Archives for posts with tag: grieving

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.

Yesterday was… hard. Tears came unexpectedly, and fairly often. Like punctuation for sentences I didn’t expect to have emotional content. My context had become emotional. It was difficult. It was strange. It is ongoing, although reduced in frequency and amplitude. It still comes in waves.

I went to work because I often find routine very comfortable and sustaining in times of turmoil and crisis. I went home early because punctuating sentences in professional conversations with floods of tears feels like a loss of dignity, feels inappropriate, and, frankly, is hard on other people; we don’t all live equally authentic lives. That’s just real. (It’s not a criticism.) My Traveling Partner was kind, supportive, and very much “there for me”.

I made a dinner of crab cakes – seasoned as my Mom would have enjoyed – with a healthy salad, and a luxurious, but quite tiny dessert. I celebrated her life, in my thoughts. I would not call it an easy evening, but I went to bed contented and generally okay with “things”, and slept through the night, untroubled by my dreams. I woke, and got through the first 15 minutes of the day before I remembered… she’s gone.

I sat down to write, with my coffee, and tried to reset my thinking a bit, to shift explicitly away from sorrow, firmly. My thinking, my recollections, and the feel of my day kept twisting out of my grip. The result was not what I expected, but I’m okay with it.

The morning ticks by, not unpleasantly. I’m just in this weird limbo; fighting the grieving without meaning to put up such resistance, struggling to “let her go” in my own heart, and unsure what I even mean by that. Was I clinging, in the first place? Who is this sorrowful hearted creature fluttering within me? I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I do a classic “body inventory” and get more comfortable with my physical experience, shifting my awareness back into “now”, over and over again. I find myself literally “twisted by grief”, shoulder aching, head aching, neck aching, less in that familiar way, and more like a reminder to be present… or else.

A favorite groove turns up on the playlist this morning, and in that peculiarly meta way I have of listening to music, seeking a useful message in the lyrics, it reminds me; it’s not all about me. I link it, and giggle out loud; it’s really not the sort of thing one would usually associate with grief, grieving, or… um… adulthood. lol I smile, and feel the ache in my face, self-conscious and strange, that results from just a simple smile. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. This, too, shall pass. This morning the words hold some comfort, and I embrace them. I feel the suggestion of a possible return to normalcy at some future point – there’s comfort in that, too.

…It’s been a while since I spent a morning listening to music. There’s a certain heavy bass experience that somehow lifts me. I chase it, track by track, feeling it in my body. I roll back years of lifetime, track by track, looking for a certain something to lift my mood, to crack open my heart and let the love pour out.

Somehow, time passes. I find my way to one more beginning. I’ll start there… well… here. A summer morning. A cup of coffee. A bit of work to do. Surrounded by love. It’s a good place to begin again. 🙂

I’m sipping my coffee. My face is wet with the tears that just keep coming. The phone call this morning was brief. Heartfelt. Tender. My sister’s resolve and her will to hold her feelings in check impress me, even as I continue to weep. We kept the call brief; no doubt she has other calls she wants to make. Neither of us like crying “out loud” in a public way, and seeing as we’re so “strong”, we manage not to cry on the phone. Much. The call ends, the tears start.

I consider not writing, but… grief isn’t an everyday experience. I already feel… shattered. This, in spite of knowing it was imminent, in spite of being “well-prepared”, in spite of speaking gently and explicitly with my Mother, herself, about this moment, frankly, compassionately, honestly… in spite of spending yesterday well-supported by a loving and concerned partner… nonetheless; I am crying. Routines are something I can fall back on to hold life together, until… something.

“This, too, shall pass.” (I know, I know – I fucking know that, now knock that shit off, while I shed these honest tears for the passing of a complex woman, who gave me life. I’ll be okay, just not… right now, exactly.)

…Anyway. No idea how this amount of grief may affect my writing. I’m glad you are here. I hope you are well. Maybe I write a lot more than usual over the next several days? Maybe I find myself unable to lift my hands to type words in row at all. I don’t even know. I guess we’ll find out together, eh?

It’ll be okay. I reflexively offer myself all the comforting platitudes I can find. “We are mortal creatures.” (That’s a very real observation, at the moment. Painfully real. It offers no particular comfort. Perhaps it will later…?) It’s not really helpful, and I let it go.

…I don’t really know what else to do. So… I begin again.

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

I’m sometimes quite astonished by the will people can bring to hurting each other. I’d rather not contemplate it more, at least not right now. Hell, right about now, I’d rather be thinking of almost anything besides right now. Damned awkward, what with all the mindfulness practices, and meditation, and taking care of me, and such. lol I’m feeling very present, very aware. I hurt, and although a lot of it is old pain, and old baggage, some of it is far less so.

I am learning to deal with anger – new anger, never before shared anger, bright white-hot precise anger – and learning to be more open to the honest information in the feeling of it, what set it off, why it matters, what underlying value it speaks to. That underlying value is pretty significant. I’ve been surprised more than once by what was truly driving my anger, and often by how small a thing it really seemed to be. This time? Hurt feelings drive my anger. Disappointment that a friend to whom I gave significant emotional support and nurturing during a difficult time, never seems able to return the favor, worse – my friend often seems to be in the midst of some intense drama about something somehow more urgent or more important, that pretty reliably comes up after I make a point of setting clear expectations about ‘where I’m at’ or what I’m struggling with, asking for support, or expressing limits or boundaries.

I look at those words with some astonishment. They’re true. Honest. I feel vulnerable admitting to hurt feelings over something so small (we are each having our own experience, and the pain we feel ourselves hurts the most, generally), but a little embarrassed to realize the words I wrote apply equally well to the way I’ve often treated myself: without consideration, without compassion, without kindness. I have no particular say in how someone else chooses to behave, but I have endless choices how I see things, how I respond, and what I do to meet my own needs best, over time. Better still – just knowing how much it hurts to be treated so poorly, and to see with such clarity that these are things I have done to myself, feels like a huge opportunity, a gift, a new perspective and a chance to see a bit farther along my journey; new choices are now open to me, and one is the everyday opportunity to treat myself well – more well? Better. To be considerate of my own needs. To respect myself, my body, my values, my experience, my voice. To be compassionate with myself, because I am still quite human. To be open to trying something new, and practicing something that works, and understanding that building skill takes time. Even choices to reciprocate the kindness of others, and the support offered to me when I needed it most; there is always someone else who could use a hand, and the value of kindness isn’t in recognition.

A trestle bridge along the Banks-Vernonia Trail, and a lovely metaphor for making a connection.

A trestle bridge along the Banks-Vernonia Trail, and a lovely metaphor for making a connection, crossing a bridge, along a journey.

A moment of anger somehow becomes a lesson in perspective, and emotional  self-sufficiency, and a gentle end to a trying afternoon.