Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grief: The Fun Is Done...Find Some Fun

Content Warning:  Some of this post is about my daughter and my granddaughter so if you are sensitive to those kind of stories I wanted to let you know.  When my husband first died it was hard for me to listen to people talk about their husbands or wives.  Today someone told me her daughter was engaged and I was able to be happy for her.  Sometimes things change.  Sometimes they stay the same.  Sometimes you thought they changed and they didn't.  Sometimes you thought they stayed the same and they changed and you forgot to notice.

General confusion in that paragraph.  However; with all we share I could probably write blah blah blah, tea la la and you would understand.

My daughter is kind enough to have given my own room in her house in Marblehead, near Boston.  I spend about 10 days a month there because my granddaughter Gwendy blue eyes is not quite two and she changes so much.  I hate missing things.  Now she is talking and she is able to express how much she misses me.  She doesn't like it when I leave.  One thing I have been teaching her is that in order to do the next fun thing you have to say goodbye to the fun thing you are doing now.  So if we are at the aquarium we say goodbye penguins. goodbye fish and I tell her something else fun we are going to do.  That way she doesn't cry or throw a temper tantrum.

I had an idea.  Yesterday morning when I was leaving to go back to my apartment in New York City i took two little dolls.  A Grandma doll and a Gwendy doll.  They hugged and kissed.  Then I took the Grandma doll over to her train set - which is little - so the Grandma doll rode on top of the train car  to New York City and hung out for a while.  Then she came back on top of another train car and hugged and kissed the Gwendy doll.  When we went to the car to take me to the train station Gwendy wanted to take a purple bucket.  I put the Grandma and Gwendy dolls in the bucket, thereby inventing the saying, "We will always be together in the bucket."

On the way to the train station Gwendy looked at me and said, "The fun is done."  What a complicated concept for a little girl.  I said, "Yes, the fun is done."  I'm all about validating people's feelings even when they are tiny.  But then I said, "The fun is done but you will have fun with all your friends."  I named as many of her friends as I could think of. "  She named her friends after me; counting them on her fingers.  Then I said, "I will miss you but when I come back we will have fun again.  The fun won't be done any more."  When we got to the station I kissed and hugged her goodbye and this time she didn't cry or ask me not to leave.

What does any of this have to do with grief?  The fun is done.  With those we love - people and pets - we have a lot of wonderful old memories but no new ones so in some ways the fun is done.  The dark side of grief tells us the pain will be all we will ever feel.  The work in transforming the grief is to acknowledge the part of that which is true - but then to count on our fingers and in our hearts all the ways we can still have fun - or put in better terms - how we can still find happiness and meaning.  If you stay only with "the fun is done" you will not be alive with grief - you will be dead with grief.  The fun and happiness you had teaches you to appreciate the fun and happiness you can have.  My husband's love for life and the fun (and the bad times but always the love) teach me that I have the possibility in me for more fun.  I have to show up.  I have to be willing to be broken open instead of just broken.  When I do laugh and have a good time I have to notice it and let it in.  I know that I don't have to feel guilty - either way.  If I am living my life fully I am honoring my husband's memory and life in the best way.  If I am staying in bed staring at the wall - I am being perfectly human.  I know he understands and I must forgive myself.  Sometimes I do that and time it.  I set the alarm for ten minutes or a half hour.  Sometimes I don't need as much time as I think.  I had another dentist appointment this morning and I tried to go back to sleep for an hour or just suffer.  I couldn't.  I got up and started doing things.  I feel better now.

I wake up every morning and remember - my husband is dead.  I ask myself. "How will I live today without him?"  The answer to that is...there is no answer.  Just do it.  Just take the next action and if I can't, stop and rest.  Yesterday I got up early in the morning to post on my Facebook page.  Then I took care of my granddaughter because she and my daughter both have colds.  Then I took the train from Boston to New York City (four hours).  On the train I did work on the computer.  I had an hour at home and then I went out to a lecture with a friend.  When my husband first died that kind of day would have been impossible.  What I am dealing with now is feeling slightly overwhelmed with how much I am doing.  I am missing my down time.  Sometimes I feel a little crazy.  Sometimes I am a little crazy.  But I am doing it.  If I can do it - you can too.  I am a very ordinary person. We are all ordinary and extraordinary both.

Am I healed?  Nope.  I also turn over every night and feel how alone I am that he is not in bed next to me.  I have nightmares some nights where I search for him and I can't find him anywhere.  Morning and evening bookends of sadness - with flurries of sadness throughout the day.  However...there are so many more happy and productive moments every day.  I see occassional comments about how I am supposed to turn some switch - accept - pray - something - and then I will be happy all the time.  If that's you - I'm happy for you.  It's not me.  I'm still okay with not being okay.  I don't need or want to be fixed - I just want to keep looking for where the life is at the same time I miss my husband and wish we were together again in the same form.  I don't have trouble holding both.

The difference between grief and my story with my granddaughter is that she knows I am coming back for more fun.  My husband isn't coming back to me in my lifetime.  His beautiful face and body don't exist any more.  His voice is gone.  But, when I die I won't have mine either.  I hope that we will be reunited and we will have fun together again too.  What does it feel like not to have a body?  I don't know.  How will we hold each other if we don't have any arms?  I don't know.  Perhaps not having a body is more fun than having one.  He knows.  I will too some day - or I won't.  What matters is what I do with this moment and the next.

I know that I have to learn and relearn what I so glibly teach Gwendy blue eyes.  You have to move from moment to moment.  You can't stay in one moment forever.  That's not the way life works.  What I wish for you is that with whatever pain and sadness you have - and may have forever - that you are also finding fun - ways to help others - ways to tenderly take care of yourself.  I think the favorite sound our beloved dead hear is the sound of our laughter.  I don't believe, as some do, that they are hurt by our tears.  I think they simply try to wipe them away and hold us tenderly with great love.  But I do think they love the sound of our laughter.  I wish you laughter.  Why?  Because you will always be together in the bucket.  (If that doesn't make any sense go back to the last line in paragraph four. If it still doesn't make any sense...may it's not supposed to. Maybe it's nonsense.  Nonsense is often more fun than sense.)    With love.  xo


  1. Absolutely beautiful. I'm so happy that you're able to find happiness with your grand baby, Gwendy. I'm glad you're able to smile and live your life as you see fit.
    I lost my oldest brother on October 31, 2013. It's been only two weeks, but it feels like an eternity so far. I miss him dearly, but he was very ill with lung cancer and I'm just glad he's not suffering any longer. I, too, am trying to live life like he would have wanted me to. I have both good and bad days. Sometimes I get up and am normal, sometimes I just lie in bed and wish it were another day, another year, just not now.

  2. You both make me feel as if I am normal. How thankful I am. My husband of 40 years died on 7-27-'13. I keep telling myself I'm glad he's gone (he too was sick for years) but I'm not. We moved into an apartment 10 days before he died from the home we shared for 27 years. Sometimes I get so mad at him for dieing! I know he didn't chose to die, but I can't help feeling that way.