“We live in our description of reality.” ~Gregory Bateson
I really hate it when I say, “I’m fine,” and people's eyes cloud over with a look that says bullsh*t.
But I am fine.
Unlike others who have lost their loves, my daily life hasn’t been impacted. I still have a job and kids (mine only) to take care of. And since we didn’t end up getting married or even live together - most of my life is as it was.
Except for losing the person who taught me how to love. That still happened.
After experiencing repeated friendly disbelief regarding my “fineness” – I got scared. What if I was screwing up this grief thing?
I need to get it right. Because according to studies, if you don’t actively process grief – you could end up in traumatic grief. And according to Deepak Choptra’s book The Healing Self, if you have traumatic grief six months after the death of a loved one – you will likely suffer a serious health issue 13 - 26 months later.
Oh no, not me – I’ve got a lot left to do.
After consulting with my therapist, I reached out to a local hospice center as they provide free grief counselling to anyone whose loved one spent time in hospice (even if it wasn’t their location). Before meeting the grief counselor I sent her an article I had written on grief and informed her of my yoga therapist and reiki training. I also mentioned that I had read:
Because even though I was barely months into the grieving process - I was kicking the sh*t out of grief.
When we met - she let me babble on for a while – lulling me into believing I had it all together. Then she asked the question that slayed me.
“How did he die?”
Those words pulled the veneer off my candy-coated surface and the tears hovering behind my eyelids melted down my face.
I wasn’t fine. And now that she had made me admit it, she could help me figure out how to heal. She asked the following questions:
A week ago, I was incorporating redlined edits given to me by my love only two weeks before his deadly stroke. I mentioned in the story I was writing that I was listening to a Sarah McLachlan song. One of his edits was a suggestion to include the title of the song. Which I couldn’t remember.
So, I foolishly put a Sarah McLachlan playlist on Pandora. Which made everything worse (because I think Sarah McLachlan may be an emotional terrorist).
I didn’t turn off the playlist once I found the song title (Fallen) because I was lulled into the sadness of her music – and it darkened my mood.
Unfortunately, I came upon a passage about my mother (who also died recently) and how she said after my dad died that the hardest thing for her was not to have him scratch her back. The realization that she had no one to provide intimate kindness – just slayed her.
When this happened over 30 years ago – I was so heartless. I thought – get a back scratcher – what’s the big deal? There were so many other things to miss about my dad. Why pick how he scratched your back?
But when I read that paragraph, edited by my lost fiancé, while listening to Sarah McLachlan, I cried. I cried so hard that my dogs rushed over and my son, who was wearing sound cancelling headphones, came and held me.
When you are wallowing, the grief counselor suggests the following:
I have been taking screen shots of the texts between my love and I – as they are like modern love letters. They allow me to connect to him with happy memories – rather than the memories of his hospice stay or death (see below).
As I have been reading through our texts, I am reminded of the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. It tells the story of an ordinary town and an ordinary couple. By the play’s third act, you have seen the marriage and death of the leading lady, and her visit to her town after death – for one ordinary day. The narrator of the play says, “Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.”
And that is what I see in our texts. Communication between two people in love - unaware that their time together was ending. Ordinary texts about where to eat, when we would see each other next and “Good morning baby cakes." They remind me of the character Emily’s famous line from Our Town,
“Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
And that’s the growth. That is what I have learned - again. That life is to be cherished moment by moment. Hopefully a teaching that won’t be forgotten.
So now, life has taken on an urgency. A dissatisfaction with lazing around in front of the TV. I want to spend more time with my family, friends, yoga and writing compadres and of course, my dogs. Walking outside, trying new wellness practices (like EFT) and exploring far-away places. And most importantly living – because I still can.
That is what this blog will focus on for the rest of the year. Still on health – but with the added challenge of living life to the fullest in healthy grief. With absolutely no Sarah McLachlan.
Hope you will keep reading.
“To bow to the fact of life’s sorrow and betrayals is to accept them; and from this deep gesture we discover that all life is workable. As we learn to bow, we discover that the heart holds more freedom and compassion than we can imagine.” ~Jack Kornfield