Tag: grief (Page 2 of 2)

Grief Doesn’t Wear a Watch

JeanneDad 1

We walked into the hotel lobby last night to find it all decked out in its Christmas finery. As we walked past the brightly-lit tree on our way to the elevator, I felt something I’ve not felt in I don’t know how long – Christmas spirit. It’s been twelve years since my daddy died – his side of the family is bad to die during the holidays, and that’s why what little decorating I do now, I do it outside so I can see it, but only from afar.

This past year, I’ve allowed myself to grieve for Daddy and others, to grieve things that I cannot attach a noun to. Instead of trying to outrun the grief, instead of brushing it aside or turning away from it, I sat with it. I went to bed with it. To paraphrase Naomi Shihab Nye, I spoke to it till my voice caught the threads and I could see how big the cloth is. I’m not done yet, and I miss him now just as much today as I have every day of every year since.


That’s me there in Daddy’s arms – I’m the one wriggling my way out of his lap.
Oh what I wouldn’t give for a do-over right about now.

I talk to him, you know. Write him letters, cry on his shoulder, try my best to remember the way it felt to have his arms wrapped around me. Sometimes he would hug me so hard, he’d bite his lower lip from the effort. With Daddy’s arms around me, I could be both vulnerable and invincible, knowing I was loved and protected and supported. I like to think he still does that – still loves me, protects me, supports me, though I try not to pester him with requests for assistance too much because it’s clear from the dreams I’ve had that he is quite content in his new life.

I know you pretty much read only train magazines, Daddy, but if you happen to look over my shoulder and catch my blog, know this: you still own real estate on my heart. And that hole in my heart? It’s packed with stories and smiles and love like you wouldn’t believe.

a mosaic of updates and offerings


Well now I told you it’d be today or tomorrow, and the way it looks right now, if all goes according to plan, you’ll be back here tomorrow for my first Red Phone Story.


A Rhonda update: Rhonda continues to be silenced by a computer and talk-to-text software that refuses to play nicely. Her husband is tenaciously working on it, though, so stay tuned. And hey, thank y’all again for continuing to leave affirming comments for Rhonda.


You don’t want to miss these posts:

My friend and writing partner Julie Daley has written several thoughtful, elegant posts of late filled with beautiful, affirming, peaceful, healing words.


My friend Angela keeps us updated on her precious dogs while she pens her memoir behind the scenes. Whether you like dogs or not, you’ll want to visit and read about Max and Gracie.


And last but definitely not least, I want to be sure you know and help me spread the word about this:

Alana Sheeren and I met via the ethers a couple of years ago. She tweeted out a question about schooling young people, and being somewhat passionately opinionated about this, I tweeted a reply. We tweet-chatted a bit more, and a friendship was born. Since then, Alana has experienced the loss of a stillborn son named Benjamin, and she writes frankly and fearlessly about the unimaginable grief she’s lived in the past year at her blog, Life After Benjamin. Her words have fortified, comforted, assured, and amazed readers, and now she has more to offer those who are grieving their own particular loss.

Alana created a beautiful ebook called Picking up the Pieces. It’s filled with luminous stories of grief and growth penned by women you might know or have heard of. It is truly, as so many others have said, “a gift of musings and magic,” and I hope you’ll finish reading, then trot right on over and download a copy for yourself.

But that’s not all our Alana has been up to . . .

In her newest book, One Hundred Names for Love, Diane Ackerman writes:

“There is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness, of something amiss.” Yes, that felt right. An atmosphere of wrongness. I was stirred by the power of Lewis’s grief. And yet, his experience, despite his referring to it as “mad midnight moments,” didn’t lead to madness. His was a mind that could cushion itself when faced with trauma, without becoming callous, neglectful, or numb to soften the pain. Despite not knowing if what he felt from moment to moment would pass or last forever, he entered fully into his shifting states of violent rage, self-pity, longing, heartbreak, cynicism, without losing the ability to think about what was happening to him. That took courage, I thought, living with the suffering in a mindful way, as an artifact of being, neither good nor bad.

Knowing firsthand that “vague sense of wrongness, of something amiss”, knowing firsthand about “living with the suffering in a mindful way,” Alana is hosting a Picking Up the Pieces Retreat Retreat in beautiful Ojai, California on September 25-29, 2011. She’s gathered an impressive group of resource folks, and a schedule to provide balm and healing for the bruised and grieving soul. If you are grieving, treat yourself to this special offering designed to support your body, mind, and spirit. If you know somebody who’s grieving, promise you’ll tell them about it and encourage them to go. If you have any questions or comments, if you’d like to contribute in some way, email AlanaSheeren (at) gmail (dot) com today.

grief is messy


ten years ago today, my daddy died. if you have a minute, read about it here. it’s a pretty amazing story, if i do say so myself. (hint: scroll down and start at the 10th paragraph. i spent the first 8 paragraphs linking the post to that day’s prompt (a year later, i don’t bother), and the 9th paragraph, well, we’ll call it a segue cause honestly, i have no idea how that made it to print.)

i shed tears as prayers of remembrance and gratitude
i chide myself for wallowing.

i crave darkness
i turn all the lights on.

i spew words and send emails to people who rock as my rocks
i scold myself for letting people see me like this.

i long to crawl back in bed and sleep the day away
i choose to honor daddy and my self by leaning into this tender bruise.

i am tempted to stay in my floppy flannel pajamas all day long
i hear the ole familiar “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”
and know that
only pretty girls can get away with such indulgences.

i forego today’s walk
and eat cookies
and do little
besides reading
the occasional blog.

i ask myself:
did i do all that i could do?
was it wrong to give him permission
to go?
should i have knocked on
door after door after door
until some physician eventually healed?

one thing i do not do
is make my daddy more in death
than he was in life.
he was not perfect.
i wouldn’t ache for him so
if he had been.

This post is (loosely) (or maybe creatively sounds better) written in response to today’s #reverb10 prompt:
Q: What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
A: Lately everything contributes to my writing. And nothing – nothing at all – was gonna’ come between me and my writing on this day.

currently in progress

i am living the story i want to tell you. yesterday afternoon, my husband got a call from his brother: his oldest daughter – my first niece – walked in from work the night before to find that her partner had shot and killed himself. it’s sunday morning as i write this, the 21st of november 2010, and i’m flying to colorado in just a few hours to see my niece.

sounds so simple when i write it like that.

i married into a small family of doctors and engineers. linear thinkers who are quite sure about the way things are and should be. they have degrees from highly-regarded institutes of higher learning. their practicality, clarity, and confidence intimidates a writer and slow cloth storyteller gal like me. their consistency eludes a constantly changing creative like me who also has a graduate-level degree, but finds it hard to focus on one thing long enough to develop a reputation as anything even approaching an expert.

[i struggle to type the word “creative” in the sentence above. it takes several minutes before i finally mash the “c” key. same goes for the word “expert”, but the hesitation is for different reasons.]

i begin looking for flights right after we hang up. even though we don’t know the funeral arrangements yet. even though there’s nothing, no specific assignment of something we can do. even though, even though, even though.

about an hour later, i call my brother-in-law to check in, to see if he wants me to call their aunt. they are a small family, my in-laws, my family dwarfs them in sheer numbers, which is to say, i’ve buried way more loved ones than they have. i think about things like the distraction of notification, about the salve of collective love.

[i am having trouble writing this. the censors chirp and caution me against being too uppity, getting too big for my britches. they remind me i’m not the only one who is empathetic and caring. they ask if i’m really, seriously trying to say that i’m good at being there in times of death, dying, and grief. they point out that i have no degree, no letters after my name signifying that i’m qualified and competent enough to do this kind of thing.]

“that would be great if you’d call aunt ginny,” he says. “i didn’t even think about that, and i don’t have her number.”

“happy to,” i tell him. “we’re looking at flights now,” then i hurriedly add that my son kipp who also lives in denver, will pick shuttle us to and from the airport, my way of assuring donn that we will be no trouble.

“you don’t need to come,” he says.

“we want to come.”

“but there’s nothing you can do. we’re her nuclear family. we have friends, and she has a lot of friends here.” he rattles off all sorts of reasons to defend his position that we should not come, then he delivers the sucker punch: “you’ll just be in the way.”

you’ll just be in the way.

let me be really, really clear here: there was no malicious intent in those words. he did not stop and think before he said them, they just tumbled out. which, to an armchair jungian psychologist like myself, gives them added impact. without knowing it, donn has just ripped open my tender place and poured a barrel of salt into the ever-gaping wound.

i think of myself as a committee, and now the dissident, snarky committee members go into full volume yell, starting with “i told you so.” his words, their words form a chorus that sets me back and the questioning of self begins:

Q: what will you do out there, anyway?
A: i don’t know.
Q: then he’s right: you’ll just be in the way.
A: maaayyybbbeee.
Q: don’t you have other things to do?
A: yes, but nothing better.
Q: it’s thanksgiving week. have you considered that?
A: yes, but that doesn’t seem the point.
Q: donn says she’s coming home this week and that maybe you can see her then, right? doesn’t that make sense?
A: it makes sense to that particular part of my brain, but my heart . . .
Q: oh, pshaw. why don’t you think about somebody besides yourself for a change?
A: i thought i was. i only wanted to fly to colorado and give betsey a hug.
Q: what will you say when you get there?
A: probably nothing. words haven’t been invented.

so in just a few hours, my daughter and i will climb into that big chair in the sky that will deliver us to denver. we’ll rent a car, meet up with my son, and tonight or maybe tomorrow, i’ll walk into a room and see betsey. i will try not to get in anybody’s way, try not to take up too much space as i make my way to her to deliver the only thing i have to offer: a hug with all the love i have coursing through me, seeping from my arms into her gentle, bruised, grieving spirit.

i’ll let you know how it goes.


many thanks to karen for putting these support stories. i am honored to be asked to participate and to be the company of such compassionate writer people.

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