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Grief

Grief, Guest Posts

I Didn’t Want to Exist Today

May 14, 2017
chest

By Sarah Dwyer

I didn’t want to exist today. It’s not that I wanted to hurt myself or remove myself from the Earth forever. I just didn’t want to exist—just for today.

I got up to get ready for work, took a shower, and forced myself to blow dry my hair while tears dripped down my red, blotchy, scrunched up face and tightness pulled across my chest. I had this infuriating desire to do a handstand into a somersault—or to burst every inch of bone, muscle, and organ out of my skin. I didn’t just want my insides to escape my body, I wanted to be the one to initiate the explosion, to be in control of the process–to  push the button. 3, 2, 1…be free.

At that moment, I was (and I still am) physically incapable of both doing a handstand into a somersault and exploding, so, naked and sobbing, I climbed back into my bed, pulled my tangled sheets up to cover myself haphazardly, and lay there on my back with the sun shining brightly through the shade and curtain in my window. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

I Was A Mother Waiting To Make The Call

May 8, 2017
call

By Mallory McDuff

I waited until I was three months pregnant to tell him about the baby. Then he died three days after my phone call, when my six-year old daughter shared the news of a baby sister in her future, squealing her delight in a high-pitched voice that sounded like a toddler, although she was quite pragmatic and focused for a first-grader. What drove me to call on that day rather than later in the week, when it would have been too late? And why was I devastated by his sudden death but comforted by his support of this unusual pregnancy?

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” my mother always said, describing the twists and turns in our lives that both confound and amaze us. This phone call to my father was definitely a mystery, one of those encounters I could never have predicted, even if I’d written the script in advance.

For starters, I’d gotten pregnant while separated from my husband, separated for nearly three years, as we avoided the eventuality of the end of our marriage, much like we often waited until the last minute to do our taxes. While we waited for something to happen (a move, an affair, a sudden desire to teach English in Japan?), I got pregnant, much to my joy-filled delight. We were separated, but not separated enough, I learned to say to anyone who questioned the timeline. Hearing that quip, people stopped asking questions, which was the intended outcome. This conception came several years after we ended a second pregnancy due to a genetic disorder affecting the baby, a gut-wrenching decision made from a foundation of love in the midst of a crumbling marriage. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Exploring Heart

April 30, 2017

By Debra Feiner-Coddington

Sometimes in the middle of my nights when everyone else is sleeping the beautiful things happen. In those quiet hours they always have. Nocturnal now, nocturnal forever, I pass as a day dweller because I don’t need much sleep. While everyone else breathes into their night I prowl through my house, my home, and find the simple things I miss during the hours when the sun shines and I’m too distracted to notice them. Too busy. At night when I am alone listening to the little noises: snores, the creaking of our wooden house responding to the change in the weather, I find them, little treasures waiting to be found; seen. With no distractions I become Ponce de Leon, Magellan. And my home is where I unearth discoveries.  The rippling glass of a jar holding trailmix on the counter; very old, my son Baylin unearthed it cleaning out the ramshackle mess of a storage shack. An apothecary jar. Mouth blown and hand made. The uneven glass makes me dream about whose hands made it, what they looked like, what’s been stored in it over the course of its life. What it can tell about its life before, and the stories about us it holds for the next pair of hands to fill it.

Baylin never seemed to care much about the trail mix I made for his dad who thrives on nuts and berries. But when it was time for his cross country drive to Burning Man, his last ever road trip Baylin asked, “Ma, do you mind if I take the trail mix with me?” Mind? Oh dear. Even then, when I thought he’d remain with us, when I thought we’d watch him marry and give us grandchildren, even then I was tickled that he liked my trail mix enough to want to take it on the road to feed him as he traveled. What mother complains about their children loving the food they prepare no matter how simple? Even trail mix. “Mind? No Baylin. Take it with you. I don’t mind.” Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Grief, Guest Posts

Reframing: Making Peace With My Mother

March 3, 2017
mother

By Jill Goldberg

My mother died last month.

Seventeen years ago, after my first son was born, I broke off all contact. At any moment in time during the past seventeen years when I felt the longing for a mother, I reminded myself that I wasn’t actually missing my mother. I wasn’t missing what I once had; I was missing and wanting what I never had. And I knew that even if I’d remained and accepted the endless, degrading, shameful abuse from him, and the lack of affection and protection from her, I would still never have what I wanted. Not only would I never be safe, I would never be able to raise children who respected their mother or understood what a family should be. The cycle of violence had to be broken.

I was angry and hurt and disappointed in my mother, but I wasn’t trying to actively punish her. I just wanted out. Ever since I could remember, I’d been counting down the years until I could leave forever. But still, she was my mother. She had never been healthy, and I did want to know if she was still alive as time passed. I tried to maintain minimal contact with a few relatives who would keep me informed, but gradually I realized it was not going to work. It had to be all or nothing. Either no contact at all with any relatives, or full contact, because they didn’t know, or didn’t want to know, and couldn’t understand, the reasons behind my decision. In order to protect myself, and to protect my growing family, the choice had to be nothing instead of all. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing, loss

The Season Before Winter

February 22, 2017
paperwhites

By Marika Rosenthal Delan

The world was in a state of unrest when fall came.

In my home state of Missouri, people in Ferguson were rioting and burning shit to the ground. The only thing I was burning were hours of sleep and some old notions about the way things should be. Watching the world in complete disarray already had me fighting back vomit as two pink lines appeared on the stick I had just peed on.

Forty had descended on me like a wrecking ball that summer. I was surprised to find myself embracing this milestone, but had long considered a third child out of the question. I had always joked that I wanted three. But that was before 40, before three back surgeries and endometriosis.

Before. It was before my body was breaking.  A baby was not on my radar and it showed up like a UFO.

I had been exceedingly careful with my birth control after once getting pregnant with an IUD- what are the chances? I looked it up: 0.8% in the first year of use whatever the hell that means.

I had eagerly signed consent for tubal ligation while undergoing exploratory surgery for endometriosis the previous year. But I hadn’t met the required 30-day waiting period by the day of my procedure. I woke up from anesthesia with my tubes intact.

A plan B wasn’t immediately established. It took months of discussion after which my hubby finally manned up and volunteered for a vasectomy.  This was our three-part plan: We would make an appointment right after the holiday.  He would have the procedure. Then we would go to the movies. It would be a date, I joked. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, storytelling

The Widow Next Door

February 20, 2017
neighbor

By Shawna Kenney

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.
-Herman Melville

Where I grew up in Southern Maryland, our nearest neighbors were sometimes miles away. Still, I rode my bike through the woods and drove my first car around town confident in the fact that if there were ever an emergency, help wasn’t so far away. Neighbors kept an eye on us kids when my mom went back to work and my dad was away on duty with the Navy. They towed my prom date’s car out of the ditch while he and I stood by, helpless in our 80s couture. They also snitched on my sister and I when we were in high school and threw a big party while my parents were out of town. Since my dad’s death a few years ago, neighbors still plow my mother’s driveway after every snowstorm, unasked. When I later moved to Queens, NY in my twenties, the grey-haired woman next door welcomed me with kugel. In grad school in North Carolina, we shared blueberries with our neighbors’ granddaughter and he would periodically cut back our weeds when he was out chopping his own.

Now I live in Los Angeles, where I’ve left apartments due to bad neighbors—3 a.m. high-heeled stompers, incessant complainers, violent rage-aholics… but even in a city as vast as this, where things get downright Darwinian when it comes to parking spaces or freeway merging, I have mostly lived next to nice people. It’s good to know the mailman and it makes me happy to find familiar faces in a county of 10 million. Deep in my psyche, Sesame Street always looms as the ideal. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Cake and The Sweet Sadness of Death Anniversaries

January 31, 2017
cake

By Carina Ost

My teenage self loved cake so much that, in the middle of 8th grade, when the opportunity arose to teach a Core class on any skill, Christina, my friend and neighbor, and I chose cake decorating. We had no experience beyond the one from a can applied with a rubber spatula, but that world of pastry tips and bags seemed so glamorous.

On this particular day, the last day of the first month of the new millennium, January 31st, 2000, my mom stayed home from work. She kept saying that she just felt off. After school, Christina and I worked on our cake project that was to be presented the following day. I was used to having the house to myself but now my mom was there and so were a handful of her friends, so we retreated to my room to work. Lying on the carpeted floor, we glued pictures of cake with printed out instructions onto a giant tri-fold poster board with fragrant markers spelling out Cake Decorating on top in pink bubble letters. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, religion

Wooden Bird

January 6, 2017
mountain

By Nancy Townsley

The father bends over the son, just as he did so many years ago when the boy was asleep and he murmured prayers for him, tenderly pushing his sand-colored bangs aside while asking the deity he used to believe in to make the child good and wise and kind. He would watch the comforting rise and fall of his boy’s chest and listen to his shallow breathing on those late nights, after he had finished reading and writing in his knickknack-crowded study, something he could do even with the TV blaring. Wedged between the philosophy and poetry sections on his bookshelves sat a faded Pinocchio puppet with two broken strings, the Yoda beanbag that used to make his daughter laugh, and a ball made entirely of rubber bands, all remnants from when his life was more Presbyterian, “decent and in order” as the church liked to teach, crowded with tasks and responsibilities that required him to keep a calendar with to-do lists scribbled into it, lest he lose his way.

In one corner of the room, next to the door, a wooden hummingbird with its wings spread wide hung suspended from the ceiling in a vain attempt to fly.

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But this day, and this hour, are radically, horribly different. The son is cold, mostly frozen, like meat just taken from the freezer. His eyes are shut, ice still clinging to their dark lashes. His angular face is contorted and bruised black-and-blue. His fingers are curled, as if they’re grabbing at something, and stiff to the touch. There is a large patch of dried blood on the side of his head, the result of untold trauma. He is still, lifeless. The boy, now a man, is dead. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

From the Body to the Cosmos: Notes on Grief and Love

December 29, 2016
death

By Lillian Ann Slugocki

Here’s the truth about grief:

You are crazy, and nothing is real, and this is true for a long, long time.

When that passes, the hard work begins. You have to completely rebuild your relationship with the newly dead. It doesn’t just go away. The love is still there. The love that aches for connection at any cost has to be dealt with in some form or fashion. This is the hardest part. When you are no longer sobbing on the bathroom floor, or drinking a bottle of wine in the middle of the day, when you are no longer crazy, and you have a modicum of control– then it’s time to sift through the wreckage. And this is hard, stupefying work. Now, Mark, is my brother, even though he is dead. I still talk to him about his daughter, and his granddaughter, and what I’m doing with my life.  All of the other, painful shit has fallen away; the anger, the addiction, the dying days. And what has remained is my friend. Love never dies. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change shape. Death is the ultimate shape shifter. Out of the body and into the cosmos. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Life of This Grief

December 9, 2016
grief

By Lesley Harper

When I was a kid, I had panic attacks. I worried when my dad went into the bathroom late at night that he may not come out and that we would find him swinging in there once one of us was brave enough to open the door. I would close my eyes and hold my breath waiting for the sound of the toilet flushing and the footsteps back to his bed. My mind would play tricks and my heart would sometimes skip one of its beats when I felt there was about to be a gunshot or the sound of him stepping off the side of the tub and into his death. I didn’t have the word depression then or any of the qualifiers so often accompanying the word: clinical, chronic, cyclical, situational. But I had a profound understanding that my father was deeply sad and I lived in constant fear of the damage his sadness created in our home. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Hope

When Despair Tried To Settle

November 23, 2016
despair

By Melanie Brooks

On a Sunday morning in June, when my sixteen-year-old son reported the news that a gunman had walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, pointed his assault rifle at a festive crowd of people dancing to a Latin beat, and gunned down over one hundred of them, killing forty-nine, I felt it. An unseen hand reaching into my chest, grabbing my heart, and squeezing. Hard. Its fingernails punctured, leaving behind aching wounds.

The ache intensified with every new photograph or video of victims fleeing the horror of the scene, every interview with family members who learned their loved ones were among the dead, every narrative of a beautiful life taken, every media brief on the ongoing investigation that solidified the gunman’s motives of terror and hate.

There was an enticing drag to the hate that pulled at me in the days that followed, and my anger flared. Targets for my fury, the ones that crept into my social media feed or sought sound bites on the news, weren’t tough to find. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Still Talking

November 21, 2016
death

By Susan Barr-Toman

A few months after my husband died, Patti Smith was coming to the Philadelphia Library to talk about her second memoir M Train, a collection of essays. I called Missy right away. Patti was our thing. I was actually excited about something. We had to go together. Missy had given me Just Kids a few years ago. I’d never been a follower of Patti’s music, but I loved her memoir about a lifelong friendship founded on love and art. The two of us had a mini-pilgrimage to NYC. We’d traveled to the Hotel Chelsea, which unfortunately was under renovations at the time, and drank a cocktail next door at the El Quijote, where Patti had hung out with Janis Joplin.

The library would be my first outing since Pete died. At this point, everything was hard—eating, shopping, watching TV, making phone calls, getting out of bed. I needed to look forward to something that didn’t require much of me. But even with this event that required nothing of me, I needed someone to be with me in public, among strangers.  The day before the event, Missy said she couldn’t make it.

When my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, people—those who’d experienced the death of a close loved one and the therapist I’d started seeing—warned me that death would change my relationships. Those who I expected to be there for me might not be. Others, unexpected, would be. Death affects people profoundly. Some people can’t be around it for an array of reasons. They’re afraid or they’ve just been through it themselves. And it turned out to be true. People I barely knew showed up and people I thought would be my core support did not.

Missy was one of those people. I’d imagined when Pete died that she’d practically move in with me and the kids. Instead, a few months before he died, she abruptly moved to D.C. for a new job. Of course, she hadn’t expected that she’d move in with me, and over the last few years, she’d taken care of her parents until they both passed on. She needed a new start; she’d had enough of death.

Without her, I didn’t want to go to the event. I was feeling a little devastated. But years ago, I had renounced the Catholic guilt trip. I would not make her feel bad in the hope that she would find a way to come. I said nothing. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

An Innocence Buried

October 26, 2016
funeral

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Lauryn Polo

January 31, 2008

I stood in a room that smelled too strongly of flowers, with the same people I saw every day, but this time, we weren’t in our basketball clothes or sweats– we wore dark professional clothing that our moms’ helped us pick out. We didn’t smile, didn’t joke like we were accustomed to at practice. Our coach’s dad lied still—he was gone. And for the first time, my coach was human. Here was a woman we all had known for most of our lives; had shared most of our winter seasons with her, along with countless hours in the offseason—but we had never seen her like this.

But tomorrow, after the funeral, we would practice again. She would still yell, and stop her foot so hard into the floorboards we would swear she would create a hole. The world, as we knew it, would continue—and this was something I would have to learn the hard way. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

What David Bowie Taught Me about Art, Death And Letting Go

October 14, 2016

By Grace Loh Prasad

The Montclair Railroad Trail is a mile-long, tree-lined path carved into the side of the Oakland Hills. From 1913 until 1957, the trail was part of a passenger rail line that ran from San Francisco through Oakland to Sacramento and Chico. Today it’s hard to imagine that trains once rolled on this narrow path through abundant eucalyptus and oak trees; no traces remain of the railroad or the station that once sat at the foot of Paso Robles, an area now occupied by a row of large, immaculate homes with two-car garages and shaded patios.

We go running on the trail almost every week. Years ago I pushed my son Devin in a stroller here; now he runs beside me and we race the last twenty yards over the footbridge to the stairs that lead to Montclair Village. Every now and then I run alone. I study the trees and I think about how old they must be, about how they have witnessed so much – the railroad being built then abandoned; houses rising one by one; families arriving, expanding and eventually leaving, to be replaced by new families. Time passes, but the trees always remain, season after season, year after year. Continue Reading…