How to Find Your Way out of the Valley.

“So, it will come to pass for all of us—for all couples who stay with each other in love—that someday… one of us will carry the shovel and lantern on behalf of the other.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed

You’re strong. You’ve seduced Hope and slept with Faith.
You carry compassion across your body like a bullet-proof vest.    You’re a woman who loves fuller because you’ve lost.

When your earth splits, you strengthen every muscle,
So as not to fall into the pit of desperation.
You balance yourself, on all fours if you must.

You invest in people and experiences,
Recognizing the impermanence and
Declaring gifts in the midst of grief.

Against your will, you know
You’ve grown more authentic,
Wise, and alive in the aftermath.

You think back to your selfish, smart-*ss, 20-something self: invincible.
Until your brother’s car accident that made him leave the life he
Partied, worked, and loved his way through for 27 years.

Now, you’d live for two.
You’d put the joy back in your mother’s eyes.
Oh, the yearning for yesterday’s light!

I’ll learn from this, you said, as if
That could prevent repeating
The lesson: Live! Love!

You were living large and loving your
Mom well when cancer kicked her *ss and
You saw the strongest woman you knew fall.

You stood taller.
You made better choices.
You even got comfortable again.

Before life’s forces shook you
To the core, emptying you of
Possessions and identifying labels.

Once again, you were free
To fall. Or celebrate and
Recreate your life.

You did. You found your
Purpose in a pen and your
Power in an ever-expanding heart.

You even danced in sacred love—
You allowed it to capture you and
You’d never been so thrilled

To submit to its forces.
It felt like flying. Like
You’d earned your wings.

CLIP!

Like that. Your beloved’s death
Slammed you into the valley
And you began to crawl again.

Deeper love. Deeper valley. Deeper woman.
Wiser. More understanding.
Humble and fierce. Transformed.

Maybe you’re the clay and
God’s the potter and the
Punches shape you for the better.

You may not love life’s forces, but you honor
The evidence of metamorphosis in the eyes of
Those who’ve walked through grief’s valley.

No, you’re not clay. You’re free will.
You choose to merge with the mystery and
Some magic manifesting the new you—again.

 

 

How Morgan Corinthos’ Death on General Hospital Helped Heal my Grief. #bloglikecrazy

Morgan Corinthos—a 20-something, vibrant, got life by the hands, and finally getting his sh*t together, young man—died on my soap opera a year ago.

Before my real-life beloved died over a year and a half ago, I used to sit on his bed, in his bedroom (which felt like our clubhouse for two), and watch General Hospital (GH).

Often, Kevin would be showering or doing paperwork before he headed out on sales calls.

I found comfort in his bed, making a picnic of some random treasure I found in his refrigerator or leftovers from our prior night out.

I felt at home in Kevin’s house, bedroom, bed and space, enjoying one of my favorite guilty pleasures: my GH hour.

Kevin never made me feel guilty or chided me for watching my soap. In fact, he watched a couple of his own. Sometimes, we watched them together.

We even spent a few Saturday mornings in bed with Lifetime TV movies.

Kevin was all man and a sports guy, but he grew up on the soaps his mom watched. He knew the characters’ names and no matter how many years one stops watching, in a couple of shows, you’re caught up like a family reunion.

Now, Kevin’s dead. I’m not in his bedroom. I’m in my home. At 2:00 most weekdays, I turn on GH for a moment and get a rush—of being in his home, in his presence, like he’s still indulging with me.

It was like Kevin cried with me when Morgan Corinthos died on my show.

If he’d died sooner, I couldn’t have taken it, but Morgan’s girlfriend, mom, dad, brothers and sisters are six months behind me on the grief journey.

Morgan’s death on GH reflected my feelings and kept me in tune with how many people around Kevin were shaken by his death.

Morgan’s parents wanted answers. Why did he die? His girlfriend felt guilty for trying to move on. His siblings wanted to assign blame.

Some characters on the show acted unexpected kindness and sincerity. Others fumbled with words.

I related to GH in ways I felt disconnected to my new reality minus my man.
So, I watched more religiously than ever. It was my crying hour.

The show mirrored my emotions, but it couldn’t hurt me the way I was cut when my favorite character was written out of my own life.

Recently, it was the one-year anniversary of Morgan’s death. People of Port Charles (where the show takes place) came together to commemorate.

It matched my recent experience of seeing Kevin’s best friend Garry, with whom I’m forever bonded. He talked about how he was ready to start traveling and imagined he and his wife would take cruises with Kevin and me. But, now we can’t.

I vicariously celebrated Morgan Corinthos—a character on a soap opera, a man in his prime, embracing life and balancing intensity, passion and intimacy, like my Kevin.

I cried for Morgan, his mom, girlfriend, brothers, sisters, and their pain.I shed tears for Kevin, his dad, brothers, and wide array of friends.

I cried when Kevin’s best friend told me he had other friends—good ones—but no one he connected with or could expose himself to the way we did with Kevin. He was a safe place and a grand party for each of us.

Garry said he hadn’t been able to cry. He cried—but hadn’t cried.

I’ve bawled at least a hundred times. I need the cleansing.

I let the triggers hit and the tears flow, even the ones ignited from a story line that wasn’t actually mine. It was close enough. Close to my heart.

Thank you, Morgan Corinthos for playing a part in my healing. His friends and family toasted him on the show: Here’s to Morgan!

Yes, here’s to Morgan Corinthos, and General Hospital, and wherever we find a path to process our pain.

How I Learned to Turn the Corner in Grief. #bloglikecrazy

“Often, that which is hardest to digest, to process, to integrate into our life experience is what ultimately transforms us in a positive way.” ~ Marianne Williamson

I’m turning a corner. I can feel it. I’m rising up again. I love the image of the phoenix flying through the fire.

However, this rising from grief is more like a toddler learning to walk.

I fall to my knees, repeatedly. I stand. I’m walking! I take three steps forward. I try running. I fall. It surprises me. I cry. I crawl.

Sometimes, I’m more comfortable on the floor. Until I’m not.

So, I push myself up. I stand again.

But, rising from grief—or learning to walk with it—isn’t like a little one learning to take steps with a cheering audience.

Although people don’t speak it aloud, something inside me feels the crowd cringing each time I fall again. Unlike a baby who cries for the pain of the moment, each time I trip, memories multiply like dominoes.

My resistance screams from the insane part of my brain where society lives and speaks pretty platitudes—like Time heals all wounds. Does it?

When I cried as a child, my mother often said, “Alice Ann, that’s enough!” If I couldn’t make myself stop crying, she’d send me to my room.

It’s not such a bad move. Alone, I can cry it out and let the sadness run through me.

These days, I’m maturing in my grief. You no longer catch me wailing in public restrooms. Well, at least not as a habit.

I’m turning a corner. Unlike a child who has seemingly only minutes behind her and a whole world to look forward to, my yesterday held me in my beloved’s arms like bookends of a lifetime, making today’s future feel like drudgery.

Still, I remind myself to stand. It’s not my nature to stay down.

Hope whispers as my grief quiets. Remember.

Years ago, I couldn’t fathom I’d turn the corner from divorce and fall into sacred love with my friend Kevin. But, I did.

As we giddily rode the curves of love, we couldn’t imagine he’d die unexpectedly in the dark of one night. But, he did.

So, here I am riding grief’s groove. I’m being graced with an expanded heart and maybe even a sprinkling of wisdom.

She’s telling me a groove can lead to a rut. (Get up!) With grief as my constant companion, it’s seems impossible to set my sights on tomorrow.

Actually, I don’t believe I have to, not any more than I had to seek for love.

See, I lived my moments full, letting my losses of long ago create a wake that propelled me into my destiny.

Sometimes we can’t see that beautiful gift coming at us.

So, I simply choose to embrace this moment. I allow myself to feel what I do in the present and know, by that mysterious force, I’m turning a corner.

How Grief Becomes Us. #bloglikecrazy

If you haven’t soared in ecstasy, contorted for intimacy, or caved in with grief, what have you been doing?

Grief used to grab me—by the throat, the shoulders, or even take me out at the knees.

Now, she whispers like the wind, sings like a song, and smells like his cigars.

Grief lingers. I think it would be a lie if I told her I want her to go. We’ve become such companions.

She’s the one I never thought I’d like. She’s certainly not my friend. And, how dare she claim a place in my family?

But, she’s a part of me now. She’s hard and she’s beautiful.

Grief’s wretched and royal, a tease and the truth.

She’s my testimony.

How I Walk Forward with the Chaos of Grief.

I didn’t just lose my boyfriend. I lost the man and relationship I spent five decades looking for, the one that fit me—in all of its imperfection. I lost my sense that I belong in that special club for two.

I never really believed in “the one,” but of all the men I’ve known and loved none of them knew me and loved me the way Kevin did. He said the same thing about me. The cool thing was both giving and receiving unconditional love, living in a no-bullshit zone.

Now, a year and a half after his death, I’m back to the bullshit. The people who think they know me may, but I don’t feel truly known or able to reveal myself fully because what I am now carries such sadness.

I spout off about grieving taking as long as it takes, but I’m pissed off that it’s taking so much of me.

I’m no longer in despair every moment. I set goals. I go forth. I attend events. I laugh and mean it. But, the backdrop of it all is the desire to go back to being with my beloved.

The truth is the extraordinary events without his presence on earth rarely stir me as much as the seemingly ordinary events like watching TV, talking on the phone, or sharing coffee did when he was alive.

Kevin was my man. He once said he wanted me to look at him like, “I know he’s an idiot, but he’s my idiot.” I did—when it came to my less-than-favorite of his tendencies, as he did mine.

I didn’t have to convince myself to overcome my feelings or force feed myself into affection, conversation or presence.

That’s always been an issue with me—being told what I should feel—often by myself and certainly by other men.

Kevin respected my feelings, even the irrational ones. I wasn’t put off by his bullshit, not after we went from friends to our all-in relationship.

God, please forgive me for wishing another one of those fools I loved would’ve been the one who died instead.

I guess all I can do now is love myself the way Kevin loved me—with appreciation for my femininity and humanity.

What would Kevin say of this grief? He’d hold me through it, as I did for him with the grief he carried over his mother’s death.

She died in 2012 and in 2014 it was still eating him inside, although few knew the extent of his pain, although many must’ve imagined, knowing how close Kevin and his mom were.

Now he’s with her. It’s lovely. And, it sucks.

It sucks that Kevin is not here for his father as he committed to be. Around Thanksgiving in 2015, Kevin was in Tampa with his father when the doctors considered cutting off “Coach’s” big toe due to diabetes. Kevin was relieved when his father bounced back and basically told his sons to get out of his house and hit the road.

Kevin made it clear to me when the time came, he’d be there—in Tampa—for his dad, even move there, whatever was required. I respected that.

Of course, Kevin couldn’t imagine he’d be dead when the time came. Or that his dad and twin would truly be scared when Irma hit Florida recently.

Or that at age 86 Coach would conclude doctors cutting off his foot was the right move. So, now that’s happened.

I can’t imagine having a foot cut off, but I suspect Coach would say losing his son was harder.

I didn’t just lose my boyfriend. I lost knowing the people he loved were better off because he was there for them—physically present without being asked, speaking directly, kidding and seriously making life easier to manage.

I feel helpless—for a foot that’s been cut off and a twin brother who’s shouldering the burden Kevin would’ve willingly carried.

I miss him more than ever. I miss him for the others who miss him more than ever.

This is the journey. This is the chaos of emotion one doesn’t master, but learns to live with like a missing limb.

Letter to my Beloved, a Year and a Half after his Death.

“When good men die their goodness does not perish, but lives on though they are gone.” ~ Euripides

Dear Kevin,

Thank you. Thank you for embodying your authentic self and welcoming me to be the Alice Lundy you saw—not just my best self, but the real me: raw, vulnerable, smart, beautiful, jealous, funny, a writer worth reading, sexy, determined, feisty, intuitive, angry, weird, stubborn, free-spirited, and a terrible singer, but a great story-teller.

You saw me. You got me. All of me—the parts I wanted to deny, abandon, or project onto others, and especially the qualities about myself I believe on my best days.

You knew who I was back when the only thing I cared more about than selling books was the truth, and I assumed it was clear and simple.

So, I held truth against you for 20 years and you let me without pitting alternatives against me, as you could’ve easily done.

Thank you for carrying our 25-year friendship and calling consistently, despite me taking it for granted and leaving you hanging, sometimes for weeks. My obliviousness, along with all the times I tried to set you up with other gals, matched your persistence.

You doled out invitations, starting way back in 1989 with the first party you took me to out in the country at your friend Ed’s, when I was escaping my ill-fitting life with my first husband and you were partying like a rock star.

You dismissing hard drugs before we became a couple opened the door for us, and divulging the details about your troubles swung it wide.

I’m amazed at how you evolved as a man in the years we walked separate paths. You came back into my life carrying a brand of manly emotional courage I’d never known.

You braved our love by going deeper than you’d ever gone. Early on, I couldn’t imagine it wasn’t your M.O. or a kind of show, but you showed me!

Your colorful personality, passion and resolve earned you your nickname: Fire!

Your creative questions and present listening, as you navigated knowing me on a soul level, left an imprint of intimacy actualized.

I cherish the memories of our challenging conversations on subjects like race, death, politics, religion, and education.

Many assume I’m sad about all the things we didn’t get to say or do. Not true. We said and did it all.

We sucked the marrow out of life. In our less than two years as a couple, we did a decade. As your friend Garry said, “Of course. I saw it. God opened up time so Kevin could have that experience before he left this life.”

True, and I would’ve loved to keep riding with you until the end of my days.

Thank you for planning for us, making way and expanding our everything.

You taught me to wrestle with our differences without dismissing me or letting me run away.

Thank you for always encouraging me to run back into your arms, like the time I jumped in my car and took off down the road, in a furry bound for nowhere, so mad I was unaware my parking brake was on.

You said you were sorry and, “Come back home,” as if it was ours.

Thank you for knowing and acting on your ability to apologize as a man and not letting me belittle or bullshit you, which I once had a tendency to do.

Kevin, thank you for sparing me the one truth I would’ve sworn I could handle—your friendship with your ex. You were right, even though you were so f*cking wrong for lying to me.

Thank you for coming back to me after you died.

You came through your brother Glenn’s body and hugged me—as only you could do—when I went to your house and crumbled on the bathroom floor.

You told me the perfect things to pack at 4 am, after I overslept and stood in a fog from trying half an antidepressant the night before, leaving me unpacked and unprepared for the flight to your memorial service in Tampa. Because of you, I had exactly what I needed, no more and no less, even with the unexpected detour and change in weather.

Then, two pennies (one dated 2014, the year we got together) appeared on a table in the airport, on the hotel room bed, in my car and other places.

Back home, as I walked into church alone to my bones, you sang “There Must Be 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and made me laugh.

The day I looked up out of my sunroof to dry my tears before yoga class, you sent your heart in a cloud, as you’ve done dozens of times since, because as you say, you can no longer send flowers.

And the smell of your cigars (the only ones I ever liked) while I’m on my mat? Nice.

One night under a full moon, you led me through the woods on a path and told me it would continue to unfold if I just keep walking. I’m trying.

You repeatedly say, “I’m here, Icey, I’m here.” I accept; you really have just walked into another room.

Thank you for filling me with your love and divine lessons—most of which you never intentionally taught or articulated.

One of my favorites is: never argue for your limitations. I’m working on it.

You mirrored to me the things I needed to see in a way I didn’t resist, which is rare for a rebel like me. I’m forever grateful.

Thank you for everything you left me: the tangible gifts of a killer (your word) wardrobe, the Tanzanite bracelet, my Kindle Fire, little black jam speaker, piles of legendary love letters I’ll forever treasure, and especially memories of our time together bursting with crazy, sexy, cool, even in the mundane—morning coffee, car rides, and the sound of your voice.

Thank you for kicking cancer’s ass before you and I became Fire & Ice and sharing your conviction that your mother brought me into your life so you could have the kind of relationship she desired for you.

Kevin, it was my honor to give you that gift. Your arms were my home.

You said it was destiny, not fantasy. You delivered real.

If you had to leave me, thank you for preparing me with an overflowing bank of love and your belief in me as a woman and a writer.

Although we both wish you didn’t have to go, I (almost) appreciate how you slipped out in your sleep. That’s the only way the angels could snatch you!

You know I thought I could endure standing by your side if cancer ever tried again or watch you wither with old age, but that’s not how it went down.

We had no warning and maybe that’s best because we had no fear.

I hate that you died in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of a page, in the center of my favorite chapter of what I thought would be a long book.

You said our love would “just keep getting better” and I believed in your certainty. We didn’t see it coming, did we?

In one of your voicemails (yes, I still listen), you told me you couldn’t imagine your life without me in it. Ditto, but here I am.

Oh, how I absolutely despise your death! Yet, I (try to) believe it to be a part of our divine destiny, as you make it known to me.

Thank you, baby. For staying with me still. Death can’t divide Fire & Ice!

I LOVE YOU.

From the one stuck on this side,

Your Icey

 

Grief is Life’s Little Sister.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” ~ Vicki Harrison

Grief never really goes away. She fades into the background at times.

Other times, she insists on being the center of attention.

As an indeterminable amount of time rolls on, Grief makes larger circles before she gets back to you. But, she always returns.

The more time that passes, the more shocking her arrival seems because you—of such faith—believed Grief already had her way with you.

The truth is she’s just getting started. Grief is a force—both softer and harder than death. She’s only given to the living. In fact, the more alive one is, the more likely to experience her.

See, Grief is Life’s little sister. She’s a tag along. Death is their brother.

The longer you hang around with Grief and listen to her, instead of assuming she’s a nuisance, the more she reveals her wisdom and light.

Grief is nothing we imagine her to be—not enemy or friend, not a season or a time.

She’s both sickness and cure. She’s resurrection. Grief is a thousand stairs to climb, but she’s worth every step.

I Signed up for This.

“You ask for what you want and you pay for what you get.” Maya Angelou

God/the Universe has plans for me. I signed up for this.

Sure, I was probably in a hurry and running late and only listened to the part that said, “After 49 years of challenging relationships, you’ll be blessed with crazy, sexy, cool sacred love and your heart will be full.”

I doubt I read the fine print—the part about him dying.

I’m not a fine print gal. Details and contracts? Yeah, yeah, where do I sign?

Like the time I put my precious belongings in storage and moved to Mexico. I didn’t read the tiny words that stated if I was late with my meager $30 payment my stuff could and would be sold to some guy named Daryl. Oops.

Then, one of the most important contracts—a marriage certificate—I resisted signing the first time because I knew there would be a few uncomfortable clauses in there. Turns out, the officiant and the best people have to sign, but guess who doesn’t? The bride and groom. Maybe I mentally used that as my out. I didn’t sign a thing!

Oh, but on round two, I knew. I was committed, ready, in love, no doubts. But damn, I couldn’t see how that future would play out.

I’m not disregarding my responsibilities, but I believe it’s all been a part of my divine destiny: the love and the loss, the success and falling on my ass, sweet summers and brutally cold winters.

Sometimes I think, why me? A part of me knows.

I came here to love, learn and grow into a compassionate heart, surrendering to life’s seasons in order that I may be a more full, authentic, feminine force for good—using my voice, listening, standing beside those whose ride is bucking them like a bronco and leaving them flat on the ground with the wind knocked out of them.

Sometimes the most soothing words aren’t advice, stories or questions, but simply, “I’m here.”

Yes, I’m here. I signed up for this.

Grief is the Brave Dance We Do.

“Life is a continuous balancing of love and loss, because in order to have any loss mean something, we first have to have something we truly value.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard

On the front of my 9×11 hardcover calendar book it reads: “2017 is a good year to have a good year.” But, am I?

There’s a chasm between wanting to be over the grief of my beloved dying and clinging to the chaos born from his death.

After losing a loved one, this is the brave dance we do. We wrestle, grapple, fight, resist, and take ownership of our grief. We acknowledge, admit and attend to the full array of feelings which arrive with sorrow’s storm.

Many choose not to undertake this step. They prefer denial and bucking up. I don’t blame them. I’ve been there. I’ve tried the detour.

Folks are free to choose any path that works for them.

However, this time, I just can’t go around. I’m in the mess as much as I was into the relationship with the man I love who died a year and a half ago. A man I called Fire who burned bright right up until the night he died unexpectedly in his sleep (damn heart attack!).

He said to me, “I’m all in,” and he was. Until he was out. Not by his choice. Nor mine. I was all in, too.

Since his death, I’ve grieved like it was my profession.

Grief has been an honor, a spiritual opening and a building of my emotional biceps. And yet, even athletes don’t stay in the gym all day.

A friend recently asked me, “Do you think it’s true that the greater the love the deeper the grief?”

I said, “Yes, with a caveat.” (Because I love saying that word.) I had great love, as did my sister. So did the woman standing before me asking the question. We each still experience deep grief.

And yet, I don’t think the longer and harder one grieves is the measure of their love. With hard loss comes pain. How people cope is as individual as the paths to love.

For me, grief is a challenge, gift and opportunity bestowed upon me by the grace of a sacred love I was lucky enough to live. The aftermath is wretched. And it’s beautiful. In this moment, I vow to do my best to grow from it.

There’s no right way. There’s no wrong way. There’s only grief.

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.