Saturday, January 14, 2017

Surviving Year Two: Week 23

Time is a Circle

This is Week 23 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

This week I have been thinking a lot about time. Time changes when you are living in grief. It becomes more circular or spiral. The linearity of time breaks down completely.

I was watching old videos of my husband and a memory came flashing back to me. When I was 12-years-old, I saw the movie Starman with Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen.  This film stars a grieving widow and begins with her wearing her dead husband's shirt, sobbing, and drinking vodka out of a jam jar while she watches old movies of her handsome, funny, charismatic husband. This scene made me cry my eyes out. Some part of my wise 12-year-old girl heart KNEW what this character was feeling. I knew it deep inside my bones. My soul recognized this grief. How is that possible? How did I know what that kind of grief felt like at 12-years-old?

There are many theories about how time is non-linear. There are old stories and tales about the spiral effect of time. As a widow, there is also a deeper knowing that time actually does not "heal all wounds." Grief and "healing" does not work in a linear way. Instead, grief transforms. Grief shape-shifts.  Grief leaps about through time, peeking in to different stages of our lives and reminding us that death is always nearby — that death awaits us all.

When my husband first died, my grief felt like a metal cage, squeezing my heart within an inch of its life. Every breath was hard to take. Every step I took was wobbly. As I move through the spirals of time, the metal that formed that cage is changing. It is becoming stronger, but thinner, weaving itself deeply into my heart like a tapestry. Those iron bars are now steely threads. Instead of being hobbled and shackled by my grief, those hard, metal threads have woven themselves into my heart. My heart is made of grief now. This grief makes me strong. It is an armor I did not ask for, but am grateful to have. Things that used to scare and upset me, don't even make a dent in my life now. I have looked at the darkest places of life and survived. I have a wisdom I did not have before. I am a widow.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Surviving Year Two: Week 22

Returning to My Magic

This is Week 22 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

We are now solidly in 2017, a new year without my husband in it. While this is still such a brutal fact for me to live with, I am in a much better place than I was at the beginning of 2016. It's not that the pain and grief are gone — it's more that the pain and grief have woven themselves deeply into my soul and is now a solid part of me. Grief has shown me some hidden strengths I had forgotten I had. I have also been returning to my inner witch and spiritual crafter and have been cooking up a new ritual, honoring the transformations grief has brought to me and stepping into a new phase of widowhood.

Rituals are so important. Weddings, Baptisms and Memorial services are rituals. I think we need more rituals to honor the other huge transformations of life. When my husband and I decided to be child-free after trying to have a baby for a very long time, we had an Un-Baby Shower. That seven-day ritual transformed me in a huge way, and helped me honor deeply what I was letting go as well as helping me honor and welcome what was coming in.

I'm very excited and a little nervous about the ritual I am cooking up (again, with my powerful ritual-crafting friends, Lauren Van Ham & Lila Kihn). I will share with you all as much as feels safe and honorable to share, so stay tuned for more as it all unfolds.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week 21

2016 drawings from my art journal

This is Week 21 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

Today is New Year's Eve. I have been thinking about where I was last year at this time — huddled in a freezing guest room in Santa Barbara, texting with an old boyfriend who was in a detox treatment center somewhere and also alone. As dysfunctional as that relationship has always been, that night I think we kept each other alive and I'll always be grateful to him for that. I was four months in to being a widow and so broken-hearted, I honestly did not think I would live through the year 2016.

And a new journal begins...
Tonight, I am happy to say that I am in a much better place. I plan to bring in 2017 by myself, in my little house, filled with candles and snuggly kittens. Synchronistically, I finished a journal just as 2016 was coming to a close. When I began it, my husband was alive, so this truly feels like a symbolic moment of change and transformation. Despite the horrors of the 2016 Presidential Election in America, I have great hopes for my personal journey of healing and transformation. I think big changes are headed my way and I feel ready for them.

When I finish an art journal, I like to take photos of some of my favorite drawings and pages (and if you follow me on Instagram, then you may even have seen some movies of all the pages of my journal). Today's image is a collage of drawings I have made in my journal over 2016. These drawings actually sum up my year in a very visceral way.

As I start my new journal with the new year, it seemed appropriate to return to an old practice of mine, using author, photographer and teacher Susannah Conway's "Unravel Your Year" workbook. Before my husband died, I used her workbook every year and while I missed 2016, it feels great to return to this practice.

I am wishing you peace, joy and new delightful adventures in the New Year. Let's get through it together.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week 20

Living through the Holidays

This is Week 20 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

Today is Christmas Eve. I have an entire week of no work stretched out before me. I am scrambling to plan something to do every single day, so I don't fall into the deep well of sorrow, while still connecting deeply to the truth that I need a lot of alone time to process my grief. My late husband and I had several beloved traditions for the holidays. We always had a Winter Solstice Bonfire. We made tamales (sweet & savory) and gifted them to friends. We would have an ornament crafting party, where the goal was to make the strangest Christmas ornament possible. We would cook up and eat a lot of crab. We would run away to Desert Hot Springs for Christmas and soak in the healing waters of the high desert.

Just as I have been trying to reconnect with myself, now that I am a single widow with no partner, I have been trying to re-discover my own holiday traditions. What do I want to do with my holiday celebrations? So far, ornament crafting, hot water and eating crab have played a role, but so has quiet contemplation, filling the house with candles, and drawing in my journal.

I am moving slowly, at the pace of a snail. I am collecting the diamonds I leave in my little snail trail. I am breathing. I am finding new ways to love myself. I am becoming my own beloved in this new year of new beginnings and old endings.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week 19

Seeing Through the Veils

This is Week 19 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

I think that Grief can have a very interesting effect of cutting through all the false fronts that get presented to us on a daily basis. When we live in a constant state of continually facing hard truths — like no longer having a partner in life, or knowing that someone can die right in front of us — there is a falling away of the soft veils that so many people wear to feel "safe" from feeling and seeing too much.

When I was a child, I was hyper-sensitive. I could feel everyone's feelings around me and it was unbearable, because I did not have the tools to control it or understand it. It completely overwhelmed me. Slowly, through a lot of help from mentors and teachers and therapists, I learned how to protect myself and not get quite so overwhelmed by all the emotions flying around me.

Kali-Ma, Cutting off the Heads of the Ignorant
After my husband died, I was so raw that the old empathic portals inside me started to open up and I started to feel other peoples' feelings again. It scared me, but it was impossible to shut down because my grief was unstoppable and kept me extremely raw and open and empathic. Now that I am four months in to Year Two of being a widow, I am starting to see this sudden removal of the social veils as a gift. When I ask someone how they are doing, and they say they are "fine," I actually see and feel how "not fine" they are. I have a choice in that moment — to either enter a dialog about how they are "really" feeling, or pass on by and let that illusion of a veil stay up. This feels like a very powerful place to me. I am learning that it is not my job to rush in and help, every time I see someone in pain. I can choose when I feel strong enough to be in that "helper" role and when I need to just keep on moving.

Sometimes I am in a place of high energy and fire and those are the moments I must be very careful not to speak too harshly or forcefully. Grief can make me very blunt and I realize that can be hurtful sometimes. I have been stripped down to the rawest place of grief and bones and I sometimes have a hard time talking to people who have not tasted this dark, sour place. When someone tells me that I just need to "think more positively," I want to whip out my energetic sword and slice off their ignorant heads. But that's just it — their comments are ignorant. They don't know the kind of despair that potentially awaits them in this life. They are almost living in a different reality than I am. Some days, I have patience and empathy for those still wrapped in their protective veils. Other days, I want scream at them and rip all the veils off in one swoop. Both of these feelings are okay. Both are part of the journey of being in deep grief. 

I think Widows tap into a very ancient well of deep power. We know the life of partnership and union and we know what is like to have that ripped away and be alone again. We survive this transition and that is powerful. We have lived in both worlds. Especially as women, we know what is like to depend on someone else to play a more masculine role in our lives and when that person suddenly is gone, we are forced to very quickly integrate that masculine role inside ourselves. I sit in that alchemical vessel now. It is a place of deep grief and deep power.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.