Tricked Out Alchemy

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Alchemists have an active imagination. Webster may define alchemy as the power to transform something in a mysterious way, but I think grief really tests that description. In medieval times, alchemy embodied the transformative art of turning lead into gold.  Those who practiced it, considered it a metaphor for the inner process of changing consciousness. Sounds complicated, right? Actually, alchemy is a perfect description of grief.

Some say grief is about being strong but anyone who’s been there might have a little something to say about that. When loss breaks you completely open, it’s hard to put one foot in front of the other let alone flex your emotional muscles. If our minds are working at all, we worry that if we surrender fully into the grief spiral, we’ll hurtle, like good old Alice in Wonderland, into darkness we might never return from. But we’d be wrong. It’s hard to imagine that all the tears, anger and exhaustion won’t drown us. Instead, they do what they were meant to do — help to heal us.

Our bodies are pretty great life guides. They know when to rest and when to cry, even when our minds are complete mush. Tears, even the ugly cry kind, are a cleansing release, a vehicle for healing. I didn’t say ‘cure’, by the way. Grief doesn’t come with that. But thank goodness, our body has built-in release triggers that trip the healing process we need to open the door to whatever is next.

“We live on; we don’t move on”.

Nora McInerney

There’s no shortcut through grief. Bummer. We move through the process in our own time and pace. Luckily, along the way, we might uncover our heart’s true capacity to feel and to love.

There’s no ‘normal’ in grief. You move when you move. Period. Continue reading

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Walking the Talk

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Words. Lots and lots of words — and I write tons of them, especially in these last few months. It seemed like the only way I knew to unravel the grief web that had me tied in knots. Did any of my words change anything? Not really. But words are currency. Sometimes they are the only things that carry us on journeys we don’t understand and never planned on. They are what we use to connect to others on those same journeys.

Reading through my first posts, when the pain of loss was so raw, I noticed that some words were dark, the only ones I could muster in grief’s early days. As weeks went on, light began to creep in, allowing space for my trademark humor, a companion I’ve been thankful for all of my life. Even when that humor is ‘noir’, levity will always be a handy commodity. No matter what words I use, one thread underlies them all – keeping it real.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the old ‘fake it until you make it’ can’t still be a good plan. In fact, the whistling in the dark flavor of storytelling can jumpstart you for the often steep uphill climb. Forging ahead on a wing and prayer, words can carry you along this uncharted ‘after’. That’s the only way I could chart my course without getting stuck in a sinkhole. Continue reading

A rainbow of grief

7b47cba0-12f0-0134-e753-0a315da82319All the colors of humanity, of love, of loss. We saw each in Orlando in terrifying technicolor this weekend. Sons, daughters, brothers, sisters – lost. Each of us, who’ve lost the person closest to us, know well the journey their families now will take. Those families, those parents, siblings, grandparents had their hearts ripped out in a second of senseless violence. San Bernadino, Newtown, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook. Adults, children all cut down in the business of living.

Plumbing the depth of my own loss, the slicing off of an artery in your heart without warning, I can’t help but think about the people grieving this week. Many years ago, my young brother died at 19 of leukemia. His loss was immeasurable and I saw my parents nearly destroyed by it. A life that never got to be lived. Watching the mother weeping uncontrollably for news of the son she couldn’t find in the melee, I recognized the anguish. And knew the bottomless pain she now will swim through.

Her son did not survive.

I usually write of my own trip through loss that I never packed for, but tonight my words are for Orlando, the latest headline from hell. There is way too much talk of hate, of exclusion, of retribution – and no healing, no coming together, no real answers. I’m angry, frustrated that weapons of war (um, you don’t need an assault rifle for hunting deer – or PEOPLE!) are available at ANY level especially for the unstable, violent or disenfranchised.  The time has come to listen for truth within the rhetoric and for more than tears and talk. I can only hope it is now.

We need to remember the trusting children who left for school, those who went to work, or a casual night of celebration — and never returned home. And we need to remember the families whose new normal will be mourning.

I have questions and no answers. Maybe all we can do is think carefully about Mahatma Gandi’s words “The future depends on what we do in the present” because if we do nothing – there will be no future.

 

 

 

 

Use Your Words…No, Not Those.

Sincere Condolences

We were word people. We both loved words so much that my husband was forever making up his own puns – and himself up cracking in the process.  We watched Jeopardy and did the crosswords – competitively of course. I kidded him about being the grammar police. It’s hardly surprising then that words can also make me scratch my head, thinking ‘what’? Really?

As I stood in line at a wake this weekend for the wonderful young son-in-law of a dear friend who lost her own husband as well, I couldn’t help thinking of what I would say to this heartbroken young wife. I knew her since she was a teen and it seemed more than important that I say something, anything that spoke what was in my heart. I knew most on that line behind and in front of me might be thinking the very same thing. Don’t we all want to speak words that make sense of the unthinkable? Being so recently in her place myself, I know how impossible that is. I know it is as hard to receive most words of awkward consolation as it is to say them. Sometimes, seeing their struggle, we often want to comfort — those who comfort.  We all want so much to say what is comforting, gift verbal pieces of our heart and sometimes just mumble odd sentiments instead. We say tired clichés. We offer what we’ve been conditioned to say, hoping somewhere in there, the person who’s hearing the words knows that our clumsy attempts at consolation are heartfelt. They do.  Because let’s face it, we all are awkward – even those who’ve been on the receiving end of well meant words.

Maybe the next time we yearn to say what’s in our hearts, we’ll measure the words differently. Maybe we can hear them as the bereaved might. Maybe we’ll even say no words at all because sometimes silence is better than words and phrases like: Continue reading