Tuesday, October 21, 2014
An important aspect of the redoing of my reality has been the emergence and subsequent living of my values. A lot of that clarity came out of my struggle to be seen as “nice” and to be liked. It was important for me to understand why I couldn’t be like everyone else. The journey has been lonely enough, but I also felt the added burden of rejection. I was having a lot of trouble relating to most people. For a long time I assumed it was because of my grief. It was quite a surprise when I began to realize I didn’t like them any better than they liked me. It turned out to be a clash of values. Again and again, the push back to me was that I was too harsh, or too blunt. Perhaps that is true, but it does not explain all the disagreements. What it does explain was my insistence on continuing to grieve, even this long after Sharon’s funeral. The choice to grieve reflects my value of growth over comfort.
Thirty years seemed, at the time, like a momentous milestone. I have no idea how many times I have cycled through the grieving process. It is never a one-time deal. It is never neat and tidy, nor in any particular order. The only two stages that have any order are the first (shock and denial) and the last (acceptance). The rest are a continual swirl (anger, bargaining, and depression), and often are an unarticulated reaction that doesn’t make sense to others. For example, every time I hear the song “You Are My Sunshine,” I burst into tears and leave the room. That was a song I sang to Sharon often as she was growing up. My reaction makes no sense to anyone but me.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
When you’ve lost a child there is no such thing as “enough”.
Not enough comfort
Not enough help
Not enough meds
Not enough answers
Not enough relief
Not enough recovery
Not enough peace
Not enough glue to put me back together again.
It’s like having an arm ripped out by the roots, all raw, jagged and bloody with unbearable pain.
And yet, and yet, over time like a balm applied to the wound the hemorrhaging stops, the jagged edges smooth some and the pain reduces to a manageable level.
This is accomplished by insisting on your grieving and never letting anyone tell you how or when to grieve.
Monday, September 15, 2014
by your own
I do not understand.
I am humbled
help you want
I am defeated
do not accept
what you said
The journey back is always about relationships, and the conflict and disappointments inherent in a million choices along the way. Because of the way Sharon died, a drug overdose, the shame and remorse I felt were sometimes debilitating. It was never clear whether she died on purpose or not. If she did it intentionally, that was one grief; if it was an accident that meant an entirely different type of grief. Sharon had come to me a few months before and told me that she was struggling with PCP and alcohol. She and I were in counseling together at the time of her death, so perhaps that would have meant we were succeeding. The confusion made my guilt especially persistent and difficult. I felt constantly tortured that I had failed to do something to help her choose to live.
Friday, September 5, 2014
Her death is
There is no
That is deeply
I love you.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Depression is always the leading edge of grief. This is an important phase in recovery from significant loss. This is the rebuilding time after a shattering experience and all the little bits and pieces that take so long to accept need to be put back together, often in a different configuration. When people don’t know what they have lost they often get stuck in this awful place. It is that black place where shame and self-loathing override every rational explanation. Any change is loss, wheather it is good change or bad change, and all loss requires some grieving. Grieving is on a continuum, from the death of a loved one, all the way to “Oh rats, I lost my umbrella.” The built in mechanism for dealing with this wide range of feelings is the grieving process, which is as necessary as any other human process.
Almost anyplace is preferable to grieving. Grieving means feeling what was lost and reexamining the old vow to stay away from that place at all costs. These old vows & choices have nothing to do with thinking but everything to do with survival strategies and tactics of a very young child.
It is a place where you feel like a fraud and every achievement, victory or success is just luck; no one could love someone like you because you are flawed with no hope of redemption. This keeps you safe and from asking for anything. This place keeps you safe from anyone getting close enough to see the real you, ugly, bad and worthless.
Keeping frenetically busy and “on” all the time works amazingly well; it fools everyone, even sometimes yourself. It is just when you slow down there is that black hole pulling you in. This was Robin William’s style and when he slowed down he was faced with all those unarticulated, inexplicable overwhelming feelings that he had no understanding of and no skills to handle.
The flip side of busy is going very still, being quiet and withdrawn, that is also safe and people usually leave you alone. The operative word here is alone, because that is all you believe you deserve. It is the place of silence and despair. Where the attempt to climb out of the pit just doesn’t seem worth the effort. You look normal and go through the motions of daily life, but you just aren’t there. You are deep in the pit.
There are many ways out of depression, but only one resolution, or way to heal. Why is this so hard and scary? The short answer is that grieving is a change agent. Once we start, there is no turning back. We can never be the same. That seems to be the purpose of grief, to create a path from one state of existence to another; a before and after. There was life before my daughter’s death and after I buried her. The only way I found to survive that pain and dislocation was to grieve out loud. It was all about rebuilding my life and myself after the A-bomb. Most people think grief is only about death but as I have said in other posts, all change is loss and demands letting go, grieving.
Some ways to grieve:
Crying is the most effective and the most difficult because crying is so all consuming. Crying is also the fastest form of healing..
Walking and talking with a friend over time is healing.
Writing or journaling helps put into words the experience, poems, songs, anything to keep grieving.
Some people find drawing; scribbling or painting relieves that burden of pain and isolation.
Grief requires comfort and support. That is usually found within friends, family, community or faith.
Grief always takes longer then we want, it is important to let it happen.
The long answer is that deep grief changes our perspective and challenges everything we have believed and all our cherished philosophies about the meaning of life. It realigns priorities and fundamentally alters how we relate to others and ourselves. Grief always cuts through our carefully built defenses and drags up any unresolved issues to be dealt with or reburied. Like Godzilla it tromps on the orderliness of our lives and leaves a trail of rubble.
It actually is scary because we don’t understand the intense, all-consuming nature of our own grief and just want to stop the pain and confusion. Given all the possibilities of how the process can go awry, most people somehow manage to get through and recover. Usually with grace and dignity. It is a continual tribute to the human spirit, and I am always impressed.
Saturday, August 9, 2014
I am able
to raw, open
It was during the twenty-sixth year that I developed breast cancer, which was an entirely new problem to grapple with. How to fit that into this whole recovery scenario? There were moments when holding up was hard. I had a difficult time reconciling these two life-changing events. It felt like an earthquake. I remember a persistent image I had of myself, sitting in front of a pile of rubble that used to be my life. It was my job to sort through all that and decide what to keep, what to rebuild, and what to let go of. The reaction from those around me (except my inner circle, especially Morrie) was surprisingly similar to when Sharon died. After the surgery and chemo I looked the same. The message was clear: don’t talk about it. “Now that it’s over, you’re OK, right?” It is hard and embarrassing to talk about the fact that after all the intensity and drama of the sequence of events around cancer, it is just over. Since the outcome for me was good, it seems ridiculous to say that going from being the center of attention to no attention was a bit jarring, but there you have it; again the loneliness. That is why my support group was so important.
I am still amazed by how little focus there is on the family members surrounding the patient, like husbands and brothers, as well as friends and everyone else. I was fortunate to have Morrie Shechtman in my corner during those very dark and frightening days. In addition to asking questions I wasn’t capable of, in the beginning, he fiercely found the best care available. The hardest part for others to understand is that he was able to tell me how angry he was that I had cancer. Why that is so important is that it made it possible for us to stay close during those terrible months. If he had not, those secret, unspoken feelings would have made everything more difficult, and I would have wondered what was wrong that we couldn’t be intimate. There were many other things he felt also, and keeping the relationship honest made the rest possible.
Women who have lost children and have had breast cancer are considered by many to be neither good moms nor sexy. At some point in this struggle, it occurred to me that life was going to go on whether I did or not, so I might as well join. I have not regretted that choice either. An important piece that helped me through that very difficult time was a persistent sense of being “held up” by all the prayers, good wishes, and positive vibes sent my way. I am not a religious person, but that sense was powerful and difficult to ignore. It was the spiritual equivalent of many hands holding up a person during a “trust fall.” I am eternally thankful for all those good wishes. Again, the choice I made was to let people matter and to allow their help to assist me. It is so easy to sink into a private, quiet, internal place that feels safe. The false bargain here is: “If I don’t think about her or talk about her, then she won’t be so gone.”
While fighting breast cancer, my sense of reality was once again upset and I needed to rework my life view one more time. After facing the death of my child, and then my own, my tolerance for political correctness is zero. The flip side of that is that my tolerance for people’s grief has increased. I very much understand people trying to hold on to life as they knew it. I am fiercely for a person grieving any way he or she chooses.