Thursday, May 16, 2013

Grief: A Heartfelt Thank You To Rosie O'Donnell Who Tweeted About This Blog and Those Who Retweeted - How Did This Happen To Me?

I think that is the longest title ever.  I am in London and when I saw my blog statistics I wondered what had gone wrong.  (The power of negative thinking.)  Someone was kind enough to let me know that Rosie O'Donnell had tweeted that is a wonderful blog on grief.  My daughter was more impressed when Cyndi Lauper retweeted.  I am still surprised and humbled that my words can bring some measure of comfort to people at a time when comfort seems impossible. I am grateful that more people are being reached and I want to say again that any post can be used with or without attribution.

I want to tell you how this rather surreal thing happened.

I often talk about showing up.  When Artie first died I wasn't interested in anything but I made myself go places.  I waited for life to seep back in, and wondered if it would.  For example I used to love theatre.  I went.  I slept.  One night Carrie Fisher kept me awake. She made me laugh.  It was a beginning. I could give many examples.  I still at times have to force myself to show up.  One of things I did was get involved with Rosie's Theater Kids.  That organization supports children not just with dance, music, acting and other theater arts classes but academically and emotionally as well.  I have been consistently impressed with both the staff and the students.  I have never met Rosie O'Donnell in person. 

I often talk about discovering and creating meaning.  When Artie first died life didn't seem to have any meaning at all.  I seriously considered suicide for about three months.  I couldn't believe he wasn't going to come back to get me and thought as a loyal wife I should go to him.  I was wrong.  I didn't want to hurt my daughter, most of all, but also other friends and loved ones.  It seems I have work left to do.  My husband was a recovering alcoholic that failed at a lot of things but always helped other alcoholics and addicts.  I decided to honor him by being available to other grieving people.  I started writing this blog.  I thought it might reach one or two people and that they, like me, would have experienced the death of a spouse.  I am always touched at how many people it has reached. 

Grief has universal challenges.  I had been in therapy with a lovely woman when I was told that I had "morbid grieving".  Being sad and missing my husband after six months had been turned into a mental disorder.  Thus came my mission in life - to keep repeating that putting a time limit on grief is a big lie.  Grief doesn't have stages, it is a revolving door - a roller coaster.  Someone posted on FB that love and grief go together.  They do.  When a person or a pet dies you grieve for the rest of your life.  That is normal.  My goal is not to get over Artie's death (how could I? why would I want to?) - but to be ALIVE with grief not deadened by grief. 

I am shy about what feels like self promotion. I try to remember that telling people about this blog isn't about me - it's about the blog.  I have e-mailed Oprah and others and never received a response.  I realized that I knew people that were connected to Rosie.  I had to shake off my I'm not good enough, it's bad to ask for things self.  I was given a contact for her assistant.  I asked if Rosie would be willing to mention my blog.  I took an action.  I am so grateful that I did, and I am grateful that she responded.

Yesterday was a good day.  I am in what seems to me the very odd position of having famous people mention my writing.  I got a ticket to a play that was impossible to get.  My friend who I asked not to say "Everything is all right." and "We create our own reality." because those sentences remind of how impossible everything still seems without Artie here sent me a loving e-mail.  I was afraid she would be angry but she has accepted me for who I am. 

A good day.  My husband used to talk about not giving up failure without a fight.  Sometimes it is difficult to rest easy in a good day.  A day that aligns itself with life and gives you joy.  How can I call my husband and share the fact that people are reading what I write and that I have created meaning for myself when it is the very fact that he died that made this possible.  It is good that I have allowed his death to inspire me in this way.  It hurts my heart that he is not here physically and yet I feel that his spirit is proud of me.

I still have to say hello to the pain and the loneliness.  I still have days when hello isn't enough - when Artie's death whacks me on the head and in the heart and sends me to bed.  Maybe that's okay.  Maybe what I tell everyone else is true for me too.  Wherever I am - there I am - and it's okay.  If I don't like how I'm feeling and acting I can use all the techniques I have to build something else.  But...not before I pay respect to my feelings.  We are given a full rainbow of feelings.  We are depriving ourself of our humanity if we only want to have "happy" ones - especially if those happy ones are gained by lying to ourselves and others. 

This morning I met the historian Alison Weir who is leading a tour I am taking about Lancaster/York.  She gave me a big hug - remembering me from last year.  This is the dilemna we all face.  So many things to do, so many things to experience...and yet how long do we have to wait to be reunited with those we love - hoping that in fact we will be reunited.  If you see me, if you know me, you know that I am happy, sad, angry, lonely, loved all at the same time and that is what I want.

Magic doesn't happen just for me.  I'm not different than anyone reading this.  Magic is hard to find sometimes but you can find signs of it.  You don't have to give up anything - just add in a little possibility.  Add in a little giggle.  Sometimes it might be all right - some times it might suck.  You can learn how to hold both.  You can learn how to be alive with your grief.  xo


  1. Jan, I found your blog because of Rosie's tweet, and I thanked her. I'm actually starting at the beginning, and reading everything you've written. I just passed the 4th anniversary of my husband's death. For me, it gets harder every day, not easier.

  2. I am grieving the loss of a 20 year marriage. In my grief journey I have found that friends and family travel with you for only so long...the rest of the journey is yours alone...and it get's mighty lonely. I too have friends who tell me I need to move on (can't they see that I am? Because, I am). I have learned to say to those who are weary of my process (and it is a process) that I am taking my time and moving through things at my own pace, as best I can and I summarize this in one state I would like to share here. It is this: Grief takes a hold of you and doesn't let go until IT'S finished with you.

    We can facilitate our journey in ways that have been sited in this outstanding and supportive blog, and in ways tailored to ourselves, but grief has it's own timeline and it's own presence. It visits when it wants. I remind friends and family that until they have suffered a deep and painful loss to lay judgment aside. For those who can't or won't, I have less time. It's important to surround myself with supportive and nourishing souls - even if it means I'm dwelling a bit. Because as Jan Warner states, grief travels with us for speaks to us when we least expect it shaping how we navigate and who we are becoming, every day.