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 


  1. So much of what I feel about grief and life after losing my brother less than a year ago is reflected here. Thank you for the affirmation.

  2. "Listen. Are you just breathing a little and calling it a life?" .........this is me! I keep trying. I do feel I owe it to Mark because I am still here and he isn't and I need to keep his memory strong. I also relate to the post above as it is exactly how I feel too. People used to comment on the fact that I was always smiling, I think what a special man Mark was to make me so happy by just being there and I knew that my happiness was the most important thing to him, as his was to me. I also know that I will never find that happiness again in this life, little pleasures, maybe some contentment but mostly just coping and existing. Thank you for sharing, it helps so much to know that I am not alone in feeling this way. Shirley x

  3. When I read your posts it is like an affirmation that I am not crazy! Well, my Gra would say I was certainly crazy for loving him! LOL If that is the case I was crazy in love with him that is for sure. So many of your posts describe my feelings so perfectly it is like you know all about me and you are writing about my feelings. Reading your thoughts helps to affirm that I am not alone in my feelings and that always makes me feel better. I am so sorry for your pain of loss of your precious dearly loved Artie. Please know how much your blog and facebook help others especially me. I am so glad I found it. God bless you as you make the most of each day. I find my joy through my 3 year old nephew Mason, He is my joy that helps me on the tough days. He helps my Gra hole in my heart to heal. Just typing my comments helps me to heal a part of my Gra hole.