Monday, July 23, 2012

Grief: Am I Brave Enough To Be Alone?

I'm like a turtle: head out for a bit then back in. No matter how good it feels when I put myself out there, there I go. Run away. Play dead. I was getting a massage today and in the middle of the comfort and the silence I realized that I spend most of my time trying not to feel. I talk about feeling. I get angry about everything. (I'm having a no complaining day tomorrow - wish me luck!) I watch DVDs, do amazing things but I keep my mind so busy I don't have time to be mindful.

Even three years later I can't take it in. I can't absorb the shock. I talk to him. I talk about him. I take off my wedding rings, I put them back on. I did this lovely thing for the third anniversary of his death. Inspired by Kelley Lynn who had pay it forward day for her husband Don, I had An Act Of Kindness Day For Artie. I wrote about it, posted it on Facebook, e-mailed it. some people did some amazing things to - as I asked - keep Artie's smile going. I was so happy reading what people did that I forgot to be sad. I tried not to feel sad about the folks who didn't respond. Then I couldn't sleep all night. Another lag in writing the blog. The funny but true statement that the problem with leaving everything to the last minute is that the last minute isn't long enough.

Me? Having some great moments but overwhelmed, stalling, trudging through quicksand. Trying to keep Artie's smile going. Heady, romantic stuff that. The problem is Artie doesn't have a smile. He doesn't have a face. He has his spirit, I have his spirit. No matter how much I say, "I know he's dead.", I'm afraid to stop keeping my mind so busy that I am present enough and brave enough to really feel what I feel about his death. I don't know what that means yet. I'm at a health spa in California. No DVDs, no sugar,no busyness. Will I be able to be? I am so proud of being Mrs. Arthur Warner. Who am I now? Who is Jan without Artie? Without alive Artie?

This week I'm going to try to take another step. Writing, which I want to do, and don't, taps into my unconscious. My dreams, often of searching and not finding, do too. I have to be willing to grieve on a whole different level to become honestly unstuck. Without techniques and showing up and constantly soothing and medicating myself. Just being me out of my comfort zone. Me on earth with a husband who isn't. Mindfulness in the true sense. Being present. Seeing beauty alone. Enjoying it, maybe. Listening to my own inner silence without crumblings or doing my favorite thing - being snarky. If I feel like I'm lost in the wilderness, wandering there for a while instead of...what? I'm not sure. All the same, hold on. Here we go. "Come back!" I say. "I can't. I love you but I can't come back." he says.

So...for now...I go on alone. Our constant paradox. Always alone even if never alone. I believe we can do it. We can learn how. xo

Monday, July 16, 2012

Grief: Understanding and Misunderstanding

Whew.  Coming up against the third anniversary of my husband Artie's death tomorrow.  Thank you so much to those of you who understand.  Whether we communicate or not I am so grateful for those who get it.  It is very lonely to feel no one understands. Since writing this blog and finding Facebook pages I know that, unfortunately, there are a whole lot of people who do understand from direct experience.  I also want to publicly thank my daughter (even though she doesn't read this) for making an effort to understand.  I once asked her how many times I talked about Artie during the day and she said, "I don't know, I'd need a clicker!"  Even though the last night I stayed with her and my granddaughter she had root canal and wasn't feeling well she took the time to sit with me on the sofa.  She actually stroked my hair and held my hand for a little while.  The next day when she drove me to the train station (she's 37) instead of just dropping me off she parked and came in to sit with me.  She wanted me to feel loved, especially at this time.

On the other hand, someone who I always think of as a best friend was totally not understanding.  I haven't figured out how to deal with that.  It hurts.  I know it's normal because I've heard it from a lot of other people.  One woman at a bereavement group said there were 700 people at her husband's memorial and not one of them was still in touch.  What's up with that?  I know my friend is going through a tough time.  I know when two people are having melt downs at the same time it isn't easy.  However, I did make an effort to connect with her and what she was going through.  She didn't with me and doesn't even get why I feel that way.

Three years.  Am I supposed to be done with it now?  That's the difficult part this year.  My daughter was actually funny.  She said, "He's been dead for three years and he hasn't come back even once.  How rude!"   I laughed but isn't that the core of the misunderstanding.  People have grief fatigue.  Time passes.  It's not important any more.  It is to me.  With all my techniques and all I've learned and lived I have been running swiftly backwards.  I will have live three years tomorrow without my darling husband with me.  I'm tired and sad and I miss him more, not less.  What's not to understand about that simple fact?  Even though I believe his spirit is with me - his body isn't.  I'm tired of ashes and pictures and old cards and letters  I want my guy.  I just read that when Joe Di Maggio died at the age of 84 one of the last things he said was, "Finally I'll get to see Marilyn again."  For you young folks - that's Joe DiMaggio the great baseball player and Marilyn Monroe the actress who died tragically of a drug overdose at the age of 36.

I collect those stories.  Stories of people who spend their lives missing their one true love, or their beloved child or pet or mother or uncle or grandmother or anyone I've left out.  They make me feel normal.  I've said this a lot.  I don't mind at all people who find new loves.  Maybe even I will.  However, I don't relate at all to people who say they are "over" the death of someone who was much loved.  I want to live fully and make Artie proud of me but I don't want to be over it.  It seems silly to be over it.

I went on Facebook and asked people on two pages how they deal with the "dates" - anniversary of a death (some folks call it angelversary) - birthdays - wedding anniversaries - mother's or father's day. 

I'm planning on e-mailing people who I've been in contact with since Artie died who are grieving.  I'm having lunch with a friend who I can trust to share things with.  That was the saddest thing with my long time friend not understanding - I don't feel I can trust her right now.  I'm keeping my appointment with my chiropractor and I went to exercise today.  However, my food is way off.  I am the queen of sugar consumption again.  It's hard for me to work.  I'm scared and lonely and blah blah blah.  I want to get back to the grieving in a healthy inspired way again instead of this sluggish thing I am now.

There are people from my past and Artie's past that have stayed with me.  There are all the wonderful new people I have met.  There are people you would have thought would have stayed close but haven't.  When Artie died he asked his friends to look after me because he was afraid of how I would react.  They did for a time.  I wonder what he would say to them now.  Especially the ones he counted on who have changed e-mails and not given me the new one.  I have my granddaughter Gwendy's blue eyes to look into and see pure love and pure being in the present.  That is the greatest life gift of all.

I think this friend who doesn't get it will at some point.  We have been friends for too long not too.  However, it makes my heart hurt even more.  It feels damaged.  We are going away together next week and I wonder what it will be like.

The bottom line for right now is that I am too hurt by Artie's death to allow myself to be hurt by others.  The good thing is that it made me realize that I do have a healthy sense of self esteem.  I care enough about myself to seek out those who can support me.  I care enough about myself to admit "I'm STUCK!!" and look for ways to be unstuck.

Thank you, all of you, who share this journey with me.  My fellow grief warriors who help me turn around when I start marching backwards.  I have a life to live to make my husband proud; to make me proud; to make all of you proud.  More tomorrow.  The day.  I call this Artie's dying time.  I don't know why it always feels like it is happening NOW.  It does, though.  Keep strong but real.  Nothing wrong with paying attention to what hurts.  I think that's better than ignoring it.  Then saying - ouch - but what's next. Who else am I?  What else can I do?  What can I be grateful for.  Unlucky me.  Lucky me.  Both at the same time. xo

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grief: July 4th Missing the Fireworks

My husband hated holidays and I loved them.  If he was still alive we probably would have had our own fireworks yesterday.  That's the strangest thing about his death.  I miss the things that frustrated me the most when he was alive.  A character on a TV series said about the love of her life, "I appreciate him so much more now that he's dead."  Isn't that true so much of the time?  I appreciated Artie a lot when he was alive but there were things we wanted from each other that we couldn't figure out how to give.  Then we'd fight.  There was never any doubt - except for occasional moments of neurotic insecurity - that we deeply and truly and foreverly love each other.  The problem was sometimes we weren't very good at showing it. 

Someone said when he died that after a while I would only have good memories.  I said, "Are you kidding?  I want to remember my husband!"  I wonder if I do.  C. S. Lewis, in what I think is the most helpful book on grief, "A Grief Observed", talks about not seeing someone for a long time and realizing they are different than you remember.  Or, those times when you shared something with someone and you are both completely sure that it happened in two totally different ways.  I have so many memories but I wonder what Artie would say if he were here.  Would he remember it the way I do?  Would he be the man I remember?

One of the nice things about memory is that I can remember him being healthy and energetic.  When I look at the photos of him taken during the last year of his life I can't believe I didn't know he had cancer.  I thought he was just getting older.  With hindsight, it's obvious.  I know he would like being remembered in his best days.  He hated losing his hair.  He hated being in pain.  He hated not being able to play tennis in the heat of a summer afternoon.  He loved, though, that I was there to tell him stories and make him laugh.  He loved that he had finally found someone he could love and trust.  So did I.

It's the 3rd anniversary of his death on July 17th.  The past is beckoning.  I like resting there sometimes.  I am at my daughter's house and playing with my granddaughter is lovely.  Babies are so present.  There is much I love about my present.  I have worked hard at creating a life I can live that Artie would be proud of.  My favorite letter from him talks about how he sees me trying new things, falling down, getting up and trying again.  It's still difficult now with a spirit hand instead of a flesh hand to guide me.

I'm rambling a bit.  Grief is like that.  Going backwards into the future.  I had given Artie's slippers to Jon, who died of cancer at only 36.  His feet were swollen after chemo and I knew Artie's slippers would be comfortable for him.  I always had them next to my bed as if Artie could magically reappear.  It was a big thing for me to be able to give them away.  Now they have been given back to me.  Two dead men have worn them.  Do I put them back next to my bed?

I will, hopefully be moving.  I have decided to give more of Artie's things away.  I said to him - "How can you stand being somewhere without any slippers or sneakers?"  (He loved having multiple pairs of sneakers - one for the beach - one for restaurants - one for walking etc...).  He said, "I don't stand."  I laughed.  Did I make it up or did we share a joke - me here on earth, him wherever he is?

So...last night I saw some beautiful fireworks with my daughter and granddaughter.  I had a good time.  But I missed NOT seeing the fireworks with my husband and arguing about it.  I think that if he sprung to life I would never be angry with him again.  I would be so much more understanding.  I know, however, that the peace would last a short time and off we would go again.

I miss EVERYTHING about him.  My life is full and empty.  The fireworks light up the dark sky in brilliant flashes and then go...where?  Does it all have meaning beyond that which we give it?
Are any of the questions we ask even important.  One breath at a time and when the breath stops...then we'll know the answers - or not.

My job is to be grateful for what was and what is.  My job is to keep showing up and seeing what happens next.  Other than's okay with me not to know the answers right now.  What I do know is that you can miss the fireworks and have the fireworks at the same time.  xo

Monday, July 2, 2012

Grief: Fell Off My Invisible Tightrope

It's been a long time in between posts.  Grief has made my life a walk on an invisible tightrope.  Sometimes I balance so well that I forget it's there.  Then something happens and I'm lying on the ground, all bruised, wondering how to get up again.  Then I become conscious of the tightrope until I can balance easily again.  The ladder is there - our ability to jump high is there - but sometimes it feels like it is too difficult.

I have never experienced a hospital death.  I was lucky that I brought my husband home to die so I could create the experience I wanted for him, for us and for his friends.  I was stressed out, of course, but we had jazz music playing all the time and we left the front door unlocked from 10 am to 10 pm.  Even when his hospital bed was in the middle of the living room people came in and out.  When it was time for him to die (the right time for him - too early for the rest of us) a hospice nurse helped him and us.  No machines, no attempts to patch together a body ravaged by cancer.  I've thought about it since.  If I had done something different he might have had a little more time but I always feel like I made the right decision.

My daughter's best friend Jon died from cancer.  He was in ICU for what seemed forever.  It wasn't about me but it was very difficult being in the ICU waiting room.  It was difficult seeing him hooked up to so many machines.  It was his family's choice and they felt they had to do everything they could to try to save him.  I respect that.  However, it was hard for me to watch.  It was made doubly hard by the fact that he was only 36.  There is no comfort in a young person's death for me.  I know I don't understand the why and it is possible there is a why.  However, he had graduated Columbia U. Phi Beta Kappa just last month.  He had a bright future - except he didn't.  I got to see him before he went into the ICU and tell him I loved him.  My last words were - "I'll see you - or I'll see you."  He knew what I meant.

People talk about logic and reason but that doesn't account for signs and wonders.  Since my husband's death it's hard to believe he doesn't exist in his pure form somewhere.  People who never met him and have just met me SEE him.  Whether it's true or not - believing that we will be together again makes my life possible.  I hate that my dead family has more people in it. 

I did pay my bills, do the things that had to be done.  However, other than that I went back to the old barely coping me.  Sometimes a friend would call and remind me that I was held to earth in lovely ways just by what they said.  The Celebration of Jon's Life was Saturday.  It was a very special day.  Good to hear the stories people told.  Good to be able to support his family since I have this unfortunate experience with grief myself.  Then Sunday I got food poisoning.  I think it was my body's way of telling me to stop.  To just stop and be.  To rest. 

Artie will be dead three years on July 17th.  Part of me wants to be faithful to him for the rest of my life.  Part of me wonders if that is silly.  Is being married to a dead man the right thing?  Still don't have the answer to that one.

I'm going to Marblehead (near Boston) to stay with my daughter and granddaughter Gwendy blue eyes for a few days.  A good friend who lives in Tucson is joining us.  When Gwendy - who is six months old already - smiles she sometimes wriggles her whole body as if she is so full of joy she can't contain it all.  I try to learn from her and to be present for her.

This past three weeks I've forgotten most of what I know.  No, I've remembered, but chosen not to use any of it.  It's time for me take all the tools and coping skills I have and come back to life, come back to being a happier more productive me.  I kept thinking how much easier this time would have been if Artie was here to hold me.  He is - but not with his arms - just with his spirit.  It's not easy for earthbound folk like me to get used to that.

If you fall off your tightrope the thing to do is to scramble back up.  Don't spend so much time on the ground licking your wounds that you like it better down there.  It is tempting!   I'm on my way back up and hopefully you will be hearing from me more often again. 

Truly nice and loving people having someone they love die young.  Can't get used to it.  All the wonderful people I meet because of grief.  Yet...there is that beautiful connection.  Stay connected.  Find the way home until it's time to find the way to the other home - the one we long for. foot in front of the other and here we go!  xo