Sunday, June 9, 2013

Grief: What Part Of Me Doesn't Know You're Dead?

The other night I had a dream.  Someone called and told me that you (my dead husband) were in California.  You were sick and wanted me to see you again and take care of you.  They didn't know where you were.  I searched and searched.  I called everyone I knew who knew you.  I hired a private detective.  I was so glad you wanted me to be with you again but I couldn't get to you, even though you needed me.  Finally, frustrated and a desperate kind of sad I woke up. 

It's been almost four years.  I know you are dead.  I know you left me because your body was too sick to stay, not because you wanted to.  I know how to change the course of my dreams, how to influence their content.  None of that matters.  I often dream a version of that dream.  I dream that I am looking for you and I can't find you.  One morning it was nice.  There was a pillow leaning against my back and for a minute I thought it was you.  Most of the time, though, I'm not dreaming that we are having good times together.  I am dreaming this fruitless impossible search.

We lived together in a house in Carmel, CA.  After Artie died I packed up and put the house on the market.  I always loved NYC and we fought about where we should live - because Artie loved Carmel.  I came to live in an apartment I already had in NYC.  One he never visited because as much as he loved NYC he was afraid to travel once he found out he had a wonky heart.  A man with only half of one artery open in his heart who died of cancer.  How ironic is that?  I packed up and moved fairly quickly.  The house was too empty and too painful without Artie in it.  I went back before it sold because I hadn't said goodbye properly.  I did a funny thing before I left for the last time.  I looked for him.  I knew he wasn't there.  I knew he was dead.  I looked in all the closets.  I even looked places he couldn't fit, like the cupboards under the sink.  I wanted to make sure.  I didn't want to leave him behind.  The last place I looked was in the mirror where he shaved every morning.  I wanted to see his face in the mirror.  In a phone call with a medium (Yes, I do that once a year on our anniversary which is my birthday.  My birthday present in 1996 was to get married.) he said to me, "The reason why you didn't see me in the mirror was that I was standing right behind you."

I know Artie is dead in my mind.  I remember those last weeks, those last moments, that last breath.  I remember the men from the Neptune Society (who cremate you) coming to my door.  I told them, "I know he's dead but he's my husband.  Please don't call him "the deceased" or "the remains".  He has a name.  Call him Artie."  Before they wheeled him out the door I said to him, "I'm sorry I'm not coming with you but that would be stupid because you're dead."  I can't remember what I did yesterday but I remember that last night and day in vivid detail.  I stood at the door and watched his body being driven away.  When he exhaled his last breath I watched him - I want to say fly - so I will - fly away. 

I know Artie is dead in my body.  I haven't been held in almost 4 years.  I haven't looked into his eyes in almost 4 years.  I feel as though, as comfortable as my new apartment is, I haven't relaxed physically in 4 years.  I miss his touch.  I miss his smile.  I miss his every thing.  I even miss our ridiculously terrible arguments. 

I know Artie is dead in my heart.  I keep him alive by remembering him but there are no new memories - only the old ones.  There is hope that he looks over me and holds me in whatever his new form is.  There is hope that one day we will be reunited...but my heart grieves because the form that I so loved is gone.  His face, his voice, his body are gone never to return.  All the pictures I have are of a dead man.  When I die those parts of me will be gone too.  But I'm still here on earth so I crave earthly things.  My heart knows that I am in love with a dead man.  It even questions if that is the right thing to do.  Should I be looking for a living man to share the rest of my days with?  What does loyalty and marriage mean when Artie is definitely dead. 

I don't know what part of me still thinks he's alive.  Awake, I feel like I have no denial.  I have the illusion or truth of communication with his spirit.  Awake, I know that communication with his spirit is not the same thing as communication with a living being.  I even sense when I think certain thoughts - that he might like a TV show or a t-shirt - that he says to me, "No body."   Still, in my sleeping state, I look for him everywhere.  Gore Vidal called them frustration dreams.  Dreams where you are pursuing the impossible with increasing levels of dis-ease.  Who am I without my husband?  I'm living more of my life in the alive side of grief and yet...

The fourth anniversary of Artie's death is July 17th.  Is the dark side of grief pulling me towards it, even now?

All this, no matter how I analyze it - remains a mystery.  I don't know, I only believe.  Is Artie's spirit reaching for me?  Does he miss being alive with me?  Does his spirit need me to take care of it?  Am I limited in my understanding of the way he takes care of me now?  Am I limited in my understanding of the way he needs me to take care of him now?  Can a spirit need to be taken care of?  Can a spirit be jealous? 

This is a post about questions - not answers.  If I had a secure faith there might be answers but for me there is uncertainty.   All I know is that Artie will never come home to me in the way I want him to.  I have to continue this life journey without my alive him.  I have to be brave when I am frightened.  I have to deal every day with the unthinkable.  My dead husband is very alive to me.  I can't bear it any other way.   Someone said, "My past is my future."  In my love life that might be true.  Sometimes that is okay, sometimes it is incredibly lonely.  Most of the time I can hold both.

That's the part I always try to end with (begin with?).  Now that I've written this all down - I can get up and get dressed and be present in my life today.  Ready.  Steady.  Go....                xo


  1. I just want to say thank you for this.

    I don't know anything about you or your relationship. I can't say "I hope you are doing well", because I know that's not always what someone wants to hear. I ended up here after a search for "grief and denial" and a related article.

    I lost my loved one less than a month ago. I read parts of this post... and so much of it is exactly how I feel or exactly what I'm so afraid of. I felt like I connected with it so much that I just had to thank you for making me feel a little less alone in the world.

    A lot of my experience with the death of my loved one was uncommon... I often feel like there isn't anyone that I could talk to who could possibly understand. This post gives me a little bit of hope.

    So thank you.

  2. you know, it's ironic, it's March 25, 2016 and since 9pm I have been reading this and another post. I was sad because no one had responded to the previous post, then I moved onto this post and here's this comment today. I believe in signs and symbols, I am lucky my loved ones do come and visit in spirit and talk sometimes too. My sister in love, my husbands sister had a birthday recently, no one can talk about her, no one celebrates her birthday. I buy cup cakes and we celebrate with my husband and with my kids. she came to me in a dream and said, "Well, here I am you've been asking for me." So, we had a nice visit. Yes, then dreading waking up. She is dead. I remember that so well, every morning I had to remind myself she is dead. Like some how I am going to forget and drive over to her house. The hardest part for me is that her family, has a picture of her in two places in the house, very prominent, really sweet. But, it is the unspoken forbidden thing to bring her up, which really stinks for me because I have no one else that knew her to enjoy her and she was larger than life, a true free spirit, and complicated. She gives me messages to deliver to family, like the other day, completely random Her sister texts me about an herb she needs, to sick to get to a store herself, funny thing is that I am right next to a HFS and go there to get her herb. That was totally my sister in love, nudging from spirit... call me... I see it on so many levels... working her butterfly magic, I see the gossamer strings and so do my kids. she taught them the hula from spirit, and energetic healing methods. She was a healer and they would walk in at night, after bed time, showing me all these things. I am a healer to but sometimes it's fun just being mom and enjoying the magic with the kids. Now, the kids were infants when she grew her wings, but the kids would say "there's the flying sticker" when they went to bed at night. I knew she loved to fly and it was her. It took me awhile, they had not learned the word sister, we have 3 boys, and they knew what a sticker was. I cracked up when I realized "the flying sister" .... we call her the "flying sticker" I think she likes it.