Sunday, July 1, 2018

At A Bend in the River

Morrie and I took a ten day River boat cruise from Kiev to Odessa in Ukraine in May, because we hadn’t seen that part of the world and it sounded interesting.  Interesting is quite an understatement.  We went na├»ve about Ukraine and I came back a changed person.

Ukraine has been disrupted by four waves of Evil in the last century and is facing another by Putin and the Russians again today.  The Jewish communities have been especially devastated, but all Ukrainians have suffered along side each other

In the 1920’s it was the Tsars Pogroms
In the 1930’s it was Stalin
In the 1940’s it was Nazi Germany
Then till 1989 it was the USSR
They have had two uprisings against corruption, 2004 & 2014
They are still fighting for their freedom.

How does one comprehend such horror, terror and grief?   The submersion in that history was life changing.   

I am impressed and moved by how Ukrainians are coming back again.  The thread I kept hearing that unites and motivates them is literacy.  They have a long history of making sure all citizens can read and write, going back thousands of years.  Each wave of Evil tried to stamp that out, because an informed citizenry is hard to fool/rule.  The Nazi’s came the closest, reducing literacy by 70%.  They failed also.  Literacy in the Ukraine is near 100%. 

It seems like a small victory, but captures for me the determination and heroic fight up from the ashes and triumph over four waves of Evil. 

It makes all the screeching and screaming here seem ludicrous.  The protests remind of a scene from the movie Frankenstein, all that is missing are the pitchforks.  The outstanding thing about the Monster is that he was innocent of harming anyone until he was attacked.

At a bend in that river, my perspective changed.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Reminder

This month, April, it has been 40 years since I found Sharon’s body, I buried her April 17, 1978.  So, I decided that has been way long enough to be lamenting her death. I put away the memorabilia I keep around to honor her death day and her burial.  All the music I listen to on those days and all the pictures, tokens, cards and memories, safely tucked away in their respective niches where I keep them safe.

Surprise!  The same thing happened when I tried to do this after 5 years, I started feeling angry and unhappy and lost track of why.  The connection to grieving is tenuous and hard to keep in mind.  But the kicker this time was I turned the hostility inward, against my self.   I felt all the guilt about letting everyone down, all the angst about “what ifs” and “if onlys”.

 I began to interpret behavior and remarks as signs that I am unloved and unlovable.
This was a nasty reminder that not staying current with my feeling, especially grief, always leads to even more grief .

So whether it is 5 years or 40 I still have to honor her death and my grief.

That’s true of all humans.  In my practice, the central issue is, astonishingly often, some significant loss.

Don’t listen to those who tell you to “get over it”.  The death of a child is not something one “gets over”.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

I Wish

I wish that Probation had worked and that MADD would save every life.

I wish that banning Horror comic books would have saved our nations youth as promised when I was twelve.

I wish that the War On Drugs would stop the carnage and that it had saved my Childs life.

I wish that the Black Market in drugs hadn’t made it impossible to find her killers.

I wish that the latest push to ban guns won’t create a black Market in assault rifles and make it impossible to find killers’.

I wish that everyone could understand that grief is the real culprit here and provide safe places for people to cry.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Living In A Mayonnaise Jar

After 40 years of being an outsider, because being a bereaved parent makes me an outsider, I am going back to live in my old Mayonnaise jar.  I am really tired of living in a hostile environment.  I can’t remember when anyone asked me how I am doing or said her name or remembered her birthday, let alone any other important dates.

I really don’t blame anyone or expect them to understand because grief is a walk alone.   But for today I can curl up and feel safe, cry if I want to.  I can see everyone, hear everyone and even smell the roses, but on one can touch me in here or tell me I should be over it by now.  Which of your children would you give up? 

This dark, lonely place I am in today must be honored and fully embraced, then I can break the glass and rejoin the world.   If I don’t I will stay safe and apart from any more pain and any more joy.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Deep Blue Christmas: Dealing with Extreme Grief at the Holidays

For those who’ve recently lost someone they deeply loved, this is the season of struggles.  Here are some short tips on how to grieve when the world is trimming trees and singing carols

While it’s hard to quantify grief, to say ‘my loss trumps your loss,’ we all know there are losses that sadden and there are losses that devastate.   The first Christmas or Hanukkah after a devastating loss—really any ‘first’ without the loved one—can be almost unbearably painful. The holidays create idealized expectations that can’t possibly be met. For those experiencing extreme grief, this time of year isn’t just a let down; it’s a painful reminder of what you no longer have. I remember being so angry that first Christmas because everyone was laughing and sharing and I had to visit my child at the cemetery.

If you’re suffering from extreme grief, here are some tips on how can you survive the holidays.

Break down when you need to break down. (Yes, even in the middle of the office Christmas party.) Grief doesn’t always arrive at convenient times, but it should not be squelched. Find a bathroom or go outside, but cry and scream if you have to. 

Never fake it, “Never soldier through it. Only by “riding the waves” of grief, even when makes others uncomfortable, can you ever begin to heal.”

If you feel like going to the holiday event, go. If you don’t, don’t. “Grief ebbs and flows, and often after a period of intense crying you will feel okay for a while,” says Shechtman. “If you’re in an ‘ebb’ and think you might enjoy Candlelight service, then go. Take grief as it comes.”

Forget seasonal “obligations.” Take care of yourself first.  “If you just can’t show up for a holiday dinner, it’s okay,” says Shechtman. “If you can’t face shopping for your grandchildren, don’t. They have too much stuff anyway! Those who care about you will understand.”

When you need to, call someone on your “List of 10.” Historically, extreme loss was handled in the context of family, friends, church and community. In our current culture families are scattered and fragmented and communities and churches have been devalued. That’s why Shechtman suggests cobbling together a list of 10 people you trust who agree to be there when you need them—even at 2 am.

“After Sharon died I would call the people on my list, one by one, to see if they were up to my grief at the moment,” she says. “Grief requires comfort, a hard thing to keep asking for.”

Find a way to honor your lost loved one during the holidays.  Hang a stocking for her.  Prepare his favorite meal. Do something meaningful to bring the person’s presence into the holidays.

“These rituals help you process the loss rather than trying to squelch or deny it,” says Shechtman.

Do something that brings you pleasure or comfort.   It doesn’t have to be holiday related.  Go for a snowy hike, or visit a spa, or pet cats at the local animal shelter. The fact that you’re grieving doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life.

“This last point is the hardest to believe, but it’s true,” notes Shechtman.  “You’ll think, ‘I’ll never be happy again.’ You will.  Maybe not this Christmas or Hanukkah. Maybe not next year. But eventually, you will.

“Making the choice to grieve—and it’s one you must make again and again for the rest of your life—expands your capacity for joy and brings new richness to relationships,” she adds. “If nothing else sustains you this holiday season, hold on to this. Life will never been the same, but it will be good again.”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Whenever There Is A Big Loss...

Whenever there is a big loss in our lives it requires certain responses, whether we like it or not.   Our freedom is simply in how we choose to handle those requirements.

The most basic choice is whether to take the risk of loving again.  Knowing that you could lose again, it is a very difficult choice.

The other big choice is weather to honor the loss by continuing to grieve.  It may actually be the same choice in different words.  But to not honor a significant loss leads to bitterness and cynicism.  Not grieving over time isolates and distances one from comfort and healing.

I had a hard time myself after Sharon died and later I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  I had trouble reconciling those two critical events in my life.  I remember the mental image I had of an internal earthquake and me sitting on the ground going through the rubble that used to be my life.  What should I keep, what should I discard?  Why even bother, it was too much to wrap my head around.  It seemed, at that time, that every time I rebuilt, some new thing hit me.  So I wallowed around in that place for a while, basically sidelining myself from reengaging with much.  That felt very safe and somewhat secure.  Then I began to feel restless and lonely, that dilemma tugged at me for months.  I went back and forth like a yo-yo, break out of my safe shell, or sit down and stay safe.  I remember the choice came quietly one day while walking in Montana.  Life is going to go on weather I do or not, so I may as well join. 

All of us have to make that choice in one form or another, many times over a lifetime.  I have to remind myself that the “ties that bind”, the invisible strands of family, friends and life  are stronger then my grief.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Poem #5

 I came in one day
found Sharon dead
I went mad.

Because you were there
let me have
I am healing.

Thank you.