Just another week at the office

“Hey, I am working on a t-shirt design for a memorial run. Wanna’ see it, give me some feedback? You heard about that runner in Sun Prairie who was killed by the pastor who was driving drunk…? It was crazy. Horrible. So tragic.”

(Ok, I’ll look at the design. I can be objective. I don’t feel quite as sensitive about death, accidents, hospitals, tragedies, as I did a few months ago. Just breathe.)

“So why did you move to Madison?”

(Oh no! Not that question again!! I hate that question!! I moved here because my husband got a job here. Phew. There! Done! I didn’t even have to mention that he is now…dead. And that I have no idea what I am still doing here. And that I get very confused about what’s next, and start to feel my heart race in anxiety when I think about trying to sell our house. Just breathe, let people move onto another topic, order lunch.)

“Yeah, we were pretty worried about our dog. She had to have surgery to remove two cancerous tumors. But they said she’ll be ok.”

(Oh. Ok. That’s starting to hit a little close to home. They were able to spare a dog. But not my husband. Stay calm, keep it cool. It’s not the same thing. Focus on your salad. Don’t think about cancer.)

“Oh, so you live in Sun Prairie? Isn’t that where that runner got killed…?”

“Yeah! She was our neighbor…!”

(Geez, are we back on this topic again? I am starting to feel a bit sick, here. I wish this Department lunch wasn’t taking place at a restaurant. I am not feeling calm, objective, or hungry anymore. Might need to get up and leave.)

“No way. I coached her son in hockey…”

“Crazy! Horrible.Tragic!”

(Ok, can we please, PLEASE, move on now? Surely people know when to stop talking about death around someone who just experienced a lot of it…)

“Well, people, you think that’s bad, our accountant’s husband died suddenly. Pulmonary embolism. Then the very next day, out of the blue, her mom died. What on earth do you do when when something like that happens?”

B*I*N*G*O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You just hit the target!! It was bound to happen, things were building up, but thanks for the cherry on top! After all, my dad and husband just died last year. Did you already forget? Why ask the question hypothetically? I am sitting right here and can tell you first-hand how it feels. How would that be for a little light lunch conversation? I can throw in all kinds of stomach churning details if you’d like.

(Instead, I somehow managed to say, “Ok, can we stop talking about death now?”, and barely excused myself from the table before the tears hit.)

Just another week at the office…navigating emotional landmines and lunch. Not the worst week. But not the best one either. Sometimes work is a safe place. But sometimes, when you are grieving, no place is a safe place. Though, I never really thought death or cancer were great lunch topics, even before my husband and dad died.

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Happy Birthday dear Pisces.

It’s been sitting in the same place for months. The beautiful ceramic container. I dust it. I put my hands on it. Sometimes I say a few words. I like to place flowers next to it, offerings of chocolate. A bear-claw pastry and tulips for his birthday.

My best friend flew out from California, to stay with me after my husband died. She and I wandered the little galleries and shops until I found the “container” that would become his urn. When I saw it, my heart welled up. I could barely speak. The earthen tones, the round soft shape, and the lid, it had a fish on it. For my nature-loving Pisces.

The container was heavy even before it contained his remains. But when I held it for the first time at the funeral home, I was shaking. The weight of it. Both physical and emotional, I wasn’t sure I could carry it forward, let alone out of the funeral home. Continue reading

Be still, my beating heart.

LeveesREVColorThere are moments in life, when there is no way to describe what you are feeling, other than trying to explain what is going on with your heart. That your heart skipped a beat, or started pounding, or was fluttering like butterflies. That it crawled up into your throat. Or completely sank.

When I was younger, I trusted my heart, my intuition, that inner guiding voice. As I muddled through life, the decisions of adulthood, painful but necessary heartbreaks, it seemed harder and harder to hear my heart. The drum that it was beating to, often muffled.

But when I met my husband, my heart flipped. A couple words from his mouth, and it double flipped. I remember going to yoga, where I was supposed to be concentrating on breathing and holding postures, and all I could think about was him. My heart was definitely a-flutter. After only a few months, he asked me to move across the country with him, for a job. It seemed crazy, but I followed my heart. Things fell into place, there was flow. I got a job offer, we found a wonderful apartment on a lake, eventually we bought a house, got married. Life was not without challenges, but overall, my heart was at ease. It was comfortable in a steady, stable rhythm.

I have heard that it is important to get a physical exam after suffering a deep loss. Your body is affected. Increased blood pressure, anxiety, depression, the heart…your heart is affected. The first fissure started with the phone call from my dad, telling us that he was going to stop dialysis. Stop he did, and my heart too, for a moment. At the first grief support group I attended, when it was my turn to talk, my heart blocked my throat completely, not a single word could squeeze by. It would not let me utter the words. It chokes me up just thinking about it.

Never before have I lived from my heart, like I am living now. The core organ that keeps us going, beat by beat, we don’t pay it a lot of mind. We don’t give it a lot of thanks. But it’s got my attention. Every day. It reacts quickly, letting me know if something I am doing is good or bad for my well-being. If I need to be paying more attention, if I need to slow down. It reminds me that I am fearful of other losses, because even though wounded, I still have the full ability to love. It starts beating frighteningly fast when things cross my path that symbolize my husband, like the time I saw the owl in my back yard, or when a deer walked with me for a full block. I held my breath until he disappeared into the woods. Then the heaving sobs spilled forth. When tired, my heart closes up tightly…unyielding in its sorrow, it knows I still need to mourn, stay home, take a day off, honor my losses, respect my heart’s ache. And my heart really hurts when I read of others’ losses, hearts in grief are like kindred stars shining as hard as they can to give a little light to each other across a vast dark sky.

I can’t deny that death has rattled me, pierced my rib-cage. I find myself saying, “be still, my beating heart”, because I often feel anxious, unsteady, vulnerable and exposed. My heart dangling out there, for all to see. But I am also thankful. My parents gave me life, but it’s my heart that has been carrying on the daily work. Beating loudly, fast and furious, frightened and fearless, continuing to guide me along, through the thick of grief, the steady drum of life that I can not ignore. How can I not thank it? With every breath. Every day.

When the monkey is away….

I have written many posts about grief that don’t get posted. The same words tend to pop up, about drowning, battling, fighting, then relinquishing control….

It’s not easy to experience grief (understatement of the year), but the metaphors of the experience seem to come with ease. And while writing about it and getting it off my chest is part of healing, even to me, the story gets old.

New experiences…putting myself out there, trying different things, meeting new people, that too will give me something to write about, or, at least experience. Grief won’t be going away anytime soon. But my life, well, I’m all too aware of how finite it is.

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It’s just data.

DSC03153-effect“I’m afraid to say, that what we have here is a complete hard drive failure.”

God damn it! If I’m not careful, I am going to go into a “complete emotional failure”. An epic widow melt-down. Breathe. Process this news s l o w l y.

See, on my most wonderful, “joyous” birthday in December, my computer crashed. Died. The IT guys at work couldn’t fix it, so, after much procrastination (obviously, as it’s now February), I took it to a specialist. Which is where I got the diagnosis. He explained that there was still hope for retrieving the data, by sending it to a data recovery service. But it would cost me. How much? I vaguely heard him say, possibly $600, going up to a thousand, as my mind started freaking out. Continue reading

A date with grief.

This morning *that* song came on the radio, the song from last summer that went straight to my heart, the song that goes straight to my gut, and immediately takes me back to a place of deep sorrow. But then another one came on, and another, ALL songs from last summer that remind me of my husband, of his death. What is going on? Did someone make a medley of my horrendous summer?

Ah, the Grammys. Of course. Might need to avoid them this year.

To a normal person – a person *not* in grief – that might sound like the wrong thing to do, “avoiding” things that stir up memories. But I can tell you that grief has completely re-arranged my perception of what is right and wrong in terms of how we process a loss. Continue reading

Dinner to dust.

“Looks like your dog is walking you”. Harmless neighborhood remark. One I hear often, from many, as my dog drags me around the block.

Man, that comment absolutely ruffles my fur. I feel it start at the base of my spine, the hairs raising, right up to a lip curl, revealing fangs. Who knew I had ’em?

No. neighbor. You are wrong. The thing that has me by the neck, that is dragging me to and fro, threatening to pull me flat on my face on the icy sidewalk, is grief. And right now, I hate it. I resent it. And I really resent comments that refer to my dog training abilities.

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