Sunday, August 4, 2013

Grief: Hello, I'm Not Wallowing, I'm Grieving Part 293848

The blog post that has gotten the most hits over time is the one with the title that starts: Hello, I'm NOT Wallowing...  Some people have a need or a want to put you in a category.  You're not moving on fast enough and you need to be fixed.  You should follow your bliss.  I always say I do follow my bliss, it just runs faster than I do.  You're moving on too fast and you need to cry more.  Aren't you over it already?  You should talk more.  You should talk less.  If people would stop and listen, and not think they know, I think it would go a little easier for all of us.

I write a blog on grief.  I now have a Facebook page on grief.  Someone commented that if I stopped spending all day on the computer focused on death and went out more I might meet a new love in a bookstore or a library.  It never occurred to that person to ask me how I spend my day.  I rarely spend more than an hour or two on the computer - sometimes less.  I talk about my grief and that of others because so many people don't.  If I wrote a blog on fun things to do in NYC, or a day in the life of... you would get a different side of me.  The funny thing is I did meet my love in a bookstore.  My love is my husband Artie and I met him in the bookstore I owned in Phoenix, AZ called the Turning Page.  I don't mind if you find a new partner if you are a widow or a widower.  Why should you mind if I want to be like the Queen Mother or Betty White and have a full life while remaining in love with my dead guy?  

I'm not sure why it's difficult to grasp the truth that for many of us that sadness and happiness coexist.  There is a difference between grief and depression.  When I came home from my trip to the Mediterranean (because I have such a boring life - giggle) I had a couple of very bad days.  I think I didn't give the fourth anniversary of Artie's death enough attention and it came back at me.  Those days were the dark, black hole kind of days.  I still managed to get things done; but it was difficult.  My sleep got all messed up and my eating did too.  Those days feel like they will last forever but for me, now, they don't.  They are the days of why bother, the days of nothing means anything without Artie here physically.   They are days of a multi-ton grief home invasion.  What helps me move out of that?  Not hiding completely.  I make myself share what is happening to me.  I have friends who listen and give me permission to grieve as well as encouragement to climb out of my hole.  I showed up.  I kept going out with people and, surprise, found myself having a good time.  I kept working on my Facebook page and found many other pages full of sadness, courage and lovely insane humor.  There are various places to share in the virtual world if you don't have somewhere to do it in the real world.  I have learned to turn myself outward when inward is not a good direction.

My husband used to say, "If you live in your head, you live in a very bad neighborhood."  What he meant by that was our mind is often our biggest critic, our worst enemy.  You have to practice turning outward to where life is.  The inner/outer connection will come.  Those days I knew what I was grateful for, but I didn't feel grateful.  I knew what I loved about being alive but I had a longing for death.  Wallowing isn't feeling what you feel and sometimes coming to a stuck place.  Wallowing is if you stay there every moment of the rest of your life.  Set aside 3 hours and feel sorry for yourself the entire time.  Don't let your thoughts drift to something else.  It's actually not that easy.  There is a life force in all of us.  It pokes through - and if you stop playing Whack a Mole with it - it can come through all the way. 

I am sad all the time that Artie is dead.  What isn't complicated for me and seems to be for some people, is that a lot of the time I am also happy.  I do fun things.  I just spent part of today getting tickets for various things that I will enjoy in the next few months.  I spend time arranging things with friends.  I spend time with my daughter and granddaughter.  I read a blog post written along time ago saying: maybe today I will start writing my book.  I haven't started.  Maybe I will this month.  Whether I do or not, I have to look at what I am doing not what I'm not doing.  I also can't compare myself to anyone else.  

Sometimes taking a shower is enough.  Sometimes taking a 5 minute walk because you can't stand being outside for 6 minutes is enough.  

It's difficult facing the sadness there is in the world.  There is a Facebook page that has pictures of beautiful people, many of them young, who have committed suicide.  I think it is important to remember and to be a witness.  Not all day.  There is time to be there in dark places and then put down the black crayon and pick up the purple, red, green, and yellow ones.

You can't help me.  My husband is going to stay dead.  What you can do is understand me.  Listen when I am sad, and laugh with me when I am happy.  The unfortunate thing is that I meet people because they have experienced the death of a most beloved person or pet.  The fortunate thing is that I meet wonderful people.  

The Facebook page is amazing because I have likes on it from countries on every continent except Antarctica.  I am startled and humbled and gratified by the response.  A little scared.  But what it tells me is that there is hope in grief.  If we share grief around the planet perhaps we will learn to share other things.  No one should have to hold a dead body in their arms - but they should especially not have to hold a dead body in their arms from a homicide or an act of war or terror.  Disease and old age causes enough grief without the ways we add to it.

Okay - usually I keep politics out of it.  The point is that in order to understand each other we have to be willing to see beyond the surface, beyond the mask.  We have to stop watching how someone acts and decide for them how they feel and how they need to change.  It's the hardest with the people who are closest.  Ask my daughter.  To just accept people where they are and then give them a hand to do something a little different to make their days and nights more full of joy - that's a true blessing.

I'm very lucky that Artie was a recovering alcoholic who whatever he failed at always made himself available to other addicts and alcoholics.  It was to honor him that I started all this.  I think he's proud of me.  I hope so.  I'm a loner by nature but this community of grief warriors holds me up.  It helps me cross boundaries I wouldn't normally cross.  From the widow in a small village in Corfu who will wear black for the rest of her life to a woman who wears red and remarries within a year...from the man whose brother dies who plants a tree to a man whose child dies who sets up a foundation to help others...there are so many acts of kindness done in the memory of those who we breathe for.  

This grouchy lady, me,  has to admit that with all the terrible things happening every day - including my one big terrible thing - my loneliness without my soulmate and greatest love - there are some pretty splendid things happening every day - some darn funny things happening every day.  It's my job as a human being to be increasingly aware of this great variety.  I think you lose something if all you feel is joy just as much as if all you feel is pain.

Bit of a rant this one.  So...feel what you feel.  Know that you are normal.  Know that the sun is going to rise in the morning and we can choose if it is a day to close tight the curtains or swing them wide open and step out into the light.  xo 


  1. Thanks so much for this post. It speaks volumes about grief. You've given some much needed hope! :-)

  2. Thanks for your wise, honest, and open-hearted words, Jan. It's hard for some to understand that grief doesn't disappear as we experience joy, beauty, hope, and love. Grief is part of the on-going mix of my life. I can't have what I lost and long for, but I can follow through with what I said to my husband a few weeks before his death: "I promise I will find a way to make a good life without you." And I fulfill that promise every day, even when the day includes tears. I don't ever remember grief not being part of life, even as a child. We don't have to get on with it. We're on it, and we're grieving, too.

  3. Elaine, that is truly beautiful. I am sorry for your loss and you sound like a very strong woman. Big hugs to you on your journey. S x