Well, a lot has happened since I last connected with all of you here.
My hope is that I am reaching you with my writings/musings and nuggets of wisdom from my grief saga and that it brings a sense of ease and helps you make sense of the world you are in now.
My intention is to write every week on Thursday. Thursday is the day named after Thor or the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder! I dunno-a blog post about grief seems to fit going out on the day named after the god of thunder.
If you don’t hear from me, please know that something has gone awry in my world which could mean a number of things. Most recently it was my partner’s power wheelchair breaking down and dealing with the repercussions of that. (He is still in his loaner chair as I write this and that was about 3 weeks ago).
So, I am back and hope to continue reaching out to you all on a weekly basis.
I want to start where I left off on the dreaded fucking day (DFD) and what to do to honor or recognize that day of catastrophe.
After I wrote the last blog on my actual anniversary of the DFD (August 27, 2012), I realized that what you do depends on where you are with your grief and whether or not you are in an acute stage or farther along.
I am no longer in the acute period. I just passed year 3 of the DFD.
Now, as a writer, I am fascinated by the roots of words and where they come from.
And so when the word acute came out of my mouth just now I couldn’t help but think-where the hell does this word come from and does it have anything to do with the word “cute”?
Because there is nothing cute about grief. Period.
So, a side note on the word acute and cute.
Cute comes from acute which means sharp, irritating or intense. Yes, that makes sense with grief-especially recent grief.
“Cute” way back when (like the 15th century) actually meant sharp as in “smart” and then eventually this came to mean cute, as in small, pretty and cuddly. You know-like puppies and babies, and any young mammal for that matter. Let’s pause and look at this just because it is so cute…
So, the point of this post is to highlight the fact that what you do to honor the DFD and to take care of yourself depends on where you are at in the timeline of your grief.
Recent or acute grief for me was about maintaining my basic needs which mainly includes eating and sleeping.
I remember sitting down to a plate of food in the first few days of my life turning upside down – my life partner’s diagnosis of quadriplegia from a biking accident. I am still taking that one in and trying to wrap my head around it, AND I still spell that damn word wrong as if it was screaming to me from my word document with the dots of red underneath the misspelled word.
For emphasis and to make my point I highlighted the damn word above in red. And yes, I have learned to spell it by now. But I still hate that word!
Anyhoo-I remember sitting in front of a plate of food that someone made for me and pausing and thinking to myself-that (the food) has to go in here (my mouth). I had to tell myself to chew and swallow and then do it again. I didn’t want to, but knew I had to.
Food is a basic need, especially when you are in what I refer to as the “trauma drama.”
And then there is…
Ah, if only it could be as simple as typing the word and placing a period after it.
Sleep in the acute stage of grief is a serious challenge.
I actually surrendered to using sleep meds that a dear friend anonymously dropped off at my front door in a small “cute” envelope. Dear friend if you are reading this now-I thank you-it helped me a lot! Your gesture in the cute envelope was very smart. ( Ha-the original meaning of the word “cute.”)
To be honest, I didn’t want to take sleep meds. And I actually suggest you be careful if you must take them as they can be addictive. But your body needs to rest and when you are in adrenal overload because your stress level is out the roof, then your body needs the extra assistance with surrendering to the REM’s. (More on this one later and how to take good care nutritionally during acute grief.)
Sleep is so important.
If you can’t sleep, even with the meds, as I would at times-I would simply go through the motions of sleep. I would lay down and get into bed and try, and then if I couldn’t, I would simply tell myself that I was resting and that allowing my body to pause and rest was a good thing. Eventually I would fall asleep for part of the night.
Going through the motions.
Yes, that pretty much sums it up with the acute period of grief.
So, back to the DFD and what you do on the day that your soul got tattooed. It depends on many things-your mood, your work, your family or community, your needs.
Here’s what I did.
Year one-on the eve of the DFD I went to the site where it all began-where his bike bumped the rock and he flew over and in an instant went from being able-bodied to disabled. I did a ritual there on the rock. I felt numb, then angry, then sad, then numb again. Like I said, I am in year four and I am still trying to understand and accept what happened to him in the blink of an eye.
I did see this before we entered the trail-
A strange rainbow was hovering in the distance. It was magical and I was so grateful for the beauty that was there that day. The beauty from the rainbow helped me to take in the intensity of what my life had suddenly become.
And it reminds me that in grief we have to become what I call a joy detective. We must strive and search for beauty and joy because it all seems to slip away so easily, especially in the acute period of grief.
Year two-I took the day off and did serious self care. I had my own therapy, swam in a saline pool where I imagined I was swimming in everyone’s tears-mine, Michael’s, our family’s and community’s.
Later that day I had tea with a dear friend. She asked me how I was. I remember saying to her that I thought I was depressed. She replied- “Well, of course you are depressed-if you were happy I would think-what the fuck is wrong with you?!?” That made me smile. Again the joy detective made her presence known.
Later that day with Michael we saw the most amazing double rainbow that lasted for about 30 minutes with it’s intensity of color and doubleness! It was as if spirit was saying-all is well and all will be well. The picture below only shows the lower rainbow-the rainbow was so big we couldn’t even get it in the camera frame! I like this photo-it is as if we are being held and embraced by the colored arc in the sky.
Year three-I went dancing at my intentional dance community and I said the word fuck a lot to help me deal with the exact moment, or that half an hour of time before the accident. I imagined him riding his bike and using his body, feeling the air on his skin. Yes, I said fuck a lot because now I know what happens next–my beloved went from being a walking, moving, sensing human being to fighting for his life in the ICU and learning how to be in a disabled and paralyzed body.
To be honest, I really never know what to do on the DFD. Again it depends on how I am and what I feel like doing.
I do know this-it gets easier. Acute grief is fucking intense but somehow we manage to get through it.
Like I said, I did a lot of going through the motions. I had to remind myself to eat and I pretended to sleep.
Grief isn’t cute. It is fucking intense, messy, and very uncomfortable.
Get outside. And be angry that the sun shines and the world is so beautiful.
I will never forget the day that the sun came up, that dreaded day that turned into the night where I never slept. The day where my life as I knew it, was pulled out from under me and torn into a million pieces and it was handed back to me in a different language. I am still trying to make sense of it.
It reminds me on one of my favorite poems which I will leave you with here:
From Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter’s to a Young Poet:
I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers now because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now, perhaps then someday far into the future without ever even noticing it you will gradually live your way into the answers.
Yes, I am still living my way into the answer. And I make a point to live everything-especially in grief.
I leave you with a long out breath…and tears in my eyes.