Monday, August 30, 2010

Grief Like A Turtle - Head out - Head in - Head out

I don't know which is scarier, coming out a little from grief or staying in.  I have gotten so busy that my head is spinning and I feel exhausted.  It is difficult to do things without Artie - to learn how to comfort myself and encourage myself.  I am lucky to have a lot of good friends but there is a difference between a wonderful friend and my husband.  Also, so many of my friends have husbands or partners.  I am happy to hear what they do together but it also makes me sad that Artie is gone.  Okay, not gone, here in a different form.  Whenever I say he's not here or I'm all alone - I can feel him telling me that's not true.  I don't know if that is my imagination or not.  One thing I'm sure of - I can't remember what I've written before - so if I start repeating myself - please forgive me.  My daughter - who is 36 - has been wonderful about listening to me say the same things over and over and over again since Artie died.  He used to be the one that would get the waterfall of words. 

I did have the joy of having a friend of his - the young woman who runs his AA meeting now - stay with me - and she loves to talk about Artie too.  I was afraid I was boring her - but she said no. 

I am working on a solo show for one performance - if the theater doesn't change the date - on a Saturday matineee Oct. 16th.  It is all about Artie and me - from the beginning through his death until now.  I have enjoyed telling 10 minute stories - I don't know if I can pull off a whole hour - we will see.  I want Artie to help me with it - but since it is about his death - that is a rather weird thing to say.

I still talk to him every day and feel like he is listening - maybe sometimes not listening - just like he did in life!!  Sometimes I did talk too much for him.  :)   Anyway - trying to work on the feelings of being overwhelmed and weary.  Having trouble sleeping for the first time in a long time.  I sleep with a lot of stuffed animals which means I'm not alone in the bed at the same time I'm alone in the bed.

I suppose the most important thing I have learned is that we all have find our own way through our terrible loss and that we find our way in our own time.  Here's to little flowers springing up in the desert. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Grief Feeling Better

I went to someone on Wednesday who does something called EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique.  It doesn't make any sense logically to me but involves tapping on points of your body and hypnotic suggestion.  The only thing about it is that I feel better.  It's not that my grief is gone - but some of the deadening paralyzing parts are.  Today anyway.  I've been busy with several things and apologize for not posting sooner.  One thing I keep learning is that we all feel grief  in different ways and what works for one person may or may not work for another.  What I like is building a community - on line or off line - of people who understand and accept and want to be honest about their feelings instead of hide them.  We each have our own burdens and our own ways of coping.  We also each have our own blessings and ways of being grateful.  Today I'm trying to remember how lucky I was to have Artie love me for so many years instead of staying in the dark sad place where I feel homeless without him.  This is short because still the mundane things have to be done.  I have the lovely Amanda who runs Artie's Alcoholics Anonymous meeting now coming to stay for the weekend and I have to clean up a little.  Life insists on going on whether we want it to or not.  I am feeling a little tired and overwhelmed at coming back into the world with so many different things happening - I like my cozy bed nest.  Still trying to find the balance between being safe and alone and out there doing things.  Just writing cozy bed nest made me want to go take a nap!!  Keep your courage up.  It takes a lot sometimes to do even a simple thing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grief Poem For Jules

Jules was the kind person who moved all my (our?) things from California to NYC.  The name of his company is Annie Hauls. 

For Jules

The wooly mammoth fills the living room
five feet high and five feet long
You must walk around it to see the park
or hang the paintings
which Jules had come to do.

Finishing a task he had begun
by moving treasured vanities
from our home in California
now house
to my New York City apartment
antiques, smiling pictures
a woolly mammoth,
a dead man's slippers and clothes.

I was queen of the one nail but Jules
knew how to drill holes in solid walls
insert the proper fasteners
and hang the paintings straight.

He laughed while he worked;
gifting me a tiny seed
planted in dusty soil
watered by tears
that even in my shattered world
there were some things that could


Grief Resilience

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny Saturday and what did I do?  I went to see A Film Unfinished about the Warsaw Ghetto.  It was so awful.  I am having so much difficulty with the loss of one man I don't know how people cope with the loss of their whole families.  The thing I did in my life that I am most proud of was a conference called Resilience of the Human Spirit.  Some of the panelists (all poets)  included a Holocaust survivor, a Hiroshima survivor, a Rwandan genocide survivor, a man who escaped China, a Vietnamese man, a Palestinian woman, and women from Iraq and Kurdistan.  There was a man from Iran who fought against the cruelty of the Shah and then when Khomeini came into power his wife and brother were executed.  To listen to these people who had suffered so much read their poetry and share their stories was something any words would fail to describe properly.  It inspired a documentary that is not yet finished but has a website -

Kimenyi - a very sweet man - who survived the genocide in Rwanda - died recently - a relatively young man - so now his wife in addition to losing so many family members has lost her husband too.  Sometimes when I am wallowing in pity for myself I think of these men and women who grieve and yet continue to build lives and write beautiful poetry.  How do I find my own resilience?  Sometimes lying in bed crying; sometimes writing; sometimes going to the gym; often with the support of friends and strangers.  Other times I seem to have no resilience at all and the simplest movement seems impossible. 

I hope anyone reading this had fun yesterday!! Although, bearing witness for me is important too.  The one thing we can do for those who have died - our own special loves - and those who are unknown to us - is remember them and make sure their stories continue to be told.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Grief Bereavement Group

Last night I went back to a bereavement group.  I haven't been since snow was piled high on the street.  It felt good to be in the company of people who understand what it feels like to lose someone you love.  Before Artie died I didn't understand.  I would know someone whose partner had died and say I was sorry but I didn't know - or think to ask - how much it can continue to hurt a year, two years, ten years, the rest of your life - depending on who you are.  It helps me be less critical of myself and understand that some of my behavior - like having trouble doing the simplest thing some days - or being hit with an unexpected wave of sadness or pain - are normal. When Artie first died I thought I was losing my mind but (assuming I have a mind!) for everything I have done or not done.  Going to bereavement groups and talking to others who have lost that person they so loved lets me know that many others share my feelings and my experiences.  I'm not usually a group person and I amost didn't go but the truth is I need the support and am grateful for it.  I wish there was a simple answer.  There doesn't seem to be one.  It seems more a process of finding ways to take your grieving self out into the world and find happy moments to wash over you so that grief is part of you and not all of you.  Which doesn't mean that some days you can't give yourself permission to hide away if that is what you need.  Since Artie died I get tired of the sunshine.  I am looking forward to snow again and dark skies and bare branches.  Maybe some day I will like spring and summer again - now my favorite seasons are fall and winter.  It seems unfair for the world to be so alive when my husband is not - at least not on earth.  I continue to hope that his spirit is very alive - and probably having a better time than I am!! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grief Recovery

I was reading on a web site about recovery from grief and was trying to define it for myself.  Recovery - getting back into bed and pulling the covers over my head!! Recovery in terms of recovering my husband - impossible.  Maybe in an afterlife in a new form - but not the face and body and voice that I loved in this life. must be recovery of myself.  Also impossible.  Or, seems impossible now.  Reinventing is a better word.  I am a different person than I was when Artie was alive.  I am busy doing a lot of things - can't believe I figured out how to do a blog - and still working on the poetry although I haven't been submitting it and need to do that - and at the age of 59 auditioned for the first time for a small theater here in NY to do a solo show - and got it - will be performing one night in October - travelling a little again.  All great stuff.  However I feel like a scrumptious chocolate Easter bunny who is hollow inside - like the Tin Man who lost his heart - and the scarecrow who needs a brain - still have a lot of courage, though.  I have lovely happy moment with friends and my daughter - but I can't imagine a time or day when I won't grieve for my husband.  Is that a mental disorder?  A weakness?  I don't know.  I know that I miss him every day and it hurts - but also makes me laugh with memories - and grateful to have been granted such a spectacular gift to love and be loved during the worse as well as the better.  I fight the very idea that our journey together is over.  I don't know if that is denial or not - I accept that he is dead - but I don't accept that our relationship died with him.  The earthly one did  - but something other that I don't comprehend being still alive.  So, I guess my goal isn't to recover but to weave the pain of my loss into the pattern of my life in such a way that I am not crippled by it but instead inspired by it.  Ouch.  What a task to assign myself!!  I wish I could say I was about to do something magical but what I need to do is pay my bills!! 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grief Poem Nobody Leaves

Nobody Leaves

If you try to walk sideways on a staircase
your choices are limited
sooner or later
you are bound to walk into the wall
so change your ambulation
make it up or down

life’s duration is may seem shorter
than a hummingbird’s breath
while a plastic bottle lasts for all time

there’s a certain grace
in an aging ballet dancer
refusing plastic surgery
because her art is in the bend of her leg
not in the slope of her nose

This poem was better before you died
and took my words with you
You give them back one by one
so that we can keep our promise

nobody leaves

Grief You Can't Go Home Again

I returned recently from a trip to the house in Carmel, CA that my husband and I used to live in.  Selling a house in Carmel is like standing on a beach trying to sell sand so it is still empty.  A lot of my purple and blue paint has been covered over with a kind of cream or beige - like my life. I felt I needed to say good bye because when I left the first time I just ran away.  I know Artie's dead - but I had to look for him anyway - in all the closets - under the sinks.  When I left I looked in the mirror he used every morning when he was getting ready to go out.  I wanted to see his reflection next to mine but of course I didn't. I saw my face all ready to go out - with the tears running down my cheeks. The first night I took four vanilla candles and placed them on the floor of the living room where his hospital bed had been and then placed cinammon tea lights in the middle.  When they were lit the flickering lights looked beautiful and some people came over and we sat around the lights and talked about Artie.  I recreated the scene so a friend who makes documentaries could film it.  Then I threw the candles away.  Sacred space?  Just a floor?  Same with the bed.  Sleeping in the bed Artie and I shared - sleeping for the last time on his side of the bed.  It's a bed.  It makes my back hurt. It's very difficult being in love with a dead man.  I know his spirit is alive but still.  Grief doesn't have a time line for me.  I was going to take our wedding rings off on the first anniversary of his death but it is more comforting to wear them.  I am going back to a bereavement group.  I auditioned for a one woman show - about Artie and me - and love and life and grief - and will be performing it in October as part of a series of solo shows at a small theater.  Me - performing in NY.  Amazing - yet it is hard to get rid of the empty feeling - the feeling that comes knowing that even though I am lucky to have many understadning friends - Artie isn't here to cheer me on - or to comfort me when I am scared.  I think moving forward is moving - any kind of motion.  As far as letting go....haven't figured that one out yet.  Also haven't figured out what being positive means.  Sadness is sadness.  Loneliness for a specific person is loneliness for a specific person. Even though I have fun times - when I was in Carmel I very much enjoyed seeing my friends - I don't know how to turn grief into anything but grief.  Maybe I don't have to try.  Maybe I can let it be.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Grief - Moving Forward

Here we go again.  Just had a doctor's appointment and he said he was sorry I was no longer seeing a therapist because I wasn't "moving forward".  I did go to an excellent therapist for a while.  I have nothing new to say.  My husband's dead.  I miss him.  It breaks my heart every day that he is not with me to share the good times and the bad times.  For me moving forward means:  I pay my bills on time, I take classes and workshops in writing and performing - and for the performing I am actually starting to perform more, I am starting to travel again.  I am eating better and going to the gym.  Me!   Going to the gym.  I don't have anything against people falling in love again and getting married again.  I think that's great.  Maybe someday I will - but I don't think of Artie as a husband slot to be refilled.  It is a specific person I love and miss and there is no moving forward from the fact that although I feel that his spirit is with me and we talk and laugh together - (my imagination?  don't know) - I miss his face and his touch and his voice.  He understood me in a unique way and I understood him in a unique way. Not a perfect marriage - we fought about a lot of things - but a perfect love.  That's why I call this darn blog - Stop Thief: Don't Steal My Grief.  I don't lie about how I feel.  As long as I have breath I will feel connected to this very special man and I will miss him.  If another special man comes along - well - I have heard enough widows say they have found love again - I am open to it - but I am not chasing it right now.  I wear my wedding rings when I feel comforted by them.  Sometimes I take them off.  My feelings are not controlled by anyone - medical or friend - however well meaning.  The long performance piece I am working on is about death - and him - and us.  Grieving is not something that one should have to keep hidden.  It is not something to be ashamed of.  Each of moves at our own pace - if I'm a little grief tortoise moving slower than some swift grief hare - well - slow and steady wins the race. 

Speaking of traveling I am leaving to go back to the house where we lived together in Carmel to say goodbye.  When Artie died over a year ago I couldn't stand the house without him in it and packed up and left for NYC very quickly.  It is painted white (used to be purple and blue and lots of colors) and empty except for a chair and our bed.  I will be seeing lots of friends - but I feel that going back is for grief work.  I am lucky enough to have a film maker friend coming for a day to shoot me telling some of my stories in the empty house.  Then a weekend in San Francisco and then to Seattle for my daughter's birthday.  She's 36 and has been a wonderful support throughout this time - listened to the same stories over and over again without complaining - came to visit a lot.  So...if anyone out there is actually reading this I won't be posting again until August 11th.  Keep strong.  You can cry and be strong.  You can cry and move forward.  You can feel whatever you feel and know that it is NORMAL.  The only exception is that if you feel suicidal or are isolating too much - know that there are many people out there to help you through this.  Don't be afraid to feel and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Grief Poem Life Force

Grief Poem

Life Force

I cannot write with simple words
I want the bow to break
I cannot read the simple words
I want my heart to ache
How can I accept your Cyrano
who has nose but no Panache
How can I adore your Errol Flynn
who has buckle but no swash

Hear then, the simple phrase,
my husband has no longer breath.
It never can express to you
the full emptiness of our death

or that love
when it is gone, remains
like neon strobe lights
pulsing memory and pains
So keep your ordinary to yourself
Put your dull poems on the shelf
While I contort my weary brain
to craft a more colorful refrain

A magician finds live rabbits in his hat
Surely a poet must do more than that.

Grief Poem Tug of War

Grief Poem

Tug of War

women of winter widow woe whisper
hold on, hold on

our clothes are silver, our hearts are black
hold on, hold on

the girls of spring come out to play
sweated cheeks dewdrop kissed
skirts aswirl in welcoming breeze
let go, let go

the boys of spring hold them tight
strong hands encircle tiny waists
moving down to swinging hips
let go, let go

a dance of flowers pushing through
rich brown earth split in two
rumpled bed sheet, flattened grass
quickened breath of life or death

women of winter widow woe exclaim
hold on, hold on

performance artists all


let go

Grief: Grief Story: This Is A Story That Isn't A Story

Grief Story Written the weekend of the first anniversary of my husband's death

This is a story that isn’t a story. This is a story that isn’t a story because this is the weekend that my husband died. A woman named Myra wrote a line in a poem, “My mother always dies in March.” I guess that’s how it is. Artie will always die this weekend in July. A story has a beginning a middle and an end and no matter how many beginnings and middles I stuff into this story it only has an end. Still dead.

On Friday night I went to a gathering of various artistic folk called Culture Circle and read two poems and then talked a little about my husband as tea was passed around in exquisite pottery cups made by a member of the group. We lifted our cups and said together, “To Artie.” Still dead. On Saturday I went to sit on the bench in Central Park that has a plaque that says, Artie and Jan Warner, Mr. Dazzle and Mrs. Panache, I love you. You’re my heart. Always. Someone else was sitting there so I waited until they left and then I sat and shined the plaque a little with my sleeve but it was 91 degrees and Artie is dead every day so I went somewhere cooler. Still dead.

This story that isn’t a story because a story has an arc and this one only flat lines. When Artie first died I dreamt that I woke up and said, I had this awful dream that you got cancer and died and I’ll never see you again. He said, “Come over here you silly goof and let me hold you.” I smiled until I opened my eyes and saw that there was no one there. Every morning when I open my eyes that’s the first thing I see, no one. He say’s I’m here and I say I know, but the form is different and I liked you better with arms and legs and that megawatt smile.

Someone sent me an e-mail that a theater callled the Cell is taking proposals for one person shows in October and not only did I have my very first audition, I got a call back. Still dead. Then this morning I got an e-mail that Amanda and Michael who live where we used to live had breakfast with Artie at his table in the restaurant where he ate every morning at 11. It’s the meal with the empty chair. I have them all the time. They said everyone agrees the “In Memoriam” I wrote for the local paper is beautiful.

So this is a story that isn’t a story because a story has a shape and there are no shapes left. I wanted to march down 5th Avenue beating one of those big drums shouting “My husband’s dead. My husband’s dead!!” but it wouldn’t matter because all these things that are happening are the dance of the seven veils and the joke is removing the veils doesn’t reveal a beautiful woman it reveals a gaping hole of grief covered with laughter and people thinking you are better.

When two people love each other, however they love each other, and one of them is gone, there is no story only random scattered words. We were the cymbals in the orchestra we made a glorious noise but we had to clash to do it. We stayed up all night singing and the best dinner I ever had was tuna fish on a toasted English muffin because that was all he could cook.

I can’t end the story because it already ended a year ago. Maybe the story isn’t in the form at all but rather in just showing up and opening your mouth to let the words fly out like small birds taking wing for the first faltering time.

Grief: Honesty About Grief Turned Me Into A Blogger

Why become another blogger?  Good grief.  That's why.  My beloved husband Artie died a little over a year ago.  If you grieve more than 3 - 6 months you are now considered to have mental disorder called complicating grieving.  You are supposed to let go and move on.  Anything wrong with holding on tight and moving on together?  Do you think you can't talk to your dead?   Do you think death wins?  Do you think that you can't go out and have great time; talk and laugh and then come home and cry and curse?  It's time to be honest about grief.  A child, a spouse, a friend, a pet - grief has no time limit.  I am not here to talk about hope.  I am not saying there is no hope - just that I am tired tired tired of people's expectations that now that a year is past I am better, I am fine, I am okay.  I am not.  I am miserable.  I miss my husband.  Every morning do I wake up to a warm hug?  No.  I wake up to an empty bed.  His spirit is with me but oh, how I miss his face, his arms, his voice, his laugh.  There is this whole underground movement of grieving people talking to each other because it is now considered abnormal to continue to grieve past a certain time.  I will never be the woman I was when my husband was alive.  I am in NYC doing a lot of things.  The first comedy sketch writing class I took the teacher asked why I was there - I said, "My husband's dead.  I think I'll do comedy."  I talk about him - and about grieving because so many people won't except in secret places.  It's not mental illness; it's not depression - it's grief.  That is why I've titled the blog Stop Thief:  Don't Steal My Grief.  On Tuesday I will be returning to the house where we lived in CA because I feel like I need to say goodbye.  The house is empty and for sale - but our bed is still there and I will sleep in it for the last time.  Some folks say "Have fun!"  Are you kiddding?  Will it be fun to see the house where I shared so much love empty - to be in the living room that turned into the dying room because he died there?  No.  But it's important to me to do it - because when I left I packed as quickly as I could and ran away.  Couldn't stand the house without HIM in it.  A friend who is a filmmaker will be filming me telling stories in the empty house.  Then up to San Francisco - and then to Seattle for my daughter's birthday.  Life and death all mixed up together.  I will also be posting poems and stories and see if anyone reads this thing.  Keep strong - and don't be afraid that your real emotions are not normal no matter what anyone says - and don't think you have lost yourself - you are finding yourself - and you are alone and not alone at the same time - who woudn't be confused in that situation!