Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hello Grief, come sit a while.

A few years ago, I totally lost myself in sorrow.  When three of my relatives died within a 4 month period, I just got so sad that I looked so hard for a diversion that I couldn't see straight.  I made mistakes.  At some point in time in life I guess we all do.  We all screw up and we can blame it on whatever makes us feel justified, but what I know now is that I wasn't justified simply because of the pain I felt.  That was then - this is now.  Now I feel the onset of that same overwhelming sorrow.  What I think I have learned is to just SIT in it.  Let myself feel the pain each day until it begins to lighten up - that is, not to try and escape it, but to feel it wash over me, acknowledge it for what it is (grief) and then try to release it each day. 

I lost my aunt, as you know, about 11 days ago.  Yesterday I found out that a new friend, a person I'd recently tried hard to help and then strangely gotten attached to, died in the wee hours of the morning.  Someone reminded me that death comes in "3's."  I'm trying to ignore this superstition because I don't know that my heart can take another loss right now.  Normally I'm chatty, feel pretty okay about life, despite my sometimes stressful job.  Right now, I don't want to talk.  I don't have anything to say but a simple question to the Universe - "Why?"  I know that death is a part of life.  And if I didn't already get this notion, my job would have taught me well over the last three years.  But lately it seems that people are dying in middle age - in their 40's, 50's, and 60's.  And a lot of people are dying.  I'm sure it's proportional to the population - maybe a result too of our toxic environment.  The Bible says that our days are numbered from the start - that God knows when each of us will go.  It's predetermined how and when we die.  I don't know about that necessarily because some things just seem so freakishly odd that I just can't figure how or why it should have gone down that way.  But then, I don't have that supreme understanding of the way the world works.  I wish I did.

Right now I guess I'm gonna concentrate on being sad.  Sounds weird doesn't it?  6 years ago I was doing everything I could to distract myself from the sadness, but that lesson is learned.  There's no escaping what the heart truly feels.  An old adage tells us not to wallow in sorrow or self pity, but I say that you should - at least for a time.  If you don't feel it, sort through it, try to understand and come to terms with it - then it will eventually catch up to you anyway.  Like that day in 2005 when I bit down into an old lady's teacake cookie and cried for half an hour.  The taste of that cookie reminded me of my Granny whose loss I hadn't fully mourned.  Grief sneaks up on you throughout your life.  You'll never really be finished with it.  It does get easier though, as I finally learned once I let myself know that heavy-hearted, there's an elephant standing on my chest - feeling.  Sooner or later the elephant doesn't feel so heavy, doesn't take your breath away quite as bad, kinda backs over into the corner of that room in our minds where we store the painful stuff that is quite definitely part of living a full life.  The heart takes chances we sometimes can't help.  We love when we do - and there's no choosing who we love and when that love takes hold of us.  That love that we feel, that genuine concern for another person above and beyond what we feel for ourselves - that is where the grief comes from.  But as another old saying goes, "tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all."

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Steve Harvey is a great comedian.  I vividly remember watching him on Kings of Comedy tell a great story about how women really needed to "build a man." One man simply cannot do all the things that a woman needs, so she must build a man using about 4 different types of men to get satisfaction out of her life.  One had to be rich, one gay, one old, one vibrant and sexy...and the joke went on.  It was really funny and I still smile when I think of it.  Not such a crazy idea really.

The Indigo Girls wrote a song years ago called "Kid Fears."  It's about having a tough childhood, and there's a line in there about how we should "replace the ones that we love." This is what I had to do.
I was very young when my mother and father divorced, too young to remember the loss on the day it happened.  I have no idea what my parents argued about, how it all went down, the looks on their faces, the things she packed when she left.  All I know is that the loss I can't remember, the thing that changed my life forever, has hurt me all these years.  I hardly ever heard from my mother after she left.  But in that empty space, there was a soft spot for me to fall some days - most days even.

If Steve Harvey could tell the story, he'd say I built myself a mother.

My Granny was there almost everyday as I grew.  I lived with her part of those years.  She cooked for me, took care of me when I was sick, talked to me and instilled values in me.  When I was sad she'd hold me close in bed beside her, tell me stories, pat me on the back.  She was a gift to me all the years I had her.  Then she was gone.

My Aunt Sharon was my oh so cool aunt.  She took me school shopping when I was little, let me spend nights at her house with my cousins, took us to the mall when we were teens, and she thought I was smart.  I loved that she called me for my opinion when I got older.  She was the one who told me when I was 21 that I wouldn't know who I was until I was at least 30.  She was right.  I'm 36 and I'm still baffled by some things.  Two months before Granny died, we lost Sharon to a hard-fought battle with cancer.

My Aunt Barbara was the last in my trio of mother figures.  She was a lot like Granny in that she was a great cook, and tried her best to keep our family grounded after so much loss.  She was very funny, had strong arms and gave tight hugs.  Just a few weeks ago she brought a bunch of clothes over for my daughter.  She'd been shopping and found a deal.  She thought of me like another one of her own.  I can't tell you how many weekends I spent with her as a child.  I always felt safe and loved in her presence.  I remember that she gave me a lot of touch - held me in her lap, ran her fingers through my hair, hugged me tight every time I saw her.  And tragically, she is now gone too.  We lost her on Sunday.  My family will never be the same.

The sadness I feel right now might not be temporary.  It might be permanent.  I'm in a dark place for sure.  When I was in my 20's I remember Hootie and The Blowfish had a song about a "motherless child." I always identified with it because I felt like when I was small I wore a big banner that said,'s a kid whose own mother didn't love her enough to stay.  But all these years later I know that isn't how the situation actually played out.  Their divorce wasn't my fault.  My mother's love for me isn't easily understood by me or anyone else.  People have flaws.  Myself included.

But now that it's all said and done I realize I wasn't a motherless child.  Even though they didn't give birth to me, they were all three mothers to me.  They all loved me and helped me through my life.  If I had truly been alone I wouldn't be able to feel such pointed sorrow right now.  I guess it is better to have loved and lost than to have never felt that love at all.  I'm going to try to remember the good times, the times we laughed so hard we couldn't even talk...and when we went on crazy adventures together.  When you're young, and even now, you never know when you might be building a memory that will stand the test of time, that you'll hold close in your darkest hour.  That memory that might circulate in your brain over and over and over again and hopefully bring you some peace.

So as you continue to live your life, don't just go through the motions.  Take time to say I love you.  Make time for each other.  Build your house with memories, and fill your heart with love.  These are the things that matter.