One of the patterns I have noticed in friends’ responses to whatever I happen to post on social media is that, when I post some good news, “happy photos”, or an achievement, I get 3 or 4 times as many “likes”, comments, and whoopy doos, than if I post something hard, messy, painful and tough. There the sorrow just hangs out its forlorn head alone, unnoticed.
I know there are a gazillion algorithms deep at work in the bowels of (for example) Facebook’s functioning, and when one person “likes” or comments on something, a whole host of their own friends will see it too. Especially if there is a connection to me. A snowballing of likes and comments ensues.
Some “likes” are more powerful than other “likes”. I am sure I could rank order my friends in terms of the impact of their likes. But I won’t. I am not particularly interested in Facebook’s bowel-y algorithms. I am sure they are functioning healthily.
What I find somewhat more fascinating is the underlying tendency for there to be more responses and comments when things are “good” than when things are “bad”. When I am “happy” than when I am “sad”.
Good news is rewarded. Cheered. Celebrated. Raved. Hearted and clapped and liked.
Sad, tough, lonely news is barely acknowledged.
Is it even seen? I don’t know. I think it is. I suspect that some friends see every single thing I write. That I am “tagged” in some way. Tracked, like an inmate with dodgy behaviour patterns.Read more
Today is one of those exquisitely beautiful, bright autumn days. With temperatures that would feel “just right” on a mid-summer’s day, but with the added benefit of a gentle breeze to doubly kiss my bare skin as I sit now, in the garden, writing this piece.
I have been out on a “long run”. The kind of “long run” I do in the run-up to a half-marathon. I am registered for the one in Lausanne (Switzerland) just two weeks from now. Today should be my “peak distance” run, but because I have run so little, there was nothing noteworthy about this particular peak.
I was reflecting while I was out. I don’t take podcasts or music with me. For years I have allowed myself the privilege of total silence when out and about running – for mental space as well as personal safety reasons. Where I run, on fairly remote forest and mountain tracks, I need to be vigilant.
I was reflecting on how I had been in a conversation the night before with a dear friend whose friendship goes back now 28 years. She’s known me through all my losses. We don’t see each other much and when we talk there feels to be much to catch up on. But it’s work. Hard work. Going into my grief stories, trying to find words to articulate that for which there are no words is so painful. Tiring. It hurts. Particularly when it’s what I live day in day out.Read more
Along about the second year, definitely going into the third and then the fourth…I just wanted to scream at people.
Not in anger, but in shredded grief and pain…
Why can’t you just let me be sad? Why does it feel like I must defend myself against you? Why does it then feel like I have to defend my grief even to myself? Why does it feel like I can’t just feel what I feel, be whatever I am? Why must I expend all this energy defending my right to feel all that this is? Why is it not okay with you that I can’t find my feet and I’m feeling so disoriented that my stomach continually wants to heave its’ contents? Why are you trying to make me feel like I’m doing something wrong?
Why can’t you just let me be fucking sad?
These are a mere sampling of the piercing reactions that took up so much space in my heart and soul and mind in the first years of grief, in reaction to all the well meaning mostly discussions that people would have with me. To me, really, because they weren’t seeking discussion with me as much as they were telling me where they thought I should be with this, or how they thought I should be with this.
Grief, I mean.
How I was grieving vs how they thought I should be grieving.
They didn’t realize this is what they were doing, of course. At least, I hope they didn’t realize this is what they were doing.
Whether that was their intention or not, shaming is how I heard every word.
And every word from them shattered me more, because I, and we, already judge ourselves so much, when we grieve.Read more
When your heart and soul are just so tired, 5 years in.
Not for any particular reason, really.
Everything is pretty much the same as it’s always been.
Even when life is routine, my spirit is tired. And, yes, life on the road can be routine.
Tired from doing and being and all the stuff that comes from living a life that is so achingly and shockingly different from the life that was going to be.
How many of us just get out there and do what life requires? How many of us go beyond that requirement and strive to truly create a life for ourselves, alongside all the grief and devastation?
And we do, by god. But, Jesus, it’s exhausting.
To me, anyways.
Underlying all the doing and creating and self-care and just…everything….is the overriding knowing that I’ll never see him again, and I ache all over with that knowing.
Sort of like a continual flu.
And you just learn to live with it.Read more
This morning, my cousin posted an image on Facebook of a hilarious guitar magazine parody called "Mediocre Guitar." My husband Don loved music, especially guitars. He owned 7 or 8 of them at all times, and was always hanging out online at guitar websites and message boards, and giving free lessons to his fellow online guitar-enthusiast friends, on his YouTube channel. He would play guitar in our apartment almost daily, especially as a form of de-stressing after a long and stressful day doing EMS work. I am a singer, and we used to play and sing together all the time, learning Beatles and Natalie Merchant and Fleetwood Mac songs. He would strum his guitar and I would sing, and the way he would look at me while I gently sang a new song he was learning the chords to - it was the very definition of love and music.
We met in a music chat room online. We always connected through music. So when my cousin put up that post today, I began typing my husband's name into the comment section of the post, because I wanted to "tag" him on the post so he could see how hilarious it was. I was halfway through typing his name into the comments, when it suddenly hit me - he is dead. He is still dead. He will always be dead. It will be 7 years this July, and yet, there are still those moments where a part of me forgets - just for a moment.
That moment of forgetting - that 2 or 3 or 17 seconds - it is total elation.
My eyes lit up at the mere thought of sharing this bit of humor with him.Read more
I have struggled with this question since the moment Ben received his diagnosis. Those are usually the first words out of someone’s mouth when they see me, and then a look immediately crosses their face and I suspect they are thinking one of two things:
“God. That was a stupid question to ask. Why did I ask her that? How the Hell do I expect her to be doing? Dumb, dumb, dumb. I’m so embarrassed.”
“Please don’t answer me honestly. I was just asking out of habit. Please, please, just say “ok” and keep going. Maybe if I keep walking away she won’t really answer. God, I don’t want to hear her answer … it ‘s probably sad.”Read more
One month till one year, it’s difficult to find the words. Disbelief sums it up well. Disbelief that only one year ago we were living out our dreams together, both so insanely happy and in love. Never could I have imagined our happiness was just a mere month from being ripped away. Its eleven months today. On this day last year he was at work and I remember as though it were present time, the giddy butterflies and how much love I felt for him. I couldn’t help but send him multiple messages throughout the day because I missed him every second that we were not together.
“Not much longer till I get to kiss your lips! It’s my favourite part of the day”
“I love you for all that you are, all that you have been and all you are yet to become. You are my everything, always and forever. I get butterflies just writing a text msg to you! Im so in love with you, I can’t wait to see you xoxox”
These were two of the many texts I sent him on this day last year.Read more
It's less than a week until Mike and I will be flying down to Tampa for Camp Widow. It's so surreal to think of all that has happened in a year. Life is no less complicated than it ever has been, in fact more so for me. It's a good complicated, but that doesn't make it easy. I was talking with another widow friend the other day about this. Like me, she is in a new relationship now. It was such a relief when she told me she feels so much grumpier all the time now than in her past relationship with her late-husband.
I think my mouth hung open when she said this. "My God," I thought to myself, "it isn't just me!" And suddenly I was reminded of the power of those four little words...
The other day I was filling out a workbook that I have done several times in January… called Unraveling the Year Ahead. It’s a wonderful workbook created by author, photographer and teacher Susannah Conway. This little booklet is filled with solid questions to get you to write down your reflections on the past year - release what you want to, keep what you like, and then write down your goals and aspirations for the year ahead.
It is the first year I have done this since Drew died. The first year I have felt like caring about a new year. After his death, New Year’s never really felt like New Year’s anymore. For these last three years, June 12th has been my year marker. I have measured every bit of progress, every moment of growth, and ounce of healing all based on the day he died. Dec 31st was no longer the end of my year, June 11th was.
Last night, as I finished up the part of the workbook about looking back on the past year, I realized that January - for the first time in 4 years - felt like a new year again. I am back to being able to measure my own growth as a person by looking back all the way to the previous January. And somehow… it just happened. All on it’s own… naturally. It isn’t something I forced, or something I tried to make happen. It isn’t even something I noticed that happened until weeks later.
On July 12th, 2011, during another ordinary day in my previous life, I could have never in a zillion years predicted or seen coming that only hours later, my husband would leave for work and never return again. I could NOT have foreseen that he would be sitting at the computer desk in our bedroom one minute, and the next morning,I would be jarred awake by a ringing phone, and then rushing in a cab to the E.R. to find out that he was dead.
And for those first few months and even year or two after that horrific day, I could not have predicted that I would be able to take my intense and excruciating pain, and create from it a play, a stand-up comedy act presented to other widowed people, a blog, and now a book. I would have never ever known , had you asked me just 8 months ago even, that I would be using this pain and grief to become a grief coach and walk others through their hurt - staying beside them and crawling them through the processing of deep emotions and eventual healing. Had you asked me back then, I would have told you that I would feel this horrific and dark pain forever until the end of time, and that there would never ever be a day where I could see or feel or experience joy again. I truly believed that my life was over. I truly felt that the pain of losing Don and our life and everything inside it - would kill me. I thought that I would surely die from the pain, because how can anyone live in that kind of pain forever?Read more