Grief is Grief

Carpe Diem

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Emily, the young mother of Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town’ died in childbirth.  She returned, in spirit, to relive just one day, her 12th birthday.  Watching her family, moving with such familiarity, she muses painfully about the fragility of the moment. Wistfully she says “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every every minute?”

No, Emily, we don’t.

We live in a world of constant to-do’s, so we do – too much. We fill every moment and, at the end of the day, sometimes we can’t remember where the minutes went.
Well, they went to the grocery store, to work, to social media, and cleaning the closet. They went to anxiety, annoyance, and anger. Moments keep disappearing. The clock never slows. The calendar is relentless. We can’t control the speed or ultimate loss of minutes but we can try to savor what we can of them.

These days, reminders of time’s speeding train is evident in my growing grandboys, one who starts high school next year. Yikes! And how many minutes have passed since my only granddaughter was a sassy/smart little munchkin to the gorgeous grown woman version she is today — with a wedding to plan. Time waits for no man – or woman. Continue reading “Carpe Diem”

Grief is Grief

Live the Dash

DASHBorn. Died. He was here – and then he wasn’t. For every name in the cemetery, what separates the dates of birth and death — is a dash, a line that connects all the living in between. A dash not only separates a whole bunch of years but also connects all we were meant to be. At least that’s what we hope for anyway.

A dash says ‘you were here’. You toddle around in diapers, go to school, run headlong into becoming an adult. And then what?  Dates of graduation, wedding, children born are markers that all fall into the living. Jobs are listed on resumes, annotated with a succession of start and end dates. Even vacations are hyphenated periods of time we set aside to explore and relax.

How about marriage? The years spent with the person we marry carry their own dash. Sometimes they stretch far into the horizon; other times years can only be the length of an eyelash. However long or short, the dash attaches pieces of our all parts of our lives. Fortunately, even though my husband and I didn’t get much mileage out of the dash that strung our marriage years together, we had a small but pretty cool chunk of the ‘before’. Now the dash is in my court.  And, at the moment, I can’t predict what it will say about me. Continue reading “Live the Dash”

Grief is Grief

It’s Your Move.

CandyLandSo you’re all packed, ready for the next step of your journey — but you have no idea where you’re going. Aces. Actually, that might not be a bad thing. Heck, you’ve already traveled a road no one ever listed on their bucket list. Who, in their right mind would ASK to go to Grief City — instead of Licorice Castle? That squared highway from hell you’ve been traveling hasn’t had great scenery but, look at you – you’re still standing. That’s a good start.

The even better news is that it’s your road and only you plot the course. It didn’t come with a map or snacks for the trip. You’ve been here before. But, though you played the cards well, your multicolored road ended not in Oz but a very lonely desert with nothing in your backpack but a broken heart. If you were lucky, (as I have been!) there was kindness of friends and family along the way, people who provided emotional sustenance. Maybe there was a support group of other travelers but, in the end, the trip is yours alone and you’re the only one who decides where to go next and how. It’s your game board.

Will you continue to wear your wedding rings? How about keeping your other half’s car? When is the right time to give away their clothes? You are the only one with those answers even if you don’t have one right now. They were YOUR person,YOUR other half and any decision about them is YOURS alone. It is you who carries the game pieces of loss every day in ways no one else does or can. No matter how deeply anyone grieves your loss, no one misses that person as intrinsically as a spouse. Sorry, that’s just a widow fact. Continue reading “It’s Your Move.”

Grief is Grief

Down the rabbit hole . . .

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You know when you take off running — just to slam to a dead stop? (No pun intended) Seriously, I was running to catch the door of the bank last week, just as it was closing — and completely missed the curb. My bad. Actually, it could have been worse – a lot worse. Lying on the cement, two things came to mind: is anything broken and, of course, did anyone see me. No to both, thank goodness. Luckily, my only casualties were scraped knuckles, one bruised elbow, a ripped pair of jeans (which still didn’t make designer status) and a completely raw knee. Ouch. But, hey, I wasn’t a “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial.

What really tripped me up, though, was the smackdown of my confidence. I’m usually a pretty strong chick. I cry easily and am a total pushover for everyone I love but I take care of myself (almost as well) as I took care of my kids. Yet, one misstep on a curb and I’m suddenly back to Grief 101. What the…?

More than the raw sting of my knee, it was the raw absence that greeted me at home that really got to me. Somehow that morning, I was still surprised that my husband wasn’t there to ask what the heck happened. He’s has been gone for a year and a half and it should be pretty clear he wouldn’t be answering the door.  So why was I suddenly caught between a surprise pity party — and getting the fraud of the year award? Continue reading “Down the rabbit hole . . .”

Grief is Grief

Walking the Talk

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Words. Lots and lots of words — and I write tons of them, especially in these last few months. It seemed like the only way I knew to unravel the grief web that had me tied in knots. Did any of my words change anything? Not really. But words are currency. Sometimes they are the only things that carry us on journeys we don’t understand and never planned on. They are what we use to connect to others on those same journeys.

Reading through my first posts, when the pain of loss was so raw, I noticed that some words were dark, the only ones I could muster in grief’s early days. As weeks went on, light began to creep in, allowing space for my trademark humor, a companion I’ve been thankful for all of my life. Even when that humor is ‘noir’, levity will always be a handy commodity. No matter what words I use, one thread underlies them all – keeping it real.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the old ‘fake it until you make it’ can’t still be a good plan. In fact, the whistling in the dark flavor of storytelling can jumpstart you for the often steep uphill climb. Forging ahead on a wing and prayer, words can carry you along this uncharted ‘after’. That’s the only way I could chart my course without getting stuck in a sinkhole. Continue reading “Walking the Talk”

Grief is Grief

Thanks…for the memories

memory_box-800x533-jpg-pagespeed-ce-udtj0ynkc8“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most space in your heart.”

Ah, the little things. The memories that are tucked up in your brain just waiting to sneak out at the smallest moments. People say the best thing about memories is making them; the next is remembering them. These days, it’s not always easy.  In fact, sometimes even a little remembrance can knock the wind out of me. Memory lane might be the hardest road to travel, even when it’s only to the grocery store.

I may have forgotten to mention that I hate grocery shopping.  But I have to eat so I ran to pick up a few things yesterday and as I was mindlessly sliding my credit card, a picture flashed in my mind. It was an image of my husband always whipping out his card before my hand even opened in my purse. I don’t know why – it all came out of the same account, but it was just a habit like so many others. Caught in that silly reverie, I almost missed the elderly man in front of me teasing his equally elderly wife, winking at me as he did, about her always needing ‘one more thing’ and keeping him waiting. As the two exchanged good-natured comments, I remembered joking with my husband that ‘one day we’ll be them’. them’.

That would be a no. Continue reading “Thanks…for the memories”

Grief is Grief

Happily Ever After, they said.

Heart in the bark of a tree.Tree with heart shape. Heart wooden cut texture

When this all began, we knew there’d be a price…”Jekyll & Hyde

Some wondered if it was a good idea to marry a man with cancer. Looking back, it wasn’t really a decision. It was actually a no-brainer.

I loved him.

Everyone arrives in your life with baggage. Everyone. Some carry bags as small as coin purses; others drag a dumpster. When we met, it seemed neither of us carried more than a wallet.  (okay, mine included a make-up case, keys with the fuzzy duck, two pairs of glasses and all the just-in-case stuff, but you get the idea) My husband’s, however, grew to industrial size proportions. Even so, we figured real love is a match for ANY luggage, right?  It has to be – when the baggage is cancer. Continue reading “Happily Ever After, they said.”

Grief is Grief

Keeping It…REAL

pakiet.na-zdrowie.3Newsflash – No matter how any of us try to be perfect – that’s not happening. Neither people – or marriages are born to be perfect. Sure, we may WANT perfect, the ideal — but  REAL is what we get.

Marriage is rarely a Hallmark movie or 24/7 euphoria. Instead, authentic marriage means sacrifice, issues, chores, schedules, love, irritation, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, anger, affection (not always in that order). It’s also idiocyncrasies, snoring, worries, richer and poorer. When critical illness and its side effects enters the mix, now that really transforms the playing field. One partner undergoes endless procedures/surgeries, diminished quality of life, anger, pain and fear. The other juggles worry, research, is the keeper of the medical records, and caretaker extraordinaire. That was our  marriage; that was our REAL.

I’ve poured my heart out these past months, writing about deep grief, and the missing of a husband I loved beyond words. It came to me recently, that the painting was incomplete. It was in black and white with pieces missing. While stark pen and ink art has always been my forte, when it comes to portraying a real picture of real marriage, black and white doesn’t cut it.  Grief outlined only in high contrast is pretty flawed and does a disservice to the flavors and colorations a real marriage holds. Continue reading “Keeping It…REAL”

Grief is Grief

You…. COMPLETE ME.

phantom-limb-painPhantom Limb. The name given to that piece of the body that’s been amputated from the rest of its parts — yet its presence is still felt. At times, it feels as if it is still attached and in sync with other body parts. It feels like it’s still moving, still part of you – except it isn’t.

I can’t help but think that’s a pretty apt description of the loss of a spouse, don’t you? Ripping off a vital part of your being without warning is beyond shock; beyond comprehension.  Living within that unreality is painful to the max. Like a treasured limb, its absence is unthinkable.

HIS absence is unthinkable. His skin, his body, his voice was as familiar as my own. I knew every hill and valley of his shoulders, chest, back. We moved in sync and shadowed each other in so many ways. I could move my arm and his came to meet it. When my back faced his chest, instinctively his hands massaged my aching shoulders in unspoken need. I knew every nuance of his expressions, some of pure enjoyment, some an expression of inner boredom, some a plastic arrangement of smile to cover hurt or emotional pain. Crossing a city street, his hand came instinctively to meet mine. Continue reading “You…. COMPLETE ME.”

Grief is Grief

Life ISN’T a Box of Chocolates . . .

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Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, “Why me?” Then a voice answers, “Nothing personal . . . your name just happened to come up.”     Charlie Brown

Life just IS. At times, it can be sweet, surprising (the good kind) and rewarding. Other times, the sucky ones, we get gobsmacked with bitter taste or whopping sick from that 365 variety box of life. Unfortunately, it’s those we remember most. Yet, somehow, we still keep reaching for the next piece — and the next, always hoping for the one with the cherry surprise.

When we get married, we want the whole damn gift-wrapped box of chocolate – every sweet bite we can stuff in our faces. Sometimes, we could nearly eat our way through the whole box before finding the one we THOUGHT was gooey cream actually has the hard, chewy filling. And that one leaves a rotten aftertaste (or a broken crown!)

We got that hard, jaw-breaking piece before the wedding. A cancer diagnosis does that. Optimistic as always, we still decided to go for it, with the unreasonable trust of children. Some would call it naivete or supreme optimism. We just called it love. Continue reading “Life ISN’T a Box of Chocolates . . .”