How Grief Helps Us Grow. #bloglikecrazy

“Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.” ~ Wikipedia

Grief is a truth teller when we like to believe the lies.

Grief slays us from our easy chair and smiles at our idea of control.

I thought her evil, pointing out my deficiencies, even stealing joy and freedom.

Grief speaks the loudest at funerals, but that’s not the only place her voice is heard.

She whispers throughout our lives and we resist her presence repeatedly.

She says: He’s got another woman (when he does). Your mom has cancer and will likely die. (Sometimes grief sounds like a doctor.) Your parents are divorcing. You hate this job. You’re going to lose the house. The doctors had to cut off his foot. He’s unresponsive.

We think grief is the b*tch, but she’s more like my new stepmom when I was a teenager: introducing rules which felt restrictive, but showed me what it meant to be a family.

Grief is strong and no doubt she can be harsh, but she’s loving.

She’s like the junior high school teacher who made my brother read in front of the class. Except Bill couldn’t read; so he slapped her.

That teacher revealed a truth my brother had been denying.

That’s the kind of teacher grief is—willing to be hated, even abused, in order to remove the mask.

A friend of mine told me he was sexually abused, by more than one person, starting at age five. He told me he doesn’t feel sad or angry. He says it didn’t affect him. In fact, he’s fine.

I recognize that mask. It’s the I’m okay mask.

I wore it for almost a decade after I was raped. I not only denied the pain, but avoided it entirely (actually how denial works).

I thought I was brave. I thought I was strong. I thought I was fine.

Actually, I didn’t think much about that night at all.

It wasn’t a #metoo campaign that made me face my pain.

A qualified therapist knew it takes more than just listening to a client like me paint pretty pictures so she feels better.

This therapist encouraged me to take off my I’m fine mask, look at the truth, and allow the tears to break where my trust had been violated.

She helped me face what I hadn’t known how to. And to move past it.

It’s not only the experiences we want to avoid; it’s the grief.

Grief says, “Yes, you were raped.”

What a b*tch. What a truth teller.

It takes courage to face our pain. That’s why so many women don’t come forward until years later, if at all. It’s easier to deny.

Our ego convinces us to be “strong” and in doing so, we often end up lying to ourselves through minimizing.

I have friends whose fathers left them or never showed up when they were kids. For years I’ve watched them dismiss the impact of an event like that.

Then, as adults when they get conscious and courageous, they can cry in the arms of grief. It’s the beginning of releasing that mask they all but glued on their beautiful faces.

When they finally take off the mask and let the grief in, the light comes. too.

When we face people’s (including our own) imperfections, manipulations, and violations, at first we’re hit with grief. But then, we’re set free.

We’re no longer captive to the actions of others. That’s why society applauds so many women and men coming out of the shadows and saying #metoo.

We’re witnessing their individual healing and society’s collective awakening.

We minimize our pain not because we’re strong or brave, but because on some level, we believe the grief could devour us.

She won’t. She waits like a patient parent or teacher. She helps us remove our I’m fine mask and the illusion of being in control.

Grief invites us to lay our hurt and humanity at her feet.

She holds us in our raw pain.

Then, like my stepmother and my brother’s teacher, grief helps us grow into more conscious and compassionate human beings.

 

How to be Soft like Sunshine, Strong like Storm. #bloglikecrazy

“Hanging around for an endless repetition of the same cycle is not loving, but merely dysfunctional.” ~ Marianne Williamson, Enchanted Love

I’m the kind of woman who’d rather face morning with tears than flatness.

I spent decades defining my emotions as positive or negative. Guess which ones I determined to align with?

When the “bad” ones vied for my attention, I changed my state.

It worked. I presented powerful to the world—and myself.

How can a woman (or a man) be whole if afraid to feel feelings?

I was afraid because in my youth anger awakened uncontrolled rage. (Never mind that I had reason.) Better not do that anymore. Check.

Sadness ignited suicidal tendencies. (Often, when women turn anger inward, it invites suicide; for men, it’s homicide.) Wow. You’re freaking people out. Stop it. I did.

I got my feelings under control. I “mastered” my emotions.

But, those slaves had a propensity to rise up at inconvenient times.

What if I worked with them? What if I befriended my feelings? What—all of them?!

Yes, now I even invite them. I allow them in my life. I listen to what they’re trying to tell me. I give them space and voice.

I find they don’t like to be pushed down, set aside, denied or renamed.

Feelings offer truth, insight, and opportunity for new understanding.

This is the more challenging path, like learning the material rather than just acing the test.

The way medical students studying diseases wonder if they have them, at first, one may worry honoring feelings defines her.

It’s in our language: She’s sad. He’s an angry person.

Enough with that.

I choose to feel my feelings. Is that so radical?

Sometimes, we feel sad or mad or blissed out.

These are our feelings—gifts certainly as valuable as thoughts—which (mine, at least) have been wrong a few thousand times.

I’m coming full circle, in one sense childlike, in the way children skin their knees, cry, and then rise to play again.

But, I’m more. I’m alive with my full feminine essence.

This is my FU you to a patriarchal society that deems it necessary to deny me of my emotions because they scare you. (She’s a hysterical woman!)

This is my hello to my dancing soul.

I was told, and maybe you were, too:
Let it go.
Don’t cry.
Laugh it off.
Be professional.
Don’t be so sensitive.

And, my favorite: “I’ve got it handled,” as in, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head.” Ha! I do not need to be handled!

If you want to care for me, consider me in all my femininity.

Fierce as a blazing fire.
Wild as the wind.
Soft as sunshine.

We reclaim our feminine nature.

Does that scare you? Maybe it should.

Or, maybe you’re so deep in denial, telling yourself the things you’ve been telling us, you refuse to feel fear even in the face of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Do you think femininity is weak?

The jokes, baby, you keep telling them. The lies, honey, you keep believing.

Not me. Not anymore. I’m out.

Out like the feminine force of nature.

You didn’t listen. You tried to shut us down and deny our feelings.

Patriarchal bullsh*t is being blown up. Where will you stand? Choose.

In the hurricane. In the political sh*t storm. In truth like a tornado.

You might just have to frack off because my sisters and I are speaking truth, crying tears, and dancing joy—real joy, not some plastic crap you tried to sell us.

We are the mothers in Mother Nature.

We’re as soft goddesses and as seductive as the sun.

We’re the giggling girls.

We’re the children and the women saying NO. And being heard.

We’re women welcoming our feelings and our experiences.

You won’t always see us smiling to suit you.

We will never line up to salute a lie.

We’re gathering like bees on flowers. We can produce sweet honey or we can sting.

We feel our feelings—full, feminine, fierce, radiant, juicy, messy, ours.

We invite you to join us.

Welcome to everything but denial.

 

 

 

I Really Was Such a Baby About the Whole Thing.

“Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit.” ~ Anne Lamott

My friend’s husband cheated on her. I’m not going to tell you the details, but let’s just say there were circumstances. Because there always are, right?

Still, in her mind, the action was unforgivable. Her family agreed. But, what about her kids? He was still their dad.

My friend loved this man and never imagined him cheating. She trusted him. They were the kind of couple that fit like puzzle pieces. They made a beautiful picture.

How f*cking dare he?! Well, you know—circumstances. No, not excuses. However, yes, in hindsight, I saw his humanity and how he came to be with that other woman, practically unapologetically.

Betrayal like that breaks something in a person.

Still, for a handful of years, my friend—you know, for the sake of the kids—continued taking family vacations with this man she meant to divorce. She had every intention. Because she couldn’t forgive him.

A couple years ago when I saw her, she mentioned his name without disdain or discussion of divorce. The way his name rolled off her tongue was casual and light.

I looked into her eyes and asked, “Are you guys back together?” The answer was yes without explanation, apology or fantasy. Just solid.

“How did that happen?” I asked.

She laughed. “You know, I was really such a baby about the whole thing.”

Ha! I’d say she’d been grieving. In grief we cry. We bitch about what happened. We analyze. We decide something different every hour of every day. We turn in circles like a dog, never finding the right spot. Until we do.

Grief is a game changer. It shatters the ground we stand solid on. It takes us with it like being sucked into a sinkhole. When our foundation crumbles, so do we.

My friend is one of the most balanced people I’ve ever known in my 50-plus years. She’s not naïve or gullible, more like strong, sensible, genuine, and yes, loving.

However, in her early stages of grief, she almost checked herself into a mental hospital because she met with rage that wanted to kill and sadness that wanted to die.

Instead, she learned to rise. So did her husband—after she determined she’d be okay either way.

It took time. In her case, years. Grief—whether from betrayal, death, divorce or tragedy—doesn’t come with an expiration date. It’s not linear and each case is different.

I recently read an article about a woman who was burned—face, hands, and body—life-threatening burns, in a camp fire started by her husband. After she arrived home from the hospital, her husband hit the road because she was just too much for him to handle. However, her young daughter needed her mother. The story revealed this woman’s resilience, faith and determination.

All I could think was, F*ck! I’ve been such a baby about this whole my-boyfriend-dying thing.

Maybe. But, like my friend, I can laugh. I went into the depths of my pain and came out with my lessons. I’m coming back to myself with new awareness and understanding, compassion and certainty, which, in this chapter, this time, could only be gained by going in.

This was master’s level grief. It required more of me. It demanded I go through the dark and crazy, and invest the tears and time.

Babies cry when things are sad. They naturally honor their emotions, rather than trying to buck up. Then, they stop crying and get back to playing—after they’re all cried out. Or had a nap.

So, yeah, I guess I was a baby about the whole thing, too. And yet, I don’t regret a single tear.

How to Walk the Bridge to Better

“Our job isn’t to fight fate, but to help each other through, not as soldiers, but as shepherds. That’s how we make it okay, even when it’s not.” ~ Lucy Kalanithi

Bridge Builder, Light Bearer. Those were the words I wanted on my tombstone.

Now, I think escort might be good. No, not that kind of escort!

It’s been my honor to chaperon people across their own life bridges. I didn’t have to build the bridge, but I often shined the light.

Sometimes, like when your sister’s husband dies, all we can do is sit in the dark with our loved ones and hold the light until it catches them.

The bridge seems to form under one’s feet as they walk the path of life.

However, traversing through the darkness—whether it comes from death, divorce, disaster, or simply losing our way—is lonely.

No one else can feel our unique brand of despair in our precious, vulnerable hearts.

That’s why for many years I didn’t let people in. I preferred to suffer the dark nights of my soul alone. I’d saddle up to my suicidal tendencies and keep everyone away from me. Until I didn’t.

Even now, I can’t let everyone in, but I’ve learned to recognize the light bearers. They’re the ones who stand in the darkness with you, shine the light, and fully acknowledge your right to sit where you are for as long as you need to. Light bearers aren’t there to convince.

They’re a power by their presence. They see your pain and appreciate it without pity. They don’t try to pull you out of the pain, but hold your hand while you’re in it.

That’s what my sister does for me—always. Not just since the death of my beloved.

Jayne showed me the light when we were kids and our parents divorced and later, when I was a teenager, she opened her home to me.

My sister has held the light a thousand times.

The light is like bird food. I can’t actually feed the birds. But, I can fill the feeder and let them come.

Now, I’ve become a woman whose heart fills with the sight of cardinals’ colors, beaks and feathers outside my window.

I’ve done nothing; I’ve done something.

I offer food, but I can’t physically carry or direct the birds to it. That’s not my job; it’s God’s, or angels or the Universe. This Amazing Force alerts the birds the food is out and calls them to fly to it.

For me, that’s God. He builds bridges and sends the escorts to help us across the dark chapters of our lives into the light.

God isn’t just in the magic. He’s in the in-between moments building bridges to tomorrow, to our next beautiful chapter.

My biggest lesson: we don’t have to build the bridges!

Often, I have no idea how I’m going to get from here to there.

How would I get out of my marriage and onto solid ground? How could I get out of sales after 20 years? How could I become a writer? How could I get out of relationships that weren’t right—especially when I was desperate to make them into more?

Sometimes falling apart is the bridge.

If those men I was involved with hadn’t let me down or dismissed me, I would’ve missed the greatest love I’ve ever known—sacred, worth-it-all love.

Deep in it, when my beloved Fire died and I cried every f*cking day, when devastation felt like my middle name, God was building a bridge.

My sister—and so many others—held the light.

Earlier, when my sister’s husband died (four years before I lost my guy), I wanted to be the one to build the bridge for her. But, the only bridge she wanted to walk over was the one leading to yesterday, the one that no longer existed.

So, I prayed and stayed present through the black nights that rippled into days, weeks, months and years. I held the light, as did a whole gang of angels—both human and beyond.

Somehow, my sister, after going one direction for 33 years of marriage, learned to walk a new way through the darkness. Over time, a bridge to a better life formed beneath her—right there, in the dark.

Now, after all we’ve been through, I no longer feel the need to be a bridge builder.

Instead, I pray: God, use me. May I be of benefit. Let me shine the light. And especially, Help me pay it forward.

All I can tell you is this: that rush I get from feeding the birds is nothing compared to being a light bearer for another human being.

When the light catches their eyes—after the darkness—they almost fly.

 

One Night in a Bar with Grief & Gratitude

“Resilience does not mean bouncing back to where you were before or pretending that the hard stuff isn’t hard. It’s painful, messy stuff. But, it’s the stuff.” ~ Lucy Kalanithi

When my fellow grievers ask, “How are you?” I want to tell them I’m fine.

I’m farther on the journey, so I want to tell them it gets better—because it has. I want to tell them I miss him now more than ever—because I do.

They’re not grieving the man I am—my beloved who died 15 months ago. Each of these friends carries their own loss—more recent, fresh and raw.

I tell them I’m moving on, even seeing other men, but my heart is still deeply in love with Kevin.

Kevin is dead.

With these two friends, I can say his name loud and proud, although they only know him the way I know Jeff’s brother, Michael and Sharon’s sister, Judy—through afterlife stories.

I don’t tell them about the morning I woke up with the man I went to bed with the night before only to be deeply disappointed—not because of anything I did or didn’t do or who he is—but, because he isn’t Kevin. So, I went into the bathroom and sobbed.

I’m still so sad. Even these two, who completely get it, aren’t privy to the part of me that’s in agony.

I’m not keeping a secret from them; I’m keeping it from myself.

I’m still sad. I don’t think any other man will ever compare. I’m mad that my man is dead—still. Hasn’t he been dead long enough?

I envy the two grievers sitting opposite me in a booth at Matt the Miller’s bar because they have long term marriages with the loves of their lives. I’m jealous.
I wanted a chance at that—even though Kevin and I came together decades after we met, giving us a late start off the bat. But, really? That’s all we got—a start?

I talk to my friends about divine timing—how I believe my brother, mother and beloved lived their full lives—even though for me, they died too soon.

I amaze myself with truths that are also lies.

I’m fine. I’m crumbling. It will be okay. It gets better.

F*ck that. F*ck it all.

As Jeff says, “I’ve got no f*cks to give.”

We seem to cuss a lot. Tonight. Together. In grief.

How am I? I’m sad because we’re all grieving, but comforted because we’re in it together.