Did you know that writing can be so very therapeutic? It’s not a myth. Take it from me who began writing at seven years old. Growing up in a dysfunctional family life with a heart filled with compassion and worry, I took to writing poems, notes, and journaling. I didn’t always show them to anyone, but I took my pain out of my head and put it on paper. It was a release.
Growing up with a narcissistic mother who mashed my father over and over until he finally died of a broken heart (underlying health issues exacerbated by his grief), my young empathic heart could feel his pain. He came to me since I was seven and poured his heart out to this broken little girl who was powerless to help him, but I was all he had to pour his heart out too. That was a huge responsibility for a little girl – a daughter to witness her father’s ongoing grief and not be able to do anything about it except summon up the bravery to approach my mother to beg her to take my father back, yet again. I received no compassion from my mother in doing so, only a slap across my face as she reminded me to mind my own business. It was my business! But my voice and hands were tied. This is about the time I learned to write out my feelings. I needed to be heard and release, if only to the universe.
Know that whatever you write is to release and doesn’t always have to be given to the person our words are directed at. It’s to get those jumbled thoughts and worries out of our heads and on to paper. Perhaps there will come a day you may want to give it to the person the words are directed to, maybe you might just burn it and vanish the thoughts away into the universe. Or just maybe, like me, you’ll journal enough through your life and end up writing books about all the things you once could never say out loud. Either way, it’s cathartic. My small beginnings of writing on scraps of paper, eventually, made me a memoir writer. Whodathunk?
Speaking about grief, my latest podcast is live now. In this third episode, I’m talking about how when we lose a spouse, our identities change – along with everything else. I hope you will visit me on Youtube.
I don’t wish to sound like a broken record sharing my moments of grief here, but besides the fact that writing about it somehow eases the weight of my grief, I know that there are plenty of us out there who are living it and may feel an ounce of comfort or kinship with these posts. And also, undoubtedly, everyone has lost a loved one, or ultimately, will, so my thoughts here may become beneficial to others somewhere down the road. This is why I’ll soon be starting my podcast on Grief – The Real Talk, for exactly these reasons.
But know this God honest truth – not five minutes of any day since the day my husband left me here, goes by that I’m not thinking of him or speaking to him. That man was woven into my soul, and not thinking of him would be like forgetting half of my body or forgetting to put on clothes. But today, I figured it was time to share more of my thoughts here in what I like to call my Grief Diaries series. In this series I’ve been discussing thoughts and/or moments that strike hard, baring my soul so to speak, but sharing not just because I need a place to vent, but sharing my realizations in hopes of spreading awareness.
Let me start by saying that this post might seem a little dark, but grief isn’t a sunny topic. And let me also state that this post isn’t me crying out for help, but more for recognition for the so many in this sometimes dark world who can’t summon their voice. Yes, I am one of grief’s victims, and I have been working diligently with books, videos, spirit and meditations since I lost my husband so that I can try and learn how to dig my own self out of the darkness that reigns because if I want to survive and find life again I must find the life boat back to the light. It’s a difficult thing to do one’s self, but I have spent my whole life since childhood ‘finding a way’ to get through adversity. I share my struggle on this journey, and I am not ashamed to admit it. But there are the so many out there who may not be able to search for or find their strength to want to go on, no matter what their traumatic issue is.
I’m a strong woman. I built myself up that way throughout my life. I’m strong-willed and minded, but I will tell you honestly, this grieving business is a Goliath of a beast. I know what it has taken from me and can tell you, it’s not difficult to see how the weaker sometimes can’t pull through. So I felt that besides letting off a little personal steam in this post, that once again, I wanted to spread the awareness to others and want to speak up for those who may have family going through some tough times who choose not to speak about their pain, so that family may clue in.
What sparked my wanting to share this post came from my scanning through a book of material I’ve written in draft to put into a book on my grief. I am suddenly getting inspired to read through just some of the material I’ve written as I witnessed my husband’s health decline to after his passing. For now they are in a Word doc temporarily titled – Conversations and Observations, and, Obituary. I currently have oodles of permanent titles on a page listed that I will have to work with once the book is put together and I find the most fitting title.
From this side of Grief:
I am a strong woman who has lived through some terrible shit in my life but nothing, I mean NOTHING is as painful as the grief I carry with me daily from the loss of my beloved husband.
It doesn’t matter that I could almost lift park benches from the strength I’ve acquired through difficulties in life, this enormous strangle hold that suffocates daily is an opponent bigger than life. And many days it can be emotionally crippling.
I often go to the dark side since losing my other half. And no, time doesn’t ease. When the grief monster and the bubble of sadness that comes along for the ride appear, I find myself in yet another duel. These duels become more and more trying and they don’t dissipate with time, despite everyone else in our circles forgetting we are in this grief for life and it can take a long time – or forever, to climb back into joyful living. Our grief never leaves. Even with however much time it may take for it to come to a slow simmer that resides within without constant bubbling over, mine never seems to leave, I am only still learning how to temporarily suppress it. So we are forced to find a way to continue on with our lives or merely just exist. I am choosing life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that it some days doesn’t knock the actual wind out of my breathing sails.
The loneliness is overwhelming. I am naturally a tactile, social being, often dubbed a social butterfly. Nobody is physically here for me, and I’m not one to cry for help to burden others. But I can’t help but wonder, where are the people who used to be in my life? Why did family forget me after such a traumatic event that goes on daily? There I said it, and I’m going to leave that one alone – for now, because, honestly, the people I’m related to by blood give me enough fodder to write a book, erm, make that a tome.
Some days I’m living on the precipice between living and existing. I am, me, myself and I. I was never that person who got depressed, but I can surely say I know what so many in this world struggle with as this visiting sadness that looms large over me has given me new understanding. I don’t want to call my sadness depression, more like PTSD. My mind too often drifts in a continuous cycle of visionary reminders of watching my husband die daily before my eyes. This is some tough shit to erase from the play list of home videos. It’s a repetitive cycle that is easily triggered by a memory, a random object in my home, or just plain looking at photos of my husband (which surround my home like a mausoleum because I need them to be all around me). I’ve thankfully, never been a depressed person despite some of the awful things that have happened in my life, and knowing depression does exist on my maternal side, I am grateful I didn’t inherit that dis-ease. I may get temporarily depressed, knowing that’s the wrong word I sometimes substitute for sadness, but I don’t allow myself to live in darkness and I fight back with all my might not to allow myself to let a sad day turn into many in a row. Perhaps I’m lucky that way? But there are plenty of people who live in deep depression and can manage to keep that under a cloak when around others. This can lead to dangerous outcomes.
I’m not that person who calls people to wa wa my troubles and moan. Instead, I am silent and solitary. My cries for help will come in subtle ways, maybe talking to a friend and almost begging them to come visit, invading that fine line with my silent cry for help so as not to sound desperate, when in fact there are days when I am.
People are busy. We don’t wish to act sucky so we stuff down our silent hell when all we are craving is some human connection, a hug, an ear for us to cast off our fears, fears that sometimes keep us in the dark and have us questioning ourselves on why are we still here. Why am I here where nobody has time when I could be with one who my heart aches for?
Often it’s the crushing, suffocating pain of having to tolerate our own existence that leads to the many suicides labeled as mental health issues. Funny how I see in my own life how nobody has the time for a cry for help, even when it is deafeningly silent. But they make time for the damned funerals.
Depression, like grief, is a silent thief that traps us at its will. It comes like a tornado sweeping over us, leaving us nothing to grab hold of in its wake, it can often be called a silent killer.
Us grievers, the sad, lonely, or depressed, don’t typically cry for help. And for the some that do, they aren’t always heard. This is why so often these people commit suicide. They don’t feel they are being heard, loved or cared about. They’re misunderstood for craving attention when in fact, they are, and sometimes that attention they didn’t receive could have been the very lifeline that saved them. Connection and companionship are a crucial need for a griever, especially one who lives alone. Those who don’t understand how depression can take hold of someone in their darkest moments should pay more attention to the signs, without judgement. We watch movies and news reels about people who feel there’s no help for them and choose to end their pain, all too often. And their loved ones sit in question. Asking themselves, why didn’t I see the signs? Because you don’t always see signs as many depressed are clever at masquerading their pain with smiles and jokes with their pretended happiness. But if you listen and learn not just to the words, but the silences in between, you can learn how to read between the lines and you just may hear.
I remind you all that if you have a person in your life suffering from a situation, to give them a thought once in awhile. If you noticed their silences, patterns, or dispositions have changed, check up on them. If you noticed they don’t show up like they used to or don’t call you, take that as a sign they are in retreat mode and could use a little company, even if they say they are fine – because they are not. If they are going through an ordeal in their life, pick up a phone and make a point to get together with them or just go visit them. Take it from me. I will never beg, and neither will many others. Please have compassion for someone in your life going through a difficult time. Most of the time, their silence is not a good thing. Take it from one who knows.
I wrote a post awhile ago about the symbolism of the semi-colon not just being a punctuation mark, but a survivor symbol – we are making it through, or have made it through, after a life-altering pause. Our story is not over because we choose to fight on.
On my weekly visit to my husband’s (our) grave last week, I saw something I’d never seen before. Oh sure I’ve seen the odd dragonfly in my lifetime, but this time I saw five of them.
Whenever I visit my husband, I plant myself down on our grave to have a chat with him, or read to him. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t actually feel him there as much as I do when at home, but there is usually always a sign he gives me that he hears me and knows I’m there. Every time I talk to him while there, a light, or sometimes gusty wind will blow. I know this is how he communicates with me while outside.
Once, when I had gone there to visit, shortly after his funeral and the snow had melted, I couldn’t find his grave. I drove over to the office so they could pinpoint it for me. I was all flustered in my already anxiety and still shocked state when I couldn’t find him, and when I finally did, I sat down on his holy ground and cried.
Another time I visited, it was a rather calm day weather-wise, but a huge wind picked up when I looked up at the sky, as though the wind was a messenger, letting me know, he knows I was there. After the visit when I got back into my car, I turned on the radio that had been off during the drive there. The channel switched to the 50s station on Sirius XM on its own – his favorite, and one that I never appreciated listening to. The song playing was Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line. My husband loved Johnny Cash. I stopped the car and from my tears, broke out in laughter and said out loud, “You little bugger, I know that was you.” And my heart felt at peace in that moment as I drove off.
I have experienced this wind or breeze many times in many different places outside when I speak out to him. I also find various feathers on my path when walking outside and various coins show up at home when I’m looking for something else . But last week was something different. As I cleaned up the dead flowers I’d laid there two weeks before, I looked up at the sky, and for a good ten to fifteen minutes, I watched in splendor, as five large dragonflies circled back and forth and round in circles way above my head. Their beautiful gossamer wings sparkled through the sunlight. It was mesmorizing. They kept flying, but never left my orbit. I’ve always been drawn to dragonfly symbols, knowing they have a magical connotation, but not knowing exactly what they represent. So of course, I had to look it up:
Most definitions will tell us that the dragonfly symbolizes spring, rebirth and renewal. And different countries around the world seem to have their own specific definitions. The Celts relate them to fairies, in Japan they represent transition from summer to winter, in China they represent good luck and love. In Vietnam they say dragonflies are weather predictors. But collectively, most people deem them a spiritual symbol of rebirth and transformation, not unlike the butterfly, that emerge from larvae and turns into something beautiful.
Dragonflies only live for a short time once they are transformed, signaling, life is short so live it up. With their near 360 degree vision, they see all around them, offering the ability to see beyond what any human can. Ultimately, all interpretations will tell us that when we see a dragonfly, it’s a reminder to break free, reinvent, transform into what we want to be, reminding there is beauty in freedom, and freedom is short-lived so live in the now. That is my interpretation from all the information I’ve taken in.
Seeing five of these beautiful creatures way above my head circling around for all those minutes felt like, once again, my Puppy was sending these messengers to let me know it’s okay to go forth and transform. I know this in my soul. I just feel stuck still in my heart.
One more sign: As I mentioned earlier, I believe my husband announces his presence to me through wind. Another day last week while at the pool, surrounded by nature, he greeted me with a very welcome breeze on a steaming hot summer day. I thanked him for the beautiful, much needed breeze, and asked him to let me know it’s really him communicating with wind by sending me a butterfly. An hour later a baby Monarch butterfly flew right onto my left arm close to my shoulder. I sat there for a few minutes while my heart felt joy as we communed together, knowing very well that my husband answered my call.
A popular slang term for a person with a ravaged past, incident, or reputation – no longer perfection. Aren’t we all damaged in some way? Hard to think that anyone has sailed through life unscathed by hurt, pain, or inappropriate abuse. We don’t have to experience physical pain to feel abused – mental, or emotional, abuse can appear in all forms.
My husband used to joke around with me because three days after we were married, I wound up in hospital – on and off for three months because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, thinking it was a cancer that turned out to be hard to diagnose Crohns disease. No, it wasn’t funny then, but through the years, I had a few other scares, and throughout our marriage when all was well, my humorous husband used to like to say to our friends that he married damaged goods. He’d add to that, in true used car salesman talk, he married a lemon and it was too late to give her back because the warranty had expired.
Yes, that was my husband, always full of humorous slogans. Yes, I can laugh, and so can you, because my husband loved me to the nth degree and would move heaven and earth for anything that would make me happy. I lacked for nothing and never asked for anything, because I didn’t have to. He was always willing to give anything of himself. And he always did.
Damaged goods isn’t an endearing term by any means, typically it is referred to as a product we’ve bought that failed to live up to its projected expectations. Not so pretty when used to refer to a person’s state of being. My Honey had a joke for everything between us, and that’s why we laughed together every single day we were together. Life isn’t always funny, but if you can look past the painful parts and find a way to make light of things, it helps to lighten the load. Having unconditional love allows for such jokes, without that, a comment like that would sound abusive.
My husband had so many funny sayings. He was also always full of surprises. Every year or so he’d come home and inform me that he sold my car again. This was his department not mine. I knew that when he found a happy paying customer to buy a car he didn’t have on the lot for him, but he had one his wife was driving, of course, in mint condition, it was time to sell and make a profit. It became like a side business for him because all my cars were bought at wholesale price, and sold for retail. Getting a new car didn’t cost us anything and we’d buy a newer model. He had always warned me to never get attached to ‘things’.
One day he came home from work while I was sitting outside with a neighbor. He got out of his car, came up to me and gave me a kiss as he did every single day of our lives together, then told me to clean out my car, it was going tomorrow. I’d lament as I always did once I got attached to a car, reminding him how much I loved it and didn’t need a new one. The logic would repeat, he’d laugh and add, “Now Cubby, make sure you don’t stand on this driveway because you can be sold too.” Lol, I always remembered that one. As if! He loved to give the neighbors a laugh, pretending to be the guy with authority when anyone who knew us, knew that it was I who always had the final say. But I let him get his glory moments in, and we’d both burst out laughing at the mere conception that he’d ever give me away for any price.
I miss that man more than I could ever write. My heart breaks daily again everyday I wake up without him, and the painful longing for his embrace and love. I try to keep focusing on our funny moments to overshadow the black hole that resides within me, there were so many moments. It’s a Herculian task to say the least, to struggle daily with missing my other half of me. My husband joked a lot about my being damaged goods, but little did he know that’s exactly how I feel now without him. And there are no jokes possible to lighten this load. But one thing is for sure, the warranty on my love for him will never expire.