“Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow, I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain, I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush, I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night. I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room. I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave bereft. I am not there. I have not left.”
―Mary Elizabeth Frye
Today is two weeks since my cousin passed away. It’s been a dark time of dissociation. I feel a mess of things which probably shouldn’t be verbalized for a while, and I am working out how to make sure what her family went through never happens to another family again. That’s a tall order, but I’m nothing if not determined. It is easier to try and fix a universally broken system, than it is to be angry. At the moment, I’m both, so I need time. Ultimately, this is not about me at all.
It’s all black spots around my vision right now. The entire week has been a struggle and a daze for me. Yes, I’ve shared a few things on social media this week and made sure my website was updated; but that doesn’t mean I’m all right! I’ll respond to people when I can. I will write something significant when things feel less like constant emotional vertigo. I know my reaction is a trauma response and I have work to do, but I also know I can’t stare at a blank screen and force anything out of myself. I’m mentally, physically, and emotionally sick to my core.
I appreciate the few who reached out to ask if I’m okay or if I need anything, mostly my writing colleagues. I was genuinely touched by the sense of community and affection sent in my direction. It touched my heart.
When you try and process senseless loss, you also begin to see your circle more clearly. Unfortunately, mine needs a broom and hockey stick, and I have learned to be okay with clearing house when necessary. I’m a different person than I was when I last lost someone important to me. The mind does things to protect you without your realizing it, until the mental floodgates open. The body truly does keep the score, and the brain goes into self-preservation mode. This time around, I’ve gone into protection mode because I am always the protector of everyone I love. Loyalty is important. Some people have no intentions of riding out storms with you, and that’s okay. Better people do come along, and they stay. They listen. They hear you even when you’re not speaking. They care. They don’t take shit personally. Those are your tribe members; love them hard.
“La tristesse durera toujours.” [The sadness will last forever.] ―Vincent van Gogh
The past four plus days have been a nightmare. First, I ignored a very obvious death sign. I won’t explain it since most people are not believers, but it shakes me to my core. Between Thursday and Sunday, I lost three people. Two old friends, and a relative. I am upset about the former, but the latter really took me down. I haven’t really stopped crying, and I am NOT the person who reacts like this to loss, either. I’m not the crying type. My eyes are swollen, though, and my head is on fire from a migraine I simply cannot shake. Someone needs to make sure I never drink two shots of espresso in anything, for as long as I live. 🤦♀️
I believe in the preservation of life and memories. I have a photo of Tim and I in my jewelry case. I was never sure how it got in there, but I am glad it’s with me. It reminds me of a previous life and career. Losing Dave startled me; he was actually the first person in this terrible cycle of loss, to pass away. Both of these individuals were friends of the family and treated me like a damn Queen in every situation. They will be missed. My Great-Uncle, Uncle, and two cousins should be up there to greet them, along with the many other friends we lost along the way.
Losing a relative who did nothing but love you is very hard. She was the last mother figure with family ties that I had. The last person who truly saw me for who I am and accepted me so completely. So yes, the sadness will last. For those who may have wondered, YES, this triggered me badly. I am retraumatized as someone who has already lost her own mother. If a few people hadn’t cared about me these last few days, I’m not sure where I would be in all of this.
This year, my best friends have both lost their mothers. One lost her father 3-4 weeks prior, as well. It’s something I can only be supportive about because I have lived it, and their experiences are different from my own. Coming from a place of experience, you can often help others navigate the pain, or simply listen to them. I wish I’d had that kind of support, but I can give it.
Almost fifteen years later, and this song still hits me the same way. I’m surprised the lyrics aren’t tattooed on my back! Today feels incredibly heavy and I don’t know when that will stop.
“Each death laid a dreadful charge of complicity on the living; each death was incongruous, its guilt irreducible, its sadness immortal; a bracelet of bright hair about the bone. I did not pray for her, because prayer has no efficacy; I did not cry for her, because only extroverts cry twice; I sat in the silence of that night, that infinite hostility to man, to permanence, to love, remembering her, remembering her.”
“Time is ungovernable, but grief presents us with a choice: what do we do with the savage energies of bereavement? What do we do with the memory – or in the memory – of the beloved? Some commemorate love with statuary, but behavior, too, is a memorial, as is a well-lived life. In death, there is always the promise of hope. The key is opening, rather than numbing, ourselves to pain. Above all, we must show our children how to celebrate existence in all its beauty, and how to get up after life has knocked us down, time and again. Half-dead, we stand. And together, we salute love. Because in the end, that’s all that matters. How hard we loved, and how hard we tried.” ―Antonella Gambotto-Burke
I don’t have much to offer right now. The past few days have been fraught with sad news. My best friend buried her Grandfather (It took a few days for the body to be flown out of the United States to its final resting place.), and the other is burying her father, who passed away this morning. Both lived long lives, but there are mixed emotions for those involved, and I feel it.
These issues bring up my own losses, because I am dealing with a lot of trauma at the moment. As one person said to me, “You know how it is, because you did all of this by yourself.” That’s right; I did. I arranged everything by myself. Two funerals. A headstone. An unveiling. I have not been back since, but I need to go and try to get a feel for things because avoiding it is not helping me.
I remember asking a family member about a word for the headstone and being told, “I’m not paying for it; they weren’t MY parents.” Yeah, my jaw dropped for a second before I composed myself. All I did was ask if they wanted a word added to one side of the stone. I displayed an act of kindness which shouldn’t have been shunned, and yes, I paid for the word and the stone. I showed respect to someone who disrespects me constantly. Nothing has changed in almost thirteen years. I see it, and I’m paying attention. I don’t have to understand why this person chooses to behave this way towards me, I only have to understand and control my response to it.
Grief and loss were once the only things I felt I had to offer others, but not anymore. Now I see myself clearly and I know I am not the cause for these things. In fact, I’m actually the person who will offer someone the most guidance and support. If my pain can help someone else, then I will allow that, but my pain isn’t going to be used against me.
I’ll be back soon, hopefully with better news.
“Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
And I shall see that still the skies are blue,
And feel one more I do not live in vain,
Although bereft of you.
Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet,
Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay,
And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet,
Though You have passed away.
Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
Although You are not there.
But though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.”