Dear Me

Dear Past Me,

People don’t know you now. Don’t blame them. They’ve lost the “you” they knew and they are grieving that loss. It can be a little scary to meet new people. And, believe me, you are new.  It can be a little scary to meet new people, especially when you don’t want to; you didn’t exactly sign up for this particular opportunity. The people who seem to have turned their backs are now new to you, as well.

Many can’t cope with the depth of your pain because they haven’t felt it. If they have come close, maybe they can’t be there for you because they’re working with their own pain and wondering where everyone in their own world went.

You comfort those who don’t know what to say. That’s part of the unspoken job description of grieving. You’re letting others know that you actually are okay even when nothing feels okay. That’s okay. No one is obligated to actually be okay.

People are afraid to cry. People are afraid they’ll make you cry. If they talk to you about your loss and your grief they’ll feel it and that makes them so uncomfortable they’ll avoid it. The only way to avoid feeling anything is to avoid you. That isn’t about you. It isn’t about you at all.

Once your grief softens, once enough healing has happened that you can, once in a while, speak of your loved one without tears or, perhaps with tears of joy, with laughter, with gratitude, it’s easier for people to meet you where you are because it’s closer to where they are and where they remember you being. Your strength will build until you’re ready to meet people again, where they are.

Moving through grief and into mourning, which lasts a lifetime, is an incredibly lonely journey. You’d like to think you’ll really be there for someone else when they need you to be but the truth is, you won’t be because you are learning to live again and it’s taking all you’ve got in you. When it’s your turn to be there for someone, to comfort them, you’ll feel helpless, too. You won’t know what to say and what you do say will feel trite or heartless because you’ll think you know what they feel but you don’t. No one can know what can’t be known. Every loss, every grief, every journey on every path is unlike any other.

It’s not true that they were never friends anyway. Of course they were friends! They’re still friends in that they still care about you. People generally care about other people, don’t they? When you lost your loved one, you also lost the relationships the two of you had with others. It is loss upon loss upon loss. They were good times; there are gifts that won’t go away. Now there are spaces for new connections. The hardest work is allowing them in. The hardest work is looking outside yourself again.

You’ll think you can’t possibly feel any more alone or lonely than you do. You’ll wish that you could die. You’ll think, sometimes, it wouldn’t matter if you did. You’ll think no one would even notice and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t miss you; not this sad, angry, negative, hopeless, worthless being you think you’ve become. You’ll exist within a slow suicide. What you won’t be able to see is just how much you are loved by people you never even realized gave you a second thought; people who, despite their fear of your loss and your grief, never actually stopped thinking of you. How could you have known? You couldn’t have. That is why I’m telling you now not to give up on yourself. You can’t hear me. I know because I remember being you. But maybe somehow, because of you, I’ll be able to hear you now; and from now on.

It hasn’t felt like it to you, but you have been working so hard. You have a heart which slammed shut and erected an impenetrable wall around itself you weren’t even aware of. You still felt everything, profoundly, but you felt it alone. You could look out but no one could really see in even when you thought they could… or should, not even when you thought you were letting them in. What I want you to know is that it was important that it happened this way. It was essential that you go so far inside yourself you lost the entire world and everything in it including everything you ever thought you were or wanted to be and everything you thought was yours.

There will come a day, I promise you, though you can’t begin to imagine it, your heart will again be touchable and touched. The wall will come down. And when you step out again into the light of this reality, you will glow and your wings will be sparkling and radiant.

Remember, healing happens in the spaces of new connections.

Spaces are usually silent.

With love and compassion,
Holding you until you meet me where I am.

Future Me

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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Yo-Yo-Butt

Countless times in the past two months I have settled in to write again only to become afflicted with a condition known in my home as “yo-yo-butt.” I’ll write a few words then jump up to make coffee or tea or grab a bite of something. Sometimes, I’ll check the mail or take the dog out. Once in a while I’m sucked into the often substantial, gravitational pull of the couch after deciding my mind will feel much better about this when I wake up. It’s taken me this time to realize it isn’t my mind making the decisions, it is this heart, and this heart still just wants to curl up in a ball some days; most days, in fact. Today is no different but I am resisting the urge with full reverse thrusters.

The events I wrote about in my last post were a big deal to me. My trip and the journeying that happened within it was a big deal. Physically, I picked up and flew out of my reality and landed in a different one but it didn’t take very long for the one I live in to catch up. At that point, my heart broke open releasing waves of grief, hollowing me out completely once again. Once that pressure is relieved, there is space; to sit quietly, to reflect, to seek comfort, to find peace, and to question everything. (I am now resisting the urge to make coffee. Reading the word coffee made me want some but I am staying put…increasing thrusters)

The questions generally consist of, “Who am I *really*?” and “Why the hell am I *really* here?”  Once in a while I will have what I feel to be a genuinely, divinely guided day where everything is a message that I actually understand and so much makes sense, even senseless things. But then the next day I’m asking those same questions again. I have this short-term memory when it comes to miracles, I guess. Whatever angelic company I keep must just shake their haloed heads and roll their holy eyes at this one because it’s never enough. I always want one more, you know, just to be sure.

I find that most things I do, now require recovery time and the past two months have consisted of a lot of recovery time.  I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to spend a lot of time with my step-son, Peter.  I got to hug the stuffin’ out of him as well as my other step son, Jordan.  We had the opportunity to talk and to cry and to laugh.  It was a bittersweet “so long for now” sending the two of them off again.  They’re amazing young men, striking out into the world, making their way as they should be.  I feel richly blessed and so happy to be a part of their lives but it has been an adjustment, again settling into the emptier nest.

Also since last posting, I have experienced loss and fresh grief again, twice.  Tiny beings, dear pets, my son Braeden & Dannica’s pets.  Each of these little passings was the loss of another living connection to our Dannica.  I’ve also done a lot of things in these two months. I’ve met new people, made new friends, become acquainted with new clients, begun leading a meditation group once a week, said yes more often than not to all manner of invitation and event and I’ve wanted to say yes to more than I have. I believe this is the equivalent for me of yo-yo-butt on a lifestyle level.

Doing, doing, doing, wondering when I decided it was actually good advice to “keep busy.” I’m not saying doing the things I’ve been doing is bad, I’ve just come to realize how important it is not to “keep busy” to the exclusion of allowing my heart to break fully open again on a regular basis. There’s always a message there, like cracking open a cosmic fortune cookie. Why wouldn’t I want to receive that message?

This is how far I got before the word coffee just yanked me into the kitchen. (25 minutes have now passed) You may not be surprised to learn that before I got to the kitchen, I saw my shoes in the hallway so, naturally, I put them on and took the dog out to get the mail then sat back down here having completely forgotten about the coffee, yet not even realizing it had been forgotten until I re-read what I’d written about being yanked into the kitchen. Crike. Welcome to the chronic yo-yo-butt of bereavement. Why do I do this? Why do we all do this?

I have a confession to make. I was guilty of this behavior even before my daughter’s passing. In fact, I’m not sure I remember a time in my life when I wasn’t guilty of this. It has been since my daughter’s passing, however, that I’ve become more fully aware of it because it has been since my daughter’s passing that I have had to begin learning how to be genuinely alone with myself, in a comfortable way.  Even now, sitting here looking this fear in the face, I am resisting the urge to put the laptop down, get up and leave this room.  There is an empty space within me that seems to believe that something out there is needed to fill it and its gravitational pull is more substantial than the one around my couch.

Of course nothing on earth creates a larger empty space than the loss of a dearly loved one; for me one of my children, my sweet girl, my daughter, Dannica.  Yet, despite realizing the necessity of taking this time for myself, I found the further in time I got from the previous post, the more I feared facing the next one.  I began to question myself for writing at all, for sharing any of this with anyone.  In fact, I received some pretty harsh criticism regarding Beyond A Shadow of Doubt, and nearly decided to hang it up completely.  I was called “despicable” for that one.  It takes one more despicable than I, however, to kick someone when they’re bleeding and bearing their soul in hopes of healing.  I realize there will always be critics.  I also realize that despite the fact that I am generally a very private person, I have decided to move through the process of debilitating grief in a very public way so perhaps that is to be expected.

So here I sit.  Hollowed out.  Again.  And it feels good to have wept again.  To have faced the eternity of Dannica’s physical absence on earth again.  To have allowed the gravity of mother earth to hold me tightly to her in affirmation of my own choice to live the best I can… here.  Also important to me is letting those I love and those who love me know how I really am.

Facing Fear

I remember a conversation had with my children a number of times through the years.  It would take place following a frightening experience in one of their little lives; nightmares, something in a movie or on television that frightened them, bumps in the night.  Once hearts and minds were soothed the little question would come, “Mommy, what are you afraid of?”

Always my mind would race for a moment because I didn’t want anything I said next to bring up fear in them again.  I also wanted to appear strong and brave and as if I could save them from anything in the world.  So in order to soothe not only them but myself I would say, “I am afraid of anything happening to you, my babies.”  Maybe soothing isn’t the right word there.  When I look at it now, I can’t think of a more terrifying thing to say to a child.  When I said it then, I felt strong and brave by simply daring to glance in the direction of my greatest fear and thinking that because I had, it could never possibly, actually, happen, this… “anything.”  I also felt like I was explaining to them in some way why I would forever become a bit neurotic every time they left the house and until they were safe again at home.

What I didn’t realize, because I looked away so quickly, is that in that moment it started to size me up, take measurements.  It started imagining the renovations and how its own stuff would look in the hollowed out spaces once it got rid of mine.

Now when I look in the mirror, it looks back at the awkward fit and I don’t recognize this odd outfit… it is stiflingly tight, it pokes me, it makes me squirm with discomfort and I can’t take it off.  Each time I see it, it looks a little more like my own skin and I turn away in defeat.  My waking moments and my dreams alike are spent face to face, eye to eye, and toe to toe with my greatest fear and I cannot ever again look away.

Once your greatest imaginable fear has been realized, what’s left to fear?  Death?  Certainly not!  So, I look over my list of gnarly candidates for Grand Fear Poobah.  Death, having been stricken from the running, leaves pain, people, failure, judgment, humiliation, and success… and there’s another one whose nametag I can’t quite read from where I’m sitting.  I didn’t see that one come in.  The quiet one.

Spending some time with these candidates, I got to know them each a little better.  As we chatted over coffee, I realized all of them know each other.  They’ve all slept with each other and each other’s significant others.  They’ve all lied under oath, they’ve all embezzled millions from innocent people.  They’ve even murdered, raped, pillaged, and been merciless dictatorial leaders.  They’ve also been holy and righteous, they’ve all acted in the name of their individual Gods.  They’ve all donned sheep’s clothing.  They have even taken candy from babies.  All of them except the quiet one at the end of the table.

I soon began to realize this group had a couple more things in common.  They’ve all tried to convert me to their ways time and time again and they were all with me in the moment my previous Grand Poobah was dethroned.  They all saw it all.  Even the quiet one.

Suddenly, I realized I was actually chatting over coffee with only a single candidate.  And, where did the quiet one go?  Where did the others go?  The name tag on the one I see now reads, “Hello, my name is… The Great Unknown.”

As I look around for the others, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the coffee pot and I look more closely.  Despite the odd, tight outfit that’s becoming my skin, I see a glimmer of something there, in my eyes… the quiet one.

Turns out, it wasn’t a list of gnarly candidates or anything else… it’s just fear… all of it; in flashy wannabe Grand Poobah robes.

Poofbah!  Stricken from the running.

Many times I’ve heard the words, “Fear Not… Fear Not… Fear Not…”  and no matter where or when I’ve heard them they’ve always been followed by a message of Love.

The quiet one.

I took a break from blogging as many of you noticed.  “Once your greatest imaginable fear has been realized, what’s left to fear?”  I asked myself this question as I made the difficult decision to retire from a successful twelve-plus year career as a licensed massage therapist in order to regain my physical and emotional strength following my daughter’s death as well as to follow the direction in which I believe Love is calling me … overcoming fear.

I decided to conquer something many fear more than death; public speaking.  My first attempt was rough and challenging.  I’ve never done this before.  But I did it.  And I’ll do it again.

Poofbah!