Posts Tagged ‘grief’

I have braces.

At least, that’s what I was trying to say to the nice man at the bank.  Unfortunately over the cell phone it was coming out “I jusss gaa brwathhes”.    To my list from yesterday (How to survive adult-onset braces) I added a #2 to my list of Rules To Live By For The Next Six Months:

  1. Avoid looking at or being seen by people
  2. Avoid talking to people

Yesterday’s initial foray to the gym went well.  I discovered what it is like to wear no makeup and speak to no one.  It’s like being the invisible woman…  kind of nice and a lot less work than being open and friendly, which I have to coach myself to do anyway.  So I’ll just spend the next six months silently alternating between house and gym (great plan!)

I thought I might be done posting forever.  Do you remember the commercial “weebils wobble but they don’t fall down?”  This seems to be true for grievers too, but the return to center can be really, really S-L-O-W.  I won’t bother writing about the why or the how or even the what of it.  A grief flare-up with intermittent showers of self pity.   I belong to an online recovery group, Key To Harmony, that had a terrific series of posts this week on grief versus self pity, all of them useful thoughts and illuminating too.  Here are a few (many thanks to Susannah!):

  • Grief is required to work through loss…to live with loss…to grow from loss.  With grief I will grow; with self-pity I will shrivel.
  • Like grief, self-pity will knock me to my knees.  However, grief will cause me to seek help and find the strength to stand up again.
  • Self-pity has me shaking my fist.  Grief forces me to open my hand and receive the pain and therefore release it. 
  • Self-pity brings the tears and makes me quit.  Grief brings the tears and helps me keep trying.
  • Self-pity will harden my heart.  Grief, if used correctly, will soften my heart. 
  • Self-pity is the hindrance that keeps me trapped in the loss. 
  • Self-pity says “Why is this happening TO me!?”  Self-pity makes me a victim and keeps me a victim. 
  • Self-pity will keep me down and say it’s your fault (or God’s) that I’m here in the first place.
  • Self-pity wallows in itself and feels self-righteous about its suffering.  Self-pity refuses to be consoled.

It’s good to know what I am dealing with, and very constructive to keep them straight, I think.

In the continuing effort to build a new life, I’ve done a few things since the last post.  They feel hodge-podgey and somewhat fake (this must be like learning to walk again, each foot awkwardly and tentatively thrusting itself out there, not sure the leg will receive and bear the body’s full weight but pressing forward nonetheless). Here’s what’s gotten done

  • Hosted a Breakfast Bonanza for the Lovely Young People – Writer, Teacher and Pastor.  Chris, the Lovely Young Pastor, was Michael’s best friend and this week passed through town between Commerce and Colorado for a summer camp staff position.
  • Booked trips to Denver and  San Francisco, (these have been on my Happiness Project List for some time!)
  • Accepted a work invitation to travel to Poland and Belgium this summer.
  • Bought tickets to Wicked and the Dallas Symphony.
  • Started researching options for adoption/foster parenting
  • Started painting again (a little bit, going slow, trying to feel my way back into it).

And how I can add to the list “started posting again.” 

It’s good to be back.


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No News is Bad News

Among my people, no news is bad news. My friend from whom I haven’t heard in a month?  Bad news.  The time I didn’t hear from my mother for ten years?  Bad news.  Said differently, I’ve been out-of-sorts for a few days in a row and thus absent from my blog.  Why not just blog about being blue?  Ugh—and, that’s what a journal is for.  Into the journal go all the blues and blacks.  The blog is for the vibrant colors and peaceful pastels of the living.

When I started the blog journey, the idea was to write about grief recovery and reinvention as an encouragement to myself and others that there is life after loss. 

In the irony of April being self-talk improvement month, I’ve started this new and difficult assignment on the other side of the country.  I’m alone, over my head, and out of my comfort zone, so… my mind keeps throwing up harsh comparisons to other (smarter, better bred, more highly educated, more evolved) people.  It pipes in with cruel observations and drags me down with heaviness.  When I am at my very lowest, it offers up the staggering memory of the great absence of death.  Super.

So tonight I am blogging to remind myself that

  • This too shall pass (this assignment, this mood, this in-between stage of life where nothing seems settled)
  • Everything that I can do I am doing today
  • Even when I think I’m alone, I’m  not
  • That other place … the “how can I” place … the one that feels light and clear and energized, is not so very far away.

 Wishing you (and me) peace, comfort, support, extraordinary kindness, and a fabulous night’s rest


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Maybe I am not alone… In my pent-up demand for spring, I find myself showing up every afternoon for a new “fix” at the local nursery.  In my drive to create perfectville for the prospective shoppers whom I don’t want to buy my house, every bed is turned and flowers are installed (almost) everywhere.  It’s approaching, well, garish.    

I tried an audio experiment: putting the Ipod on shuffle while I worked.  The result was a walk down memory lane–some memories sweet, some painful.  Some just plain irritating (I really wasted my money on that?)

The Jerry Jeff Walker caught me off guard — “Gettin By.”  Michael used to sing this in his deep baritone voice, strutting by with an impish grin and emphasizing all the lyrics that were inappropriate, off-color, or likely to draw out my scandalized disapproval. The line “easy come, easy go” stopped me in my tracks–in my mind that’s the attitude he brought to all of life and though I’ll never know what caused the accident, my opinion is it’s why he’s dead.  Easy come easy go.

It is hard to know whether to be grateful for these powerful and visceral memories or traumatized by them, so I choose grateful.  I consider the mothers who had less time than me with their children (many) and others who were never able to have children at all.  I consider all of the other ways he could have died, all the terrible futures he could have had, and I try to get grateful for what I had.

I think I am painting with the flowers.  Building, creating, sculpting with them.  Celebrating what God created, life, diversity, growth…   I don’t care what Eckhart Tolle says.  

See you in the garden.


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After the death of Ryan Michael (for a year I could not even string those words together and still when I look at them their combination is stunning and incongruous), part of being “still here” is trying to figure out what to do with myself.  I have seen other mothers continue raising their remaining children after losing a son or daughter.  It’s not that their pain is less.  I don’t believe that.  But I do believe that once you’re a mother, that is the great Organizing Principle of your life.  Your priorities are clear.  Sure, you have room to grow and expand, and even re-invent when the nest is finally empty.  But unless you’re a narcissistic monster, your identity is tangled up in being a mother–that’s my theory. 

So at 47 I am in need of a new identity.   Michael was my only child.  He is gone; there will be no grandchildren, and the identities of mother and grandmother are out.  I stepped down from the role of wife, so that one is presently unavailable as well.  Here are some  roles I’ve thought about.  Not tried on–just evaluated in my highly analytical, indecisive way.

  • Kindly godmother?  
  • Unofficial auntie?
  • Art student?
  • Peace corps volunteer?
  • Small business owner?
  • Adoptive mom?

Today (in separate events) I went to the orthodontist and studied some websites on international adoption.  For the third time.  Can a middle-aged, single woman adopt a child?  In some countries, the answer is yes.  

Is it a cop-out to circle back to the role of “mom?”  Am I shirking the opportunity that’s been given to me to take a hard left?  

I guess I’ll have plenty of time to think about it when they’re laying down railroad tracks across my smile.

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I went to Texas A&M Commerce today and I did better.  It seems that grief is akin to cancer treatment, burning away the old life.  From what I’ve been told, the chemicals and radiation wreak devastation and chaos in the body until the disease collapses, and the medical profession stands by with the hope that enough is left of the self to start again.

Grief is uneven and has been known to play cat and mouse.  The last time I headed to east Texas to see my son’s best friend, it was a beautiful fall afternoon.  When I got there, the french horn player for whom I was not even aware I longed turned out to be horribly missing.  His best friend appeared to me to be in the wrong band, the wrong student was sitting beside him, in fact all those students were wrong, that was the wrong conductor, this was the wrong venue.   I can’t explain why my grief came coupled with shame, but I fled from Chris’s parents whom I imagined angrily eschewed the harbinger of death encroaching into their son’s future.  Grief is not rational.

Today I went back for a second visit.  To strengthen the tenuous thread that sustains my connection to this living boy, this brilliant double music major and eulogist whom my son was blessed to call his friend.   I got to see a real-life college apartment, meet several musicians-in-the-making, and break bread in their tiny little kitchen.     

I have never been so aware of a privilege as I was tonight to sit on some really dirty carpet and eat dinner off mismatched plates in an intimate little circle round the coffee table.  Heaven.

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