Tag Archives: grief

Grief Is Sneaky, Reprised

I did not intend to let our little corner here lapse into silence for nearly three months.  The reasons are mostly boring–having to do on one hand with a job possibility that did not come to pass, and on the other hand with freelance projects that indeed came to pass (but on an uncomfortably tight deadline for even a fast writer) at the same time extensive home remodeling kicked into high gear.

I also did not intend for the first post in forever to be on the topic of grief.  I would have preferred the Patreon re-launch, truly.

But I also made a commitment to be honest and open about grief because it so rarely is discussed once “the expected” period of mourning is over.  So here I am, Memorial Day morning, typing despite an ocular migraine, because I spent half of yesterday weeping.

That… was unexpected.  Yes, I’ve been immensely stressed all the way around, yet thinking the weekend would be fine regardless.  Yesterday being race day, we had the whole family over.  I had a drink, started showing off what we’ve been doing in the basement to my sister, then spotted the pictures my son had just unpacked.

And there was the framed show poster from when my late husband and I were dating, and the sole professional photo of the three of us when Dev wasn’t much more than a year old.  And this one.

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I lost it.  I cried, then apologized for crying, then cried again, then assured everyone I was fine.  I went into my half-finished bedroom to work on a few things once everyone else had left, then started crying again.  At some point, for reasons I don’t know, I crawled into the closet to huddle up and cry some more.  I pulled it together to get something to eat and act sociable for awhile, then made an excuse to go for a drive so I could cry again.

It’s been six years since my husband’s funeral.  It’s been four years since my best friend’s memorial.  Now another dear friend is starting chemo.  I just… lost it.

Today, I’m feeling all cried out.  I’m tired.  Tired.  Usually, I attend a service or ceremony to mark this day, but I am still under the bedcovers.  I absolutely must work on the freelance project today.  I’m thinking it’ll all happen in my pajamas.

So… There it is.  That grief and loss thing, feeling bigger for a few hours yesterday than it has in a long, long time because–if I’m painfully honest–it is cranked up by the terror of losing my recently-diagnosed friend as well.

 

Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different

So my son and I saw Logan a couple nights ago, and I mentioned on Twitter that I nearly walked out about ten minutes in. What I didn’t add was that I wanted to walk out and throw up. Neither the urge to walk nor the queasiness happened because the film did anything wrong for me. Instead, it was because the film depicted something so incredibly well, I took the gut punch before I even knew it was coming.

So this is not a review. It’s a reaction. Mild spoilers shall follow in this post, and might show up in comments should folks choose to chime in.

First, a review-ish thing unrelated to the gut punch: The fight scenes are incredible, and not because they’re all fancied up with slow-motion or odd lingering close-ups or flashy weapon manipulation that actual fighters won’t bring to an actual fight. No, my darlings, the fights in Logan are logical and smart. They are swift. They are economical. And those are the two traits a fighter who is experienced—and, frankly, plagued by a lifetime of scars and reduced stamina—will demonstrate in real life. Fighters who survive don’t become flashier as they age. They become efficient.

Now for the gut punch.

Many people have mentioned the aspect of abuse and trauma survivorship. I was hit with something else early in the film.

Caregiving.

Spoilers are below the cut for courtesy.

Continue reading Logan: The Movie I Saw Might Have Been Different

Once More, Years Later

Originally posted at These Certain Musings, where I tend to put the more personal stuff.  But I think grief and grieving is too little discussed, so I’m doing some extra sharing.

It’s that time of year again, though it seems to have arrived earlier than past years. Usually, by my recollection, I don’t end up feeling quite so sensitive until March, or especially May. Then again, that might be simply my impression.

I’ve been… overly sensitive for the past week or so, even as my writerly self–the one so thrilled and willing with story and character and creation–resurfaced in this new environment of family and encouragement. It’s been like having sunburned feelings: you know the person touching you doesn’t mean to cause pain, but even back-pats of encouragement hurt.

Then yesterday, when my mother was doing nothing more than trying to schedule a birthday dinner for either Sunday or Monday, I just about bit her head off for no reason. Then I tried to do laundry, and ended up stuffing clothes in the washer while tears ran down my face. Then I tried to cook supper, and ended up with the same result. Then I went to apologize to my mother, but what came out of my mouth instead was, “My 40th birthday was when I knew Ron was going to die.”

Until those words spilled out, I really hadn’t aligned past grief with present hurt. But there it is, doncha know, because grief is an unpredictable thing. It isn’t malicious (at least mine isn’t). It is instead almost too polite, apologizing for popping up year after year, and trying to be so subtle it leaves me confused and seemingly unable to identify it for days or weeks.

And the words, while true in an emotional sense, weren’t true in a factual sense. I mean, yes, I spent my fortieth birthday in a VA hospital, helping Ron eat the first meal he’d been permitted in a couple days and arguing with doctors who wanted to put him on blood-thinning medications when he’d almost bled to death internally a few days before. But I didn’t know he was going to die so soon for a few more days. (And I am still bitter and angry that I was the one who, after reading his test results, diagnosed him and told him the diagnosis weeks before a doctor got around to it.)

But the emotions rule, this far removed from the date. And my heart will always link my birthday with losing Ron–even though another four months passed before we lost him.

And I thought I had all that under control after figuring this out last night. Then I read this from Kathryn Cramer, and lost my shit all over again.

At the time Ron was diagnosed, we’d been living separately for almost three years, but we never divorced and we did remain close. There are times I still feel as if he’s simply lost, and I’ll find him if I walk into the next room even though he’s been lost for five years now.

So… I think we’re having a family dinner on Sunday. It’ll probably be okay. I’m giving myself permission to leak emotions all over the place if I feel like it. The feels aren’t going away, and though the feels aren’t pleasant, having them is not a bad thing.

They exist. I exist. One cannot miss what one did not love, and love is not a thing to be left behind.

Wedding 1996

Comfort and Joy

My favorite Christmas song is Good King Wenceslas — not because I believe the king’s footsteps were warmed by saintly goodness, but by the simple and achievable act of self-sacrifice and willingness to lead.

My second favorite is God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. — not because it so eloquently tells the tale of Christmas (which it does), but because comfort and joy are the two most marvelous things we can wish for one another.

As most of you know, Dev’s father passed away in the late spring of 2011. That first Christmas after was… difficult, but not so difficult as I’d feared. But it wasn’t fun or enjoyable, either. In retrospect, we were both still numb, going through the motions, and just hoping to put that first holiday behind us.

2012 was harder, actually. The determination to get through the holidays was replaced with the hope all would feel better, and really, it didn’t work out that way. His father’s absence was more acutely felt.

Then 2013 came along — the Christmas after my dearest friend and Dev’s godmother had died, and the first Christmas we wouldn’t share with our extended family who had all moved to Denver. That wasn’t fun. We did our best, and managed some happiness, but for the most part treated Christmas as Just Another Day.

But this year… We’re settled. Contented. We talked about his father, but it was with… I don’t know what to call it. It wasn’t painful grief or regret or longing. It was, I suppose, acceptance. And love. Sharing memories was no longer about sharing pain, but about the happiness of past caring and certainty. We both seem to understand the past will never stop hurting when remembered, but the hurt is to be treasured because it was born from love.

We opened presents. We laughed and we were thankful. We played with our new throwing knives, and spent time with each other just being quietly happy the other person was near.

And we took care of preparations for my parents and nephews. Parents arrive tomorrow; nephews arrive Monday. If we’re fortunate, we’ll have my sis and her partner on Tuesday. Eight people in my little house is a squeeze, but one I’ll gladly make.

So I wish you all the best of the holiday season — comfort, joy, contentment, understanding. In today’s world, I wonder if comfort is actually the most precious gift of all.

Taking the Hit

In training for sparring and self-defense, we learn techniques and redundancies to avoid being hit.

In living real life—the work, the play, the relationships, the expectations—emotional hits can’t be avoided.

I had big plans on many fronts for this year.  I’m an ambitious and enthusiastic person, and it seemed many things were falling into place.  Prospects were rich.  Opportunities were within reach.  Time was available, energy was high, and all things seemed possible.

Then came the spring, and the incredible swift decline and death of my best friend and my son’s godmother.  Then came all the stirred-up loss from the death of my late husband two years before.  (It was our second Memorial Weekend spent at a personal memorial service in two years.)   Then came the grieving of others, the struggles of my son, the changes in business relationships, the moving away of all my other family members, a score of other crises…  The year thus far has been a pattern of long periods that drive me to exhaustion, then a short period of recovery followed by a build-up to the next challenge.

Writing fiction requires a state of empathy.  The writer must be open to exploring and understanding emotions.  Over the last year, my own emotions have been so strong and erratic that attempts to write often ended in melancholy that had nothing to do with the project and everything to do with life events and their consequences–and the future those events and consequences had set before me.  Writing was not at all enjoyable.  It became uncomfortable.

Bit by bit, it’s been turning around.  Bit by bit, writing has lost its discomfort.  Bit by bit, it has become a blessing again.

But it has left me with a huge pile of unfinished projects.  Thank goodness the publishing schedule is mine to decide.  Certainly I’ve lost over half a year of writing production.  But I’ve gained experience, was able to be present for family and friends, and learned a great deal about who I truly am and who I want to be.

Today, I’m closing in on the end of revisions for Sand of Bone.  I’ll be jumping into NaNoWriMo in a few days to complete something entirely different.  There is again joy in the creative process, and happy anticipation over the projects on the horizon.

In life, we take the hits.  We fall down.  We bruise and bleed and mourn.  But we also get up.  We heal and we deal, and we take our scars along when we create new possibilities and memories.  Writing is no different.

I’m ready to jump back in to the process of creation.

Patricia, Celebrated

I’ve tried time and again to write about the weekend spent celebrating Patricia’s life, and it all falls flat.  Mark Booher, Artistic Director for PCPA, described the experience well when talking of how to explain the impact and reach of Patricia’s presence: You had to be there.*

One can’t tell stories about Patricia without also telling one’s own story, and I believe she did that on purpose.  She lived life as an artistic collaboration.  Everyone was her partner in creation.  She saw the future potential in people, and lovingly demanded that potential be set free in the present.  She believed in making art without hesitation because it was better to fail spectacularly than to try timidly.  She taught her actors that perfection wasn’t worth chasing because it was truth that mattered—and truth is a messy, painful, incredible imperfect thing.

These are the things she taught me.  These are the things I want to pass on to others.

The experience of the celebration of her life was beautiful, fulfilling, and warming.  Within half an hour of arriving, Dev and I found John—the man who I acted with for years, and who performed my wedding on the set of King Lear, the play Patricia was directing at the time.  I had a few moments of private conversation with him that quieted some of my worst fears of Patricia’s final days.

Just before the celebration in the outdoor theater began, I met up with three actors who’d been—along with me—in the first cast Patricia worked with in the area more than twenty years ago.  Then one of them pointed out Dev was less than three years younger than I had been that year!  And every one of them talked about how I’d huddle in some backstage corner between my scenes, frantically writing by the glow of stage lights that seeped around the sets.  Even as an actor, I was a writer.

It was yesterday, home less than twenty-four hours, that I realized one of the greater gifts Patricia had given me: fertile artistic ground.  I didn’t seek out conferences and conventions in those years because I was already surrounded by creative people doing creative things.  Creativity was the default, not the special exception.  Creativity was the valued expectation, not the little thing on the side.  Creativity was as breathing.

It was like living at Viable Paradise.

And I can hear her voice now: “If you want that back, love, decide now and make it happen.  All that’s stopping you is the silly notion that you can’t do it, and notions don’t get a vote in this.”

For Dev, the trip gave him the chance to learn so much more about Patricia, and about the past of his parents.  It’ll be the time I’ll look back on as the time when Dev began the shift to more adult than teenager.

I will always miss Patricia.  I’ll always want to share one more conversation, to see one more show, to hear one more laugh, to relax into one more embrace.  But I’m no longer painfully grieving.  She lived her life as she wished, and left a legacy of love, art, and passion.

May we all aspire so.

 

*Who is the Patricia person?  My dearest friend on nearly twenty-five years, and my son’s godmother.  Go here.