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Archive for the ‘surrender’ Category

Another article I wrote in the fall of 2014 – that I didn’t post.

In the Op-Ed section of a recent Sunday New York Times, there was an article I tore it out so I could read it again. You never know when something sparks an emotion, a thought, a piece of the puzzle I didn’t know was missing. Here’s the quote that had me pondering:

“When we mourn, isn’t it not just for our relationship with a person, but also for the physical presence of her, of her aliveness? The voice, smell, textures and warmth, the gestures we know intimately, all of these are replaced with their opposites in death. We are left with a hole that the energy that powered the person through life once filled.”

That last sentence nails it. “We are left with a hole that the energy that powered the person through life once filled.” That’s why I felt empty, at a loss – a loss of presence, of energy, of aliveness when Mike suddenly departed. Yes, with all the mannerisms, habits and behaviors that I loved or drove me crazy but with him gone, I missed them all.

As I have said before, when Mike passed on to the “next expression of life”, I knew he was and is fine. I was the one left to adjust to the change. To learn how to live with that hole that suddenly appeared. Actually, to first feel the feelings of loss, of sadness, of whatever I am feeling. Feeling my feelings was not a practice I learned growing up or during most of my life. I was more focused on action, doing and thinking. In the last ten to fifteen years, I have learned more about feeling my feelings – even being aware of what my feelings are rather than what I think.

In every experience, I know there is a gift. Some call it the silver lining. Mike’s death gave me the gift of learning to really accept my feelings, to dive down deep into them, and to be present with my feelings – to allow them. Our society doesn’t always encourage us to stop and feel our feelings. We have to move on. What’s next? Keep on keeping on, rather than stopping – to pause and ask, what am I feeling now? Sometimes, especially in the first 2 to 3 years after his death, feelings of grief would come like a wave that crashed over me and I would be overcome with the grief and sadness. Only after developing a practice of diving into the waves of my feelings, could I discover how to collect the energy, the aliveness, the love that was Mike and bring it into my heart to fill the hole. What I have learned is that this process happens over time. It’s not a quick fix. Years, it takes years – and that’s ok.

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IMG_1501 I’ve found some things I wrote but never posted. Here’s one.

September 21, 2014  I was in a meditation circle today and the last thing that came to me were the words, “discarding widow’s weeds”. The message was so clear I had to pay attention to it. I wondered, what ARE widow’s weeds? When I got home, I googled widows weeds and found a book titled, Widows Weeds and Weeping Veils, and ordered it.

I discovered that weeds (waed) is Old English for garment. In Victorian times, a widow would wear mourning dress for 2 to 4 years. Queen Victoria led the example for what would be the Victorian style of mourning the dead when her husband, Albert, died in 1861. She wore black for the rest of her life. When she died in 1901 the style of mourning slowly changed. Another reason they were called widows weeds is that the lightweight black crepe fabric most often used to make the garments would start to fade after a lot of wear and look rather worn. Of course, there were many elaborate garments made in the style of the day in all black that were quite beautiful with lots of detail.

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art had an exhibit that opened in October 2014 called, Death Becomes Her, A Century of Mourning Attire, exhibiting clothes and accessories from 1815 to 1915. Something’s up with all this – at least for me!

There was etiquette and prescribed manners to mourning during that time. First of all, death was a common occurrence in the culture and was discussed openly. Death occurred most often in the home, not in a hospital. It was present in daily life. We have gotten so far away from this in today’s world. There were signs that let everyone know a death had occurred – from putting black crepe on the front door, to the family dressed in black. There were specific rules to follow and even funeral foods served at home following the burial. Since the time for mourning was observed for years, the stages of mourning were expressed in the style and color of dress – from black to shades of grey and sometimes mauve. The recommended time for mourning differed for men, women and children and whether it was a spouse, child or relative that had died. Women had the primary responsibility for expressing the grief of the family through what they wore. Widows, especially, had to mourn longer and limit their social activities.

When I found out my husband had died, I thought . . . widow, I’ve never done that before. Even the word sounds strange. In our society today, there are mostly not customs in place to acknowledge that grieving takes time. The Jewish faith has 7 days, 30 days and 1 year rituals that I think are good and so helpful with the process of grieving. It’s not something one gets over and moves on in a speedy manner.

I discovered that when the third anniversary of my husband’s death came around, I was ready to move away from so much remembrance and let go of the grief that would arise every so often. Another woman friend I talked to told me the same thing, that at year three after her husband’s death she was ready to move on.  A friend told me it took her mother 5 years before she could make major changes to the house after her husband died. For myself, that didn’t happen, as my sister died a few weeks after the third anniversary of my husband’s death – which put me in a place of mourning and change all over again.

Who knew this process took so long. Now more than 5 years along, I am ready to move on and am open to a new relationship.  At the same time, I find myself diving deeper into the past and learning more about the culture of mourning we had a hundred years ago. Moving forward and going back. There is something for me to bring forward. It has yet to be revealed. Stay tuned.

 

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In the recent article in the New York Times, The Smell of Loss, the author Julie Myerson describes her experiences smelling her mother-in-law’s perfume a year or more after she had died. Her exploration of why the scent persists at times includes asking scientists and others for their explanation of this phenomenon. It’s a hallucination, a ghost, or the brain’s way of bringing up a memory – a sensory memory, they say.

I had a similar experience of scent a month or so after my husband died. I came upstairs to our bedroom and there was the very strong smell of coffee. He drank coffee every morning.   There was no coffee made or being made in the kitchen downstairs. The smell was unmistakably coffee. I did not go searching for where that scent was coming from. I figured he had shown up to say hello. I had not gone searching for why this occurred. After reading this NY Times article, I googled “smelling perfume of deceased”. The first site I found listed the Top Ten Signs from your Loved Ones in Spirit. Turns out I’d had several of these common experiences. Another site from the authors of Hello From Heaven calls them ADC’s – After Death Communications. They have done similar research. Their book of the same name was so helpful to me after my husband died explaining that these things do happen and are quite common. I wasn’t going crazy.

In my Internet search, I learned that the ability to smell the fragrance from a deceased loved one is called clairgustance. Hearing a voice is called clairaudience. Getting a phone call is also common. I did get that one. I wished I’d saved it. There was a message on my cell phone that just said, “I love you” – very softly. I knew it was from my husband. I received the message the day after he died. Another common experience is receiving a physical sign. I had a friend tell me there were a lot of butterflies after their father’s funeral. I think my husband showed up as a raccoon in my back yard after his memorial. I didn’t say that, my best friend did. The raccoon just stared and stared at us. A friend’s mother had an owl that visited her every day for a week after her husband died.

Another sign is movement such as a photo or picture falling off the wall, or an object is moved. I had that one, too. I gave my husband a small metal heart after we were married and he always carried it in his pocket with his change. I had put in on the altar I created on our bedroom dresser. One day I discovered it had been moved and it wasn’t by me or anyone else. Strange electrical occurrences such as lights or appliances going on or off, or clocks stopping are other signs. Another is that we might hear buzzing noises in our ears. I read that they are communicating from a higher frequency, which may be experienced as ringing or buzzing in our ears. I hadn’t thought about that one being applicable and I don’t think it is for me. I had some buzzing in my ears that got more pronounced after the Elton John concert I attended this summer.

Overall, from what I have read and experienced myself, I do believe these experiences are real and they are not a hallucination. So many people have had these experiences. And, sometimes the inexplicable is just that. I’m ok with that. Are you?

The crux is that grief is a process that takes time and we get signs to help us along – from life as well as sometimes from the deceased. The change from having that person we love at hand and then gone is the hardest part to adjust to. As the author Julie Myerson quotes in her article, “Loss. Isn’t that the hardest lesson of human existence? The finality of losing someone you love, of having them fall right out of your life forever: the cold and terrible permanence of it.”

And yet, what I have discovered that lives on is the love. The love never dies or is lost. We hold it in our heart always. When we experience a loss, our heart is cracked open. Which always reminds me of the Leonard Cohen quote: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

 

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So much time has passed and changes are occurring.  I took off my wedding band a few weeks ago.  I decided I didn’t need to wear it any longer.  I’m not married anymore – except in my heart.  I continue to wear the diamond ring Mike gave me – it’s got all the love energy in it.  The ring was his mum’s.  She bought it with lottery winnings. She had always wanted a large diamond solitaire.  She told Mike it would be his later on.  Mike’s mum died when he was 16 years old.  When Mike father died about ten years later, he got the ring.  And then he carried around the world for the next 25 years – working in places like South America,Thailand,Saudi Arabia,  northern Canada.  He never married during all this time.  His work managing multi-billion dollar construction projects didn’t allow much time for relationships.  There is a lot of love in this ring and I feel it.

I’m off for a vacation with girlfriends to Bali.  Mike and I had talked about him doing one more construction project at a location around the world.  The one he wanted to help manage was in Australia– just a short airplane ride away from Bali.  I keep thinking about this and our plans for this project as I pack to go.  I still miss him a lot.

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I’ve been pondering the question of whether I should continue to wear my wedding band, or . . . why do I continue to wear my wedding band?  When I got divorced from my first husband, I willingly took off my ring.   It’s not like that this time.  When Mike and I arranged our wedding in a week, he insisted on getting wedding bands for both of us.  I thought it would take too long to get them ordered, etc.   We both found rings at the first store we shopped.  Mike’s band fit perfectly.  I had mine resized after the ceremony.  Is there a time limit on how long to wear my ring?  It goes so perfectly with the solitaire that was his mum’s.

It’s weird.  I wear my wedding rings and think of Mike.  I see Mike all around me – his furniture in every room, in some rooms it’s all his furniture.  Our furniture melded together when we merged our lives. So did our kitchen pots & pans, knives and dishes. A good friend said to Mike, “Didn’t you know you were meant to be together, since your furniture goes so well together?”  Now I am left with the furniture – and no Mike.  Don’t get me wrong; I love the furniture and everything in the kitchen.  I just wish I had Mike instead.  (Here’s that magical thinking Joan Didion wrote about.)  It feels like I have the leftovers, no matter how wonderful those things are.

Speaking of Joan Didion, I read her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, two years ago and last year, I read Christopher Buckley’s, Losing Mum and Pup. Reading these books turned out to be preparation for where I am now.  Both books have provided me with references and ways to think about my experience of loss – and the process – of time and thoughts and questions that arise.

When I write these posts, I mull over the ideas and the words to use.  Weeks have gone by thinking, writing, adding, deleting, rewriting.  For now, I’m letting go of the question about wearing my rings.  I’m done focusing on this –  time to move on. The answer will be revealed in its right way and right time.  When I take my wedding rings off, there’s an indentation that remains on my finger. . . just like Mike has left an impression on my heart that will always be there.

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It seems like the first year is the most difficult.  There have so many firsts without Mike.  Halloween.  Thanksgiving.  His Birthday – that  day felt really empty. Christmas.  New Year’s.  Valentine’s Day.  I thought about him a lot.  He made a big deal of Valentine’s Day.  He surprised me each year with a special gift and card. I’d never had a man be so thoughtful and loving with this holiday.  Easter.  Our wedding anniversary – I wrote April 6th for two days in a row until I realized why.  I had forgotten our anniversary a couple times before.  I was always happy he remembered it.  Much harder was April 21st –  six months since Mike departed this life experience.  Every time I thought of this, tears sprung to my eyes. It seemed like it had been so recently and yet, so long ago.  I couldn’t really write about it till now. 

This timeframe feels like a milestone in accepting the reality that Mike’s not here.  I keep reflecting on Joan Didion’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking.  It took a year for her to really accept – or begin to accept – that her husband was gone.  More holidays and remembrances to come.  Memorial Day.  Fourth of July – last year we were at Dillon Beach, as usual.  My girlfriend and I and our daughters have been going every year for ten years.  It was so wonderful to have Mike there, too.  We all had so much fun.  I know I will miss him being there this year.

At first, it felt uncomfortable driving Mike’s Mini Cooper.  It smells like Mike, my daughter said.  It did.  I felt like I was surrounded by him.  He loved his Mini.  Years ago, I read that items that are well loved, hold that love energy  and you can feel that attraction, that love.  I have experienced this with rings  – my mother’s, my grandmothers’, and Mike’s mother’s – and  with the Mini.  I’m driving it more now.  The scent is beginning to fade, or perhaps, I’m getting more used to it.

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This last week has been transforming, cathartic, sad, grieving, digging up soil that hadn’t been turned yet . . . turning up items of Mike’s that I’d stuffed in drawers – till later.  I had shelves and rods installed in the master closet a week ago.  Which meant I had to empty the closet.  This also meant that I had to go through everything in the closet.  No more waiting.  As I put things away, I cried, wishing Mike were here.  I’m washing lots of clothes as I sort through it all – what to keep, what to pass on.  Cleaning.  Clearing.  Working in my closet.  Seems like inner work to me.  Feels like it, too.  Lots of greiving.  Changing the inside as I change the outside.  

After a week plus of closet work, I found myself drawn to clean out my email in and out boxes.  My inbox messages had been filed a couple months ago, but I had not cleared the outbox since before Mike passed on.  I found emails I had sent to him and a few from him – more dipping into the depths of what was. . . that is no longer.  I cried and pushed the delete button on the emails.  There’s no deleting him from my heart.

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