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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pick Myself Up and Start Again

Since the house in California I lived in with my husband was sold my real estate agent/friend mailed me the quilt that was on the bed.  I hoped yesterday would be a better day but after doing some computer things and washing my hair I crawled under the quilt I slept under with my husband and slept and watched DVDs.  This morning I got up and looked at the picture of his loving handsome face and started to cry BUT....

I got out of bed.  I put in a load of laundry.  I cleaned up a little.  I'm going to a political talk tonight.  I signed up for a workshop this weekend on how to be outrageously funny.  I figure I can't be too depressed at a workshop with that title! 

Still riding the bucking bronco of grief.  There is a page on Facebook I like called Second Firsts.  There is also a web site I haven't looked at called  I like it because it represents all views and talks about growth and rebuilding.  I often feel that I can't.  I can't.  I can't.  Then I have to will myself or move myself or put myself somewhere that makes me feel I can. I can. I can.  Just this one thing.  Then the next thing.  If I have what Winston Churchill used to call black dog days I have to accept that is part of figuring out things without my husband.  It's a little silly but grieving for him would be so much easier if  he was here to help me handle it!! 

Anyway.  Today I am taking some of the actions I couldn't take the past couple of days.  The DVDs I was watching are this old Australian soap opera called Prisoner in Cell Block H.  Great melodrama.  What topic was in some of the episodes?  Two prison guards -  a widow and a widower getting out of their isolation and finding ways to live again.  Even escaping I can't escape!  I want to hug my sadness to my chest and rock back and forth with it.  That's not a bad thing.  It's just that it will be waiting for me later if I put it down for a while and go out without it.  If I can't do that - I can - like I wrote before - take my grief for a walk.  Be happy and sad and feel all the layers of life.

I am so grateful for all the folks who are walking this path with me; whether I know them or not.  I've never been much of a team player - but I feel the tremendous courage out there.  It keeps me breathing and searching for new ways to feel whole.  I know my husband would understand my sadness.  Before he died he told some of his friends he was afraid I wouldn't be able to survive without him.  I know he must be proud of all the things I am doing.  I like to honor his love by not giving up because I know that he was someone who didn't give up.  I miss him!

Here's hoping for some laughter mixed in with the tears for all of us.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grief Attack

Romania was interesting.  Our guide was a lovely man and we made each other laugh a lot.  I was totally uncomfortable out of my space.  I know my husband Artie is not in his clothes or his pictures or even his ashes.  I keep thinking I wish his ashes were like freeze dried coffee - just add water and there he is again.  My daugher (36) said I was mean to her.  I probably was.  I can't handle fighting.  I didn't write yesterday because I have been trying to combine the positive with the sadness when I write but then today I thought - well, that's not being honest.  The last night of the trip in Bucharest I was in this weird hotel room where the window was locked.  I love fresh air and I could get it opened by calling security and signing a paper. I need to make this note before I continue - sometimes I think about killing myself but it is a thought not an action.  You don't need to worry that I will carry it out. I won't.  After my daughter and I fought she went down to eat by herself and I opened the window.  I thought about jumping out - then I thought about how much it would hurt - and I might live and wind up in a Romanian hospital paralyzed or something - and my daughter would think it was her fault.  It wouldn't be her fault.  I am sad without my husband.  All the time.  I do lots of good things and have fun times but underneath there always seems to be this bottomless well of sadness.  My daughter and I, of course, made up - and I am still going to spend Thanksgiving with her in Seattle.

When I got home there was no love note on the door and of course Artie wasn't here to enthusiastically greet me.  No big hugs and kisses.  I wandered around like a lost puppy and started crying.  Do lost puppies cry or am I mixing metaphors terribly?  I cancelled things two days in a row.  On Sunday the NY Marathon went right by my window.  All those amazing folks in wheelchairs.  I usually wonder at them and think any problem I have is small.  Yesterday I couldn't climb out of the well of sadness.  I read and cried and tried to imagine my life going on every day without Artie being alive. I should have written about it yesterday.  If my sadness wants to speak out - if my grief wants attention - isn't that what this blog is about? I don't have to be happy all of the time.  I don't have hide my grief like it is something to be ashamed of. I can be real.  I can express my feelings without judging them.

Today I am up and writing and doing things and do plan to go out to my Monday night storytelling venue.  I am trying to think of a story if I get chosen that doesn't involve Artie.  It feels too raw right now to talk about him.  I don't want to unpack or clean. 

I think of all of us who have lost the ones we love.  The world is so full of people and feels so empty without that one dear face.  I know Artie is with me and trying to protect me from all this pain.  I know he is nudging me to get out into the world and find my sense of humor which seems to have skittered off somewhere.  I feel badly that I told my daughter I was thinking of jumping out of the window.  I told her that I didn't know if I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with her.  I hate that sometimes my grief is ugly and makes me hurt the person I love most in this world now that Artie is gone.  I wish I could be a happy mom that she doesn't have to worry about.  Sometimes I act like one - but when I am having happy moments people think that my sadness is gone.  That irritates me.  I want them to accept that I can be happy and sad at the same time.

Sometimes it seems like there is no comfort anymore.  It is grey and cold outside.  I like that because I feel grey and cold inside. 

The weirdest thing after being in Transylvania is that I have two bug bites on my neck - hopefully bug bites!! 

Anyway - tonight I have a massage with a woman with a lovely dark sense of humor who always makes me laugh.  I hope that whoever reads this is having a happier day than I am.  I guess the thing is to keep going.  Artie always said that no matter how you feel you never give up.  I wish he was here to help me with all things he helped me with.  I even wish he was here to fight with over the things he didn't help me with!! 

One of my favorite British actors is in a play in London so I am going for 4 days after Thanksgiving - maybe the second time coming home after being out of the country will be easier than the first.  Where art thou my vagabond soul?   xo