Sunday, December 4, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week 16 & 17

Despair
This is Week 16 & 17 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

I am approaching Month 4 of Surviving Year Two as a Sudden Widow. Last week was Thanksgiving, and I actually had a very nice long weekend, filled with friends and hope and laughter. This week, things took a sudden turn and I feel as if I have fallen into the dark well of despair yet again. 

I know that I have a tendency to fall into a place of "magical thinking," and this can often lead to unrealistic expectations — of myself, other people and the world. I had built up my hopes about a certain situation and convinced myself that my late husband was helping me make it happen, but this week I realized that I made it all up in my head and that there are only more empty nights alone in my future. It feels like my heart is breaking all over again and I must experience yet another layer of the loss of my husband, the loss of my love, and the loss of being loved.

Feeling unlovable is a brutal paradigm. I don't want to dwell here, and yet here I am again. I know that I must stand up and remember how to love myself and not seek that love in others, but as a recovering co-dependent, that is so hard to do. Maybe it is better that I am alone. Maybe it is better to sit in this fire and feel the blackest, most hateful parts of myself shred my heart apart and toss the away the pieces, so the crows can eat them. Maybe I should let this despair devour me until there is nothing left.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week 15

Self-Care is Part of the Revolution

This is Week 15 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 living through the second week of this unthinkable reality. I am watching my friends go through their own stages of grief and I resonate so deeply with their journeys, as they mirror my own. There are action steps that can be taken, and there is also self-care that needs to happen as we process our grief. Fortunately, I have some experience with that, as I have been living in grief for over a year now.

The most important thing to remember, when processing grief is that EVERYTHING CHANGES. That means, when you are in the deepest pit of despair, when you feel like the world no longer holds you and your heart is breaking — HOLD ON. Do whatever you need to do to survive that moment, because I promise, IT WILL CHANGE. I had many suicidal moments in the first year of my husband's death. Some nights were so dark that I would burn or cut my skin, just so I could have control over the pain I was feeling. I now have scars forever from those dark evenings, but I'm also still alive today, writing this right now. I hope you will do something much more loving for yourself in those dark moments. I am learning how to do that.

Here are some actions that help me shift my despair:
Manicure as Self-Care
  • Drink water. Fill an 8 oz. glass with filtered water. Put ice in it, if you want. Maybe a lemon wedge? Promise yourself that you won't make any rash decisions until that whole glass of water has been drunk.
  • Take 10 deep breaths. Don't rush it. Let your whole body fill up with oxygen. Imagine white light surrounding you in love and warmth. Chant some sounds if that feels good. One of my favorite phrases to chant, when I am deep in anxiety and fear is "Fuuuuuuuckkkk Thissssssss Bulllllllshitttttt." It often makes me giggle a little bit and then already the darkness has lifted.
  • Call a friend that can handle your sorrow and darkness. Let them make you laugh. Let them tell you they love you. Ask them about the mundane parts of their day. Tell them you love them and are glad you are friends. 
  • Go outside. Feel the sun or the rain on your face. Take your shoes off and feel the earth and ground under your feet. Remember that Mother Earth has gone through a whole lot more than you have, and she is really good at holding the pain of a mere human. Ask her to take some of the burden off your soul. She will take it and absorb it and make trees grow from it.
  • Make marks on paper. It can be a scribble or a comic or a portrait of your cat. Don't judge it. Let yourself throw it away when you are done. Let the act of making do its job and don't get in the way.
  • Cry and wail and scream. Let it out. I feel amazingly cleansed after a full-on, lying on the floor, screaming in pain kind of cry.
  • Cuddle with a pet. My kitties are pretty wild, but they will let me bury my head in their tummies and cry. Sometimes they will lick my tears away. Animals help us remember that there is only now and now is really not so bad.
  • Do a beauty spa activity like painting your nails, taking a bath, curling your hair, doing a deep moisturizing face mask, or rubbing lotion over your whole body. Try to feel appreciation for your body and how amazing it is that it is keeping you alive.
  • Have really hot sex with someone you like. They don't have to be anything more than a fun friend, or even a handsome/beautiful stranger you met at a bar. Just be safe and have clearly communicated boundaries, both with yourself and with your sexy friend.
I have done all of these things this past week and they have all helped. I hope some might help you too. I'm sorry we are living through this, but we will live through this. Remember that love is the most powerful force there is in this world. Re-connect with your self-love and you re-connect with your power and ability to shift the world to a brighter place.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week 14

Facing the Unknown

This is Week 14 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

A lot has changed in the last week, including the fact that Donald Trump will be inaugurated as our 45th President of these so called "United" States. While I watched the election unfold and realized what was happening, it felt almost identical to the night my husband died before my eyes. I was filled with fear and shock and incredulity. Just as I sat by my husband's dead body, hoping against all rational hope that he might just "wake up," so did I watch those Electoral Vote bar graphs, hoping against all rational hope that somehow the blue bar would suddenly skyrocket up and change the horrible outcome I knew was coming.

So now we live in a world where a fascist, racist rapist with no civic, governmental or political experience of any kind is the most powerful man in the world. This is an unthinkable reality and yet here we are. This week, as we all have begun living this new, unthinkable reality, I realized that I already know what it's like to live in an unthinkable reality. I could not have imagined that I could survive without my husband, and yet here I am, one year and three months later, living without him.  That truth gives me a strange sense of hope for all of us.

Something that has helped me a lot in this past year and now during this past week of new grief and pain, is that we don't know what's going to happen. There sure are a lot of horrifying scenarios that could unfold, but we don't know if they will. Now more than ever, we must be here now in the present moment, and feel all the feelings we are feeling. We must keep working for a better world. We must keep loving each other. We must protect the vulnerable and the oppressed whenever we can.

The morning after the election, my Athena statue took a tumble and her head snapped off. She lost her owl and her shield as well. Yesterday, a good and kind friend got down on his hands and knees and found almost every single broken piece of her and patiently glued her back together. This feels very symbolic and significant. We are broken but still fighting, thanks to the help of our communities. We will survive this.

Athena Healed

The words of the wonderful writer, teacher and mythologist Martin Shaw of the Westcountry School of Myth & Story also helped me this week. I want to share some excerpts from his wonderful Facebook post this week, but definitely read the whole thing here (it's actually worth a click just for the adorable photo of him giggling with his dog):
We do not live myths out as some kind of horrible karma. We don’t brush by them and become infected. But they do have a habit of riding alongside when life turns up the volume. They synch up. But that’s as an aid for deeper understanding, not as a kind of prophetic set of ever tightening knots on your liberty. Just thought I’d mention that.
Ok, and while we’re in deep I’m going to say something else. Become a prayer-maker. Why? Because what you face in your life is bigger than you can handle. It is. Go to a place with shadows and privacy, and just start talking. There is some ancient Friend that wants to hear from you. No more dogma than that. Use your simple, holy, words. Then sit. Listen. Go for a walk. Let in.
Then you fight like a lion for what you can affect, and you surrender the rest. Self-help at its worse will pump you into a kind of Herculean mania of self reliance, and will most likely leave you grievously burnt out. 
***
Wander your oak valleys, linger in ornate chapels at dusk, get thrown out of the tavern at midnight, be kind, kiss the wounded, fight injustice and protect, protect, protect all the trembling bells of delight that you notice out of the corner of your eye when everyone else is oblivious. Value yourself, know yourself, don’t be naive, but don’t be afraid of love. Carry it.
If you are frightened, or tired, or sick in heart, then let these words hold your hand in the dark.
Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week Lucky 13

Snapchat Dracula
This is Week Lucky 13 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.
Halloween has come and gone. I survived the first of a series of holiday bombardments. Next up is my late husband's birthday in a mere five days. I have nothing planned, but hopefully will see a friend the following day. This friend, in a very surreal synchronicity, happens to share my husband's birthday.

I am currently re-reading an old Marion Woodman book, Leaving My Father's House: A Journey to Conscious Femininity. It's essentially a book about rising up out of the chains of the patriarchy and re-connecting with the deep, powerful wisdom of the conscious, mystical feminine.

My favorite "character" in the book is artist & writer Rita Greer Allen. She was a sculptor and wild mystic and she shares her real journal pages in this book. Her thoughts and feelings are expressed with such an admirable depth and honesty, while still being playful and completely hilarious. Her words and journey to mysticism through her art and life is so inspiring to me. From her descriptions of having hot sex with her husband (they are both over 60!) to her ever blossoming feminism, I find her words lifting my spirits on very dark days.

I just read one of her journal passages about firing and smoking two large, sculpted wings in her kiln. She raku-fires her sculptures, and it is a very risky process, where you must hope it comes out how you want, but you must also let go and let the outcome be whatever it is going to be.

She had already gone through a harrowing experience firing the head of this angel/guardian and she is starting to fear that the wings may be ruined. I now quote from the book:
"Why put them through the danger of the fire?" and then, I heard, as though it spoke, the voice of the guardian-head: "Each piece must go through the fire. The cowl, the wings, the pneuma, the source, the flow. All must go the way that I have gone. Each may crack in the process, as I have cracked. But look, the crack has healed. I did not break. Without the fire, the piece is untested, unlived, raw. Each must go through the fire." I fired the wings, first one then the other, and each emerged with some shading from the smoke in the most beautiful way. Whole. Complete. (Rita Greer Allen, September 17, 1985)
I resonate so deeply with this process. I feel like I have gone through the fire and cracked, and yet I am also healing. I have cooked in the fire and my heartbreak and loss has made me that much more whole and complete. It is a very empowering way to look at grief.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Surviving Year Two: Week 12

Surprise Peonies

This is Week 12 of my Surviving Year Two Grief Project. Details about all my Grief Projects, as well as Grief Resources can be found here.

Yesterday a co-worker celebrated her 10-year anniversary of working for our company and received a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I told her the story of when my husband and I were first dating, and he asked me what my favorite flowers were. I told him "peonies" and every year during peony season, he would always bring home bouquets of them for me. She then very generously surprised me with a few peonies from her bouquet. We both felt like it was him, making a moment happen in the mundane world to remind me that he is always close, and always thinking of me and my happiness. It made me tear up and I'm so thankful that I work in a place that has such kind, thoughtful people who can connect with me on that spiritual level.

Thank you for witnessing me. See you next week.