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Grief

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…

Grief, Guest Posts

What Is Grief?

October 7, 2016
grief

TW: This essay discusses miscarriage.

By Kate Kane

I hate the spring. All that sunlight and daylight and exposure; shocking and achy. All that light exposing the world.  Poor little buds trying with all their might to push out of the cold, icy dirt.  It’s so bright, the colors and clarity; it startles and hurts.  I want winter to keep on going.  The dark evenings and the cold nights. I am never ready for the spring.  The pressure of it all.

I remember I was wearing a bright orange skirt when I told you. And I remember you turning to straddle the concrete bench where we were sitting so you could look squarely at me; absorbing the news. And then you taking my hips gently between your hands and kissing the low part of my belly. Leaning your forehead against it.

Weeks later there we would be in the waiting room; you nuzzling my neck, and me having a distinct feeling that none of this was actually happening.  I remember you folding the white jeans that I had dropped on the floor while we were waiting for the doctor to come in. You, folding my white jeans. The irony of it all.  You, tidying up the mess.

“Is this your significant other,” the doctor asked with a casual gaze in your direction. We look at one another. “Yes,” I finally say.  Then the white, fuzzy image of the baby on that machine and both of us simultaneously straining to see it.  The monitor was a little behind me and I couldn’t really see the screen from where I was lying. But I could see you.  You. Looking intently with an expression I couldn’t quite pin down.  Those beautiful dark eyes narrowing. Leaning forward with your strong, tan forearms, resting on your legs. Squinting to see your baby. What were you thinking then?  I still long to know.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor says.  And everything fades to black.

I won’t forgive you for what you said to me later in the car. Because, no, I was not even a little relieved. We spent that afternoon together. Me feeling faint and dizzy, you managing to lose your phone, your house keys and your car keys in the span of a few hours.  The metaphor is not lost on me.  We went to your classroom to drop something off.  The window was broken – glass in the shape of a spider web.  It looked so violent and harsh. The sight of it made me cry.  You were busy emptying boxes of books. When you looked up, you looked pained for me, came to me fast and hugged me too hard but then went back to your work. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Arsis

September 30, 2016
shopping

By Suzanne Magdalena Rolph-McFalls

Shopping while grieving is a dangerous thing. So much so that my advice to you is to keep a dark suit, a black dress and shoes, at the ready, at all times. Mark it on your calendar to update the outfits, and sync it to springing forward and falling back, but be sure to keep something in the right size, appropriate for warm or  cold temperatures, rain or snow.

Because you should not shop while bereaved. You should not have to pick out a proper pump or a man’s black 34 belt while this mourning quivers so close to the surface of the thing that makes you yourself. You’ll lose your temper, lose your composure, spend too much money on the wrong thing or too little on the right thing, and end up wondering how you ever decided on a “right thing” to wear to that funeral. It will stay with you (if you don’t take my advice and keep the mourning suit at the ready!), the memory of a McAlpin’s or Nordstrom or DSW or Target or JC Penney. You’ll somehow fuse the event to the death, like  surgeons do with ruptured disks, to lend strength to the surrounding vertebrae. A metal cage and titanium screws will integrate into your spine, just like those clothes will become part of the narrative of that week; the story of the black trench coat with the red lining, and the below the knee black dress with the ivory panel down the front, the things you bought on a store credit card that equaled a month’s wages, but it didn’t matter because one more second in that store would have driven you mad. One more inane exchange of words with a clerk, the small talk of commerce, would make you spill it. Everything. The anger, the love, the guilt, the love, the jealousy. Yes, jealousy, because THIS not happen to him, or her, or her, or him, you are jealous of them. You do not know if it actually has, or not, it may have, it is not NOW, and the petty part of you is jealous.

You carry feelings, attitudes, on your skin and on your person, like a heavy pack on your back. There is superiority, because fuck them, they don’t know how strong your are being at this very moment. You are shopping for dress to wear to a funeral.  You are iron. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Pets

What I Think About My Dog’s Death

August 26, 2016
dog

By John Coleman

He who understands everything about his subject cannot write it. I write as much to discover as to explain. —Arthur Miller

Two days ago at this time, wife Kathy and I sat in our living room, not watching whatever cooking program was on television. Son Micah was in the attic having a go at his electric drum set.

When I got down to the last bite of my cold breakfast sandwich, I said, “I was just going to give this to Watson.”

But rigor mortis was setting in about this time, our old buddy having received the injections that cemented our decision to euthanize him. The first shot made him snore deep in his throat. The second killed him almost immediately. Once the syringe of blue pentobarbital started to empty, I wondered how often pet owners say, “Hey, stop, wait, I changed my mind.” Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Nothing Fancy

August 25, 2016
grandmother

By Sheryl Rivett

I watch, face pressed to glass, as the rolling hills of Miller county Missouri give way to breathtaking glimpses of sandstone river bluffs. A cloying sweetness wafts through my parents’ open windows, and I watch my mother hold her hair back from the wind, her manicured fingers shiny and smooth. I feel as if we, my mother and father and brother and I, are adventurers traveling the world in search of twilight sunsets and golden apricots, not the mere four hundred miles that lie between our home in Northern Illinois and my great-grandmother’s home in Missouri.

Addie greets us, rooted in St. Elizabeth like an ancient tree with hardy, sprawling branches.

We relax into small town life. Days inch by in the way that summer days pass. I play on the lawn in front of Addie’s clapboard house, while my father packs and lights and cleans his pipe and talks to farmers and neighbors passing by. The dolls I assemble on the lawn were once my mother’s, Addie their caretaker. She keeps them tucked away in a cedar chest, only unpacking the dolls for a special occasion. She lifts the top of the chest to reveal their shining faces, excitement lighting her own face. There is a magic in playing with the dolls my mother’s own hands once tended, a magic that opens a portal to her girlhood, and it’s as if I am playing side by side with another little girl, a girl with perfectly curled hair and wide, questioning eyes. The little girl frozen in the black and white photographs in an album that sits on a bookshelf back home.

2008. In the middle of the night, chest pressure and a feeling of suffocation. My diaphragm is locked tight. I leave my four daughters in the middle of the night when I ride by ambulance to the local hospital. The swoosh of the blood pressure cuff, the cool oxygen in my nose, blood snaking through the plastic tube. An xray. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Losing the Grandmother I Didn’t Know I Loved

August 10, 2016
grandmother

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

By Reyann Shah

We have always called her “Moti Mummy” and for as long as I can remember I’ve known exactly why. “Moti” is the feminine word in our language for “big” or old”.

Hearing my grandmother referred to as “Moti Mummy” always did well to remind me that she was the eldest woman in our family’s house in India. It garnered a certain amount of respect in that way. But it also had a way of making me giggle when I heard it. It’s the dumb humor that comes with alliteration. It was fun to say and it made me smile.

Hearing it from Mama today didn’t have the same funny effect that it usually did.

At 10:48 AM:

“Moti Mummy is very sick right now. She wants to leave and not go on anymore.”

At 5:20 PM:

“Moti Mummy passed away.”

As terrible as the initial news was, I had what at the time I thought was the benefit of simply reading the former in a text message. I didn’t have to bear the pain of seeing Mama’s crying face as the horrible news sank into both of our hearts. But it’s interesting. Upon getting home from work, I endured the latter in person with no keyboard or smartphone screen to protect me from seeing the pain in Mama’s eyes, and yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The reason was simple. With seeing Mama’s crying face, it was the opportunity to hold her in my arms that followed.

It was the opportunity to let her emotions pour out onto me without a shield or a boundary in sight. It was one of the very first truly authentic moments between us.

“I never got to be as close to her as I wanted to be,” I told others-through my tears- about my grandmother for most of today. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Bone Structure

August 5, 2016
mother

By Susanne Paola

She would tilt her face up to me.

And close her eyes. Like a cup brimming, steadying its restless surface. She didn’t easily give any part of herself to anyone else, to touch, to alter.

Her head tilted the same way laying out at the funeral home, before they shipped her to the crematorium. When did I cry? Only when I learned the fire did not burn her to ash but to bone, bones then ground in a human-grade grinder.

When my mother tilted her face to me I had my things, my colors, my brushes, laid out. We would probably be in the bathroom, her seated on the closed toilet. I started with the lips. Once the lips had color, the architecture of the face showed itself, and other shades came into focus. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Visitation

August 1, 2016
parents

By Donna Steiner

Yesterday at dusk a deer walked through the yard.  For about two seconds, we made eye contact.  The deer stood still, body facing away, head turned toward me.  “Be careful, baby,” I said, quietly.  She had just crossed the road, and I was referring to cars, and hunters.

This morning I went outside and scanned the vicinity, visually tracing her path.  I live on a ridge, which means she’d climbed uphill.  She may have begun at the base of the ridge, where a stream carves through stands of trees and knots of underbrush.  I’ve seen other deer down there, sipping clean water or, having heard the retort of a hunter’s gun, standing stock-still.  Hunters aren’t permitted in the area, but posted bans are rarely enforced.  One day I watched a deer stand, unmoving, for over 30 minutes.  I needed binoculars to see to the base of the ridge.  Every ten minutes or so I’d go back and check – the deer did not relent.  Her life depended on her stillness – if she moved, she’d be shot.

I’ve lived in several locales that were appealing to hunters, and there were times I’ve worried that I would inadvertently become a target.  When I wander into the yard, I try to remember to wear something bright and colorful.  More often than not, however, I realize upon returning indoors that I’ve been clad in earth tones, moving slowly, potentially mistakable for a creature not human.  Generally, when I hear gunshots, I stay inside. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

I Am My Father’s Daughter

July 31, 2016
grief

By Chamisa Wheeler

It’s OK, I tell my 37 year old self…

It’s really not.

I have not seen my father in 27 years until 2 days ago.

2 days ago,  I said Hello and a final Goodbye, in person, as my dad is lying in a bed, dying in a nursing home, after a short visit of 25 minutes and it was apparent it was time to leave…I said “I love you Dad”with a kiss on his forehead and walked out of the room.

Excuse my french, but what the fuck do you do with that?

Backtrack to last week:

I got THE phone call last week. The ONE call, I knew would happen at some point, for many years now, knowing it would come, and still not knowing what the hell I would with it when it came.

I had  thoughts before…had visions of what could happen. I saw myself driving with my brothers to go see our dad…see the town he lived in, called home. Hoped it wouldn’t be at his funeral, but in my thoughts, it was possible…Or maybe we wouldn’t go at all.

Had many years to think about this moment and I thought I had prepared myself. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

My Mother’s Death: Is This Real Or Just A Dream?

July 29, 2016
death

By Janine Canty

Dear Mom,

You’ve been gone over four months. It feels like a finger snap. It feels like forever. A silent scream in my throat. Your weight in my belly. All 79 pounds. Many aspects of your death don’t feel real to me. The best part of the day is always that nano second before I open my eyes. That second, where you are still alive
somewhere in the world. That second I am not a motherless child. Then I remember and it doesn’t feel real. So I pull out the phone and stare at the final picture of you. The one I took in that ICU room. Where we fought over a cool ranch Dorito. Where we bed danced. Where I wished to swallow your freckles. Your skin and your hands. So that I could keep you here. Then my cheeks run wet with missing you. I reach up angrily to wipe them dry. I feel the contour of my cheekbones. Your cheekbones. You are gone and breathing on my face at the same time.

13022237_10153618909092569_1374358517_n

Every morning I promise myself I will delete this picture. It’s an awful picture, really. You are dozing with your mouth open. Pain visible on your forehead. Death laying itself on your chest and legs. I want to put a Salem Menthol in your fingers. Purple sandals on your feet. Red lipstick on your mouth. I want to lay beside you and feel you breathe. I want to hear your heartbeat. I want to fit in your lap. I want you to open your eyes and talk to me . I’ll listen forever and not roll my eyes, I promise. Every morning I stare at this awful picture of you. Wishing for everything I can’t have. My thumb trembles above the delete button. Asia screams for a bowl of cat chow and a hug. She’s all soft fur and green eyes. People don’t die in her world. I sit on the side of the bed. Blue comforter bunched in my lap. Your death in my hand. The argument for deleting it in my head. Asia on my toes. You are all tubes and needles and blood clots. If I look closely, I can see the corner of a catheter bag. Amber urine. Every morning my thumb moves downward and my mind screams: No. To delete the picture, would be to delete you. So I stand up. Wipe my tears on Asia’s purring fur. Feel her breathe. Listen to her heartbeat. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Meditation and The Space to Grieve

July 21, 2016
meditation

By Mary-Frances Makichen

I’ve been meditating for a long time now—something like 20+ years. There are some days meditation is amazing, even transcendent.  I’ll come away from it feeling completely connected to the larger universe that surrounds me. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth and I’m left with a distinct feeling of unrest and irritation. Either way I keep meditating. I sit on a cushion in front of my meditation space and I listen to the sound of my breath—the inhale and exhale of that one moment in time.

Over six years ago tragedy struck and my nonsmoking husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. There is no Stage 5. He died 13 months later after a brave battle, radiation, chemotherapy and two stints in the hospital. He was a meditation teacher, intuitive and philosopher. Meditation was an important part of both of our lives.

His death was devastating for me. I lost my best friend, fellow traveler, lover and husband. The hole in my life was so big that I wasn’t sure it could ever be closed, patched or bridged. After he died, I was desperate to understand why this had happened and to find some kind of solace. It seemed logical that shortly after his death I should start meditating again. I hoped that meditation would help me deal with the grief and stress that filled my world then. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Pets

Blood And Socks

June 28, 2016
dog

By Kate Abbott

I don’t want to take my socks off.  I have been wearing them since Friday morning. I put them on and they made me smile. They are striped, purple and white, knee high compression socks.  They matched with the t-shirt and running shoes I chose to wear and I even cuffed my jeans so they would show.  They made me smile.

I put the socks on after my run, a run where my imagination took me to a place where you and I were older and greyer and riding in my car with the light streaming in through the sun roof.

Now it is Sunday afternoon. There is a spot of your blood on the top of the left sock. I had put these socks on a few minutes before I knelt down next to your body, shiny black coat still warm with your life, glowing in the bright sunlight. I kissed your face, your silky ears as I assured the guilt stricken man who hit you with his car that it wasn’t his fault. I thanked the woman with tears in her eyes for being with you when you took your last breath, before I could reach you, as I ran frantically through the woods to find you.  I looked into your amber eyes, eyes that saw straight into my essence.  But the calm was gone. Continue Reading…