Posts Tagged ‘grief’

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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white floral arrangement    I recently planned and coordinated a Memorial for a client. In two weeks, I helped her decide who was speaking and what was included in the service, as well as what photos, quote and song to be printed in the program. I made cards (8.5×5.5) for the guests to write a note to her and her son in place of a guest book.  Many friends donated food and one made beautiful floral arrangements that included white lilies, her husband’s favorite flower. After the Memorial, I insisted she take the flowers home. I put the two large arrangements in her car to make sure she took them home. Two days later she texted me, “you were right about the flowers”.

She was referring to my first blog post when I had sent her the link to my widowzhealing blog a few days before the memorial and when she couldn’t sleep, she read all the posts. I hoped this meant that she felt the love and support of those that were present at the memorial – and that it also represented the love her husband had for her and her son. About a week later I asked her what she discovered about the flowers. She said, “I am happy to have them, but I also see their impermanence . . . just like life”.

In a recent Sunday New York Times Modern Love column, this paragraph jumped out at me:
“Why do we send flowers? To make up for what is intangible? Those feelings we can’t hold in our hands and present as a gift to our loved ones? And why is it that the placeholders we choose – the dozen red roses, the fragrant white lilies, the long-stemmed French tulips – are so fleeting? Hold on to them for too long and you end up with a mess of petals, pollen and foul-smelling water.”

The article was about working in a flower shop, the stories people share when they buy flowers, and the variety of messages on the accompanying cards. This note was unusually honest: ‘Cards and flowers seem so lame when someone dies but we are thinking of you and want you to know’.

This definitely says what is true. We want to send our love and heart-felt caring to friends and family when they experience the loss of a loved one and, it IS hard to know what to say. Flowers say it for us, though not usually with such a direct message included. For me, the beauty of flowers also represents the beauty of life. They are alive, beautiful and ephemeral – a reminder to honor the preciousness of life in each and every moment.

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I took one of Mike’s sarongs with me on my trip to Bali.  We stayed for two nights at a resort on the ocean near the island of Manganyan, known for the best  snorkeling – amazing fish in wild colors and beautiful coral.  We spent a day on the water riding out to the island and snorkeling in two different areas.  We got soaked in a rainstorm mid-day.  Back at the resort, I hung my sarong up to dry . . . and left it behind by mistake when we left the next morning.  Although it turned out it really wasn’t a mistake.  In fact, I had a bit of premonition that it might happen when I packed the sarong.  I obviously needed to leave a bit of Mike in Bali.  It felt right.  Mike and I had talked about living there part-time while he worked on a project in Australia. It was to be his last time working at a project site.

I’ve been back from Balifor two months.  It seems shorter than that.  I went with the intention to give myself a gift of a break from all that has occurred the past 2 plus years.  Unplugging and going to the flip side of the world is a real break from the day to day.  And such a beautiful place to do it – with an incredibly wonderful group of girlfriends.

Since coming back from Bali, I discovered that I have been in a fog since Mike split this earth scene.  A friend said it is a healing fog – cushioning the shock.  It’s been a year and 8 months.  The fog is lifting, and I am grieving again.  Since all emotions are good, this must be the next step in accepting the change that has occurred with Mike being gone.  I find myself weepy at odd times.  I know to just let it out.  I don’t spend time figuring out why.  More diving to the depths to release the grief and allow greater healing to occur.  What I learned in Bali with my girlfriends when one would start getting teary . . . blubbering is good.

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It’s been quite a while since I added a post.  In mid-September, I attended my annual WomanSpirit retreat – 5 wonderful days among the redwoods with girlfriends and 100 other women.  Last year, Mike helped us load up the car and then he stayed home and relaxed.  This year, I took Mike with me – bringing his drum to play, and thinking about him a lot.  A psychic friend at the retreat told me Mike was standing right next to me, so I guess he did tag along.  I thought I would write about this after our retreat but I wasn’t ready to do so.

October 21st was the anniversary of Mike making his sudden transition – exiting his earth suit.  I didn’t realize what a hard day that would be.  I was grateful I had a dinner scheduled with friends that evening.  I thought I would write something that day, however, I discovered there was still much to be processed before I could write again. At this point, a year had passed – beyond the “remembering what Mike was doing last year at this time”.  So much for it being easier, it just seems more final.  I think a part of me has been in shock all year.  Now the reality and more grieving are present.  

November 24th was Mike’s birthday.  Last year, I had bought a Kindle a few months before his birthday and was looking forward to give it to him as he loved to read. The Kindle sat in the drawer for a year.  I didn’t know who to give it to.  In November, I had to file some papers with the county clerk.  The gal behind the counter was telling me about a drawing they were having in the office and the prize was a Kindle.  She really wanted it – she loved to read.  It seemed like the signal to me, and a week later I went back to see her and gave her the Kindle.  I was surprised that I cried afterwards. 

We celebrated Christmas out of town this year.  I didn’t want to repeat our usual traditions at home that had included Mike.  My daughter and I went to Santa Fe for the week which was very relaxing, with help from the massages at the hotel spa.  I rarely stop and rest – something Mike was really good at.  We visited with family and friends, walked around the square, checked out shops and museums, and enjoyed local restaurants.  I thought I would write this blog while I was there – but no, it was time to just stop.  Mike would have been proud of me.

I’ve spent some time going through photos of the past few years.  Mike didn’t like to get his photo taken but I did manage to have some taken.  I even had photos taken that I thought I would send as a Christmas or New Year’s card.  That never happened, although now I can show them all with no complaints from Mike, just lots of memories.


Christmas 2006 Family Picture

Mike's Curry Dinner - Yum. May 2008

Mike's favorite spot on the deck. May 2008


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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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Swirling ashes and flowers at the oceans edge


Last weekend, I flew to Hawaii for a few days to join friends for classic Hawaiian weaving – I wove bracelets.  I was also there to release Mike’s ashes into the ocean.  He always wanted retire to Hawaii.  We decided to gather Sunday morning – about 16 of us.  I am so grateful for all that came together as I needed everyone’s help to make this ceremony happen.   

I had never opened the bag holding the box of ashes after I picked it up a week and a half after Mike had split.  It sat in the closet till I packed the bag with the box in my suitcase for the flight to the Big island.  Only just before the ceremony did I take the box out of the bag . . . and discovered that the box was a heavy metal box – sealed shut, with no way to open it.  I asked for a plain box.  Who knew?  Two men in our group both tried to open it and called it a safe, not a box.  The handyman at the resort was called to bring his tools. As he was figuring out how to open the box, he asked, “Did he really like this place?”  Yes, actually he did.  Success – the box was finally pried open.   

This being the No Faults Tour weekend with my friends . . . the ceremony began a little later than originally planned – and, it was perfect.  Including trying to get Mike out of the box.  One suggested a tide pool at the ocean’s edge was a good place on this balmy, windy day.  Another provided a basket to put the bag of ashes in.  A special friend wore a sarong in Mike’s honor, as Mike would have worn one if he had been here.  Another was wearing a look-alike to Mike’s favorite sarong.  She had bought it at the market just a few days before – colors she didn’t usually wear but it had called to her!  Aloha, Mike.  

We all filed down to the tide pool and gathered in a half circle.   I said a few words about Mike – about the joy and love that connected us to Mike and to each other.  I hadn’t been to this resort since our honeymoon.  Now Mike and I were both here again.  We prayed and sang the chant – There is only one of us, in your eyes it’s me I see, there is only one of us, you are my reflection, there is only one.  I stood barefoot in the water and with Amazing Grace being played on the harmonica, I poured Mike’s ashes slowly into the water as the waves rolled in and out.  The fine silver grey powder mixed and swirled with the water – stirring and flowing into a larger and larger area at the edge of the ocean. We broke our leis and tossed the flowers into the water – a mix of peach, pink, purple and white floating above the moving misty water.  The mist didn’t go out to sea as much as dissolve and merge with the water and drift down into the sand at the waters edge.   I guess he’s not leaving the beach.  We gathered back on the sand and many expressed how beautiful the ceremony was.  One said that this is how he wants to go – so simple and so moving.   

When I was pouring the fine ashes into the water, I flashed on how this is what Andy Goldsworthy has done . . . grinding up natural elements and pouring the colored powder down a river or stream.  Here I was making art – the ephemeral art of life – watching and remembering sweet Mike.

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