On The Surface

Anyone who has read my writing knows that I find meaning and messages and inspiration and hope and healing and connection to my daughter, Dannica, in numbers and blue sky rainbows and signals and signs and in the synchronicities of every day life. My daughter’s death is the most painful of the many earthly losses I’ve experienced.

It is a very long story, full of numbers, blue sky rainbows, signals, signs and synchronicities that recently led me to become a participant in a Grief Recovery Method support group and to then become a certified Grief Recovery Specialist in order to continue my own healing work as well as to gently guide others in this direction.

Dannica loved worms.  She loved all living things.  She even treated inanimate objects that resembled living things with the same respect and compassion she’d have shown the living version! (Other stories for other times.)  As a child, whenever it rained and the worms would come out on the driveway and in the gutter, she’d pick up as many as she could and put them back in their happy, dirty places.  She gave them names and talked to them before finding some dirt for them to squiggle into and she loved them with all her little heart.  She didn’t know it, but I watched her, and loved her and was her enthusiastic student the entire time.  Now, I think of her every time I save a worm from becoming road jerky, and I *have* to do it!  I can’t stop myself.

I saved a worm on the path between the hotel and a coffee shop just before my first day of Grief Recovery this past June.  I found a beautiful feather where I bent to return the worm it to it’s dirty home; then a butterfly… it almost let me brush its wing with my finger and it followed me and it stayed close.  All of these, were whispers (to me, anyway) from the spirit of respect and compassion, from the spirit of Dannica, the spirit of my daughter, winking at me, giving me a hug, seeing the genuine joy through the tears as I took a deep breath and thanked her for lighting my way.  She got me there, to that place, to that class, to the next step in my own recovery and to the next step in fulfilling her purpose of making this a better world to live in for all living beings.

I’m not going to talk here about my experience in the group other than to say it was an emotionally intense and extremely challenging experience and I’m deeply grateful to have had it.  I believe from the moment of her passing, my Dannica has been telling me there are greater, higher purposes for her passing just as she did, just when she did.  We had an agreement (well, that’s what I believe); a sacred contract, that she would contribute in this way to making the world a better place and that I have a part to play in it too, and she’ll help me with that because this is not something either of us can accomplish on our own.

I’ve felt in a bit of a whirlwind since I got home from my class; web site stuff, facebook stuff, making flyers and plans, completely restructuring my business and private practice with this new focus.  Now some of that’s done, I’m getting out of my business mind and back into my heart.  It’s a better place for me from which to live and from which to be in my daily life.

Sometimes, a lot of times, as others in their lives go on with their lives, grieving people tend to feel isolated.  Their hearts are broken.  My heart is still broken.  I, as many do, heard a lot of the hundred plus comments, one generally hears following a loss; all of them made sense to my brain, none of them made sense to my heart.  I believed them and have even passed some of them on to others, each statement perpetuating another myth of grief and loss and grieving.  “Don’t feel bad, at least _______.”  “She’s in a better place.”  “Time heals all wounds.”  “This, too, shall pass.”  “Everything happens for a reason.”  “Only the good die young.”  As logically acurate and emotionally unhelpful as all of these were, the one that truly sent me reeling over the edge was, “It could be worse, honey.  I know of a woman who lost not only her daughter but also her husband in the same accident.  It was easier for her than it is for you though, because she had her church and her faith, and you don’t.  Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”

Yeah, if I had those things I wouldn’t be feeling any of this, would I?  But, I’ve lost those, too.  I couldn’t push her out my door fast enough.  I couldn’t slam my door hard enough when she was gone.  I coulnd’t have cried harder than I did in the hole I felt my own life to be in that moment.

Many of the things I heard from others didn’t make sense to my brain either, but I believed people meant well and probably had no idea what to say instead.  I don’t believe they consiously intended to shut me down or minimize my feelings to remain comfortable in my presence, nonetheless, that is how I felt, and many relationships have faded or vanished completely from my life.  More loss.  More grief.  More time alone. More believing there is something wrong with me.  It must be me.  I’m the one who changed, right?  Mine is the only life now different than it was before November 14, 2012.

Over time, I came to feel as if the world was just tired of hearing from me.  There are people in my life who continue saying things like, “We make our own happiness.”  What I hear, what my heart understands is, “GET OVER IT ALREADY!  Move on.  Let it go, I have. Be happy… just be happy so I can feel better about being near you.  You’re such a downer. Life’s too short!  I don’t have time for this…  I don’t have time—for you, Melissa, for you—not as you are – not like this.”

So, while my heart is broken and while I’m bleeding to death on the inside every day, I put on my happy face and I pretend to be happy.  That way I can tell myself I don’t need people anyway.  I’m all I need, right?  That might be true, but not when it comes to grieving.  Not then.  I know this now.  I didn’t know it before.

Day after day, I drift up from sleep into a panic in the pit of my stomach and part of me always wants to scramble back down again but it’s time to face the world with my happy face. The door to the world I’ve awakened from has slammed shut.  Day after day, I am the academy award winning griever playing the part of the amazing, strong, brave woman who’s daughter died and yet still buys groceries, still does laundry, still manages to work at a job (more or less), see a movie, have lunch or coffee with another human being and talk about the weather and the world as if she cares about those things at all.

There are days when I feel superhumanly powerful for walking from one room of my house to the next as opposed to crawling or just giving up on the trip altogether and taking a nap on the floor between rooms.  No one else knows that.  No one else sees that now because it’s been four years, 11 months,  9 days and that’s way beyond plenty of time for someone to be over this and move on with their life just like everyone else.  “That’s life,” and that phrase makes me want to take my own life every time I hear it.

The mantlepiece in my broken heart is lined with little golden Oscars.  One for each and every time I answered, “How are you?” with the word “fine” and someone believed it. One little golden Oscar for every holiday I’ve “celebrated” pretending to actually care about the centerpiece, the menu, or whether the toilet was clean, even when I wanted to sit in the closet until it was over but felt obligated to “make an appearance.”  One for every time I fooled even myself into believing, “now I’ve felt it all… nothing could feel worse,” and then it feels worse.

The Grief Recovery group and the specialist certification don’t mean I’m “there” yet even though I so wanted them to mean that.  I have a new direction in life and I have some new ideas and a new understanding of myself as a mother and as a human being and as a facilitator of healing in others.

Recovery from the pain of grief is a journey more than a destination; made a step at a time but in a direction I hadn’t intended when I first set out.  It feels like a detour because it is a detour…  a different path, well defined by others who see the bigger picture with better understanding than I do in order to get me safely from here to there with the least resistance and the most efficiency possible.

I still feel sad that my Dannica isn’t here with me physically, but I no longer push sad away from who I am in a given moment.  Permission to feel sad feels so different than feeling shame for feeling sad.  It’s my new way.

A Different Sea-When the World Has Moved On – A Poem by Melissa Murphy

Grief softens

it shifts

it changes

it erupts

it cripples, it heals but is never healed.

It is a constant companion in all the shapes and forms and intensities it takes.

The loss takes everything

…all at once.

And anything you have left is taken up simply by continuing to breathe.

Continue to breathe.

A single breath followed by another single breath.

And continue from your side of this life, in the silence of your own breath, to embrace the one you love who died.

Continue to include that love in all that you do and you’ll begin to hear their whispers in the wind, you’ll feel their presence brush your cheek, they’ll paint magnificent gifts in the clouds just for you and for all the world to see.

For those who notice.

Many won’t.

Not until they do.

Not until their own hearts are ripped by loss, when the grief introduces them to gravity.

It will happen.  It does happen.  To everyone.

It’s just your turn to walk before them.

They haven’t abandoned you.  They haven’t turned their backs.  They have continued living their own lives as they did before yours crumbled around you and pulled them in for a time.

We don’t come together for life.

We come together and drift apart so there are spaces for new connection.

Healing begins to happen in those spaces.

The tide comes in and leaves some things struggling in the sand

What’s left when the tide returns is rejoined with the sea but it’s a new sea, not the sea that left you struggling in the sand.

—written by Melissa Murphy

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Your Own Park Bench (Poem)

Your Own Park Bench

Come, Sit with Me For a Time…

Let’s take a walk, like we used to, arm in arm, happily; silly laughter at silly things that give way to less silly, harder, heavier ones and tears, usually mine, but sometimes yours too.

Let’s go watch the ducks float on the pond and listen to the people in the park.

Ask me anything.

Tell me everything.

We’ll sit silently if you wish.

~<3~

To the Dear Ones Who Comment

Thank you.  I so appreciate your comments.  I know I’m terrible at responding but when I’m done writing I feel so drained I need to step away.  I log on and I read the comments and I cry and feel connection and love and support from a family I don’t want to be a member of.  Then I feel guilty for not at least acknowledging those who reach out to comfort me or to share their own pain and process and I feel so much for you all in return; so much love, and I feel your pain and just like everyone else, I have no words.

Many have nominated me for this or that blogger award and I want you to know I am flattered, honored.  I don’t have the energy to participate.  My ego doesn’t need the strokes.  I’m too tired to “pay it forward.”  I know that sounds terribly selfish, but I’m doing this for me, for my own process, my own healing, my own discovery.  The fact that it’s actually touching other human souls touches my own human soul *deeply* and in a way, keeps me going.  I’m learning I’m not alone.  I’m learning others feel exactly as I do.

Thank you.  I hope you’ll keep talking to me even when I’m “one poor correspondent, and too, too hard to find.  It doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind.”

Sometimes the Phoenix Doesn’t Rise

If I’ve learned anything at all since I started writing this blog it is just how human I truly am… and how much I hate that sometimes. I knew it was possible to become stuck in anger, to become bitter, to push life away but I never actually believed I’d go there. I looked at that potential even in the moment I understood that Dannica had died, and I told myself I’d never go there.

I used to be one who tried to make eye contact with people and smile for no reason, not only during the holidays, but especially during the holidays. I used to stand in the middle of a place and radiate light out in all directions, healing & well-being for all. I worked hard for a long time to get there, to love life, to release negativity in all its forms, to find my own happiness in life even when life kept being….well life….  a challenge.  The truth is, I have fought depression and social anxiety most of my life; maybe all of it. Sometimes, I have won. Sometimes, I’ve lost miserably. Sometimes, like this time, I’ve just given up. Too tired to fight it.  Too tired even to try.

I have become, once again, the ones I used to see and wonder about.  The ones that looked down or away.  The ones who’s hearts I wanted to reach with those free and carefree smiles of hope, love, acceptance and compassion.

In the beginning, fresh grief filled me with a fearlessness I’d never before known. Once I stopped screaming because my daughter had died, I kept on screaming at life, “BRING IT ON!!  YOU WANT SOME OF THIS!?  COME AND GET IT!” I wasn’t afraid of anything. I was angry and it was normal. It gave me strength. It gave me courage. I had nothing but faith in the resilience of the human spirit…. my human spirit.  I thought of myself as a phoenix and all I could focus on was rising even as almost everyone around me said, “Go slowly, be gentle with yourself.”

I didn’t go slowly and I wasn’t gentle with myself even when I thought I did and I was.  Instead, I went boldly into places, I can see now, I didn’t really belong and I made a fool of myself.   I learned that I’m not a public speaker.  I’m not cut out to be a teacher, though I really felt, somehow, I was.  In fact, at 45 years old, I’m not sure I’m cut out to be anything other than perfectly human.  I’ve given up on dreams. I’ve extinguished hopes.  I am alone in my own little world as often as I can be and most of the time I like it that way. At least I know what to expect from my own judgment and my own pain. It’s comfortable even when it hurts.

Could this be acceptance?

I don’t want this blog to be filled with negativity.  But I do want it to be filled with honesty and, when I can find it, truth.  I’m going to keep writing, even when I feel horrible, because writing gets it out of me.  I understand if that puts you off, if you’d rather avoid the negativity altogether.  Life is hard enough without someone else’s negativity.  For this reason, I don’t watch the news, I read my local paper only selectively, and I have even ended seemingly good friendships when I felt the person never had anything positive to say.  So I *do* understand why I’ve lost contact with many people I thought were friends since my daughter’s death.  I realize that I am depressed.  With that comes negativity.  I do my best not to dwell there when I am with others.  But I’m only as strong as I am and a lot of the time I’m exhausted, I’m grumpy, God help you if you cut me off in traffic or say something stupid to my face.  And I *hate* feeling this way!!!

For now, the phoenix is down.  No sign of rising.  None. Unless you cut me off or say something stupid.  Please, know I am genuinely sorry.  I am.

Autumn’s Fall

A year and four months following my daughter’s accident and passing, my mind is still easily consumed by the most traumatic memories of that evening.  The smells, physical sensations, the taste of my tears, even the sounds are all gone but for a few:  The sound of the EMT, “Get her out of here!”  The doctor’s voice, “There’s no easy way to say it she’s dead.”  My son’s cry, “No! No.. No…no…no.  Even when I try, I don’t get it all back.  But the images.  The images are bright and clear and vivid and silent across the dome of my mind.  I am standing right there under the dome.  I see everything over and over and over and over again bigger than anything I’ve ever seen but the night sky.  It is no wonder I am exhausted still.  The physical, conscious effort it takes to push my mind in any other direction seems to me a superhuman one.  It might be easier to bend steel or stop trains.  If only there really were a Superman to reverse the spin of the planet until my Dannica was alive again where I could hold her tight and, this time, keep her safe.

November 14th 2013, one year.  We lit candles.  Many, many candles.  I don’t seem to be able to recall more.  Remember, I’ve only just dragged my mind and spirit up from the sea floor.  It’s rusty now and full of silt and reluctant to try.  The part of me that once obsessed with documenting everything doesn’t care about that now.  So I’m losing details at four months out and I’m sorry about that.  Ask me anything you want about sixteen months ago, though, and I can give you everything.

SweetTeva

November 20th 2013, we had our dear German Shepherd, Teva, put down.  It was horrible.  It wasn’t a peaceful passing and it was devastating.  I could see it in her eyes as her sweet spirit left her body, “Why do you want me to go away?  I would NEVER leave you!” … she didn’t understand.  How could she?  The next day was my birthday.  The year before, that day was the day of Dannica’s memorial service and the day after that, Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving a year later I cooked.  I like to cook once in a while.  It was always Dannica’s gift to set the table.  She starched and artfully twisted cloth napkins into fans or candles or bishop’s hats and added flowers or glittering leaves and made the table so beautiful.  I tried.  My napkins wouldn’t cooperate.  This year they were frustrated rectangles.  I bought fresh flowers but couldn’t make myself glitter anything.  Dannica’s place was set with the flowers, candles, her photo…  it was okay until it was time to eat.  It was quiet.  I couldn’t talk.  I couldn’t eat.  I tried not to, really hard I tried not to but then just cried.  Of course, I’m so grateful for my husband and for my son.  Of course I am.

For a minute I wanted to do Christmas the way Dannica would have done Christmas.  I wanted to deck every hall and light up the place, every space.  For her.  But my heart and mind were giving each other the silent treatment and trying to get me to take sides.  My heart won… my heart wasn’t in it and we did the best we could to find a little joy and I think we did.  A little.  It will never be the same; any of it, ever.  How could it be?

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Happy New Year.  Yes, happy new year.  I was happy to see the last one go, anyway.

On Hollow

AYearWentBy

When I created this blog, I didn’t have to think of a title, it was just there.  It was the first thing that came to my mind because it was exactly how I felt; completely hollowed out.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t done being hollowed out.  I actually believed, in that moment, I couldn’t get any more empty and yet that is when the words began to flow, like my tears… or Doritos.  “…we’ll make more.”

Breathing out and out and out until I cannot breathe out any more.  My body starts to panic, my cells begin to starve, I could keep breathing out and out and out until my life passes from my body completely but then I gasp, against my will to continue breathing out until I am empty.  And then I give up and just keep breathing in… and in… and in.

In this moment, hollow brings to mind deep and mysterious forests, dark and quiet woods.  Dear but dirty little people wearing rustic, raggy clothing, cooking simple meals in kettles over fires.  I find the thoughts and images they create to be comforting.  As a child these ideas inspired endless hours of adventure.  The hollows were places I actually wanted to be.  The hollow of an old tree, the hollows inside bushes, the hollows between branches of the christmas tree, the tiny bathroom I would “sneak away” to write in my first 5-year diary complete with lock and key, pretending it was a hollow elsewhere, the hollow in the perfect limb of the apricot tree where I watched people walk by below never knowing I was there even when they were looking for me.  Later, the hollows were nooks.  A breakfast nook in my and my husband’s first house, a reading nook in the study downstairs.  The nook that is my bed, where I sit now, surrounded by pillows and a canopy.  These are the places I’ve always sought out, felt comfortable with, curled up in.  Never have I actually *been* one of these places until now.

I look around and it’s very dark.  It’s very quiet, but for this heart beating against my will, but for these sobs softened from screams of despair that echo from the walls at a distance I can’t quite fathom…returning and returning until they’re only whimpers and then I hear only the tears falling to the floor like a leaking pipe.  There is nothing soft here, nothing cozy, nothing comforting.  Not really.

Today is the 10th of March, 2014.  I sat to write, having forgotten I’d written the above on November 10th, 2013.  I had intended to post this on the one year anniversary of Dannica’s passing four months ago on November 14th.  But I didn’t.  Instead, I tied a heavy stone around my mind and my spirit and I tossed it into the sea and watched it sink until the bubbles no longer surfaced and then I walked away.