Sunday, March 23, 2014

Grief: Is Life Precious or Just Annoying?

Shouldn't my husband's death make each day of my life even more precious to me?  If so, why did I not even consider this a possibility until four years and eight months after his death?  I get caught up in how lonely I am for him and how much I want to be with him I forget to consider the possibility that being here on Earth is not a punishment but a gift.  For some strange reason that's not even easy to write.

Let's be honest.  I've never been one of those perky waking up joyful kind of people.  However when Artie was alive we were a comfort to each other.  Our love was something that we found sustaining.  I always talk about his love for life - and he had it.  He didn't want to die.  Yet neither of us walked easy on the earth.  It was just when he was alive we walked uneasy on the earth together, holding hands and that made it better.  We laughed together and understood each other in a way that was very special to us because for each of us it was the only time in our lives we had someone that we could totally trust and share things with in that deeply intimate way.  I miss being cherished by him.  Do I want to be cherished by another man?  I don't know.

Mary Oliver asks, "Listen.  Are you just breathing a little and calling it a life?"  Sometimes I am.  I am hiding away annihilating myself with sleep and TV and food to escape from coming home to silence.  I truly believe Artie is holding me and protecting me the best way he can.  But he's not here in the way I was so accustomed to him being here.  I don't seem to ever totally make peace with that.

Sometimes I have a life full of adventures.  I have greatly increased the amount of adventures I have since that first year of sobbing and desperately seeking.  There is so much I would have missed if I had died when my husband died - as I wanted to and thought I should.

I wrote about this on my Facebook page Grief Speaks Out.  My granddaughter Gwendy blue eyes who is two years and three month has been saying, "Don't talk in the dark. Don't talk in the woods. The animals will hear us. It is scary." It must have come from a story she heard. When I was babysitting her we put on our coats and hats and scarves to go out into the dark night and have an adventure. We held each other's hands. Walking down the front steps she slipped and I held her up. In the field in front of the house it was muddier than I thought and I slipped - but I didn't fall. We held hands and walked one careful step at a time. We started to venture into a very dark place and an automatic light came on as if by magic and illuminated our way. We went back into the dark and walked around in the tall trees (the dark wood), seeing our shadows - tall and big and how they walked in front of us..  Then we went back in to the dark space and made the light come on again.  When we went back into the house we realized that when we held hands we could talk in the dark and not be scared; we could talk in the woods and not be scared. When my daughter came home Gwendy told her, "I had an adventure with Gammy!" Before she went to sleep I told her a story about a little girl named Gwendy who went into the dark wood. She met all kinds of creatures - owls, and mice and many others. They all said hello and asked if she wanted to see their sleeping babies. She went into the woods scared and came home safe with the memories of an adventure and the thought of peacefully sleeping woodland babies and friendly animals and birds. While I was telling the story Gwendy was listening intently with a little smile. If I had died when my husband died as I so wanted to...I would have missed that moment. I would have missed the lesson of how we can go into our own dark wood and not be scared if we only hold each other's hands. 

There are many other things I would have missed.  Each day is precious?  That is a stretch for me still.  I'm not an ungrateful person.  I have a very long gratitude list.  My heart just hurts.  What would I do differently if I could see the preciousness of my life while I still have it?  If I have to look back on my life after I die what will I see left undone, unfelt because of the choices I made.  

I get tired.  I think I will always be someone who needs down time.  I am imperfectly me.  It is a big shift for me to try to even think of each moment as precious instead of something to be gotten through.  I always talk to people about being surprised by happiness.  Why not get better at creating it?  I have often thought with such short lives it is sad that we are so skilled at hurting.  Let us become skilled instead at finding contentment; even in small things.  

What if when I feel sorry for myself (one of my excellent skills!) I think about all that I have and have had instead of all I have lost?  There is so much suffering in the world.  Can I bear witness to it and honor it while at the same time not forgetting that there is so much beauty and love in the world?  In my own life? 

Grief and pain are seductive.  We give them names and some people want to medicalize them.  We make little boxes out of them and put ourselves inside and close the lid.  Here I am, I am a suffering person. Can't you see, there is no way out.  Perhaps I am the one who must change how I define myself.  I must change how I define my relationship to the world. it is my job to take off the lid of the box I have put myself in. It is my job to step out to see what there is to see.   I can always go back in when I need to.  All that hurts, all that is vulnerable is real.  It needs time and care.  However, in the same breath, isn't all that is precious, all that is loving real as well?  Why not climb into those boxes some times and close those lids.  Maybe that's it.  Each moment is new box.  Which box will it be?  When I look into the corner of my day if I have had too many dark and desperate boxes perhaps the next day will be one of searching - and finding - the precious ones.  My life is becomes a search for many different boxes - to see how many there are I can fit into - not just one.

My life is precious AND annoying and many other things.  I wish us all the ability to put our grief in a box or a bag and take it with us into the dark wood to show it we don't have to be scared.  Our grief can come with us on adventures.  Our grief can teach us that our life is precious because if we lived a life without grief it would mean we lived a life without love - and that would be truly grievous.

Come...let us hold hands and see the light flickering in the shadow instead of the shadow flickering in the light.  With love. xo 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Grief: Why Do I Keep Falling Into This Hole In My Life?

I could make this a six word blog post.  Because I am grieving, that's why.

I don't love a generic person.  I love someone who was the center of my world whether we were getting along splendidly or fighting in that way when we were done we said, "Who were those people and how did they get into our house?"  The fights were never physical, just verbal.  I can see now how we could have been more accepting of each other's quirks and had less fights - but nothing we did made the love less.  I think how special it is when someone loves you when you are at your worst.  It is easy to be loved when you are at your best.  This person I love is still the center of my world.  The problem is - he is dead.  So I miss him.  So I grieve.  I don't mind that.  I can't imagine not grieving.  In fact I am grateful that I was so loved that I so grieve. I would like everyone, including me sometimes, to accept that.

Sometimes it is difficult to get used to the rhythm of it.  Am I better after 4 years and almost eight months?  I always say I hate the word better.  I figured out that I am resistant to it because it only describes part of me.  The part of me that desperately wants to feel my husband's arms around me again and share things with him and see his smile and is desperately not really satisfied with him being with me in spirit is never better.  That's the hole.  It is an Artie shaped hole.  Nothing can fill it.  When he was alive and I was having a hard day I would say, "I wish somebody loved me."  He would raise an eyebrow and say with a twinkling eye - "Somebody?"  Because what I wanted was for him to love me - not just somebody.  He did.  I knew he did and know he does.  It was my way of looking for reassurance.  So "somebody" - even if some day I am less stubborn and look for another love relationship and find one - will never fit the shape of the Artie hole.

The part of me that is better is the part all around that hole. I am trying to get used to the truly lovely friends I have made.  (Sometimes I also have that hole of thinking I don't deserve good things. I do.)  There was a time when I was young when I didn't know how people made good friends.  I have less and less time to spend alone - and I like being alone - as I have more and more people I want to spend time with.  People who love me.  I can't get away with saying nobody loves me anymore.  Some of these people I have met through showing up places after my husband died.  That is one of the most important things I do - and have done - since my husband died - show up.  I show up whether I want to or not.  I make plans and I often wish I hadn't.  I make myself go.  I show up and - surprise! - I enjoy myself.  At the beginning when it was almost impossible to have a good time because my grief was so overwhelming - I showed up anyway - not as often - but I showed up.  I waited for some of that life out there to seep back into me.

I am lucky to have my daughter and my granddaughter.  The time I spend with them is very special.  To be a grandmother to Gwendy blue eyes as well as being fun is also an honor and an obligation to be present. To see life through her eyes instead of my own is a gift.

I am lucky to have found meaning in doing this blog and the Facebook page at  The difference is that the blog posts are more of a monologue. The Facebook page is an international community that is compassionate and understanding.  People have made friends outside of Grief Speaks Out.  Someone posted that they are international now, they have a friend in Liberia and one in Australia.  I am humbled by this (as of today it has 330,000 likes) but also very proud of it.

My desire to travel is coming back.  I am reading a little more.

When Artie first died I wept constantly.  I could not understand why he wouldn't take me with him.  I considered suicide.  I got help from many places in an attempt to save my own life.  I am not that desperate hopeless woman any more. I am better.  The hole isn't better - it still HURTS.

Some days, some nights the hole seems like the only place worth being.  The quicksand comes back and nothing seems to matter.  Sometimes I make friends with the hole.  I give myself time to descend into it - to stare at the wall - to be in the center of it.  Sometimes I am impatient with it.  Sometimes I am exhausted.  I think grief warriors are the bravest people alive.  We wake up every morning and live our day without what we want most.  Even if all we do is keep breathing - that is an accomplishment.  We bear the unbearable.  Yet bearing this burden we can still climb to great heights.

The reason I force myself to do the things I do is partly for me but also to honor my husband.  He can't live on earth any more - but I can.  I do it for myself and for him.  His nickname for me was Panache.  I want to still be Panache.  Not to deny the sadness - the pain - the longing - but to grieve with a certain sense of style.

The entire time I have been writing this I have spelled the word hole with a w - whole - and had to go back and change it.  Maybe that's me telling me what I often ignore - and what professionals and friends and family who tell us to move on or get over - don't or won't understand.  I am whole with the hole.  The hole is as much a part of me as the parts that are learning how to be filled up with love, new experiences, emotion, and adventure.  My challenge isn't to make the hole go away - or fill it up.  My challenge is to make the parts of me that aren't the hole happier, more productive, fully alive.

That's the hole story.  We are whole.  We can be fully alive with grief.  It's just that some days it's easier to figure out how to do that than others.  With much love. xo