Sunday, January 29, 2012

Grief: Sometimes I Just Have To Cry

I was starting to write a kind of intellectual blog about why grief was different than depression.  I couldn't do it and wasn't going to write.  I went back on Facebook.

Ce Thibodeau posted the following.  I changed it from a son talking his mother to a husband talking to his wife because it is so beautiful that it got all my stuck tears to come on out.  I've been trying so hard to be strong and productive I missed the part where I needed to cry and cry and cry and cry.  All those tears dam up inside and there's no room for anything else.  I am so grateful for this post.  I don't know the source.  I will post it with my changes and then as it was originally.

~It is time for me to go, wife; I am going. When in the paling darkness of the lonely dawn you stretch your arms for your husband in the bed, I shall say, "Your husband... is not there!" -wife, I am going. I shall become a delicate draught of air and caress you; and I shall be ripples in the water when you bathe; and kiss you and kiss you again. In the gusty night when the rain patters on the leaves you will hear my whisper in your bed, and my laughter will flash with the lightning through the open window into your room. If you lie awake, thinking of your husband till late into the night, I shall sing to you from the stars, "Sleep, wife, sleep." On the straying moonbeams I shall steal over your bed, and lie upon your bosom while you sleep. I shall become a dream, and through the little opening of your eyelids I shall slip into the depths of your sleep; and when you wake up and look round startled, like a twinkling firefly I shall flit out into the darkness. I shall melt into the music of the flute and throb in your heart all day. When others come and ask, "Where is your husband?" Wife, you tell them softly, "He is in the pupils of my eyes, he is my body and my soul." ♥

The original:

~It is time for me to go, mother; I am going. When in the paling darkness of the lonely dawn you stretch your arms for your baby in the bed, I shall say, "Your baby... is not there!" -mother, I am going. I shall become a delicate draught of air and caress you; and I shall be ripples in the water when you bathe; and kiss you and kiss you again. In the gusty night when the rain patters on the leaves you will hear my whisper in your bed, and my laughter will flash with the lightning through the open window into your room. If you lie awake, thinking of your baby till late into the night, I shall sing to you from the stars, "Sleep, mother, sleep." On the straying moonbeams I shall steal over your bed, and lie upon your bosom while you sleep. I shall become a dream, and through the little opening of your eyelids I shall slip into the depths of your sleep; and when you wake up and look round startled, like a twinkling firefly I shall flit out into the darkness. I shall melt into the music of the flute and throb in your heart all day. When others come and ask, "Where is your baby?" Mother, you tell them softly, "He is in the pupils of my eyes, he is my body and my soul." ♥

I'm going to see if my tears can wash away some of this sludgy muddy desparate feeling.  I miss you Artie.  Happy Anniversary on Friday.  xo

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grief: On Being Sad

What would be my 16th wedding anniversary, my 26th year of loving Artie isn't until next Friday.  Valentine's Day is over two weeks away.  Why am I sad today?  Not little sad like I am a lot of the time but BIG BIG VERY BIG sad.  I'm supposed to be living today today and I'm not. My present is full of the loss of my past. Not just in my mind, in my body as well. I wake up every night at around 2 am. I am so wide awake I get up and do things for a couple of hours.  Then I go back to sleep and wake up - of course - tired.

I'm not really BIG sad all the time.  I did my exercise with a friend (ouch).  I had lunch with another friend.  She works for Rosie's Theatre Kids which is incredibly inspiring.  I always thought it was just singing and dancing and acting lessons for kids interested in theater but these children are supported academically and socially as well.  It opens doors for children who come from places where doors are usually slammed in their faces.  It's exciting to hear their stories.  Not all of them succeed. Many of them do.  Whether they have careers in theatre or not they get into good high schools and then college.  I love that there are people out there taking action that changes lives.  So, even in the middle of my BIG sad I had fun today.

I'm not one to feel guilty about things.  I've learned to observe my behaviour - ask those questions - isn't it interesting, isn't it curious - that I'm behaving a certain way and see if I can find a process for change.  However I am feeling a little guilty about being sad when I have so much.  I am grateful for what I have.  There are folks out there who have very difficult lives.  Mine isn't.  The thing is, no one and nothing is Artie.  Even after all this time I haven't figured out how not to be sad about that.  When I am busy doing something alone or with someone else I don't think about the sad part.  Then it is time to stop.  Then the silence comes.  The one person I want to be with is dead. There was an exercise I was doing that Alex said was good for my heart chakra.  I said, "My broken heart chakra."  He said, "That's right."  

In Artie's life I was the most important person, in my life he was the most important person.  I miss that.  All my friends have things to do.  They should.  My daughter now has her daughter.  She should.  I have me and my memories and pictures and ashes and a teddy bear he gave me named Pooky.  I can't get used to it.

I was walking down the street on the way home and there was a man walking with a woman.  They had their arms around each other and big smiles on their faces.  He was carrying brightly colored tulips.  I don't know where he found tulips in February.  I smiled when I saw them.  I miss that.  It was nice that I could smile.  When Artie first died I would have hated them.

Here's the good part. I got some lovely pictures of my adorable grandbaby.  My daughter and I get along better than we ever have.  I went to all my exercise appointments this week.  I spent time with friends.  I took care of things I needed to.  I even cleaned up a little. I'm writing the blog and maybe some other things too. Here's an amazing good part.  I am going to have a podcast and appear in some storytelling shows.  Here's the difficult part.  I'm still feeling that BIG SAD.  I want to share all these things with Artie.  I need his advice.  I need his laughter.  I need him to hold me. 

I said when I started to write the blog that I would be honest or there would be no point in writing it.  It's one of those bad old sad old days.  It just is.  Where am I going with this?  Maybe to the point that it's okay.  It's not a disorder or a syndrome.  It's me grieving.  I have the right to grieve as long as I want to.  I don't have to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine.  I have the right to be sad that the man I love - that has had the best part of my heart - for 26 years is no longer alive. 

Here's the funny part.  I am feeling disconnected from life today and my computer keeps disconnecting me.  I am in the middle of a word and the computer says, "Good-bye" and I sign back on and then the computer says, "Good-bye" and I sign back on.  Isn't that what it's all about?  Signing back on over and over again until it's time for me to be finished.  It's not time yet for me to be finished. 

Steven King in his new novel uses a phrase "pity fishing".  I love it.  It makes me laugh.  Is this whole blog piece pity fishing? No. I don't want pity, I want understanding.  How lucky am I that along with this BIG SAD I have people who understand how I feel.  Maybe tomorrow - or even later tonight the BIG SAD will turn into a BIG GLAD.  Sometimes that happiness thing is knocking very loudly on the door and all I have to do is remember to leave the door open so the happiness can get in. Thank you for understanding.  Don't forget to keep your happiness door open and remind me when you do to open mine.  xo

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grief: In and Out of the Black Hole

Sometimes it gets exhausting.  All this learning, all these wonderful techniques and then the black hole of grief sucks me back in.  Whomp.  The problem is it's kind of cozy in there.  The other problem is it isn't living in there.

What happened?  I haven't gotten used to coming home- yet. (I just changed the can't to haven't gotten and added in the yet.  When you are stuck, try changing your language to allow for the possibility of change.) Artie used to always leave a loving note on the door to welcome me home. Even though he was never at this apartment in NYC when I come home it is almost like hallucinating. The front door gets bigger and bigger and every inch of it is empty. I know it's going to be. Dead men don't use pen and post it notes to communicate. It doesn't change my feelings. 

Then I open the door.  I know he won't give me a big hug and kiss.  He's dead.  Yet part of me can't get used to not hearing his voice, not feeling his touch.  I think of all the times I came home from somewhere - saw the note - he came padding downstairs from his man cave - gave me a big hug and kiss.  We talked and then often we would do separate things - even watch our own TVs.  Why do we not know that some day there will be no more days?  I don't feel guilty, but if he could come back I would make different choices.  I would know how precious every moment is.

That's one.  Two is February 3.  My birthday/wedding anniversary.  I haven't celebrated my birthday - even my 60th - since Artie died.  Do you have wedding anniversaries with a dead man?  I don't know.  Can't get used to the fact that this is the third one.  Three is Valentine's Day.  I was in a store today and thought of buying a Valentine's card for my new little granddaughter.  I couldn't do it.  I call my wedding anniversary and Valentine's Day the one-two punch.  (Artie loved boxing.)  I always go down.  But it's not a knockout - I always get back up again.

I spent a day in bed reading.  The second day was like moving through quicksand.  Am I jumping for joy at the moment?  Nope.  However, I have done some things I am proud of.

I made appointments with my trainer.  He does something called Revolution in Motion where I spend a lot of time balancing on one leg and when I fall this lovely Greek man with blonde hair and a great sense of humor catches me.  It is the first time I have ever totally enjoyed exercise.  I showed up on Friday.  Because I hadn't been in a month he didn't do a full session.  I felt great - then this morning I woke up and OUCH.  I know that exercising makes you feel better emotionally and physically.  My eating still isn't great but maybe it will fall back into place.  He said I have two voices and my body's voice is very soft.  I have to turn up the volume.  He misses pizza and beer so much and talks about his struggles to make healthy eating choices.  That works better for me than getting a lecture on what I already know.

The second day I didn't cancel the two phone appointments I had for coaching and being coached for my NLP training class.  I dragged myself to my computer around 4 or 5 pm and e-mailed friends to let them know I was back in town.  I have appointments set up next week.  I know if I get out and spend time with people who are fun and interesting I will feel better.  I also made an appointment with Kevin who is going to help me get in storytelling shows and do a regular podcast.  That's scary.  I don't know why.  One of the things I do is when something seems impossible is to break it down into small segments.  I can't possibly do a whole podcast.  I can call Kevin. 

Haven't worked on the book - hopefully I will write some pages tomorrow. 

I cleaned up a little. 

That's why I'm calling this In and Out of the Black Hole.  There are times, sometimes expected, sometimes a total surprise, when I can't manage - yet - to do a lot.  The old paralysis comes back.  The balance shifts.  I like the questions I learned from Steven Gilligan - Isn't that interesting?  Isn't that curious?  I can observe my behavior without judging it too harshly.  Then I can ask more questions.  What can I do?  What actions can I take?  I'm feeling sad and lonely and overwhelmed - and what else?  I enjoyed being out in the snow today.  When I finish writing this blog post I'll be proud that I did it. 

I wrote a blog a long time ago called Free Refills.  It was about that feeling that with all I have done I am back where I started.  It's not true.  Missing Artie and not wanting to live without him is part of me but I have added in so many other parts.  That my exercise routine is about balancing is lyrical - because emotionally it is always about balancing as well.  I fall over a lot.  In exercise class I have my trainer to hold me up when I start to fall.  In my life I have me, Artie's spirit, my friends, you.  Sometimes I'm going to be smack on the ground with skinned knees.  Sometimes I'm going to take that one-two punch square on the jaw and fall to the mat.  None of that matters.  All that matters is that I get up and try again.

That snow outside - it looks solid but it is made up of tiny snowflakes - each one unique.  Ice - it looks solid - but it is made up of tiny drops of water.  Snow and ice melt.  A frozen river doesn't stay frozen - eventually it begins to flow again.  I hope you can look at your life today and if it seems frozen in places shine your light on it - or shine someone else's light - and watch the frozen bits melt away and discover where and how the river flows.  xo

Monday, January 16, 2012

Grief: Betty White is my role model

I was watching Inside the Actor's Studio.  They were talking about a TV series called the Golden Girls.  It was about 4 older woman.  Betty is the only one still alive.  The host asked her about that.  She said it was hard to lose Estelle, hard to lose Bea, but when Rue died she couldn't believe it. She had tears in her eyes. The interviewer smiled and said something like, "That's the miracle of television.  You will always be there.  You will always stay the same."  Betty said, "When you love someone away, you never get over it."  The interviewer at the end always asks a series of questions.  The last one is, "If heaven exists, what's the first thing you want to hear God say?"  Betty didn't hesitate.  She said, "Come on in.  Here's Allen."  Her beloved husband died in 1981.

I wrote previously that I saw her interviewed in person.  I told her that my husband had died and asked if she had any advice.  She changed from her sharp, funny, animated self to a very sympathetic serious self.  She said, "There is nothing anyone can give you.  It will change over time but even after 25 years there can be anything - a scent of a flower - that will bring it all back to me."  That's the hard part.  There is nothing anyone can give me that will touch the part of me that loves and misses Artie.  That truth makes it difficult for people who love me.  However, that is not the whole of me.  I receive many gifts from people that enrich my life every day - if I pay attention to it. Also, i like seeing things that bring back the joy of our love - even if the pain of his death is attached to that.

She is my role model because she lives a fully and happy life.  Turning 90 she sparkles.  She works both as an actress and with the zoo.  Her first love is animals.  She does interviews and travels. She writes books.  She has many friends.  She is sharp and funny.  She says she only sleeps 4 hours a night because that's all she has time for.  Yet, when the subject of grief comes up she doesn't pretend that she has moved on, gotten over it, or even healed.  She obviously deeply loves her husband even though he has been dead for many years.  She deeply loves her parents and her friends who have died.  She can go from making a raunchy comment to having tears in her eyes.  She is also feisty.  I have heard more that one person ask her about the resurgence of her career and she always replies, "What resurgence?  I've been lucky.  I've always worked."  She was writing and producing in the early days of television.  Didn't worry if a woman could succeed in those days - she just did it.

I'm not there yet.  I don't think I could get by on four hours sleep a night.  I am, in reverse, trying to train myself to sleep less because in sleep I don't have to be awake to the fact that Artie isn't coming back.  I don't know her - so I don't if she has meltdowns.  I do know that I want to achieve more and that in order to do that I have to be paralyzed less and in motion more.

She is my role model because she has what I want.  The ability to grieve honestly and be real coupled with the ability to live a full and happy life. The best I can say right now is - I'm workin' on it folks!

That's what I wish for all of you - to walk through a door into that full and happy life.  It's especially difficult for me right now with my birthday/anniversary on Feb. 3rd followed by Valentine's Day.  However, I am going back to NYC tomorrow.  What choices will I make to do things instead of staying all cosy in bed with my DVDs?   I have set up exercise appointments three times a week.  That's a beginning.  The next two things are writing that book and not being afraid to set up the format for a regular podcast and ask people if I can interview them, while practicing my own stories.

Up and down and all around.  My little granddaughter.  She cries, then she coos.  She sleeps peacefully, then she squawks.  Too little for language she lives in the present moment.  May I have moments like that when I am present enough to cry, and then present enough to laugh and create without letting all the sad moments interrupt the happy ones.  xo

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Grief: How many layers are in your sandwich?

I think I'm getting a little silly here in baby land with my daughter and 3 week old grand daughter.  Don't have much time to write but was thinking that I am so delighted with this new little family and so sad that my husband is dead.

In a training I was in when I was in NY we talked about changing your emotional state.  Why, or how do we let people or events have power to force us to feel sad, angry, or any way?  I disagreed and said it was more a matter of focus.  This is experiment is hard to do unless you are with someone in person.  When you are in a room look around and pay attention to everything that is blue.  Memorize it.  You will be asked about it.  Then close your eyes.  What in the room is made of metal?  Try it some time with someone.  Have them have you look for one thing and then ask you about another.  You probably didn't notice it.  If we didn't filter things out we would be unable to function.  Sometimes our filter gets stuck on one thing. Especially when it is something as powerful as grief.  I miss Artie.  I want to be with Artie.  I'm sad that Artie is dead.  My behavior is weird (eating too much and sleeping odd hours) because our wedding anniversary is Feb. 3rd. But, in my slightly off beat metaphor, that is only one kind of meat (or salad) in my sandwich.  There are lots of other things for me to taste and experience.

My feelings about Artie dying and my loneliness don't really change.  What has changed is that when he first died I had a very thin sandwich.  The only thing in it was, "My husband is dead. I'm miserable.  I want to die."  Now over two and a half years later that is still there but sandwich is very thick. It has a lot of things in it.  I have worked very hard to find things to put in it.  (As someone who is trying to eat in a more healthy manner and not succeeding at all at the moment I should probably find a different metaphor. Oh well.  At least I'm not asking, how many layers are in your cake?*!)  If I work at making my life full of different experiences what else can I do? I can practice not being overwhelmed by any one of them.  It doesn't always work.  Sometimes one thing does block other things from coming through.  My goal is to be able to spend time grieving - I will always need that - but also to spend more time accomplishing things, learning things, and just having fun times.  I think that's what Artie would want me to do. I can hear him saying, "I hope you have some pastrami in there!"

Here's to missing those we love and remembering them but also living the life we have so that the love we have for these people supports us and lifts us up instead of weighing us down.  I hope today you find some delicious experiences so that the next bite you take out of your sandwich makes you want to keep adding to it.  It's a metaphor folks.  I don't want to see people walking around with 6 foot high hero sandwiches weighing 400 pounds and blaming me.  :)  xo

Monday, January 9, 2012

Grief: Abraham Lincoln letter to grieving girl

Sorry it has been so long between posts.  Staying up all night with my granddaughter - lovely but exhausting.  Coming to NYC - lovely but exhausting and lonely.  I never get used to what coming home means when Artie is dead.  Where is home now?

I am back to Seattle for a week and then back to NYC to start some kind of new schedule in my life.  Also have Feb. 3rd coming up which is my birthday/anniversary.  In 1996 Artie married me as a birthday present after making me wait 10 years!   It was a lot of fun when he was alive - now, not so much.  I know that date on the horizon is part of what is making me exhausted and having difficulty using my coping skills.  I have coping skills?  Yes, I do.  I need to remember that.

So...a long time between blogs and this one is - instead of my words - those of Abraham Lincoln.  This is a letter to Fanny McCullough, a 21 year old woman whose father was killed during the American Civil War (the War of Northern Aggression for southern folk). It was said aboutWilliam McCullough, her father:  "A better or braver man never fought or fell.  He died with his face to the foe, at the head of his command, thus nobly sacrificing his life for the safety of his fellows."

Here is the letter:

Dear Fanny,
It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and , to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.  The older have learned to ever expect it.  I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress.  Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.  You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better.  Is not this so?  And yet it is a mistake.  You are sure to be happy again.  To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now.  I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.  The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart of a purer, and holier sort than you have known before.
Please present my kind regards to your afflicted Mother.
                                Your sincere friend,  A. Lincoln

As I read this I think many things.  One is, if your grief is fresh, you will have happy times again. They may be tinged with grief - but you will laugh again.  I promise that too. However, if after many years you feel that you have a sad sweet feeling that is purer and holier than anything you have know before and people want you to forget about it or get over it - you can say simply, Abraham Lincoln says that I don't have to.  He would know.  His mother died when he was young and the death of two of his sons broke his heart personally.  He also bore the grief of the death of so many young men fighting for both the North and the South.  Grief doesn't end.  It becomes less sharp and changes color and intensity. 

Wishing you the magic, faith, and/or work that it takes to transform your agony into a sad sweetness.  The ability to make your memories joyful ones and to have light in your darkness.  xo

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Grief: What Story Will You Create for 2012?

Report on last night:  Okay up until a little after midnight.  With my daughter and granddaughter.  Watched the ball come down in Times Square.  Holding my lovely grand baby and my daughter says, "Are you crying."  I say, "Yup. It's a hard night for me."  Another new year without Artie.  Happy and sad.  Even though it was only two blocks my daughter was kind enough to put the baby in the car seat and drive me to my little apartment near her house.  I didn't want to walk past anyone holding hands or risk having anyone saying Happy New Years.  I ate cold Chinese food and went to sleep.

This morning I didn't want to get up.  Kept going back to sleep.  Then I forced myself up and started moving.

I like the idea of start as you mean to go on so I had a healthy breakfast.  Then I answered some e-mails and went on Facebook.  I want to write a poem and maybe a book page or two before I go back to lovely daughter and baby land.  I have a friend that says when you live in your head you live in a very bad neighborhood.  She's so right.  Pain feeds on itself.  I still miss Artie.  I'm still lonely but I feel better now.

When I was on FB I looked at the page of young woman I have been trying to help who is locked into her pain.  Her new year's comment was "Same shit, different year."  It was a lesson for me.  It's my job to make it different.  I usually try to be supportive of her wherever she is but this morning I challenged her to create a new story for herself.  I challenge myself to do that every day.  I leave room for all the pain - but if that's all I have - I have nothing.  That question - and what else?  I don't want to get stuck in the place where the only color is black - even though I love black.  There's a whole rainbow of experiences out there.  I have choices.  I will always make ones are escapist.  I will snuggle in and stop everything.  I have to also make ones that put me back in the world.   It's my light, it's Artie's light.  How can I feel good about myself if I never let them shine?

So, start as you mean to go on.  Do one thing today - in the real world - or in you imagination - that has to do with being fully alive.  I'll challenge you as I've challenged this young girl and then myself.  Find one thing to celebrate today.  One thing to be grateful for.

Also, be gentle with yourself.  It's a new year rushing in - one moment at a time.  When it's 2013 what will I have to look back on?  A lot of things are out of my control (damn!) but a lot of things aren't.  So much of me wants to shut down.  What if I don't let that part win?  What if this year I open up more than I did last year.  Watch this space.  xo