Friday, November 2, 2012

Grief: Hurricanes and Holidays

I hate that they cancelled the New York City Marathon.  When my husband died I hated that life went on anyway.  I had to learn that life went on anyway, including mine.  The marathon goes past my window.  I wake up feeling sorry for myself and I look out the window and I see folks in wheelchairs whizzing by.  How much courage they must have.  I shake my head at my own weakness and promise to do better.  Some days I do.  Some days I don't.  Then, as it gets dark, I look out the window and see the men and women who are determined to finish long after everyone has gone home.  Tired, worn out, nobody cheering them on but still they keep going.

When Artie was alive I loved sharing storms with him.  The louder the wind, the heavier the rain, the more scary it was - the better it was.  I had his arms to curl up in.  I could pretend to be afraid and he would be my big strong man protecting his little wife. (He really believed that I needed his protection.  I didn't.  I do now.)  I was lucky that I was one of the ones in NYC who didn't lose power.  I was unlucky in that as I curled up in bed alone watching my DVDs I thought of all the people who were sharing the experience with someone.  I was supposed to get to my daughter's house for my granddaughter's first Halloween.  I became more and more desperate to get out of the city.  Selfishly desperate.  Wanting to be with my family.  All the while thinking of people who no longer had children or grandchildren.  I made it.  Someone drove me up.  I am with my family.  But not the Artie part of my family.  Very happy.  Still a little sad.

Hurricane Sandy has added to the ranks of grief warriors.  All tragedies do.  Some we pay attention too, some we ignore.  All the sadness and anger and hurt.  All the people who listen and all the people who don't listen.  The ones who understand know that there is life and hope but no comfort for the place that hurts.  Not for me.  My daughter understands now that her best friend died of cancer.  All I have to say is, "No matter how many best friends you have, you will always miss Jon."  That's the place that gives us delight in our memories and hurt in our missing.  The happiest, funniest times I have always have a little edge.  The edge is that it means less because I can't share it with Artie.  That's the part I would like people to understand.

The holidays are coming up and for many of us they are emotional hurricanes.  How can we be present for our family and friends when we are so conscious of the empty chair?  For me, it helps to make time for my bent over ball of loneliness and self pity.  Hello sad me.  Welcome.  I'm going to spend time with you and then I will spend time back in the world.

I always seem to be a little too sad, a little too angry, a little too raw.  It's been over three years.  It helps to know that people feel this way five years, ten years, as many years as they are alive.  We aren't alone. Okay.  Balance.  I reread that and it's not true unless I say I also feel happy, and content, and proud.

Holidays and hurricanes.  They rip us apart and bring us together.  We can hold it both.  One of Artie's daughters is pregnant.  How can that be?  I want him to be here when his grandbaby is born to see the smile in his eyes.  His spirit is here but I want that face.  I want my back rubbed.  I want the simple things and the complicated things.  Artie dying blew my house to bits as surely as any wind and rain blew someone's actual house to bits.

Rebuilding takes a lifetime. It is worth doing and worth doing well.  It is easier if we rebuild together.  Then we know that we are normal.  Whatever we feel, someone else is feeling it too.  That's why it's important to keep talking about it - so we don't have to lock it away.  A woman remarries and on the anniversary of her dead husband's death she cries.  She loves her new husband.  It doesn't fill that space.  I might never remarry.  When I play with my granddaughter I am lost in her blue eyes.  It doesn't fill the Artie space.

My message is always the same.  Hurricanes and holidays.  They exist together.  We can hold both.  We can increase the moments we have of inspiration and peace.  We can increase the time we laugh and feel warm and loved.  And all the time we can still cry out from the depth of our souls for the impossible, "Come back."  Here's to those who are rebuilding and here's to the memories that make us who we are.  xo

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