Saturday, December 7, 2013

Grief: The Word Is Vulnerable

I like to write more during the holidays because I know they are difficult for so many people.  I have spent the last 10 days not quite getting around to doing that.  I have spend the last however much time not quite getting around to doing a lot of things.  That sounds worse than it is.  I have had many lovely times.  I have been with my daughter and granddaughter and many friends. I have been trying to think of how to describe how I feel.  The word I came up with today is vulnerable.

It is as if my physical immune system isn't bad...but my emotional immune system is almost non-existent.  I know it is a combination of the holidays and New Year's Eve and Artie's birthday on December 11th.  I know that I say grief has no timeline.  I know that people hurt for years.  I know I tell people to be gentle with themselves but somehow I am feeling enough.  It's enough.  It's time for Artie to come back.  Wait:  that's impossible.  It's time for me to stop caring so much.  Wait:  that seems to be impossible.  I've been writing and doing so much work around this why am I spending time still staring into space trying to motivate myself to do things?  Why does it still hurt so much?  Because it does.

People might say I need to join the living.  I have.  I do quite a lot.  In fact I am busy almost every day.  Sometimes. a lot of times. I have a good time.  But then I fold up again.  I hit the same wall and it doesn't matter how much protective gear I have on; when I hit the wall - the wall wins.

I look and sound strong.  I look and sound happy -most of the time.  I talk about being alive with grief.  I talk about tasting the sweetness of life.  I talk about wanting Artie to be proud of me.  I have a long list of accomplishments and happy moments.  But I feel weak and vulnerable.  I feel like I am still an easy target for the dark side of grief.

I went to see a play today.  It was an impossible ticket to get and my source got me a single ticket.  I sat there wanting to be happy I was there and I was in so much pain.  I couldn't share being there with Artie.  I couldn't call him up when it was over and talk about it.  I remembered seeing plays with Artie and holding hands and snuggling up.  I remembered seeing plays by myself and if they were good I would buy two copies of the script and take them back to California where we lived and we would read them out loud.  He would take all the male parts and I would take all the female parts.

This was a Beckett play.  A sad play.  There are two simple lines:  "It's a fine day for the races."  "But will it hold?"  It didn't hold - by the end it was pouring rain.  It's a metaphor for life - but for me - a metaphor for grief.  Nothing seems to hold.  It's always sunny with a thunderstorm or blizzard about to hit.  I have succeeded in becoming more productive and generally happier but it doesn't hold.  I have a lovely time and come home to what I haven't done in a long time - that simple crying out of wanting the impossible.

In the theater I used the technique of feeling the pain and then looking around at what was there to bring myself into the present.  It worked a little.  The clutching in my chest went away.  I counted the lights.  I noticed what people were wearing.  There was a woman with a red jacket sitting a row behind a man with a red baseball cap as if they had decided to match.  The women behind me were having a funny conversation.  But then I kept almost falling asleep during the play.  Why?  I think it was because it was an elderly couple together.  Miserable - it's Beckett - but together.  To see them laugh together - and cry together - was more than I could absorb.  I'm vulnerable.  I wanted that.  I don't like laughing and crying without Artie.

Other people understand me - to a point.  He understood me completely.  He adored me.  I was his raison d'être (reason for being) and he was mine.  But almost 5 years.  Enough already.  I want to die and be with him.  I want to live and be there for my granddaughter who if you say, "Where does Gammy live?"  She says, "New York."  I don't ever want that little girl to be said.  I don't want Gammy to be living in Heaven.  Gammy always comes back.  If I'm in Heaven or wherever you go... I can't come back. I don't want my daughter and friends to be sad.  I don't want to miss things here.

So I'm caught in this vulnerable place.  I've made a space for myself where it is impossible to be happy because I want two things that can't happen at the same time.

I want the pain to go away - but I don't want the pain to go away.  The pain is part of loving a man who died.  I could take the wedding rings off again but I don't want to.

So that's how I've been feeling.  Vulnerable and devastated while all the while I go about doing fun things and having a good time.  Erin and Gwendy are coming in tomorrow and we are going to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, and the Nutcracker Ballet, and Rod Stewart at Madison Square Garden because Gwendy has to go to at least one rock concert before she's two.  It's going to be a good week while they are here.

But I'm still going to be vulnerable.  I am going to see some married couple holding hands or kissing and I am going to forget the happy part of me.  I am going to wake up in the morning or turn over to go to sleep and wonder again what the reason is that I'm still here.  I know the reason...I am a mother and grandmother and a friend.  I write this blog and I do a Facebook page.  There are some other good works I have been doing lately.

Nothing is Artie.  I still haven't learned how not to be vulnerable to what some people call grief bursts.  You are walking along singing Tra la la and all of a sudden it's like you are shot in the heart - again - and you just have to pull out the bullet and go back to singing.

This is starting to sound like something Artie would laugh at.  He would tell me to get away from my self pity - get out of my head.  He would call me a malcontent.  The glass seems half empty and poisoned when actually the glass is overflowing with sweet nectar.

I wish for you this holiday season that you don't feel vulnerable.  I wish you to be inspired by all the love and laughter you have had and that still exists around you.  I wish you the ability to be present with all that is good in your lives.  I wish it for me.  Here it is - oops there it goes - here it is again.

Maybe that's just the way it is.  Appreciate the openness to the delight - and have the dark be a backdrop.  Don't stop trying.  Celebrate when you can and weep when you can't.

Tomorrow I am having lunch with two wonderful women and then we are seeing a play - Waiting for Godot.  It is a Beckett weekend.  Then I am meeting my daughter and granddaughter.  What better day could there be for a Sunday?  (the ones when Artie was still alive)  Leave out the parentheses and let me present for the joy that will be there for me tomorrow if I am willing to feel it.   With love. xo


  1. Thanks for your post. It so describes how I feel sometimes. My significant other died May 27, 2013. Some days I want to be with him in heaven and then I think if that were so I would miss seeing my three year old nephew grow up. When I read your post I was thinking I am not the only one with these thoughts and though I hate that we both feel this way It gives me comfort to know I am not the only one. God bless you during this difficult Christmas season.

  2. I am at 4 yr 7 mo. I could have written this. It is me. Only I don't have the things to occupy my life like you. I have complicated grief. My mom just died last Sunday...she was the only one who had an idea how I felt. I hate my life, and at times I wish I would just not wake up. Thanks for writing.