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Posts tagged ‘Hope’

On My Way to Somewhere Else

Losses in our lives happen in many ways, and my greatest loss happened while I was trying to get to somewhere else that wasn’t on my agenda, or at least not in print. It happened in a way I won’t forget: a walk downstairs to find an altered life. A note on the dinner table telling me where his body was. That was the part of the promise he did keep.

We write scripts for our lives, and when they are interrupted the jolt can be confusing and difficult to understand. While we’re making our way along the road, the demons interrupt our peaceful walk and give us the boot off our carefully manicured path into something more like sludge, mess, and unexpected confusion.

At first, we panic, and then we try to extricate ourselves from this place, only to find ourselves pulled further into the mess of the sludge. When we realize that we can best exit the sludge by remaining calm, relaxing, and working with it, we’re free to embrace it. We can then deal with the mess in this new place. We figure out that the best method for getting free from where we are now trapped is exploring it for alternative exit options. That is how most grief and loss journeys begin: a surrender to the unknown.

I got out of the immediate sludge state and realized that there was a mountain in front of me, and that I needed to go through it to reach the place I needed to get to. That was both a relief and rather terrorizing.

With the unwanted interruption to our lives, we forget where we were headed, focusing on the path before us that has become cluttered with boulders, fallen trees, and strange critters that inhabit the once pristine path we thought we were on, and realizing that we’ve been transported to a much different place altogether. Where are we? What is this about, and will it be a help or hindrance?

No, we’re not in Oz or anyplace like it, though a part of us may wish for ruby slippers that we can click to take us magically back to before we wound up wherever this is now. We don’t get the slippers. Instead, we receive a walking stick that will come in handy in turning over the rocks, giving us leverage to lift the heavy trees that block our route, and in testing the strange new critters to see if they are friend or foe.

It’s taken several minutes to construct this, and yet the descent into this place happens instantly. We’re just not aware that within seconds of hearing they’re dead, “I’m leaving you,” “I’m moving out to pursue…,” or whatever the loss is, we’re sent by our mind into this place. As we grapple with it in those first few moments, we realize that our control is gone. Will we ever be the same? Will our world ever feel the same?

The Answer Everyone Wants

In this place we ask: When will it end? And when will things return to normal? The honest answer that we eventually discover is that we’ll develop a new normal, discover a new life path, and renegotiate what our personal universe looks like and what it is filled with. We forget about the old somewhere that had held us captive and begin searching for a new somewhere else. The catch to this search is that things no longer work the way they once did. The topsy-turvy has flung us into the unknown. All we can do is thrash around until we find something to grab onto that feels stable. 

We start to learn that the tears, the missing, and the uncertainty will fade over time, and in their place the texture and quality of what is present in our lives changes. Slowly, we stop asking when and start focusing on the how to of this new place. This leads us to finding a support system, a new village of people that is populated with those who will become our new friends. They understand where we are! They’ve been in the sludge, gotten out, and faced their own mountain. They’ve dismissed some old village residents due to the fact that they left the village or are not able to attend to the needs in the village at this time. We find a therapist who speaks our language and we seek out spiritual direction, or stumble into another path altogether. As we gain strength and our concentration returns, we begin reading books and are able to question and act on those questions. 

This new place of discovery is exciting, scary, and wide open. Oh, the options that we can explore!  Slowly, the places we were headed fade away, and we’re left only with new things to discover. 

You know how people say that we’ve changed? We have! If we do the work of grief, loss, and pain well enough, we reinvent ourselves. There are old things, new things, and a bunch of creation waiting to spring forth. It can all be good. In the meantime, the question we wanted answered disappears as we become involved in the process of creating new life within ourselves. New life and meaning are unique to each of us.

The tears and the missing are still present. They’ve taken on a new form and texture. For me, it was somewhere in my year three that I noticed the real change. How did this happen? It wasn’t about time; it was processing and a world view change. It is something we experience and understand due to the work we do around our grief, loss, and pain, effecting change deep within. 

Noticing the Gift

For some people, the loss and the grief that are encountered become a gift. What? How can this be? I’ll admit that on August 29, 2016, if you had told me I’d be typing these words in 2021, I’d have had said something to the effect of “You’re nuts!” I’m typing this and I know I’m not nuts. Telling someone at the beginning of the process that change will happen is counterproductive to the process. There are some “please do’s” and “please don’ts” that are essential to observe.

Relationships can trap us, cause us to shortchange ourselves, or make us second-guess what we want in our lives—to name just a few of the things that can happen. The fact that she cheated on you and didn’t want to work it out is sad. After the heartache passes, a new discovery of freedom comes.

He or she is now gone; the love you once had will always remain, and now you are asking new questions. You want something different from before, and finding it is a good thing. You haven’t changed; you’ve grown! You are beginning to trust your own knowing, and this is an essential component of finding the new place of existence.

The gift of the tragedy is not pleasant. We are called to understanding through the unveiling of new options that we truly have choices if look and access them in the present. It is what we find buried in the rubble that was once sitting out in the open, waiting for us to discover it for the first time. 

We couldn’t see it where we were because our understanding of our lives was focused on the life we had then. We weren’t stumbling along the path, attempting to find the new points of entrance into the new place that we need to get to.

I know some who have needed to step into employment for the first time in their lives and now report feeling fulfillment in a way they never have before. I know others who took the chance of a new career. Somehow, the lack of security allowed them to risk big! For others, it is doing the same thing with fresh new insight into the things they value most. For me, it resulted in several things. My favorite is that I returned to school for a certificate in spiritual direction. I love the program! Would I have discovered this had I not been widowed? NO! It took me moving to a new place and finding a new path to walk to do what I’m doing now.

Along the way, we employ new navigation strategies, discover our “rose rooms,” and come to an understanding that the interruption that occurred on the way to somewhere else, while tragic, has become a touchstone in our lives.

Radical Compassion

In 1958 there was a pandemic, and my mother happened to be pregnant with me. It was only a slight case; she didn’t even know she’d had rubella until after the fact. It was during an era when medical abortions were done if the parents and the doctors were willing to do so. My mother told me that they didn’t ask, so the docs didn’t offer. Nature took over and produced a child who had been conceived to be healthy, but who became injured while still in the womb. That is what nature does.

In talking with my mother about this issue, she once told me that she could understand both sides of the argument and why a woman would choose one or the other. From her I learned that the issue around the health of an unborn child, or the termination of that pregnancy, is not an easy, cut-and-dried process. The choice to raise a disabled child came with a great deal of pain and learning, as well as tears and sorrows on all sides. Society blames and doesn’t help. My mother learned radical acceptance and radical compassion. I watched, I listened, and I learned from her.

In the past month, I have sat and watched as so many have blamed gun owners, children, the shooter, the NRA lobby, and Congress for the travesty of yet more dead kids. I hurt for the families and friends who have lost children. I am angry that people are using an act of violence to force a political solution, as well as a mental health solution, to this situation. There is enough greed and corruption to go around! There is more than enough blame that is being spread to the innocent. I want to scream “NO! STOP IT!”

I do support change. I’d like to see assault rifles, code red drills, bullying, blaming, and greed to be taken off the streets. I’d like to see respect and support become common. I’d like to see corporations become responsible for what they are putting on the streets. I‘d like to see violence in video games and films done away with. I’d like to see everyone have access to good mental health care and not just a set number of visits per year. I’d like to see education and understanding for all.

I’d like to see scientists search for effective medication that could reach into the abyss of a shooter’s mind and allow that person to be healed with both medication and talk therapy. It is dark in that mind. It is lonely in that mind. To be able to befriend such a person would be rare. Why? Because what such a person thinks is so black, so far from the norm, so chaotic that most professionals can’t—or won’t—even go there. I’ll venture to speculate that the person owning the thoughts is just as terrified of going there. What I’m talking about is a radical compassion for others.

Few have been able to show such compassion because few are the Buddha, Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ, or others. To be part of that universalizing place takes a lifetime of journeying. However, each of us is capable of listening with love and compassion. You do it as a child when you show sorrow for your friend’s pet that passed on. You do it when you spend time listening to a friend sharing grief. You do it in a darkened theater when you let out the buried pain that you can’t show for yourself or someone else, but can show for the character in a film. You do it when your best friend tells you that they are coming out, and your love for them takes you to new places of joy and acceptance for who they are. You do it when you ask “Why?” and come away with only more questions, but a determination to find one solution and you join a cause. In joining, you move to radical compassion, when you sit down in a room and listen to the others who believe differently than you do. You do it when you realize that “they” care just as much as you do. You do it when you take a hand and find a way to work together for peaceful solutions.

I saw it in my mother as she was faced with how society treated her two disabled daughters. I saw it in her heart when she wept and yet didn’t lash out at others for the treatment that came to her children because other parents didn’t teach the same values of love and acceptance.

I want to see more kids step up and take responsibility for the things they can do. I want to see those of us who are older applaud the courage that we are witnessing and show love and compassion for the process they are initiating. I’d like to see each of us stop and think about the words we speak and the actions we take in our daily lives, and how they might affect others. I want to be on the path of radical compassion with my fellow human beings. Right now it feels sparsely traveled. I think back to my mother, and if I can do what she was able to do, I’ll be doing well. Join me on the journey. It isn’t an easy journey, but my mom thought it was worth doing, and so do I.

Through it

*Note: The four posts in this category are posted from the firstpublished to the most recent.

The last entry I made on this blog was one of hope and gladness as I had come back from an illness that left some side effects. I was looking forward to returning to work. But that didn’t happen and the blog went silent. Why?

In August of 2016 the man that I’ve been posting about in “Being in the Room” (Part 1 and Part 2) decided to leave the room. He completed suicide. I’ve taken a year off to sort out my feelings and begin the healing process.

My husband Jon and I had many long talks about his situation. We both cried and we both knew that this could happen; it finally did happen.

I will be doing a podcast on this subject, so I won’t go into all of the details here. I may talk about the specifics in future postings. However, today I want to talk about getting through it. I don’t mean getting over it, I mean THROUGH it.

Let yourself imagine a mountain. You have some options, and they each have an outcome that can be managed. Some are better than others, and so, in making the choice of how to approach this landmark, a considerable amount of thought is needed.

In the first hours and days of Jon ending his life, I had to make some radical choices. I think I made some really good ones considering the fact that I was grieving, stunned, and without family physically present. However, I did have some friends who came and gave much-needed support. They cooked, cleaned, advised, and tried their best to show up in a nasty situation.

In the first days and weeks, that mountain loomed large, and I knew that I had to decide how to navigate it. I could go over it, around it, or through it.

Each of these thoughts caused me to think of what would happen if I had made the journey in that manner. I’ve never liked the term “get over it,” as it seemed condescending, judgmental, and uninformed. I discarded OVER right from the start. In thinking about it further, I didn’t want to track OVER the mountain. I didn’t want to miss things that I would miss by going over it. It didn’t seem like the thorough way of facing this situation. While hiking a mountain can be beautiful, this wouldn’t be that type of journey.

Going AROUND the mountain implied denial, and that wasn’t an option. I thought about how this seemed to imply that I’d view the scenery, but not touch anything, and that wasn’t appealing to me. Going around the mountain would leave the mountain intact, or untouched, and that wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. As I mentioned, suicide is messy and requires some hard work to deal with the damage and ruin that it leaves in its wake. While I knew suicide could happen, I had hoped it never would come into being.

I thought about tunnels. I like the technology that creates them and the stories of their builders. I like everything about driving through them, if they are well-lit. I watched with great interest as the Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland was dug from inside the depths of the earth. My first visit to London was not taken on a plane, but through the Chunnel. Yup, I like tunnels and no, I haven’t gone through the Gotthard Tunnel yet.

So, in thinking about what I needed to do, the choice for me to tunnel THROUGH this mountain, and thinking of my journey in those terms, was a natural one.

As I chose to go through the mountain, I chose to be intelligent, wise, weak, vulnerable, and fearless. I realized that I could not control this situation. I could no more control it than control the crazy weather of the Netherlands. I do, however, have options even in tunneling through the mountain.

The First Option: Realism

For me, this has involved planning and visualizing, as well as allowing myself to feel the messiness of the entire situation. It also means that if I’m having a bad day, I allow myself to feel the bad day in all of its glory and pain.

When I say that I’ve planned this journey, it means that I allow myself to think through life scenarios and to imagine the outcomes. For example, the celebration of Christmas could have been really hard. But, thanks to friends, I was not alone, but rather surrounded in a house of love. Rather than letting the day simply come, I opted to take hold of the day. It wasn’t easy; it was better than waking up to not knowing what would be involved with living through the day. But, trying to maintain a certain amount of control is a good thing.

In visualizing and thinking ahead to the obstacles that come my way, I create positive scenarios. I remember the first “everything” that I’ve celebrated without Jon as being mostly happy. Yes, of course I wish he were here at times, but the reality of it is that he isn’t suffering, and for that I’m so thankful.

I’ve cried, or should I say, sobbed. I’ve questioned and wondered if I did a good enough job of supporting him. And after the crying is over the answer is a resounding yes!

I would not wish this on anyone. Going through hell is not fun, and in the past year I have faced hell more than once. The thing I’ve learned about this particular hell (and there are many such places) is that there is respect required in that place of darkness.

The Second Option: Receiving and Acceptance

My great-aunt was wonderful at giving to others, but she wasn’t very good at graciously receiving another person’s kindness. From a young age I became aware that not only did I need to be a great “giver,” but I also needed to learn to accept kindness with graciousness. This week, I had this lesson driven home to me when a friend came by to see how I was, as I’d failed to respond to her emails. During our conversation she said, “Oh, crap,” in hopes that I wouldn’t hear it. (I’m not that deaf!) Then, when I reacted to that remark, it clicked, and she, in an imaginary shaking of Gail, said, “I want to help!” She was hurt and angry, with good reason. I realized that I wasn’t receiving the service she was offering. I had been sick for two weeks with some kind of illness that had been going around, and I’d become hard to reach. We talked about it, and I admitted that having her come by was a good thing. It raised my spirit. It also forced me to realize that I need to assert my needs and let others determine whether or not it is possible to help out. Asserting one’s needs also means allowing others to think about what they are able to do for you.

I realize in talking about being a recipient of kindness that this isn’t always the case. People get confused and they don’t know what to say or do. They overreact or underreact. Sometimes, the best they can do for you is to do what they think they’d want done in your situation. They are only human. This isn’t easy to deal with, and I will admit that one of the lessons I’m still learning as I travel through the mountain is that I need to accept not only the kindness, but also the fact that the kindness might not always be there when you need it. It hurts deeply, but when I last checked, there were, and are, no perfect human beings on this planet! We are all doing our best, or so we like to think. However, sometimes our best isn’t good enough. When you are the recipient, accepting what is offered is an art that most of us need to learn to be better at. So, there are failures in this process: the hard thing is letting the failures stand on their own merit.

The Third Option: Patience

It is going to take time. It isn’t going to happen speedily.

Nobody wants to remain in grief and pain forever, and yet in order to get through the grief, it is essential to remain there until you can move forward. Forward movement is done in steps. If you try to force this forward movement, it actually sets you back. Facing the good days along with the bad, or not-so-bad but not-so-great days, is moving forward. This is not a science but rather a journey. Crossing the milestones, understanding that there will be many such milestones, and allowing them to come naturally is part of the process.

Being kind and gentle with yourself is also needed. Show yourself mercy. Come to understand that you are enough and that simply getting through the death of a loved one is enough. This has been my process. It would be accurate to say that this has been a roller-coaster ride and that I’ve been flipped, raised up, sent flying down, and jerked around. I’ve taken a couple of “Gs” and I suspect that I’ll be hit again. Smoother riding will come. (Is life ever completely smooth?) So, be merciful to your soul and it will pay off.

There is so much to be said about dealing with someone’s suicide. I have time to say it in multiple posts. But, the last thing I will say is that I’m at peace with my Jon and his death. I spent 22 years of my life loving and supporting Jon. I got to know his pain and the fact that each day he struggled to find shelter from the depression and pain that he lived with for 30+ years. There are times when loving someone means that you come to a realization that loving them entails letting go completely. Jon walked a pathway of life for years that held struggle and sorrow. Jon did not end his life impulsively, but rather with thought and an understanding that he had done all he could to heal. In his notes, he grieved that this would cause me pain. But, he also expressed his love for me. I respect that and honor his death. And in that, I have peace.

Raw


***in the spirit of this post I’ve left it unedited. 

I’ve been thinking about this death, grief, life and recovery-from-it-all-thing. After 22 days of being in a snarky and angry state I will speak. 

December sucks. December sucks worse than raw lemons.  December has been my undoing this year. Why? I have first lived through our anniversary day. Now I must face Christmas alone for the first time in my life.  This must be faced alone because that is how growth intends for it to be: I can’t run from it. Growth isn’t easy. Deep growth requires that we look at painful stuff head on and go through it alone. Some things just ARE.  

In my closet, the Christmas decorations are in a large box. The tree is packed away in a box and secured to the pipes that run through the house.  It could be reached but I have no desire to inflict pain on myself. I do have a smaller tree that sits atop a cabinet. This I’ve decorated with the few things that Jon and I have purchased or been given.  Amsterdam, Salzburg, a wedding present…these items represent the sacred. It isn’t that the sacred is not on the large tree it is rather, that I know that putting up that larger tree is not a place I can take myself emotionally.  Maybe next year.   

I just want this to go away.  I want it over with. The season to me is dead. It hurts to be alone with this and there is no fix for it.  People don’t try to fix it. This fix that I have to wade through is only for me, myself and I. I’m not afraid of doing the wading as I’ve done lots of wading through awful stuff in the past year plus several months.

In talking with others who are making the journey to someplace else after being left by a loved one who completed suicide I’m finding that at least I’m not alone: this is common. Some of us know what we want or need and some of us don’t have a clue.  We all want it gone.

I’m finding that family and friends distance themselves because, for the most part, they don’t really understand what to say.  SAY ANYTHING. Say that you love me, that you care! Say it with cookies and chocolate. Say it with an Audible gift card. Say it with a phone call or an email. JUST SAY SOMETHING and don’t run from me.  Don’t run from us. We don’t have the plague! We’re surviving the worst death that can be had. We’re sorting out a mess of trauma and conflicted thought. We’re doing it while the world is getting happy.  We’re doing it as many of you are busy wrapping gifts to place under trees that for some of us will not be decorated. We just want to get through it. We don’t want to think about the missing gifts, the person who should be present, but that is no longer at the table.  And yet, we remember. We can’t stop remembering and the tears that are bitter, come.

For us our landscapes have changed: permanently.  We can’t get it back, and in my case I wouldn’t want it back because of what Jon suffered. 

I miss the sneakiness of the plans. I miss the thoughtfulness of finding his gift.  I miss his joy of opening it up. I miss him torturing me with the suspense of hiding something delightful from me until Christmas morning…he was so good at that.  It is no more.

In time December will take a new form in my mind and my heart.  For right now it is bleak, empty and frozen. RAW seems to be the theme for now.  It is raw at its worst and soft at its best. It has to stand in this manner right now.

In the future I will create a new landscape that is uniquely mine but for this year, I must get through the hell that is: RAW.

From The Netherlands Peace to all and to all a good 2018

Gail