keep talking about my husband and how much I miss him and love him.
Working on the solo show about my life with Artie and his death.
Trying travelling again.
Reading a few books.
Caring more about other people again - including doing things for them and giving money to charity.
Having creative ideas for projects that help or inspire other people.
Keeping the search going for different modes of therapy and healing.
Staying alive. (No kidding folks - if I don't stay alive I can't do anything here. This has not been an easy one but it is one I am committed to.)
Not letting fear stop me from doing something.
Sometimes taking off my wedding rings and wearing another ring.
Acknowledging that I am loved and though I sometimes feel totally alone that is not true - I am not alone - just lonely for one specific person.
Learning new ways of shifting my focus so that even though I am sad and sometimes even despairing - I can use techniques that I have learned to comfort myself, and even change my emotional state from sadness to excitement or happiness - in an honest not a fake way.
For being willing to go out tonight to celebrate New Year's Eve with a woman friend - not knowing if I will laugh or cry or both.

I am grateful for:
I always put this first because even in my blackest moments I am always grateful for indoor plumbing and that  I live somewhere that when you turn on a tap clean water comes out.  :)
My daughter.
All of you who read this blog.
All the people I have met on-line who are grief warriors who have given me so much support.
All my friends that understand or try to. 
That I have friends.
All the people that take the time to check in with me and see how I am doing. 
My ability to write and tell stories.
My solo show coach who every time I say I can't do it - tells me I can.  I say "Why don't we skip this week." and he says, "I'll be there at three."
All the people who have studied hypnosis and therapy so I can feel better.
All the people who use their talents so I have places to go and learn and enjoy.
Teachers I have had and people I have been in classes with.
People who make web sites and facebook pages about grief and people who post on them so I don't feel so crazy or so alone.
Strangers who say somthing funny to make me laugh or are kind to me.
That I have a nice place to live and enough (too much actually!) to eat.
I am grateful for snowflakes and elephants and long sparkly earrings.
I am grateful that I have cards and letters from my husband who wrote me some very sweet things.

That my darling handsome beloved husband loves me and was  in my life as a living person for 23 years and stays in my life in whatever form he is now.  He used to call it buying the whole package - our love for each other was unconditional - when we were sweet and nice and funny we loved each other - and when we were careless or fighting (I call that part of us cymbals in the symphony orchestra - they have to clash to make a beautiful noise) we loved each other.  Now that he has died I believe that somehow our love triumphs over that and it continues - and that our journey continues.  We learn so much from each other and that learning continues.  I am even grateful for the fact that as I wrote this last bit my stomach started to hurt.  My grief punched me in my stomach - but I am even grateful for my grief because it is a natural reaction to trying to live earthbound when Artie is released from that.  I am grateful that I am learning to honor my husband with not just tears but with laughter and joy and life. He never gave up even when the going was very rough and he is my role model for not giving up.  If I did give up he would still love me - but even if he is dead I want to make him proud.

I am grateful that even if I miss him so completely that he is free of physical pain.  He died too soon for me; but at the right time for him.

I wish for the new year that all of you will have things to be proud of grateful for - even small things if that is all there is right now.  Remember those snowflakes - tiny, fragile, each one unique - yet together they make snow men and snow women and snow dogs and snow angels and have the power to bring an entire city to a halt.  I know one thing - if you are reading this - there was someone in your life that you love.  Not everyone gets that.  What a gift to love and be loved.  Someone gave me poem when Artie died that ends: "To remember brings a painful joy. 'Tis a human thing, love, a holy thing, to love what death has touched."  If you can manage it - Happy New Year - if not - little glimmers of light in the darkness that you first notice out of the corner of your eye that then come front and center to light your way and warm your heart.  May you be able to bathe in laughter as well as tears.   xo

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grief: Put Away Your Measuring Stick

What is the proper way to grieve?  The way you are grieving.  How long are you supposed to grieve?  However long it takes.  When are you supposed to let go?  When you are ready. When is the right time to give a dead person's clothes away?  When you want to.   Are you doing enough?  You are enough.  Will the pain ever end?  It will change; it will gentle down.  Not when other people think it should, but when you open your eyes and heart and discover it is happening, or has already happened and you haven't noticed.  Sometimes people recover from grief quickly - but sometimes you think they have and what you don't know is that they go home, take off their mask, and cry.    Don't compare yourself or your loss to anyone else.  You will go at your own pace, as you should.  Is a cheetah better than a tortoise?  Certainly faster and furrier - but better?

Do you feel stuck and sad and lonely and maybe even like you're crazy?  That's normal.  If it you are comfortable with your level of discomfort be comfortable.  If you are uncomfortable with your level of discomfort - there are lots of ways to create change.  Keep looking until you find the one that helps you.  I don't know why but perky people annoy me.  I met a man yesterday who said, "When things are bad, I'm happy.  When things are good, I'm happy."  Someone might have found this inspirational - I found it irritating.  I said something nice to him - but for those of you who read this - you know that I'm about feeling the full range of human feelings.  I like to get angry.  I like to get sad.  What I don't like is to get all jammed up and paralyzed. I want to feel the anger or the sadness - express it if I need or want to - and then do something else.  I look for things and ways to weave grief into my life instead of getting over it.  There are a lot of people who want to get over it.   Nothing wrong with that.  It's just not where I want to plug myself in.

For me - there are things I want to change today at almost a year and a half after Artie's death - that I couldn't have changed a year ago.  There is difference between depression and grieving.  It is okay to get medical help, take medication, all of those things.  By putting away your measuring stick I don't mean stop searching.  I mean let your searching lead you on to your own path - not onto any else's.  There might be a lot of stumbling and getting up again.  If you stumble and fall you can sit there for a little while and then get up.  It's okay. You might notice things sprawled on the ground you won't notice striding along.

There are a lot of things I would like to do differently.  One of them is accomplish more.  Once I start to compare myself with other people I'm in trouble.  I can't even see my own gifts clearly.  Years ago in a comedy improv class we were told to choose someone and tell them something we wanted to say but were fearful of saying.  I chose this amazingly talented creative man.  I wanted to say to him, "I'm afraid because you're so talented that when you are assigned to work with me you are disappointed."  He asked if he could talk first.  He said  "I'm afraid because you're so talented that when you are assigned to work with me you are disappointed."  I laughed!   And yet - still - I tend to focus on what I am not doing instead of what I am doing.  I know people in NY that are very successful.  I don't think of myself that way - but when I talk to them - even though I am not traditionally successful - they are very impressed with me and think that I am awesome.  Obviously my measuring stick is faulty.  I got a rejection slip yesterday and slid right down the self pity pole - and yet I know that if I am ever going to publish more than I already have - that rejection slip is only a piece of paper.  It only has meaning about what I write if I give it meaning.  Remember - there was that critic who told Fred Astaire he couldn't dance.

I've been writing more because the holidays are difficult without the ones we love who have died.  Tomorrow I am going to write a New Year's gratitude list.  Things I feel I've done well the past year and the things I'm grateful for.  I decided - even though I wrote New Year's Resolutions - that they aren't good for me.  They are things I can use to beat myself up with if I don't do them.  I don't need to think about lack or failure - I need to fill my mind with joy and successes (no matter how small).  Without Artie I am too easily  hurt to hurt myself.  I want to make plump pillows of all the things I have done and all the people who have been loving and supportive and funny and roll around on them.  I think that will be a better beginning for 2011 than what I had originally said I would start doing on Jan. 1st.  My goodness. Imagine if I went to the gym for the first time and tried to lift 1000 pounds.  Actually - there is a thing (you athletes know this) called a dead lift.  I kept calling it a dead man lift.  It was funny and not funny at the same time.  We carry our dead with us and sometimes the weight can be heavy.  It is okay to wait for the weight to shift - and find that it is ourselves that are lifted it up - lightly - and easily - by the love we know and the memories that hold us.

More tomorrow.  Hard to believe the first decade of the 21st century is almost over. I get more historical every second!   xo

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grief: Another Year Coming Soon

Another year is coming soon.  Another year without my husband.   I listened to a Richard Bandler hypnosis CD called The Medicine Show: Welcome to Planet Earth.  A lot of it was about finding joy and having ferocious resolve and letting go of things that we have learned that get in our way.  When it was ending I don't know if I was still in a trance state or not  -but I was dancing.  Unlike other CDs of these types his usually has upbeat rather than soothing music.  Now it's the morning.  I often feel frightened when I wake up.  There's nothing wrong.  I'm perfectly safe.  There is something essentially frightening to me about living without Artie.

Yesterday I went back to the store where they had the Santa Claus in the window that reminded of a present Artie had given me.  When I saw it before Christmas it make me start coughing and I was filled with sorrow and longing.  Yesterday I looked at it on purpose.  In my mind I thanked Artie for all the presents he had given me and how hard he had tried to please me even if sometimes he missed the mark.  I thanked him for how hard he tried to make me happy and I tried to feel that happiness.  I still had a tightness in my chest but I was glad I did what I did.  Then I went to the gym.  It wasn't easy because of the pain I still have - but decided I had to start exercising again.  When you exercise something called endorphins are released into your system and they actually make you feel emotionally as well as physcially better.

I am going out New Year's Eve and my January calendar is full - in fact the beginning of 2011 is filled with things for me to enjoy.  I want to greet the new year with an open heart.  I guess, part of what I am afraid of is that I will fail.  Not all the time - but enough.  It is hard work missing Artie so much.  As human beings we mark time.  If I can be more me and do more things that make me proud of myself at the end of the day I will have a good year.  Will I have the strength?  Artie used to say, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."  He used to say something else I can't quote here - but it was kind of like - "Knock fear on it's backside."

I don't really have to think of all that.  I only have to think of right now.  Live in the present.  Live as though the day is a present.  Be present.  What pocket can I put the pain in so I know it's there but it doesn't keep on being a STOP sign.  How do I turn the pain into a GO sign.  If I was in a marathon Artie would be on the side lines cheering me on.  Without him life is a marathon.  Can I hear him cheering me on?  Will I keep on running?

I'm glad that the holidays are almost over.  Maybe next year I will feel like celebrating.

I will think of all I have to be grateful for.  Some people never have the love that Artie and I did.  If having that kind of love makes my grief deeper - it is worth it. 

A New Year is coming.  A New Year full of Artie spirit even if it doesn't have Artie alive.  Welcome to Planet Earth.  How will I be happy on Planet Earth when Artie is wherever he is? There's a lot of people left on Planet Earth.  Some of them love me.  I hope I can absorb more of that love and participate more in the world.  I want to make Artie proud of me.  Maybe one thing to do is stop measuring.  I think of what I haven't done and see flaws - my friends don't see me that way.  They tell me they are amazed at all I have done since Artie died.  Someone said I was awesome.  Maybe I should believe them.

All those feelings - all mixed up together.  I e-mailed someone who said they were in hell - because I am a language junkie I noticed that if you stick an apostrophe in hell you get he'll which is he will - but sounds like heal.  Here's to a lot of healing happening -physically and emotionally.  Here's to a brilliant firework display of light - always room for tears - but a bigger room for joyful life that we step into.  Doors that have been locked flying open and us finding it easier and easier to walk through.  After all - we are grief warriors.  xo

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Grief: Dealing with Folks That Don't Get It

I don't know how.  It seems only grieving people understand that grief has changed us and that grief can go on for many many years. I know people who have had people they love die 20 or more years ago and they still miss them and grieve for them. When Artie first died I developed a line I thought would work, "I'm okay with not being okay."  After three weeks a very lovely woman asked me, "Still?"  We all have stories.  A woman I was friends with for over thirty years dropped out of my life.  One of Artie's friends (not any more!) when I asked him why he didn't come to the Celebration of Artie's Life because everyone was asking me said, "I was his friend not yours."  One of Artie's sons (a step son of course - but he was grown when I met Artie) started screaming horrible things at me around the first anniversary of Artie's death.  I don't mind being criticized - I'm certainly not perfect - but I don't want to be shrieked at for things that have nothing to do with me.  In his case I had to cut him off.  I was too hurt to handle any additional hurt.  I am lucky that some of Artie's friends have stayed in contact with me.  I am grateful for that - for the occassional - how are you doing?  I am very lucky that I have friends I can say anything to. I started the grief blog and the facebook page as a place to express my feelings and also to open myself up to sharing with anyone who wants to.

I don't know if either of these two women read the blog - if they see this and are hurt by it - I apologize.  One woman e-mailed me and poured out her heart about her pain and loneliness being without her husband.  I shared some of my feelings with her.  Then she e-mailed me that she wasn't strong enough to support me and was regressing and didn't want me to contact her anymore.  I had never asked her to support me and I had not contacted her.  She contacted me. I had to work with it - because it felt like a rejection and I didn't want it to hurt.  It did but I was able to let it go.  Yesterday when I was using Christmas to work mostly on self healing someone who had initially contacted me because of a loss spent lines and lines of words defending political views I don't agree with.  I am trying to hold people where they are and be especially gentle with those who are dealing with the death of a loved one but I could not understand how she filtered out everything I said that tried to steer her back into what the meaning of the day was supposed to be.  I couldn't understand why - when she knew I was grieving - she would think I would want to argue politics with her. 

Those were strangers.  It is so much harder with friends and loved ones.  They want us to be happy and to be over it.  One very gentle man a few months ago said I had crossed the threshhold and didn't know it yet.  I actually got physically ill.  I was ignorant about grief until Artie died.  One friend asked me if I was different now.  I appreciated that.  I told her all the ways in which I was not the same person I was since Artie died.  She wasn't frustrated with me or trying to cheer me up - honestly wanted to know how I felt.  Another friend told me that she respected how brave I was with all the emotional pain I had gone through this past year and a half.  It felt good to be understood.  I have also been lucky in getting support from people I have never met but who have become friends through cyberspace.

I wish people could understand how difficult this is for us and respect that.  It doesn't prevent us from laughing and being fun and enjoying life.  I think what I wish is that when I am having a good time people wouldn't assume that means I'm over my grief and I don't miss Artie anymore.  It is possible to be sad and happy at the same time.  It is possible to be laughing out loud and thinking how much I wish he was here with me.

I guess I deal with it the way I am trying to deal with the grief itself.  Not to hold on so much.  To feel what I am feeling and then go on to do something else.  I keep saying tapes instead of CDs because I am OLD :)  but I did listen to a lot yesterday.  I hope to listen to one or two every day.  I am going to continue with counseling and blogging and visiting grief sites.  I hope to start eating better and going back to the gym.  I hope that someone can figure out what this pain in my side is.  It hurts a little less but I'm afraid if I start exercising again  it will hurt more.  I don't know if I can forgive people who are hurtful.  Forgiveness has always been difficult for me.  Artie had an expression, "Don't let them live rent free in your head."  That's the best thing I can do.  Stay close to those who understand and are loving and when I have my feelings hurt - let it go and don't let it swirl around in my head over and over again.

I got a theater ticket for a matinee to get me out of the house.  It is fairly quiet for me until my New Year's Eve "Widow Warner takes back the night".  I want to keep working on doing what strengthens me which includes taking care of myself - and where I live.  Artie will always be my home.  I long for that home. Earth is my home too for now.  I'm going try to emulate the grief warriors who have time to both cry and find great joy.  It's too easy to stay in bed.  I hope in January I will meet the challenges of my life with increasing energy and not so much struggle.  It's very grey here in NYC but no snow yet.  I'm going to try to make it colorful in my heart.  xo

PS  The picture of Artie and me is from my 40th birthday.  It's up because I finally took the scanner out of the box and connected it to the computer.  Hooray for me!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Grief: What Am I Doing Online?

I figured out how to use the scanner and wanted to put up the photo of Artie and me.  It's my 40th birthday so I'm quite a bit older and he is alive in my heart and soul but doesn't have that gorgeous face any more.  On the other hand, he's not in pain.  His spirit is free to soar as high as it wants and come back down to cuddle me - he better!

I hope for some of you Christmas is an expected delight, for others an unexpected delight.  If you are struggling or alone I hope that there is some sparkle in your day.  Of course, not all of us are Christian - yet the holiday seems to surround us whether we are or not.

I've listened to about 5 hypnosis CDs and am off to do more.  I think later it would be good for me to take a walk.  Am I lonely?  I think always yes and always no.  I will never stop looking for Artie in the form I so love. That part is lonely.  I will always feel he is holding me close and that part can't be lonely. When he was alive I once whined "Nobody loves me."  He wrote me a note, "I love you. Love, Nobody." :)

I took about five of his jackets I've saved and put them on the bed with the quilt we slept under.  My favorite is brown tweed with elbow patches that he agreed to wear to look - in my eyes - more like a professor and less like someone from the cast of the Sopranos!  Most of the time we were casual folk.  Towards the end of his life he bought a black suit to wear to funerals.  I didn't keep that one.  I like to think he is having a good day with the people he loves and missed so much when they died before he did. 

It doesn't need to be spring for sprouts of new life to be pushing through.  There's nothing wrong with watering those sprouts with tears.  I hope like Moses parted the Red Sea today you will have the miracle of having your grief parted so that rivulets or even great streams of joy can flow through.  xo

Friday, December 24, 2010

Grief: Some Ideas That MIght Help

My sleeping and eating are way off.  My dreams aren't so great.  When Artie was alive and I had a bad dream he would always wake me up and hold me - or let me wake him up.  He never minded.  He had bad dreams too and I would comfort him.  The worst thing about his death is that it's not a dream I can wake up from.

But - I have seen posts and heard from people who are grieving and having a merry and joyous holiday anyway - so it is possible.  Here are some ideas that might help.

I have said in a couple of other posts that the brain reacts to questions better than statements.  There is also something called an anchor.  Things are just things.  Artie's Yankee jacket that I wear constantly because to me it feels like he is hugging me is only a piece of material.  I have invested it with meaning.  While you are asking your questions have something small that you can carry with you that will be an anchor for you.  It can be a small picutre of you and your loved one that has died or a ring or a coin or even something you do.  For example touching your thumb to your middle finger can be an anchor.  Whenever you succeed in feeling something that feels good hold on to or create your anchor. When you touch or recreate your anchor later it will help put you back in the good memories and feelings you have gotten by asking your questions.

If you don't have real experiences - you have an imagination.  You can make it up.  Here are an example of some questions to ask before you go to a holiday event - if you are going to be alone - or any time.  What holiday memory made me happy?  Why did it make me happy?  How did I feel?  What holiday time made me laugh?  Why did it make me laugh?  How did I feel?  What holiday memory made me feel love?  Why did it make me feel love?  How did I feel?  Use anything - it doesn't have to be my words.  Make it specific to the person who has died if you want.  When Artie and I were dating he told me he hated holidays and we weren't going to celebrate Christmas. When I got to his condo he had a tree decorated, had made me a handmade card, bought me a VHS tape (yeah - it was a long time ago) of It's a Wonderful Life.   I was surprised and happy and felt that he had taken all these actions just because he loved me.  It made me feel very cared for and loved and happy.  I can let that memory surround me while I am holding a small picture of him and think how good I felt that day.  Then when I start to feel sad or alone I can touch the picutre and feel the happiness and the love.  It is like putting on a superhero cloak before you go out - or if you stay in.  Grief warriors are superheroes!  Be as specific as you can in the memory.  What were the sounds; the smells, what did you hear and see and feel?  It doesn't need to be one memory - it can be many.

We have an imagination.  I had a mother who was very critical.  For her I would have to make up a memory - I think.  I haven't tried.  It's also okay to imagine what it would feel like to have a perfect holiday this year.  What would be a perfect holiday this year?  Why would it be perfect?  How would I feel?  A perfect holiday this year for me would be be simply if Artie walked in the door and said, "I'm back.  I knew how much you missed me so here I am."  That would make it perfect because I wouldn't miss him any more or feel so definitely alone.  I would feel safety and comfort and incredible joy.  I can bathe in - surrround myself with - put on like a suit - whatever works for you - those feelings. The situation might be imaginary but the feelings it creates are real. Then I touch my anchor and get those feelings back.  Practice haviing those feelings the way you would practice playing a musical instrument.  You might have a gift and this will be your gift but it might be a package you have to open carefully and more than once before you get the full joy of it.  You don't have to believe in it.  You don't have think it will work.  You only have to try it as an experiment. 

If you are somewhere and feeling sad - you can look around for things that make you smile. That's the changing the focus thing.  I'm focusing on how miserable I am.  Look - there's a beautiful store window.  What's in it? Look at that and that and that.  I'm sad I can't share it with Artie.  Look - there's someone wearing a funny hat - whatever made them pick it?  Feel the feeling - don't hold on to it - look around to see what other things you see.

A Buddhist technique that works is to look around the room or at people outside and without speaking say to each person specifically, "May you be peaceful.  May you be happy." You can look at yourself in the mirror and say "May I be peacful.  May I be happy."

Where - you might ask - is the Stop Thief: Don't Steal My Grief desperately lonely sad banging her drum for feeling your feelings lady ?  Right here.  I don't want to feel any of this unless it is real.  I don't want to put on a brave face or pretend. Sometimes no matter what technique I am using - up comes sadness - up comes despair - up comes a feeling of total aloneness.  I feel it.  I honor it.  It is a testament to how much I loved and love.  There is another technique.  That is setting aside grieving time.  Every day from 10-11 pm or 5-6 am or whatever time works in your life you will spend that time grieving and remembering and thinking of nothing but the person (or people) you love who have moved on to wherever they are now.  Then at other times during the day when grief strikes you can say - I'm going to save this feeling and feel it during the time I've allotted for it in my life.

Do I do all this stuff?  Sometimes. Does it work?  I think it would work better if I did it more. Sometimes maybe the grief will be so strong it won't work at all. But if it works even a little then I can be more me.  I used to curl up under the quilt we slept under and say to Artie, "It doesn't matter that I looked happy today.  I still want you to take me with you.  I want to die and be with you."  When I started this work I said to him, "Is it okay for me to be happy while I have to wait to join you?"  I wanted to ask his permission.  I don't really honor him by being completely miserable.  We used to joke that if he died I should throw myself on his funeral pyre but crematoriums don't offer a two for one policy  - especially when one person is still alive!   I think he would want me to remember him, and love him and maybe be a tiny bit miserable!   But I also know that it causes his spirit pain to see how much pain I am in all the time.  He didn't want me to suffer when he was alive - why would he want me to suffer when he is dead?

All of this is part of my figuring out how to weave my grief into my life instead of letting it dominate my life.  I don't know if I'll be on the computer tomorrow.  Christmas Day this year for me is a day of listening to hypnosis tapes that were made for me or that have names like Ferocious Resolve, Hurdling Hesitation, Softening, Comfort. It is a day to ask and answer good questions.  It is a day for me to spend with Artie.  Home for me was never a place.  It was a person.  It's not time for me to come home to him yet. I don't get to decide when that time is.  I have a daughter and friends who I would destroy if I killed myself.  My work here would be unfinished.  I have to figure out how to come home to myself.  I have a large picture of him on my desk with a note he wrote that says "You're my everything."  We were each other's everything.  I'm still stuck down here on earth - I don't know if he's waiting for me - and with me - but I believe he is.  Why not believe it?  He can't be my everything right now or I will continue to drown in my own tears.  I will be with him soon enough (I hope I hope I hope) - 10 or 20 earth years seems like forever - in terms of the eternity we can tumble through together it is the snap of a finger.

What I wish for you this holiday season is what I have wished before - that you accept and love yourself where you are and that others do the same.  I also wish for you - and for me - that we find ways to honor and remember those we love who have died by letting them hear the sound of our laughter that comes from our heart because their love gives us joy big enough and strong enough to overcome our despair.  I wish for you that when you take the time to cry it is cleansing and freeing.  On the other hand, if all you can do is stay in bed and stare at the wall - that is where you are.  Each of us has our own burden and our own way of coping.  It's not for me - or anyone who doesn't get it - to judge.  Put on your invisible superhero cloaks and be grief warriors.  You all are very brave with each breath you take.  I love you Artie.  I wish you could come back.  I know you can't - but your love is still holding me - and I promise to work on that malcontent thing you always said I had.  xo

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grief: Living With Silence

One of the hardest things for me since Artie died is the silence.  There is the obvious silence.  When someone dies they don't talk to you with their voice any more.  You can't call them on the phone. You can watch DVDs of them or listen to recordings.  You can speak to them and hear or feel a response but it's a differnt kind of response than one from a living human being.  If you believe in it you can talk to them through a medium.  It's not the same.  I miss the sound of Artie's voice whispering in my ear.  I miss him singing to me.  I even miss him yelling at me during a fight.  I even miss the sound of a sneeze or a cough or a groan.

There are other sounds.  I miss the sound of the water running when he was taking a shower or brushing his teeth.  I miss the sound of his feet coming downstairs from his man cave.  I miss the unidentified rustling moving around sounds you hear when someone is in the house with you.  I miss the sound of the door opening and closing.  I miss him calling my name.  I especially miss him saying, "Hi honey, I love you."  or my favorite, "I love you. You're my heart."

I miss the rattling of dishes if he was getting something to eat or the beep of the microwave if he was making tea.  I miss his side of the conversation.  When I write something I don't know what he thinks of it.  When I hear a funny joke I don't know if he'll think it's funny. I miss his laughter.  I even miss the sound of his television set which I was always yelling at him to turn down. I miss the sound of the music he would play.  I miss him making a rat a tat tat noise like he was playing a drum.  Even a kiss and a hug have a certain sound.

I miss the sound of sports on televsion.  He loved tennis.  I was angry they continued Wimbledon after he died. It seemed rude.  I miss the sound of him cheering for a team or a boxer.

I miss his snoring.  What I especially miss is that the only breath in my bed now is mine.  I have a zillion stuffed animals and they are very cozy but they don't breathe.  Breathing.  We don't even think of it unless we are meditating or doing breath work.  How strange that the sound of someone's breathing should stop.  Forever.

When Artie first died sometimes I would walk in the house and say, "Hi honey.  I'm home.  Oh, I must have missed you.  Catch you later."  I knew it was a lie but I wanted to pretend.  I have his old phone with his answering machine message on it.  I used to call it for the illusion that he would get the message and call me back.  It's in a cupboard now and I think of taking it out but I don't.

I went out today and walked down 5th Ave. to look at some of the beautiful Christmas decorations.  Even bought some sparkly earrings.  I miss him telling me I am beautiful or that oh my goodness I am spending too much money again,

I miss him telling me the same story over and over again.  It's odd how the things that irritated me when he was alive I would give anything to have again.

I do listen for and hear his spirit.  When I was in my last therapy session I could hear him saying "Let this man help you."  I don't know how to describe it.  It is like a thought in my brain that has come from outside of me.  Am I imagining it?  I won't ever know.  I think he's always with me.  I think his spirit watches over me but it doesn't have his voice.

I first met Artie in a book shop I owned in Phoenix, Arizona.  He said he liked me and asked for my business card.  I think that we fell in love that day.  But he didn't call for a month. When he called I recognized his voice.  With all the customers I had during that month - his voice was unique to me even after hearing it one time and I knew who he was.  23 years together - married for 13.  All those words.  All those sounds. Gone.

Now.  Silence.  The silence is very loud.

I hope this holiday season you have a lot of other sound surrounding you  - happy sounds - so that you don't notice the silence so much. Like the empty chair is filled with love - the silence is filled with love as well.  xo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grief: Hooray and Ouch

In case your wondering why I always start the title with grief it's for those spider search engines things.  Who thought I'd want spiders to find me?

Ouch:  If you live in a NYC apartment building there are a lot of tips to give out so I went to my favorite store to find cards to put the money in and found some fun little things like fake gum drops.  Got out of the store fairly successfully without noticing things with hearts or things that said "I love you."  Then, trying to organize myself outside the store window I saw it had a moving Santa Claus.  Artie bought a three foot tall moving Santa Claus that he loved.  Didn't matter that we're Jewish and he didn't like holidays much (because he was so poor when he was a kid) - he loved that Santa Claus and I had to take it out every year, plug it in - watch it glow and move.  My hands started to shake and I started coughing.  NLP calls them anchors.  Things that are just things but for us they are invested with meaning.  I thought - well,  I'll use all my techniques - but kept coughing (like I was choking) so decided this was one I was just going to have to grieve over.  A silly Santa Claus making me miss my husband and fall apart instead of laugh.

Hooray:  Then I went to Whole Foods.  One of the advantages of living alone is that you can often get in the 10 or less aisle.  The young man who waited on me only had big paper bags (my bag was full) so I said, "Oh, don't you have a little one?"  He went to another aisle to find one (in the middle of all the Christmas crush).  I said, "Thank you.  I hope you become a millionaire for doing such a sweet thing."  He smiled and said, "No reward required." 

Ouch:  Came home and had a self pity attack and called my daughter.  Told her the first story - then the second.  She said, "Sounds like you had a pretty good day."  She has what so many of our relatives and friends get - grief burnout.  It's been a year and a half, Mom, work it out.  She didn't say that but I felt it.  I wish she had said, "Oh I'm so sorry you're feeling sad."  She has her own life and I'm glad about that but sometimes...

Hooray:  Got a beautiful photography book from a friend I wasn't expecting a present from.  There was a huge line at Borders which I wasn't going to wait in but when I got home there was a DVD waiting for me in the mail.

Hooray:  My best friend who lives in Tucson has called twice this week just to make sure I am okay and listen to anything I have to say.  She told me I was very brave which was nice to hear.

It's that kind of day.  It's that kind of life.  I want to call it a black whole (instead of hole) but it isn't really.  There are lots of happy bits sprinkled through.  Like snowflakes they each have their own size and shape but somehow they still seem to melt on my tongue.  That's why I'm giving myself permission to sleep too much and watch all these DVDs and hopefully 2011 will give me a new burst of whatever it is I need.

It's the in between times.  Out I go - do whatever I do - laugh and smile and enjoy - and then home I come without Artie there to hug me and share my day.  Sad bad mad old emptiness.  Not giving up though. 
Hope some of you had delicious cupcake days with happy sprinkles and if you didn't - I hope you had at least a few happy sprinkles.  Hi honey husband ghost.  I miss you.  xo

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grief: Tis the season to be whoever you are and feel whatever you feel

Another bits and pieces ramble.  I'm standing in front of book store and there is a book called "Eloise in Moscow."  For those of you who don't know - "Eloise at the Plaza" is a famous book about a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel in NYC.  I had no idea there was one about her in Moscow.  But - on the shelf below there is a book with two guys on the cover called Mike and Mike.  I can't stop looking at it.  Who are Mike and Mike?  I've blocked it out.  They do a sports show that my husband Artie used to love to watch.  I would even yell at him because sometimes he would get up early to watch it and I wanted him to stay in bed with me.  My conscious mind was trying to block out the association but my unconscious mind wouldn't let me.  I almost started crying.  It was all I could do not to buy him the book.  I didn't go into the store at all in order not to buy him the book.  I kept saying to myself (it's NYC folks - I could have said it out loud) "You don't buy presents for dead people.  You don't buy presents for dead people."  Oh, how I wanted to.  The part of me that wants him to still be alive.  The part of me that thinks that somehow his spirit that is so close to me would be able to open a present. 

That's why it's so important in my philosophy to allow ourselves to be who we are.  I'm not crazy.  If you've had someone you love die - you understand.  I had this sudden rush of sadness and desire.  Sure there's lots of lights and tinsel and pretty things and I can enjoy them when I enjoy them but if I see a couple holding hands and I feel sad or angry that's okay too.

There's another part to this.  I like a good (and that's very important because there are not good ones out there) hypnotherapist who knows NLP and Ericksonian hynosis because they can help reach down into your unconscious/subconscious and help change your focus so you don't get stuck in the miserable places - which believe me - is easy for me to do.  While this man was doing trancework - and for those of you who aren't familiar with this 1. We go in and out of trance all the time - any time you're watching TV or reading a book and your mind drifts off - that's trance.  It's nothing mysterious.  The trick is learning how to use it instead of having it come and go.  2.  You won't do anything in trance that you don't want to .  Those folks who cluck like chickens want to cluck like chickens.  If you ever are with someone and you feel uncomfortable you shouldn't be there.  If someone suggests something as simple as closing your eyes and you don't want to - keep them open.  If the person knows what they are doing it won't bother them.  Whew.  That was a run on sentence.  While this man was doing trancework with me some of the suggestions he was making had to do with letting the positive in, asking better questions, greeting the morning like the birds do with song, stepping out of time into a different place, a differnt feeling.  All of this was tailored to me.  The object wasn't to recover from my grief or cover up my feeling.  It was to feel what I am feeling and then change my focus.

Here's an experiment he did with me the first session.  He asked me to look around the room and notice what was made of metal.  Then he asked me to close my eyes.  He asked me, "What's blue in the room?"  I had no idea.  I hadn't been looking for blue.  There were a lot of blue things in the room.  So...if I'm only observing the things that make me sad - and boy do I have a list of them - then I'm missing all the other colors and feelings.

This year I've chosen to spend the holidays alone.  I love that people have happy intact families.  I don't want to be around that this year.  I'm trying to figure out how to have a new relationship with Artie.  Relationships change all the time.  I don't have to let him go.  I still like having a husband ghost.  However I want to love him and feel his spirit and his love in a way that doesn't make me miserable but makes me content.  I think crying is going to be part of it.  Hey - when he was alive there was crying.  Why should it stop now? :)  We loved each other deeply but it wasn't perfect.  I'm going to ask the questions that let me feel  the comfort of his love.  I'm going to ask the questions that let me feel  the strength of our love.  I want to see the blue in the room.

The question form is:  When did I feel comfortable?....(or happy or whatever you choose)  Why did that make me comfortable?...(or happy or whatever you choose)  How did that feel?  Then try to bathe in the feeling or step into it like a new suit of clothes. It could be something that happened today or a memory.  It's a technique to help you find again what you already have but imagine you have lost.  A lost and found where all needed things can be found.

New Year's Eve - however - I am going to see the comedian Sandra Bernhard with my friend Claire who is Irish and has a lovely dark sense of humor.  She makes me laugh and I can tell her as many Artie stories as I want - or don't want.  I don't think I'll cry - but if I do - she won't mind.  I'm calling it Widow Warner takes back the night.

That's what I wish for all of you - the time and space to be and feel who you are - and to be accepted and loved for being that person.  Don't miss the blue in the room!  Remember - we are grief warriors.  xo

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Grief: Rambling On and a Technique to Help

I haven't posted in a while.  I didn't realize it.  It's the holiday - wish it wasn't the holiday - widow syndrome.  Read a lovely line that being with a widow is like dancing around barbed wire.  Still have the pain in my side - looking for a new doctor. That doesn't help.  Something good I did was ask a friend to celebrate New Year's Eve with me.  She said yes.  Trying not to isolate but it's hard.  I feel like a small child who has had a trauma and is regressing.  Watched a DVD with the stuffed leopard with the plastic bag of Artie's ashes in it on my lap.  Haven't done that in a long time.  I think it's so weird that I put his ashes in a stuffed animal he gave me. It surprises me that a lot of people think it's sweet. 

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who might have an exciting project for me in January.  I actually have a lot of things scheduled next year but it seems a long way from now.  A new year without my husband.  Hard to accept.  I have happy times but it's hard to take that happiness and hold on to it - it seems to go away when I walk into my empty apartment. 

A technique I learned was that the brain responds to questions better than statements.  In other words instead of doing affirmations  - making statements - You ask yourself a series of questions and answer them.  The more often the better. What am I most happy about right now?  (phrase it any way you want as long as it is a question)  Then - Why does that make me happy?  Then How does that make me feel?  Then when you have a sense of the happy feeling try to bathe yourself in it.  Make it like a suit you step into.  Instead of the word happy you can use anything  - excited - proud - grateful.  It can be a memory.  Sometimes I ask - When did I feel most safe?  In Artie's arms.  Why did that make me feel safe?  Because I could feel his love and knew he would take care of me and protect me.  What did being safe feel like?  When I do that - I feel safe.  I also do it with being alone.  It could be in the present.  When did I feel I wasn't alone?  When I got so many e-mails about my not feeling well.  Why did that not make me feel alone?  Because more people cared about me than I knew.  How did that make feel.  It made me feel that even though Artie's not here there was a warm circle around me. Asking the questions and answering them and picturing the answers draws in the feelings.

I wish I could say - hooray!  Now I'm fixed.  I'm sleeping too much and struggling.  It's a hard time for a lot of us.  I wish you all things during your day that bring you some real tender contentment for a short time or a even all day and all night  One of things that's hard for me is watching my friends go off with their families intact and all the tourists in NYC holding hands.  I can't let go of the feeling that Artie was my one and only true love but then I am choosing loneliness.  Oh well, don't have to figure it out today.

I'll try to not let the doldrums keep me from posting more often - and I'll talk about more techniques that I've learned to try to change the way I feel.  At least to keep moving and resist the gravity pull of my bed!  xo

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Grief: Being Sick Alone Update

My CT scan is clear so the good news is I don't have to have surgery.  The bad news is I have no idea what is causing the pain.  Back to the regular doctor.  Come back, o dead husband of mine, and help me out with this!!

Thank you all for listening - I always say that - obviously you are reading!!  xo

Grief: Being Sick Alone Part 2

Yesterday I packed everything I might want in the hospital.  I finally washed Artie's Yankee jacket.  It didn't smell like him any more - just material that had been slept in and worn and had food spilled on it for a year and half.  Smells good now!  I didn't need to go in to the hospital.  I was sent to get a CT scan.  There was an elderly couple there.  The man was gently helping his wife put her sweater on.  It made me happy to see how loving he was - and sad that I was sitting there without Artie. After the scan the radiologist said it wasn't "acute" but wouldn't give me any more information.  It was good to come home to sleep in my own bed even though I had lugged this heavy bag around all day - just in case. For some strange reason I thought the doctor would call me this morning to tell me what to do next as my level of stress is super high and when they asked me my level of pain I said 8 out of 10.  Ha!

I called the doctor and the office said he was in surgery all day so they didn't know when or if he would call me back today.  I had a brain that was working for a change and I called my regular doctor.  They are going to fax him the results and hopefully he will call me.  Why don't doctor's offices understand that people who live alone need to plan differently than people who don't?  Most of the people I know are going away for the holidays.  I have a NYC friend who is going to help me but it is the holiday season and I want to let her know what's happening and when because she is changing her schedule to be available for me.  My daughter wants to fly in if I need surgery and I want her to know what's happening.  Most of all - I want to know what's happening!!

The thing that has kept me a little sane through all of this grief experience is keeping busy; making sure I have a lot of happy and interesting experiences to balance the sadness.  I'm not feeling well enough right now to keep doing that.  Today I am especially stressed as I don't even want to take a shower in case I miss a phone call that might not even happen. I can deal with knowing what is happening and what I need to do next - but I am having a hard time dealing with uncertainty - especially without Artie holding me and petting me - and also getting on the phone and making someone tell him something (he was good at that!)  I hope I don't need surgery - and I hope they can fix whatever mysterious thing is wrong.  However, I put a copy of my will and medical directive on my desk.  Even with my friends it's so difficult figuring this all out without Artie.  I don't want to interfere with anyone's holiday plans. I don't even want my daughter to have to interrupt her life.  It's that thing about not being first in someone's life any more. 

Whine. Whine. Whine.  If you are still reading this - thank you for listening to my whining.  I had plans for tonight but my regular doctor once called me at 9 pm.  It's so crazy.  It's just a day.  I'm perfectly safe and warm and cosy and there is sunshine and a beautiful dusting of snow.  I miss the days when doctor's knew you and cared about you.  I'm sure some of them still do.  It makes me think about how even in the small town of Carmel Artie's doctor and friend for 8 years misdiagnosed his cancer and spent 6 weeks giving him antibiotics and Gatorade for his "stomach problems" when he had Stage 4 cancer that had spread through his whole body.  When I finally got him to the hospital he only lived for another six weeks.  The blood tests that my regular doctor took don't indicate cancer - that's good.  I might not need surgery - that would be great.  I just hope I can find out something today and don't have to spend tonight wondering. 

Hope you are all HEALTHY!!  I'll let you know what happens.  xo

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grief: Grief Rambling

Yesterday, on my husband's birthday, the route I take through Central Park to get home was fenced off.  I had to walk past the bench that has our plaque on it.  It says, "Artie and Jan Warner, Mr. Dazzle and Mrs. Panache, You're my heart. Always."  I - as always - polished it with my sleeve.  Was being made to walk past the bench a coincidence or a birthday hello?  I did light the candle on the cupcake but this year am more accepting that he has no breath so I made a wish and blew out the candle myself - and of course ate the cupcake.  Yum.

I'm sorry I haven't made time to blog about these techniques I'm learning.  I'm very distracted about my doctor's appointment tomorrow.  I was with Artie until he took his last breath making sure he was cared for in every way possible (except when I was yelling at him and breaking plates - don't want you to think we had a perfect relationship - perfect love - but not perfect life).  I feel alone without him being here to see what happens.  My daughter will be coming in if I do need surgery - but I don't want to disrupt her life.  I have another friend who is willing to help me any way I need.  Most folks I know are going out of town for the holidays.  The thing about losing a spouse - as someone said to me - is that I'm not first in anyone's life anymore.  I'm loved by a lot of people - but they have their lives.  It's different.  It just is.

So if I can blog to tell you what's going on I will.  If you don't hear from me for a while that means I had to go into the hospital after my appointment.  My daughter is going to post on my facebook page (Jan Warner) if you have facebook.

I am going to take my prescription pills (not all of them - just one of each!!) and go to storytelling class to tell a story about Artie and birthdays.  If I was Betty Crocker I'd bring cupcakes for all - but I've never been very domestic.

Love to you all as you take yourselves out into the world this holiday season.  Don't forget to be happy and be happy being happy when you can.  When I am feeling great waves of sadness and self pity I can hear Artie calling me a drama queen or a malcontent.  I think he would want me to be a little bit miserable - he used to joke about my throwing myself on his funeral pyre - but I don't think they do two for one cremations - especially when one of the people is still alive.  However, I know he would want me to feel happy and excited and fulfilled and that he is proud of me.  Wherever he is it is easier - I think - to wait - because he's not limited by a brain and body anymore.  My brain can certainly get twisted.  Hopefully I will be posting soon - telling you all that I am fine.  xo

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Grief: Do Dead People Have Birthdays?

I was wondering about my husband's birthday.  I always celebrate the day he was born.  I am so grateful he was in my life.  Our love goes on.  I wonder if his death date is his new birthday - the day he was born into his new form without the pain and limitations of his sick body.  I don't know.  I bought him a cupcake and I'll light a candle for him.  Last year I opened a poetry book I hadn't opened in years and found a note he'd written me that I didn't remember.  It told me not to be insecure.  Laughing - he wrote if I was insecure it would make him cry.  He told me how much he loved and adored me.  It felt like a birthday present for me on his birthday.  I don't know if anything will happen this year.

I have been posting on grief sites.  A way of saying Happy Birthday publicly as if somehow that means he will walk in the door and say, "Only kidding.  I'm not really dead."  I know that's not going to happen - but wouldn't it be splendid if it did!  I'm going to tell a story about his birthday in storytelling class tomorrow.  I know he's dead but I have my memories and my imagination.  Without those the pain would be too great.
I hope his spirit is with me.  I will keep believing that love survives death and that someday we will journey again together - or maybe we are journeying together right now.

Happy Birthday Artie.  You're my heart.  Always.  I miss you.  I love you.  I'll do my best to make you proud.

Grief: Vera Brittain Poems

I watched a DVD on Vera Brittain thinking she was a singer.  Vera Lynn was the singer.  Vera Brittain wrote was a writer, a feminist and a peace activist born in  1893.  During World War I she suffered the deaths of her beloved fiance, some of her best friends and finally her brother who was her best friend.  Hopefully not breaking any copyright laws here are two of her poems from her book called "Because You Died".  One is very mournful - the second is about - in my mind - marching on making our loved ones proud.


Because you died, I shall not rest again,
   But wander ever through the lone world wide,
Seeking the shadow of a dream grown vain
   Because you died.

I shall spend brief and idle hours beside
    The many lesser loves that still remain,
But find in none my triumph and my pride;

And Disillusion's slow corroding stain
   Will creep upon each quest but newly tried,
For every striving now shall nothing gain
        Because you died.

The New Stoicism

Because you smiled with eyes a little sad
One summer day, and said: "If I should die,
I would not have you weep, Beloved, nor sigh
For all the dear delights we should have had;
For I would watch you seek amid the stars
Your goal, unweakened by regret or tears,
Nor feel the shadow of my passing mars
Your journey to fulfilment through the years---
I fling defiance in the cold world's face,
And strive to grow impervious to scorn;
For should I once reveal how much I mourn
The vanished joy no time shall bring, nor space,
You'll seem to whisper: "Falter not, endure!
And if your heart is breaking, laugh the more!"

She wrote 29 books.  She eventually married and had a child.  When she died in 1970 she was cremated and had her ashes scattered on the battlefield where her brother had been killed so many years previously. 


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Grief: Being Sick Alone

I've been in super denial on this one.  I've had a pain in my side that has not gone away for quite a while.  I'm so afraid of being sick without Artie to take care of me.   However, finally I am taking care of me.  I went to the doctor and the antibiotics didn't work so I have an appointment with a surgeon on Monday.  I hope I don't need surgery.  I feel alone because it's Artie's job to comfort me and take care of me when I'm sick - but since he's dead - that solution is not going to work.  I have been having a lot of fun with my daughter who is leaving on Saturday and I don't want her to have to fly back. (Prescription pain pills have helped with that.)

What am I doing that's good?  A friend has offered to help me many times and I keep saying no because I want to be independent.  Yesterday I e-mailed her and said that I was grateful for her offer and I would be grateful for her help if I do have to have surgery.  At the Celebration of Artie's Life one of the tough guys he sponsored in Alcoholics Anonymous told me one of the most important lessons Artie taught him was to let people help him.  He told me that I should give people the gift of being of service to me.  So instead of being all Greta Garbo and saying "I vant to be alone" I am trying to learn to say, "Yes, thank you.  I would like you to help me."

The therapist I met that I liked very much has made a space in his schedule for me for Friday.  He is the one that taught Language of Change so before I write about that I am going to have him look at it so I don't put out any wrong information.

I'm trying to prepare both ways - in case I have to go into the hosptial right away - and in case I get to come back to the apartment - and trying to keep in mind the the jolly choice - I don't need the hospital at all.

What could I do better?  Take better care of myself.  Pay attention to warning signs earlier. 

What is just the way it is?  I'm scared and sad - even a little angry.  I wish I could have Artie by my side every day until the day I die the was I was there for him.  I do feel alone. Part of that is because my husband and I were everything to each other and he could comfort me the way no one else can.  Also -practically - he knew where stuff was and I could send him in and out of the house to get stuff.  But - the other part is that having my daughter and loving friends means that I'm not alone.  If stuffed animals count - I have zillions of those! 

I'm writing about this today because I know a lot of people in my situation are frightened of getting sick - but a lot also do get sick because of the stress.  I'll let you know as soon as I can how things turn out.

Meanwhile - Artie's birthday is Saturday and I am trying to figure out if I should get him a cupcake and candle again.  Sort of like leaving out cookies for Santa - we know where they end up - but it doesn't spoil the illusion that Santa is going to come and have his snack.  xo

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grief - For Better or Worse

This is a blog about my grief and some people have wondered if I embrace sadness too much.  I don't think so.  I think that I embrace honesty about what I am feeling.  I thought, though, because of that I would write about how things have changed for me in the almost a year and a half since Artie died.  I still feel a lot of sadness, loneliness, and sometimes despair but:

I don't cry as much.  When Artie first died I cried and wailed out loud every night.  I still cry sometimes but not as often.

When Artie first died I really thought he would fly down on angel wings or something and come get me so we could be together.  I know that's not going to happen.

When Artie first died I felt like I was barely holding on all the time.  I feel that way sometimes now but it is a less desperate feeling.  One of the things I did - and continue to do - was to put myself places where I might find joy and a reason to love life.  Now I do more of that.  When I first went to theater I feel asleep.  Now I can watch a play and enjoy a good performance.  I am reading a little more although I still watch too many DVDs (my judgement).   I write a little bit more but not as much as I would like.  I did actually submit three sets of poems - one rejection slip - two still out.

I think about Artie almost all the time but I don't talk to him as much or beg him to stay with me as much. 

I learned how to write a blog and turn it into a web site and I have a facebook page.

I do some storytelling performances.  I could do a lot more.  That is one of my New Year's resolutions - to get out more in the the NYC storytelling world.

I don't let myself stay in the house the whole day more than once a week.

I am trying travelling again. In Feb. I am going to Russia with a good friend.  It will be cold but beautiful in the snow.

The apartment could be neater but I do clean and do the laundry.  I don't ask myself what's the point of taking a shower if my husband's dead (because I'm dirty!) - I do it.

I know he's not in his ashes and I don't hold the stuffed leopard that contains the plastic bag of his ashes as much as I used to.  I do hold it sometimes.  It's all I have left of him physically.

I put some of the pictures and cards away - although there are still bunches of them around.

I get a massage once a week so that my body feels touch.

I'd say I don't talk about him as much but my daughter would probably disagree with that!! I always get excited if I can come up with a story she hasn't heard before.  She's heard most of them a million times.

I'm giving money to charity again.

I don't automatically count anymore.  I have to think of the date of his death to know that he died almost a year and five months ago.

I do wear his Yankee jacket a lot even though he's not in his clothes - it feels like being hugged.   I usually don't wear the wedding rings when I go out - but I still wear them a lot in the house.

I wouldn't be against dating but everyone I meet is married or lives far away and I am not interested in dating enough to really pursue it. 

I don't know what the future will be.  I'm a different person without him being alive.  I miss him every second with every cell of my being and I hope that the way the universe works is that some day we will be together again and the time of our being apart will seem short.  I still feel married.  I make fun of it sometimes.  It's not easy being in love with a dead man - but I am.  He was a very unique special - if difficult (me, too!) person and I can't imagine being with anyone else but it is lonely being a single in a world of couples. 

I don't kow what loving life means.  Orson Welles said he wasn't a happy person but that he had a lot of happy moments.  I feel that way.  I could write a blog about about all my happy moments but there seems so much pressure on people to get over their grief, move on, let go, recover - that I want to write about what it feels like to grieve, to be sad, to hold on, to do the hard work of weaving my grief into my life in healthier and healthier ways.  I don't want to "put on a happy face".  I want to be happy when I am happy and sad or angry when I am sad or angry.  I used to tell Artie, "Hey, I paid a lot of money to get in touch with these feelings!" 

It's his birthday on Dec. 11 and I don't know if dead people have birthdays or not.  I'll buy him a cupcake and a candle anyway.  I know he can't eat the cupcake or blow out the candle - but it is a way of remembering.  We were together for 23 years - it's hard to accept or even believe that we are not still together - me in my earthly body - him in whatever form he is in.  If that is stuck - Hello stuck - and welcome. 

Here's to strength and joy for us all through the holidays.  xo

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grief from Across The Pond

The pond being the Atlantic Ocean.  It isn't as snowy in London as it looks on the news.  Went to the exhibition on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace.  They always picture her as - well - as Victorian - but there is a portrait of her made only for Albert with her hair streaming loose on her bare shoulders and a definitely sensual look about her - and she did have all of those children.  They loved the theater and opera and costume balls - and art.  I always say that I have so much but without Artie it feels like so little. But - hey - I'm not Queen of England and I don't have bunches of diamonds the size of my fist and palaces etc...  It goes back to what I've said about it not making any difference about who you are or how much you have if you the person you love most dies.  Albert died in 1861 and Victoria lived another 40 years.  She did keep the blue room where he died unchanged - except for painting angels on the ceiling and putting fresh flowers on the bed and a bust of him and paintings of him in the room.  They celebrated his birthday every year and she wore a black cap and widow's clothes for the rest of her life.  Of course, being royalty - she had statues and busts and paintings and a huge memorial commissioned. 

The writer of a book I bought says this reaction to her grief - it took a while for her to return to public view and her royal duties which caused problems in the country - was extrememe by modern standards - but not unusual for the 19th century.  I wonder.  Is it only that it was more public then?  I wish I had a widow's cap to wear - but in today's time I would look rather silly - that is why I have my grief ring. (Although I keep wearing the wedding rings.  They make me feel loved.)  The book says she lost a confidante and partner and adviser in all things relating to her role as monarch.  Well - even with woman having a more liberated role in American and western society- Artie still was my confidante and partner and adviser in all things relating to my role as monarch (monarch in my own house!!). 

Victoria says in a letter, "You never will believe how UNWELL and how WEAK and nervous I am, but any talking or excitement is far too much for me...any merriment or discussion are quite unbearable." 

I have only 4 minutes left of computer time so will end here - from regular folks to the rich and famous we are all grief warriors - keeping the memory of our loved ones alive - a trying to figure out how to live our lives so they will be proud of us.  Going to see a play tonight.  Same old roller coaster - where ever I go there I am and there Artie isn't. Although I did pack his Yankee jacket and am sleeping in it.  Being foolish - or maybe just Victorian.  :)  (Of course Prince Albert had a Yankee jacket...well, he would have if he lived in a different century!)   xo

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grief: One Holiday Down (Up?)

What a rollercoaster!  My daughter cooked Thanksgiving dinner for me and I am so proud of her and the life she is making for herself.  I was happy to be with her in her home.  I promised to be honest in this blog.  I thought about how sad she would be if next Thanksgiving I wasn't here.  She is trying to get pregnant and often says to me, "Don't you want to meet your grandchild?"  I always say I do - and then I realized it was important to tell her that I love her.  If she has a baby that would be lovely but I am working at finding out how to live a good life without my husband due in a large part to the fact that I love her and I want to be here for her.  I wanted her to know that she could depend on me.  I wanted her to know I wouldn't give up trying to figure this thing out.  Finding all the stairwells out of the despair wells.  (Group groan)

In the airport waiting to come back to NY I tried the idea of saying how happy I would be to be home and all the reasons why.  It didn't work.  I almost started crying - so I distracted myself by reading.  I can't seem to adjust to coming into my cosy apartment knowing Artie won't be here.  I will write about all the techniques I learned - but am kind of mid trip - leaving for London in a few hours and still in my pajamas!  I'm trying to enjoy the things I used to enjoy.  Sometimes succeeding; sometimes failing.

Grief - missing my husband - is like a howl or a moan that starts deep inside and works it way up through every cell - and I have to listen to it and give it sound - and then find something else to do or be so that it isn't all that I am.  That's the roller coaster.  Yesterday morning I was a big bundle of sadness.  Last night I went to my storytelling class.  I'm not telling an Artie story this time - instead I entranced people with a tale about  a trip to Pakistan.  Other stories were funny and sad.  Everyone was very nice and I left feeling very happy.  Then home to my "unhome" because Artie is my home.  Pow - a punch of sadness.  Then a massage with lovely dark humored Claire who makes my mind and body smile.  Then being in bed alone.  Pow - another punch of sadness.  I am a grief boxer and keep getting sucker punched!!  How many mixed metaphors can I fit into one post?

I am curious about London.  I love the theater and hope I have a good time.  Hey - if I'm going to get dressed to go - I have to have a good time - right? 

I am so lucky and thankful for so much - and so sad and so broken without Artie.  How can so many emotions exist in one person?  I know they exist in all of us who have lost a beloved someone.  I hope all of you who read this had some happy moments and lovely memories during your Thanksgiving weekend.  Thank you for the net we all weave together to support us. 

I want to say something magical and mystical but there isn't anything that could replace seeing my husband's grin one more time or seeing him wink at me.  Let the memories of our loved ones fill us up with joy instead of sadness - even if only for a minute - or an hour - or maybe a year - all together now - one - two - three -
breathe in their love.  It's there.  It doesn't die.   xo

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grief Is Not A Holiday

I am going to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter in Seattle so I won't be posting again until Nov. 29th.  I spent the weekend at a workshop called the Language of Change.  It is about many ways of changing beliefs.  When I have a chance I want to share that with you.  Right now I will give you a couple of examples.  I believe that no matter what I do that I enjoy when I walk into my empty apartment I will be sad because Artie is dead.  What if I changed that belief to when I walk into my apartment I will be happy because there are so many things in it to remind me of how much Artie and I love each other and it is full of his spirit?  This one is harder.  I believe that because my husband died I will always be miserably unhappy.  What if I changed it a little?  Because my husband died I have moments when I feel miserably unhappy.  What if I changed it a lot?  My husband died and I miss him a lot but I am happy to have such a splendid love and my memories of him can help me find ways to make my life fulfilling until the time when we can be together again.  (Not there yet!)  However, there are techniques for making this kind of movement.  You can try it by playing with changing your own language.

Thanksgiving.  The empty chair.  How to be thankful when my husband is dead.  It is so hard (see - I might change if I said so easy!) to have a happy anything without Artie physically with me.  Yet, I do.  I have happy moments.  I hope when I am with my daughter I won't be grouchy like I was when we were in Romania.  I hope I can be honestly, authentically happy to be spending the holiday with her.  I am thankful for my daughter.  I am thankful for the love my husband and I share.  I always write that in the present tense. I know he's dead but I believe that love doesn't end when life does.  I thankful for my friends.  I am thankful for all of you who I have met by writing this blog.  Even if I haven't met  you I am grateful for your courage and your support and your willingness to carry on even though you have lost someone so beloved to you.  I feel supported by all of us who grieve honestly.  I feel inspired by those of us who feel pain and sadness and loneliness and yet manage to smile, to say a kind word, to even just get out of bed in the morning if that is all you can do.  If you can't do even that then I give you a big hug.  It's not a hug from the person you want it to be from but it's still a hug. 

When I get to the airport I still reach for my phone to call Artie.  When I'm away I want to call him  - but then, when I'm home I want to call him.  He was so thankful to be married to me and I was so thankful to be married to him.  Someone asked me if I was dating.  I'm not saying I never would but I feel very married still.  I feel that death hasn't separated us.  It's just that I'm still here on earth and he's wherever he is.  His birthday is Dec. 11 and I wondered if you still have birthdays when you are dead - and does the date change.  Maybe his new birthday is the day he died and he was born into his new form.  Whatever form he's in I know he's loving me and looking after me and if I smile it will make him smile. 

What I wish for you is that you find things to be thankful for and if you have grief attacks (which are much worse than shark attacks!) that you find light in the darkness and joy in your memories.  The thing about the empty chair - there is not a living person in it - we want so much for the living person to be in it - but it is not really empty.  It is overflowing with love.  xo

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grief: The Slow Walk Home

I had a really good time last night.  It was actually lovely talking to this wonderful friend who is happy with her husband and expecting a baby.  We had a delicious dinner and saw Driving Miss Daisy.  I like people to be happy.  I'm not a grinch.  Okay.  Sometimes I'm a grinch!

The thing is the slow walk home knowing that without Artie it doesn't feel like home and there is all this empty space to fill in my mind and heart.  Day after day.  Night after night.  Trying to stay motivated - heck - get motivated - to have things feel meaningful without Artie to share them.

Somebody said something about baggage.  Artie and I were each other's baggage handlers - now I have to carrry all my baggage by myself!  I don't - I have good people in my life - but someone said it really well - I'm not first in anyone's life anymore.  I'm lucky that I have a lot of people who love me - but with Artie I was first.  I have a note from him that says "You're my everything."  Maybe it's not good for people to be each other's everything - but we were - we are. 

On the walk home I found myself saying out loud, "I'm scared."  It's okay.  It's NYC - so nobody paid any attention to me. :)  I hadn't meant to say it out loud.  There's nothing real to be scared of - but life without my husband is scary.  Knowing he won't walk in the door and say, "Hi honey, I love you!" is scary.

Lots of places to go and things to do and people to see.  There's one face missing.  Eek. 

Acceptance and surrender.  I was never very good at those.  xo

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grief: It's Crying Time Again...

Nope.  Couldn't hold on to that good feeling.  Forgot what kind of ride I am on! 

When I first came to NYC after Artie died I was doing counseling and a bereavement group and feeling that was making me even more sad.  I write poetry and short stories - of course didn't write for a long time after my husband died - he was always my first reader.  Even read e-mails and letter - I can be rather snarky sometimes.  I decided to sign up for comedy sketch writing.  The teacher asked everyone "Why are you taking this class?"  I said "My husband died so I thought I'd do comedy."  Then I took a storytelling class.  The only story I had at that time was Artie dying. (Stories are 6-8 minutes) I told it at the class show - and to my surprise - because all the other stories were funny ones - I got an amazing reaction.  I was lucky that Artie got to die at home and we spent two beautiful weeks together.  There was always jazz playing.  I brought all his favorite things from different rooms into the living room where the hospital bed was. I left the front door open from 10 am to 10 pm so people could visit and I didn't have to organize things - so it was a kind of crazy open house death party with a lot of love and laughter and philosophizing.  I didn't do it for anyone but Artie - but being involved in that way of dying had a big effect on the community.  So I am turning the experience of our romance (with all it's beauty and weirdness and wasted moments) and his death and my coming into NY into a solo show.  It's called "My Husband Is In The Overhead Compartment" because I think that sums up all the pain and outrageousness of this big charismatic personality that I loved being transported as ashes in the overhead compartment.  I'm doing it because I think people need to hear about death and grief as it really is - with specific descriptions.  I'm also doing it because the two times I did a short version - I got that amazing heart felt reaction.  Someone said that I am doing it because it is healing for me.  Nope.

The part I like about it is that it keeps Artie alive and a lot of new people - just like with the blog - get to meet him even though he is dead.  But it is so hard is going back into the feelings and the memories of that time.  It doesn't feel healing at all.  I miss him so much.  I was thinking about after he died - at five in the morning - the people from the Neptune Society picked up his body - I loved his body too - to take it to be cremated.  I curled into his side of the bed and the first telling was - I picked up his teddy bear and said, "Cozy -  I'm so sorry, your person isn't coming back.  I'll try to take care of you."  Artie had bought me a purple teddy bear with white hearts on it - but he really loved it and this tough guy who grew up in the Bronx wound up loving his teddy bear and sleeping with it every night.  One day he was having lunch with some tough guy friends and they were surprised and laughed to find out that actually they all had teddy bears!  In the hospital they used to take Cozy and put him on the shelf - they didn't realize Artie like to hold him when he slept.  I thought about all that - Cozy is in bed with me - and I just started crying. 

Yesterday after all the tears I got dressed to go to the gym and wound up shopping instead.  I've been having problems deciding about my wedding rings.  I bought a ring with a big black stone surrounded by a broken circle on top of a completed circle.  A costume piece.  I'm trying it out.  It's like a secret grieving ring.  Never made it to the gym - wound up back in bed with tears and DVDs.

Cried again this morning - but got up and cleared a lot of stuff off of my desk.  I do try to pay my bills on time.  Tonight I have dinner and a play with a friend from Alabama.  She is happily married and pregnant and I am so happy for her.  Don't have any envy about the pregnancy part - but wish - oh how I wish - Artie would be here in the flesh for when I come home - so I could tell him all about it - instead of talking to his teddy bear. 

Part of clearing my desk was writing a bereavement coordinator from California who sent me a form letter on the anniversary of Artie's death that I felt that it was a cruel thing to do.  Imagine sending a form letter to someone whose loved one has died.  Imagine thinking that one size fits all.  I suggested she read my blog and also look at a sight called Hello Grief.  She didn't know I moved to NY - she didn't know anything about me.  It irks me - ha - it enrages me that so many professionals don't understand grief.  I wish this blog didn't exist because - well, I guess first of all because Artie and all our loved ones were still alive - but second of all because all the professionals and our friends understood us better.

We are grief warriors getting through each day with laughter and tears and it seems we need each other because we understand that when you love someone deeply you carry the burden of their death as best as you can and you don't get over it - just keep trying to find better ways of being able to grieve and live fully at the same time.   Much love to you all.  I hope tears are good for my skin!   xo

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeling Good - Can I Hold On?

I attempted to get out of working on the solo show.  I didn't.  Now I feel good about it.  It's shaping up nicely but still needs work.  Why is it so hard to do the things that make me feel good instead of hide? Can I keep this feeling close to me?  My husband would want me to.  He would want to be missed and remembered but he would want me to be productive and happy.

Hmmm.  xo

Grief: Free Refills

I spent most of the weekend at a workshop about being outrageously funny.  It was run by an NLP trainer Jonathan Altfeld (  I laughed a lot and had a lot of fun.  It wasn't easy showing up for full days.  The third day I left after lunch.  I always take my dead husband with me wherever I go so there was some talk about that.  One technique that was suggested was that when feelings overwhelm you to put your hands up next to your eyes - like blinders on horses - and narrow the field of the feeling and put it a little in front of you.  Another technique is something called Circles of Excellence.  You make imaginary circles - or circle - on the floor in front of you - and give it an emotion.  You then step in either part way or all the way and allow yourself to be filled with that emotion.  You then step out and return to neutral.  You practice back and forth.  I did have a circle of self satisfied amusement.  I felt happy in that circle.  I had a lot of trouble with neutral.  That's why I watch so many DVDs.  I find that whenever I have an empty space the grief rushes back into it.  I don't seem to find any technique or action that makes me feel good for any length of time.

Some one sent me a sound clip of his daughter singing a song with the lyric "Knocking on every door."  I cried when I heard it because that's what I feel like I've been doing since Artie died.  Knocking on every door - doing everything I am emotionally capable of to go on.  The problem I keep having is that no matter how much I am enjoying what I am doing when I am doing it - when I wake up in the morning and see the empty space where Artie should be - when I walk in the front door and there is no one to greet me - I get free refills of sadness.  It's been about a year and four months.  I'm not hysterically crying and screaming a lot like at the beginning.  I am doing more.  However I feel that underneath whatever is satisfying me at the moment the sadness hasn't changed at all.  I met someone I liked that does Ericksonian hypnosis and I am going try doing that again.  I have to keep knocking on doors.  I wish things could stop being such an effort.  I want to do what Artie did - stop breathing...stop moving.  I'm not allowed to do that.

Today my storytelling coach for my solo show is coming at 3.  I was sneaky and tried to talk him out of it - but he wants to keep working.  There is this pull to keep moving - keep living.  There is this other pull to crawl into bed and stay there. 

I still find people not understanding how impossible it seems to me to let go of this painful kind of grief.  I wonder if I am doing something wrong.  Why am I so resistant to being happy?  Then I listen to so many people who tell me they feel the same way and I wonder if people grieve differently or if people love people in their lives with different intensities or if a lot of people would rather pretend to be okay when they aren't.  I don't know.  I know that Artie wasn't a peg in the husband slot that fell out and can be replaced with another peg.  I know he was a specific man I loved who loved me and who I depended on.  I only felt truly safe and happy when he was holding me.  Even if he was in California and I was in South Africa I knew he was waiting for me.  He's waiting for me now - but no matter how many times I tell myself that however long I live is a blink in terms of eternity - it seems like I have to wait too long to see him again.

I think of some widows who never remarried - even after 20 or 30 years.  I wonder if I have the stamina for that.  I don't know.  All I have to do is today.  Clean up a little.  It's NYC.  Dust happens constantly.  Get dressed.  Figure out how to tell my story again when Kevin comes.  Maybe go out.  I get a massage tonight.  I find that helps a lot.  Partly because my body aches - partly because my masseuse is this wonderful woman named Claire with a lovely dark sense of humor - and partly because at least once a week I am physically touched.  I miss Artie's touch so much.  Heck, his voice, his face, his everything.

That's me rambling on again - next mood swing - three seconds.  Grief's a tough one folks.  Be brave.  Be outrageously funny!   xo

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is There A Movie Conspiracy?

The last movie I saw in a theater was Inception.  My daughter forgot the part of the plot about a man whose wife has died and he has to accept it and let go.  Usually when I am watching DVDs I watch TV series since I'm not hooked up to television.  I am on "my husband's dead time" which means I can't sleep any more and last night I watched Shutter Island which I thought was a thriller.  It is; but it is about a man whose wife (and children) are dead and he can't accept it.  Then I watched Harry Brown which I thought was a thriller.  The opening scene is Michael Caine in bed reaching out to the empty pillow where his wife would be except she is in the hospital dying of cancer.  Then he sits at this tiny breakfast table with an empty chair.  Then he visits her in the hospital.  Then he goes back to the hospital and her bed is empty.  Then he reaches for the empty pillow again.

Here's the weird part.  I listened to the commentary on Harry Brown because Michael Caine is such a funny story teller.  He did not make one comment about any of the scenes where he is a widower.  The only thing he said was that he didn't recognize the actress who played his wife at the cast party because he had never seen her standing up before!  He was evoking such sadness in me because he is a brilliant actor but in real life he has a beautiful wife and family that gives him a lot of joy and I don't think the scenes were anything more to him than a day's work. He says he has an image he uses when he needs to express sadness - the same image since he was young that no one knows about - even his wife.

So I'm just trying to wipe out my head and I don't have my husband or a job as a movie actor and I keep getting surprised with scenes that before Artie died I probably wouldn't have noticed very much myself.  I want a different theme.  I have the empty pillow  - the empty bed - the images - the memories - the fear and sorrow of not wanting to let go in my real life.  Why do I keep bumping into it on the screen when I am not picking movies about grief?  We are all so blissfully ignorant of the pain of grief before we lose someone we love.  How I wish I could have that blissful ignorance back again.  I wish I could say to Artie - great movie! and curl up in his arms and sleep in safety and comfort. 

I'm finding it hard to work these days (writing poetry and working on storytelling and my solo show).  Getting good at faking it when I show up.  Sometimes. 

My biggest thing this weekend is showing up at for full days of this workshop on being outrageously funny and then Fri. and Sunday night as well for something called Culture Circle and my storytelling class. Hopefully I can make it and I will be able to carry the laughter and creativity out of the rooms and into my empty apartment and empty self.

I haven't been to the gym since I came home from Romania - am going definitely today.  I'm wanting to burrow in and not face the sunshine or the world which I know is not good for me.  My towel rack fell down in the bathroom and I am thinking about buying something at the Container Store - but whatever I do - a simple thing of having someone come in and install it seems impossible right now.

My main goal is a silly one in my past life - to stay out of bed all day so I can sleep tonight and be fresh in the morning - looking like a person attending a workshop instead of a hollow woman.  I'm very strong but I feel sometimes like if the wind blows I will break into tiny pieces.  Artie - you were the glue that held me together.  Now I am unglued!

Okay - folks - let's go glue shopping!!   xo