Archives for posts with tag: grief

However much we love the people we love, however good the hearts of those around us, especially in such trying times, it’s not a reasonable expectation to think it will always be easy, or that we will always “get it right”, just because we want to (perhaps even more than we usually do). Sometimes an otherwise comfortable moment may skid sideways, and suddenly become a challenge, or moment of conflict, hurt, or sorrow. So human.

…I could say “deal with it” or “happens to everyone”, and try to shrug it off irritably. I’m not really that person, though, and more often, I simply retreat to “sort myself out” and cry for a few minutes. Generally just some handful of tears of frustration and disappointment, sometimes tears of hurt, or tears of anger. It’s true, though; I cry over shit. I used to be very strict with myself over crying, working furiously to shut it down, stuff it into a dark corner of my consciousness, wrap it up quickly, hide it, wiping those errant tears away as quickly as I could, before anyone could see them, splash some water on my face and move on with things. It was not a helpful approach. Now? Now I just go ahead with it, generally, and cry. (I often seek out some privacy for that purpose, because I also don’t find someone else’s intervention, disapproval, need to “fix” things, or whatever like that at all helpful in those moments, either; sometimes I just need to cry.)

I only bring it up because I often feel some better after having – and experiencing – my emotional moment. It matters to be present with those feelings. To feel and acknowledge them, without shame, without guilt, can be incredibly freeing, and a big step toward restoring balance.

Things in the world are pretty scary right now. The media isn’t doing much to help with that, with the ceaseless 24/7 COVID-19 coverage painting every news story as somehow “about” that, and presenting a picture of the world that somehow suggests there is nothing else newsworthy going on, at all. It’s a weird lens through which to view the world. Eventually, it may “get to you”. Go ahead. Have that moment. It’s okay to cry over it, too. Give yourself a break if you do; it’s a very human thing, and honestly, not at all harmful. 🙂 You may even feel a bit better for a while, having giving yourself a chance to feel it.

…Then, begin again. Move on from that moment. Let it go. Grief is a real emotion. Feel it when you feel it. It does not have to own you, or make you over in a new image. You can choose to let it go, when you’re ready.

I am sipping my coffee in the studio. Starting my day. It’s another work day. Another Tuesday. Another day in the time of pandemic. My Traveling Partner wakes early. We’re both struggling with physical pain, this morning. Rainy day ahead? Maybe. I don’t give myself the time to over think it; it is what it is. Another sip of coffee, and I do what I can to let even the mundanity of physical pain “just go”. (It’s not that effective, right now, and my results definitely vary on this point.) I breathe, exhale, and relax. Just another work day in the “new normal”.

I glance at the clock; already time to begin the day in earnest. (I’ve been making an effort to keep to my usual schedule for a sense of normalcy.) Time, in fact, to begin again. 😉

I’m sipping room temperature canned coffee, this morning. It’s adequate, not fantastic. Satisfactory, without being delightful. “Enough” – sufficient to meet the need, without frills. I’m grateful for the almost-overlooked luxury of coffee, ready made, in cans, neither hot, nor cold.

…Seriously? This? Now?


I had a crown fall out, evening before last, during dinner. Scrambled eggs. Seriously? It was too much for me, after the day I’d had, and I wept… although… the day, itself, was frankly fine. More “win and good” than not. I couldn’t feel any win, and very little good. That lasted even through yesterday; the bright spots of the day were dim, the highs didn’t seem particularly different than the lows, and every small hurdle felt nearly insurmountable, however skillfully every detail of the day was managed. It’s been the whole week, honestly. I feel cursed by bad fortune, and a plague of small things going wrong – but when I pause to examine, as dispassionately as I am able to do, the facts of my experience…? Things are, actually, just fine. My experience is colored by grief. I’m okay, though, and life is okay. Grief is a powerful emotional experience of yielding to what I can’t change, letting go of what is no more, and going on. It’s fucking hard though, and a lot of it happens “in the background” in this peculiar fog of misfortune that seems to wrap me, this week.

The roses are still blooming in my garden.

…Realistically, I know my life is as it was, but for this singular loss. Each loss has it’s own shade of gray, it’s own particular flavor, it’s own… shadow. The shadows diminish with the return of light. I know this, intellectually. My heart has a bit more difficulty letting go – and in the negotiation between heart and mind, I find myself experiencing this peculiar sense of accursedness, that I’m also aware is not actually legitimately my experience. Weird and difficult. I spend time in my garden. I take time away from work. I get out in the sunshine and walk trails I’d not yet walked before. I take time to tidy up my studio and get it into working order once again. I am “chasing the light” without making a point of saying so, generally. “This too shall pass.” Of course it will; everything does. 🙂

I look for the sunny moments, everywhere, seeking “enlightenment”, of a sort.

This hole in my mouth, where that back molar was, feels weird. It’s not uncomfortable, particularly, in spite of the living tooth stump sitting in there; an urgent-care visit to the dentist got that covered with some sort of glue or something of that kind, to keep it protected for a couple of days until… extraction. That bonded porcelain crown was expected to last nearly a lifetime. I got 4 years out of it. My new dentist was fairly irked that the work had been done such that there just isn’t actually enough tooth left to secure the crown properly, at all. I’ve got just the one “bad tooth” – and I’m grateful, at 56, to have all my original teeth, and other than this one problematic tooth, no dental concerns. Now I’ve got to have it removed, altogether, and… I’m frankly terrified. I’m also surprised by this. Where did this fear come from? I was never “scared of the dentist” before facing this extraction. I poke at the fear in much the same way I ever-so-carefully touch the stump of this tooth with my tongue, curious, a bit nervous, and wondering “what to do about it”.

Practical solutions aren’t always obvious.

Complex PTSD is strange where the potential for new trauma is concerned. I breathe, exhale, relax. Pull myself back into “now” again. Long-past surgeries were, in some cases, very traumatic (look, there’s really no describing what it is like to be awakened during spinal surgery so that the doctor can check for reflexes and sensations, and ask questions… because there are indeed “sensations”, and some of them are not experiences I’d recommend having; the trauma of being aware of surgical goings-on, in the moment, is pretty horrific stuff). I allow myself the awareness. I let the feelings go, and come back to “now”. It’s not happening now, is the thing, it’s just a memory. I catch myself projecting forward, to the upcoming tooth extraction. It’s a novel experience. I’ve never had one done. I have literally no emotional experience of my own to draw upon, and can choose to visualize it in a variety of ways. Anything I imagine is utterly lacking in substance; it’s not real. I could imagine it being going smoothly, being nearly effortless, and done in a moment by a skilled professional, with no lasting consequences of note. Why would I choose to visualize it in any other way? I breathe, exhale, relax. I left the fear go. That moment ahead is not now.

…I recall my Traveling Partner reminding me yesterday, that my world and perspective are still colored by grief. I don’t remember what made the observation necessary. I’m still glad he has the presence to be aware of it, and the consideration to share that reminder, so gently. He’s been “here for me” all week, present, loving, warm.  Talking about the extraction, and my anxiety about it, he shared his own experience of such things, and observed that it “wasn’t that bad”. Even recalling our calming conversation renews my anxiety. Feeling my whole body suddenly get warm, I breathe through that surge of stress, I exhale, and let the anxiety go it’s own way. I relax again, and sip my room-temperature coffee. The tooth doesn’t tolerate hot or cold well, and I’m avoiding sticky foods, sweet foods, sharp foods… treating the wounded tooth with great care, until it can be pulled, next week.  How do I treat my grieving heart similarly well? It’s not like I can pull it out and move on…

However uncomfortable, grief is not a weed to pluck out of the garden of my heart; it has a purpose to fulfill. My emotions are not my enemy.

…I continue to sip my coffee, watching the sun rise beyond my studio window, as daylight arrives, and begins to overcome the shadows. There’s something to learn here – a way to understand things differently. This moment, right here? I’m not in pain. “Now” is just fine. Sure, there’s pain ahead of me in life (isn’t there always?) – and there’s certainly been pain in my past – right now, though? Right now, I’m okay. Right now, the morning is lovely. Right now, I’ve got an adequate glass of coffee to sip that isn’t aggravating this tooth. Right now, I’ve got a lifetime of memories of my Mother, on which I can rely whenever I want to feel her presence. “Now” seems a good time… for most things.

“Now” seems a good time to walk in the sunshine, away from the darkness, and into the light.

Incremental change is. Practicing the practices works. I’ll just stay on this path right here…one step at a time is enough.

The text this morning was to the point, although not as abrupt as I imply in the title of this post. I feel grateful that my sister is right there, with our Mother. For a moment, I imagine this stern, strong, witty woman who raised me, pushing her chair back from a crowded card table, folding a less than ideal hand, and heading into the kitchen to refresh drinks. That memory is of a lifetime ago, in a far away place, disconnected from my experience of “here” and “now”. Do I want her to “hear my voice”? “Non-responsive” doesn’t sound like she’s likely to register voices… we’ve spoken recently, and regularly – is it enough?

…We don’t have a “Book of the Dead”, in our culture… It’s a strange random thought, a forerunner to intense grief.

There are tears in my eyes. I resent them; it’s too soon. Life stretches ahead of me, while I reach my thoughts – and my heart – across great distance. Imagining her as I remember her best; in her late 30s, in her early 40s. Strong. Determined. No bullshit. Rapier wit. Iron will. I observe the characteristics in myself that I most likely got from her; my tenacious loyalty. My intellect. My commitment to being a good provider. My reluctance to walk away from a bad decision. My willingness to hide my emotions for far too long. My laugh. That same laugh that her Mother had, too. I hear Granny’s laugh in my recollection. I feel, for a moment, my Mother’s warmth – like summertime in my heart. I sip my coffee and celebrate this woman who made me.

…Grieving comes soon enough. It’s important to examine those cherished moments as treasures, with great delight, and excessive merriment, and not allow the tears to wash those away. They matter so much more than the tears ever could.

Life didn’t have a map – you did okay with that, Mom. No reason to expect death to be more difficult to master; in a sense, we prepare for it all our lives, don’t we? Striving, clinging – and learning to let go. Good fold, Mom. Safe travels.

You are part of me. My journey began with you.

I sit quietly with my coffee, remembering life with my Mom. My “origin story”. Some details are fuzzy, others crystal clear. Some moments remain painful to this day, others bring me immediate joy when I recall them. One thing is certain; she will not be forgotten. Tears later. Coffee now. I wish she were sitting here, sharing that with me, right now; I have so much to ask, and now there is no time… 

I find it strange to be grieving. David Bowie died yesterday, I found out this morning. I am crying – weeping quite openly, unashamed. It strikes me strange because I’ve never met David Bowie, or spoken with him on the phone, and his life never directly touched mine. Admittedly, his music is heavily featured in the soundtrack of my life from around 1972 until… much later, say sometime around… later still. Because it is primarily his music that has touched me, and we live in a digital age, there is no way in which the practical matter of the end of his mortal life is specifically relevant to me. He will be literally ‘always with me’ in the fashion he has been ‘with me’ previously – which, while being kind of cool, makes it feel very strange to be grieving him. News of his death caught me by surprise – I have become distracted from making coffee for nearly 30 minutes, crying, reading…and grieving something that isn’t lost to me. How strange.

Some solutions are practical.

Some solutions are practical, more than practices.

I am sipping my coffee now, and having replaced my kettle with an electric one, the burner is most definitely not left on. It was strange to see that fairly unsafe habit develop basically ‘out of nowhere’, over days. I am grateful for a solution that doesn’t require more drastic measures to ensure I live safely. The first couple coffees I made using the new kettle were not very good. It has taken some practice to figure out the temperature differences, and how that changes my timing. Like anything else, mindful awareness makes a huge difference; when my mind wanders I am no longer committed to making coffee, and the motions of my hands are no longer being directed by my whole self, awake and aware. If I want a really exceptional cup of coffee, being there to make it definitely matters.

Being present, aware, and committed to a practice, or process, gets a better result.

Being present, aware, and committed to a practice, or process, gets a better result.

I find grieving to benefit from mindfulness, too; wholly grieving, without shame, without avoidance, open to the recollection what is lost, embracing the loss, the awareness of what was – to celebrate what was with my whole awareness, a moment to ‘say good-bye’ with honest tears, it feels very different from stifling the feelings, distancing myself from my heart, turning away from the pain, and denying myself my feelings – and it doesn’t seem to linger quite as long, or be so…miserable, to grieve wholly, fearlessly. It’s a ‘beautiful sadness’, and a thank you in parting.

How much hotter does love burn with romantic passion and desire, than for a favorite song?

How much hotter does love burn with romantic passion and desire, than for a favorite song?

There is perspective here, too. For one moment, I pause to consider 30 minutes of heartfelt grieving the loss of a superstar who music I have loved over a lifetime… magnitude, scale, perspective… how much more devastating might my grief be if I were to lose my traveling partner? For one brief instant, my mind is fearlessly open and I glimpse that frightening truth out on the edge of my awareness, and hope very much it is never part of my reality…then I am caught on the awareness that if it never becomes part of my experience, it must therefore become part of his. Wow. I sit back, shaken and emotional, and feeling very aware of the fleeting nature of this mortal experience, and how much of its wonder and complexity I likely never face at all, because the limitations of mind don’t allow it…

Today is a good day to take care of me; there is more to learn.

Today is a good day to take care of me; there is more to learn.

Today I will be kind – why not? It’s free, and doesn’t inconvenience me at all. Today I’ll be patient – with myself, too – and remember that we are each so very human. Today I will love with my whole heart, and without concern whether it is ‘deserved’; I have plenty, why be stingy? Today I will be grateful to share as much of the journey as I do with such amazing beings, and to come home at the end of the day to the woman in the mirror.

I like the comfortable safety of solitude. I know being alone is a different experience for each of us; for me solitude feels safe, calm, and vastly soulfully nourishing. The few times my anxiety has found me when I was solitary, it has been likely to be driven by fearfulness of others in my periphery, undetected, or uninvited, or imminent. In my worst freak outs, the best thing that can be done in the moment is provide me with solitude and stillness; for years I did not understand how easy it could be to calm me. I have the weekend to be solitary. I need this time very much right now; grieving is hard on the one grieving, and harder still, perhaps, on those near who are not themselves grieving, but cannot stem the flow of tears. I prefer to grieve in solitude, although… I like hugs a lot, when I’m crying…so…there’s that. Human beings are social creatures. I am, myself, even fairly ‘extroverted’…but I do love solitude, and crave substantially more of it than many people seem to…and rarely have enough.

This weekend my partners are away at a festival. I find myself smiling and wishing them well; I hope it is amazing. Work changed my plans and I am staying home. At this point in the week, I am not regretting the change. Festival attendance hardly seems appropriate to grieving – at least not for me. This week the world lost a young woman with all the potential in the world, and an entire future ahead of her. She was just 13. My cousin’s daughter. Yesterday, an Army buddy moved on to something beyond his mortal existence, at 60-something, having completed his mission in some sense, I suppose. I am not ashamed to grieve these losses. I still go to work. This is my way; in the midst of grief I grab onto what is practical and routine, and hold on to it. I tidy the house after work very attentively and mindfully, cherishing the sensations of touch, the subtle feel of space I am in, the motions of cleaning, straightening, moving from task to task. I commute, enjoying the sensations as summer shifts gears to fall, and people-watching with a curious and open heart. I work. Task after task, I follow each small routine of work and life with greater than usual care, walking a sort of emotional balance beam. As I do, I consider life and death, and grief, and honor the departed in my own way, silently eulogizing them, honoring the memories of shared experiences, questioning, reflecting, and celebrating what they brought to my experience. I am very aware of my mortality and the brevity of life when I grieve. This is my way. There are highs and lows, of course. It’s a process. There are tears. These are emotional experiences. It’s difficult, but feels fairly natural to me, the sense of loss, the hurting, the contemplation…and the pain diminishes over time. I am satisfied with the way I grieve. I suppose, now that I’m over 50, that’s going to come in handy.

Here it is the Friday ahead of a solitary weekend. Here in this still moment I am content and serene. This ‘now’ is just fine, thank you. I will be, too. It’s a choice, and there are verbs involved.

Grieving is a very human experience.  Detail of "Emotion and Reason" 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow, photographed in dim light. 2012

Grieving is a very human experience.
Detail of “Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow, photographed in dim light. 2012