Tag Archives: grief

Adrift In The Space of The Hardest Year

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The thought occurs to me I’m broken.

It’s still a little dusky light out, and I’m lying in bed with my daughter, who’s already asleep.  Tears slide down my cheeks as they usually do at this time of day.  It’s become somewhat of a ritual. My crepuscular cry. 

It pisses me the fuck off.

I’ve never cried so much in my life.  It’s dumb.  It feels shitty.  Crying is supposed to make you feel better.  It’s science. It releases good chemicals in your brain. I tell my clients all the time about the beautiful and sacred purpose of tears. All. The. Freaking. Time. But it never fails to make me feel like a failure and a fraud and just so fatigued.

It’s been a hard year.  Probably the hardest.

I feel I have some sort of obligation to buy space in a newspaper and print a public apology to anyone who has known me over the past year.  I’ve been a horrible train wreck of a human.  I’ve been messy and loud and weird.

If you all could have known me a couple years ago, I want to say.  If you had known me then.  Those were the good days.  Those were the times I bore some semblance to normal, when I could contain my Self better.

That was when I was at my old job.  With E. just two doors down from me every day for years and years.

Those were the days when E. would leave me random clippings from the New York Times Sunday paper on my desk at work.  She’d cut out stuff she thought I’d find interesting.  I remember one about the healing power of fairy tales.  

The memory of these flimsy papers brings a fresh wave of grief crashing down over my head.  I’d read them and think of something pithy to say in return, then travel the five paces to her door to chat with her.

Those were the days when I was witty and reformed.  If you had only known me then. Sure, I had my rough times, plenty of them.  But I wasn’t broken.  Not like I am now.

Changing jobs was really difficult in ways I never could have predicted, but I think I could have adapted a hell of a lot better if I hadn’t had the sudden trauma of E. up and dying on me last October.

It’s not just work and death. It’s motherhood and marriage and financial instability. It’s never having enough time or energy to brush my children’s hair and feed them breakfast. It’s all the piles of things that make me want to curl up in bed and daydream for three hours. 

All the things. They have broken me. 

The thought occurs to me that I might not ever get fixed again.

I blame a lot on E. and maybe that’s not fair. But seriously…  

E.’s death changed me.  I kept thinking I would trudge through the grief and get to the other side and things would “get back to normal” and I would “feel like myself again.”  That doesn’t seem to be the case.  I think E.’s death altered me at a molecular level, shifted my DNA in ways I won’t be able to figure out how to switch back.

The light is fading and I’m so tired.  I consider falling asleep next to my daughter, but there is still a lot of laundry to do, coffee to set up for the morning, and messages to return to friends.  

I think about going to work this week and my heart starts to race.  I think about the stack of bills lying in wait on my desk and my stomach lurches. I’m no longer sleepy.

I try to think about how my five year old daughter rode her bike with no training wheels for the first time this weekend, and how my nine year old has his first band concert this week in which he will play the trumpet.  What brilliant triumphs!  

You see, I’m not a total Debbie Downer.  I still get blissed out by these every day miracles.  Life still has color and flavor and lots of sound.  I take every opportunity I can to indulge in rampant laughter.

But mostly I’m adrift inside myself, lost in the space within me.  I’m like an astronaut, untethered from her rocket and running low on oxygen, uncertain what will happen next. 

It’s a scary image.  I think of calling someone up and telling someone about it, but I can’t reach out because that is even scarier.

I’d like to go and sit in the grass with E. and talk to her. It is one of the only places where I feel at peace these days, and sometimes I feel frustrated when I can’t get there, but the thought occurs to me that you can’t live your life in a cemetery.

I roll onto my back and look up into the darkness of my daughter’s room.

I’ve stopped crying.

I know I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and panic at the brackish taste in my mouth. My mind will race back over all the things I said throughout the previous day and will try to remember if I said anything gravely wrong or damning to anyone. 

I’ll get up and brush my teeth. I’ll look at my reflection and think it’s so weird to be up brushing my teeth at three in the morning, but it’ll ground me enough to go back to bed for a couple more hours. 

I’m sorry I’m such a mess. I’m sorry I’m so much. I’m sorry I’m so disorganized and self absorbed. I’m sorry. 

I think that’s why I tend to drift away. I get big and crazy and too intense and then feel the need to take myself somewhere else. 

It’s been a hard year and I’m broken and I might not be fixable as I drift farther and farther away from things I thought I knew. 

—–

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/adrift/

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Pleased

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The pearls of goat cheese in my salad
pleased me,
as did the chilled progression
of wine, glass after glass sliding
past the back of my throat.
Wandering the galleries pleased me.
I spoke with no one,
that pleased me too.

I touched a sculpture
(no one saw me tweak a nipple, then
twirl my finger in a navel)
and this made me feel
most myself, smiling sly with pleasure.
Degas hissed misogyny,
and Matisse blathered on
about the female form being
reduced to a few lines
and a bowl of fish.

I found you nowhere,
stumbled over my skirt
into illustrations
and lost my breath,
the heat of which was potentially
damaging to a collection
of rare photography.
A docent raised an awkward eyebrow,
asked if he could help
and I sobbed I needed to find
space in wich my heart
might break.

That last part didn’t happen.

This is what happened:

I thought I felt your shadow
in a hall of human degredation,
and tried to chase after you,
but instead I found Buddha
sitting in his lotus.
He looked so damn pleased
with himself I wanted to slap him
because I realized I was so alone
and I would not find you
and this displeased me.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/pleased/

Unraveled

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I still tell you
all my secrets
sitting in the grass
at your feet
like a child.
I tell you other things
as well; how the birds
are popping in and out
of the house you gave us.

I want to see the softness
in your eyes
as I whisper I’m unravelling.
Please do not tell a soul.
My heart hurts so bad,
don’t you know?

No.
Your eyes closed to me
and to the birds
and I am just a pile of stuff,
thread and twine with which
they might make their nest.
Not even a ribbon,
or anything silk
or fancy.

Someone suggested I ask
you to come to me
in a dream,
before I go to sleep.
But didn’t I do that?
Haven’t I pleaded
for dead not to be
just dead?

I think now, the most
for which I might hope
is that I be plucked up
in a beak and carried off
to be woven into
someone else’s secret.

Written as part of the WordPress daily prompt. 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2017/04/11/unravel/

i find myself fierce

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stained by rain
i find myself fierce.
night sky
was all i had left of you
and if the moon and stars
hide from me
i am perfectly untethered,
feral, snarling in grief
at occluded sky.
it does not feel like freedom.
certainly, i could dance
or run or find the velvet lining
of a dream in which
i might learn to fly–
how might that feel to rub my skin
against the nap of night?
i do not care enough
to wonder or move,
but find my response is to
freeze, tilt my face up,
bare my teeth to the rain
and then fall back, stained
darker with wet in darkness.
tame, i whimper,
a star, a star.
please,
my heart.

——-

Posted as part of the WordPress daily prompt. https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/denial/

Breath By Breath

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I’ve put my daughter Emily to bed.  I’ve laid in bed with her until she’s drifted off and her breath is slow and steady and almost hypnotic.

All of a sudden I’m bawling my eyes out, shuddering silently next to her.  I don’t want to wake her, but it feels like I will never stop as my body shakes and tears gush down my cheeks.  I feel like someone is punching me in my face, in my gut.  I feel like someone is wrapping their hand around my throat.

My five year old purrs in her dreams, and the noise tethers me to this reality.

I take out my phone and text my best friend.  I beg her to never die.  She says something warm and then tells me a joke and next thing I know I’m shaking again, but this time in laughter.

That’s how life is these days.

My mood shifts as though I’m dancing on the edge of a blade.  One moment, I’ve got my shit together and the next I’m dissolving.

It’s been four months since E. died.  Almost five.  It seems an eternity and it seems no time at all.  I still just want to talk about her all the time.  Her voice is still right beneath the follicles of my hair.  And yet, despite the immediacy of her presence, she is farther away than ever.

Death is a fucking fucker and that is about as eloquent as I can get about it at the moment. Grief is an even fucking-er fucker.

Someone said to me last week that grief is love that has nowhere to go.  That’s a more graceful way of putting what I feel I guess.  This pent up surge of love and emotion that has no channel.

I go to E.’s grave every week and I talk to her.  I catch my voice rise and fall in the same cadence it would when she was alive with me.  We had this silly, journalistic way of talking to one another, reporting all of the mundane.

She remembered everything I told her, even the dumbest, most minor details like it was something super important.  She relished stories about my husband and kids.  You know, as a working mom, it does not take much to make me happy.  I’d tell her stuff like how touched I was that my husband stayed home with a sick kiddo or remembered to buy toilet paper on his way home from work, and she’d bring it up months later.  Like if I was annoyed with my husband, she would say something like, “But he’s really a thoughtful guy.  Remember the time he brought home the toilet paper and took Jack to the doctor?”

She made me feel so important.  So special.  So loved.  Who on earth is every going to give a tiny rat’s ass about my membership to the big box store and the lifetime supply of granola I acquired?

So I go to her grave and I talk to her.  I tell her everything.  I tell her what I’m wearing.  I tell her what I had for lunch.  I tell her about the unicorn Emily drew, and I tell her that Jack learned how to play the Star Wars theme on his trumpet.  I read her poems.  I play songs for her.

There’s a part of me that knows I’m just talking to myself, and it breaks my heart.

It makes me cry from so deep within myself, from a place that is still little and frightened, from a place that wants to stamp my foot and pound my fist against my thighs and demand that she come back her right this instant or else!

I keep thinking that any day now I’m going to feel better.

Sometimes I do feel better.  I’m not miserable.  I still find pleasure in life.

But lately everything feels so hard.  Work.  Motherhood.  Grief.  Marriage.

You may have noticed I haven’t written much lately, and when I have, it has been these morose little poems.  Ugh.  Yeah.  I’m sorry about that.

It’s like I just don’t have anything else in me.  I feel terrible for not writing more about my kids or all of the other random myriad of great stuff that goes on, but I sort of feel so drained that to sit down and write anything cohesive and thought out like I wrote two or three years ago would just be impossible.

It seems like all around me people are doing amazing stuff.  Friends are going to political events and getting involved in volunteer work.  Colleagues are reading up on the latest in clinical research and going to conferences to stay current.  People on Facebook are exercising and drinking protein shakes and hanging out in clubs.

I’m just over here like, “How the fuck do you all feel like it?”

I just want to go climb into my bed.

I want to lie still and daydream about being  a mermaid, about swimming far far away under the water and not hearing anything but the swishy splash of my own tail.

I’m so freaking tired.  It feels a monumental effort to breathe.  Everyone else is engaging in their cool hobbies and I can basically say, “Well, I managed to keep breathing all week.  It was hard and kind of painful, but I did it.  So, I’ve got that going for me.”

It’s sort of ironic that I want to duck under the water and swim away when I spend so much of my energy just trying to keep my head above water, but then I’ve always been a portrait in contradictions.

That right there would have given E. a good chuckle.

I miss E. so much, and I wish I could talk to her about this.  I wish I could tell her how tired I am and how sad, how desperately sad, every single breath feels.

But then there is the squishy pillow of my daughter’s cheek under my lips as I get up from her bed to leave her room.  I draw breath enough to whisper that I love her into her sleeping ear.  I draw another breath.  Then another.  And I know I’ll keep breathing, breath by breath, until maybe it doesn’t hurt quite as much.

Grief and Motherhood– Lessons Learned While Grieving as a Mom

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If you’ve been following along over the past months, you may have noticed my once plucky mommy blog has been devoted almost entirely to the death of one of my best friends.

E. died in October.  She died suddenly, or at least it seemed sudden to me.  Had my eyes been open, I might have seen it really was not so sudden.  She’d been ill.  I’d been in denial.  Part of my grief’s rawness these past months is in acknowledging that, had I not been in denial about her age and health, I might have had prioritized more opportunities to see her, to love her, to speak and share with her.

Sometimes I don’t make the time I should.  While juggling the responsibilities of my life as a working mom and wife, I forget to make the call or send the card.  I’m not assertive enough about making plans with people.  It’s a crappy excuse, and an even crappier feeling to realize you missed a chance because you were stupidly blinded by the day to day.

I take comfort in knowing my last interaction with her was loving, sweet, and happy.  And about a week before she died, I left a voice mail for her which ended, as it always ended, in “I love you.”

I’ve also taken comfort in writing about her.

E. was my first major loss.  It doesn’t matter that I’m a therapist with training in grief and trauma.  When you experience this stuff for the first time, it’s like any other new, uncomfortable experience.  I’m bumbling  through the dark tunnel, and channeling my frustration, and sorrow into posts and poems.

Grieving as a mom has also been challenging.

When E. first died, a friend said she hoped I could find space to grieve because it’s hard to do when you are a working mom, already stretched translucently thin.  I’ve thought a lot about this over the past couple months- how as moms it is so hard to find the space we need to integrate all of our parts into one cohesive package.  We can’t sit around and cry in bed when kids need to be brought to school, karate, and dance; need to be fed, washed, and snuggled.  We still have to rise and go to work to keep heat on and food stocked.

In some ways, I wonder if my grief is taking me twice as long to “go through” because I pigeon hole it into these tiny chunks.  As moms, we keep bits of ourselves in little boxes, high up on shelves.  It seems we rarely have time to take them down, open them up and spread the contents all over, let alone pack it all back up in the proper compartments.  I tell myself things like, “If I just hold it together for the next seven hours, I can cry in the car on my commute home.”

It’s exhausting, but it is what it is.

Despite the lack of time and energy, I’ve tried staying emotionally open to lessons this time has to teach me.  I’ll share what I came up with so far:

1. It sounds like a cliche, but if I learned one thing about bereavement, it is that talking and sharing about the lost loved one helps.  A selection of special people have been ready, willing, and able to bear witness to my memories and stories about E., and this blessing has not escaped me as it heals the heart.

2. Part of me knows I will look back on this time and see it as something precious, painful though it has been.  E.’s final gift to me was the realization, that in leaving of this earthly plane, love remains stronger and truer than ever.  There are ways we still connect and touch one another.  It is a time rich in wonder and affection.

The intensity of the emotion paints layers of it’s own complex beauty onto my existence.

I haven’t written much about my kids, family, or life as a working mom.  I’m still doing and feeling all the stuff that goes along with being a mother, but in my writing all of that has taken a back seat to my need to process my friend’s death.  Anyway, there isn’t really anything new or different I can say about all of that right now.  I’ve had mixed feelings about this shift in content, but it has needed to be, so I let it.  Which leads me to my next lesson of sorts. . .

3. It is more helpful to hold our pain, sit with it, cradle it and explore its bizarre face than it would be to cover it up and hide it away.  In my professional training, I learned, years ago, that trying to suppress trauma is like trying to hold a beach ball under water.  It is slippery, unwieldy, and untenable.  When I sit with client’s in the crisis of grief, I often share this analogy with them.  I’ve been granted an opportunity to practice what I preach.

These lessons seem to be gifts from beyond.

Even as I embrace these things, I feel uncertain.  Someone remarked that dealing with grief is almost like having another child to care for.  It’s an apt analogy.  And as though I am holding a newborn child, I am wondering if I am doing it right, if it will like and respond to my touch, if I will be able to handle it.

My uncertainty lies in the fear people won’t like or understand my current poems; that people will get bored with me and stop reading; that people won’t appreciate how fully my blog has shifted from life of a working mother to dealing with death.  I worry people won’t see the connection.

But there’s always a connection, tenuous though it may be.

Being a mom is my most important role in life.  I mean, two living and breathing organisms kind of count on me to keep them alive.  But other parts of me sometimes do not get the time and attention they truly need.  My blog gives me space to process and complete my emotional self so I can tackle the other stuff I need to do.  It helps me integrate and  consolidate the contents of all the little boxes into the whole me.

I have faith in myself and in the process.  Being a mom may have prepared me to patiently nurture and understand grief, even as it has complicated my grieving process.  We are always stronger and more flexible than we think or dream.  Sooner or later, I’ll get back to writing about all of the other stuff.  In the mean time, thank you for bearing with me and for bearing witness.  Every like, comment, and share has meant more to me than I can properly explain.