Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grief: Another Round Of Holidays

I went to see a professional person (I try to be a little vague in describing real people since I don't know who may be reading this).  When I made the appointment I was told that his father had died and he was going to the funeral.  When I did see him I wanted to honor what he was experiencing.  He is very knowledgeable and proficient so it didn't bother me that he was unshaven and his office was in disarray.  I told him whatever he was feeling was normal.  I said that there weren't really stages of grieving, it was more like a roller coaster.  His eyes were drinking in my words.  He told me that for his entire life his father had led the family Seder (the meal shared which tells the story of Passover).  This year he would have to take his father's place.  He wasn't nervous.  He couldn't believe that his father would no longer be at this important family meal - or anywhere.  After almost four years I still sometimes am rather startled, angry, or sad that I am going through another holiday and Artie won't either be with me or be waiting for me at home because he didn't want to go somewhere!

Easter, is this year, like Passover in March instead of April.  A great time for families gathering to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Children painting eggs and bunnies and baby chicks.  All symbols of new life.  Who is physically present to say a prayer before eating food lovingly cooked?  Who is not.

With time the empty chair doesn't speak quite as loudly.  When Artie first died even a simple dinner outing seemed very strange.  Especially with a couple friend; seated at a table set for four.  Where the heck was Artie?  In no shape, obviously, to join us.  How could I be sitting there without him?

With time, while I am still conscious of his physical absence, I am also aware of his spiritual presence.  I can look down and concentrate on the almost physical pain of his death if I need to - remembering when I look up to fully root myself in the present.  In the present I can use my five senses to see color, hear the sounds of people's voices, smell food cooking, touch a friend's a face, taste something delicious.  If I am alone this holiday I can still use my five senses to experience what is around me.  I can create a day, a series of days that I want to be alive in.  I don't believe in pretending the missing, the loneliness isn't there.  I believe in saying hello to it and then, forcibly if necessary, bringing myself back into the now.  When I say look down for a second it's a modified NLP technique.  If you are in public and you look down or close your eyes for a moment people won't notice.

The best way to anchor yourself in the present is to notice things.  I'm one of those people with a mind that doesn't quit.  It babbles and shrieks and won't leave me alone.  I can quiet it by really looking at my surroundings.  If I am washing dishes - what does the water feel like on my hands?  If I am walking - what color are all the cars that drive by?  The more I pay attention to what is outside of me the less I am able to pay attention to what is inside of my hyperactive mind.  This is a practice.  The more I practice, the easier it gets.   For me, I am lucky to have my granddaughter.  When she walks up and says, "Hi!  Up!" her blue eyes call me to be there for her completely.  I have to learn to say "Hi! Up!" to be there for myself completely.

It's okay to be sad that it yet another holiday.  It is okay to be happy that it is yet another holiday.

Celebrate the memory.  Celebrate the creation of new memories.  Whether it is Passover - the freedom from my own slavery to what keeps me from being fully alive (yes - that it is not the same as being enslaved by other people), or Easter - the ability to resurrect myself from Artie's death and mine (I hope no one is thinking I am a heretic!) there are metaphoric reasons for these holidays.  They are about remembering the sacrifice and the pain - and filling our senses with joy and love because of the triumph that came after.

I hope this is a holiday season that creates new memories that tug the ends of your mouth upwards.  If this isn't a holiday season for you at all I still wish that.  I don't know if the snow will every stop falling but I hope for spring to be a season that can come back into my heart.  xo

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