Browsing Tag

death

cancer, Grief, Guest Posts

Scared

May 25, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Trish Cook

“Scared,” my dad croaks, pointing painstakingly at me, then my brother, then my mom.

It’s an understatement.

We’ve summoned his personal physician to our home today to hopefully deny, but probably confirm, our suspicions: The cancer has gone to his brain.

We hold our collective breath as the doctor asks my father, “Who is the President of the United States?”

An underwater, foggy pause. Finally, Dad replies, “Reagan.”

The three healthy people in the room exhale a sigh of relief. He got it right! This must count for something, we think. A small shred of hope still inhabits the homey little den we’re all crowded into. Our prayers, crossed fingers, and wishes on stars and eyelashes might yet magically release him from cancer’s insidious clutches.

My dad is only fifty-two on this day. I am twenty-four, though, so both he and the non-descript middle-aged male doctor seem something close to old to me. Not old old, sitting in a rocking chair waiting to die old, but old enough to have really lived, to have really made it count. I hold on to this thought, stroke it for comfort inside my head like a beloved baby blanket. Even if Dad doesn’t beat this thing in the end, at least he made it far enough to look back and know he lived a long and satisfying life.

Today, at fifty, this notion seems ridiculous. My father was not old then, just as I am not old now. Not nearly old enough to die willingly, anyway, or to feel as though everything that needed accomplishing had been accomplished. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

The Hardest Word To Say To Myself

May 20, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sara Saldez
This morning I woke up, a few times (as been the situation for a while now) until I finally pulled myself out of bed at 7am. This is the latest I can leave my bed if I want to shower, and attempt to look decent for a day of work AND get to work on time.

I have been struggling with sleep for the last few weeks. Nightmares, dreams in constant fast forward motion, and actual panic/anxiety attacks in my sleep. Today it took its toll on me at work. I was attempting to engage in my daily duties during my down time, when I felt ill. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling, but I know it was a combination of feeling light-headed, queasy and not all, together.

On the drive to work, I was having a mental battle with myself over accepting that I have depression in its real form (and not just in feeling low and mis-diagnosed), and between wanting to feel a sense of “normal”, whatever form that may be this week.

I have always known things were harder for me. Situations that I saw other people getting themselves into and out of with relative ease, put me in a horribly crippling position. I couldn’t understand why things to seemed to be easier for some people and not for me. But life and things got in the way of me getting a real diagnosis and some real help, until May 20th last year.

For those who know me, they know the significance of this date, and for those of you who don’t, my mother passed away on May 20th, back in 2004. And last year when I was house-sitting in Sydney and experiencing major panic attacks and anxiety attacks, my gorgeous supportive friend decided it was time to see someone for real about what was happening.

So that date I received my diagnosis, and I accepted it. I also graciously accepted the help that followed. Fast forward to almost ten months later, and I am still receiving the help I need, but am again at war with my mind. You see, I am struggling with forgiveness. That seems to be the hardest word for me in this present time of my life.

I just secured a full time teaching job, after over 15 months of no secure lengthy contracts (read; unemployment), I just joined the gym again (after more than two years away from any gym, although I had yet to go to a class/workout), and things were finally falling into place and looking on the rise. So why the battle with forgiveness? I am not sure. But that battle continued tonight, on the mat.

I have been feeling the pull to yoga for a long time now, and I have purchased books, attempted my own flows both on land and in the pool, but I had yet to go to a class, to experience yoga in a place, that in my mind, filled me with dread.

I know I look nothing like the others in the class, but I went anyway. I never used to wear singlets to the gym, and therefore endured more heat and restriction than I should have, and tonight I came out of the dressing room in a bright pink singlet. NO SLEEVES. And I took myself to the mat, and attempted my first class. As we were lying there, coming into our breath, the instructor asked us to set our intention for the class. She mentioned words like love, happiness, abundance etc, but it was the word forgiveness that hit me like a bullet to my head and heart simultaneously.

I started to tear up. I knew this lesson/session was going to be about forgiveness. And boy, I wasn’t wrong. As I fumbled and attempted my way through the next 60 minutes of poses and stretches and breathing, tears streamed from my face not once but over four times. Each time I tried to do a pose that I struggled in – I heard forgiveness, and cried. For previously, I have never been kind to myself. I am the first to be super harsh and tear myself down. To others, I have pearls of wisdom and compassion and kindness in spades, to myself, hatred, fear, rejection and lack of compassion and forgiveness. I would be the first to pick apart all the parts of myself that weren’t so easy to like. I had been working on loving the parts of me that were easy to like. But somehow, the other stuff was just too hard. Being heavy is hard. Being unkind to myself is hard. I was tearing myself down. This wasn’t anyway to treat myself. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts

One Breath Out

May 17, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Mark Liebenow

Grief is selfish, and it needs to be.

When death hit and my life exploded, I scrambled to save all the pieces before they were lost. I had to be selfish with my time because no one else knew what to say for someone who died suddenly in her forties. I had to do it myself, and it took all my energy to get up, go to work, make something for dinner, and endure the long nights without my wife.

As I learned grief’s ways, there came a time down the road when I began to see the world again. I noticed other people who were grieving, and felt the desire to use what I was learning to help them.

In Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart, she mentions a one-breath-out meditation in several places. The first time she does, she speaks of the willingness to die in the time after exhalation before inhalation begins, and calls it a little death.

This reminds me of something I experienced in the days right after Evelyn died. I would breathe out and not want to breathe in again. Then my body’s reflexes kicked in and dragged me back. I’m not saying I wanted to die, although I would have been perfectly happy doing so because living without Evelyn was too painful. There was just something in that moment when I was emptied of breath that I think ties into what Chodron is saying. I noticed that in that brief moment I felt balanced and at peace. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Pocketknife

May 16, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Carla Mundwiler

This afternoon I accidentally grabbed my great-grandfather’s pocketknife from a bowl of tchotchkes that we keep in the kitchen. I was reaching for my engagement ring and this is the spot I use every time I do the dishes or workout to youtube videos.

The knife is small, nothing special. It certainly wouldn’t have been anything to brag about when he bought it. The handle is yellowing bone and the blades inside are rusty and dull. They no longer fold neatly into the frame. I held it for a little while and I contemplated its journey, from somewhere Indiana on a little farm, into the palm of my hand. I thought about where he might have imagined it ending up and I smiled because he never would have seen me coming. I’m the last in my line, the last Mundwiler, the last Unicorn in my family. I have tried, in my way, to keep the name alive. I gave it to my son, but it is only one of three family names that he bears the brunt of, and it will likely fall away if he ever chooses to have a family of his own.

Of the three original Mundwiler children, two were women: one a lesbian and the other a religious fanatic who would never have imposed her own legacy over the legacy of her husband. Besides, women are awful at the legacy business. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Video, Vulnerability

The Body Remembers. (Vulnerability Alert.)

April 27, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff

Today, on what would be my dad’s 70th birthday. I’m wearing my LOVE sign for him. I wept watching Parenthood last night in bed here in Seattle. (I’m almost finished with the show so please, no spoilers.) I miss my dad every day. I feel cheated every day. I will never “get over it” but yet, I am here. I am not dead. I get out of bed. (Most days.) I lost my license in security and felt frustrated and upset even though I was wearing my LOVE sign. And then I realized that it was his birthday and how the body remembers. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Binders, Family, Grief, Guest Posts

Consequence

April 22, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Chris J. Rice

 

Small bodies stared out a car window, helpless, listening to the drone of a voice, pitiless, and naïve, a horrible combination. Houses never furnished. Refrigerators full of liquor and doggie bags, steak slices, and baked Alaska, toddlers hidden behind beige drapes peeing on white carpet. Babies crying. Shit stains and Martini olives. Poodle yelps. Flash of ocean daylight. And remorse.

My Moody Sister died in a drug-induced coma. Dark hair matted with vomit. Fell asleep on a double bed in a Tulsa motel room beside her abusive boyfriend, and never woke up.

I jumped out of sleep to answer the phone.

“I’m calling to let you know,” my paternal aunt said. “Didn’t want you to hear it from none of them.”

Receiver to chest, I crouched down. Balanced on my heels, and rocked.

“Cancer,” my aunt said. “Had to have been. Just look at her obituary picture. Looks like it to me, like she died of cancer.”

I knew that wasn’t true. Got off the phone quick as I could and searched online for my sister’s obituary, head full of unanswerable questions. When did the drugs and drinking start? Was it because we had no real home? Why did she stay in Mama’s dark orbit so long past youth? Was it the only life she knew, or the only life she could imagine? Frantic and doubting, I searched until there she was in glowing bits, my Moody Sister.

Pixilated otherworldly eyes smiled above a brief paragraph.

She left behind three children, at least eight half siblings and survived by both her parents, was buried in an Ozark cemetery facing old Route 66. Her three children went to live with her last husband. Their names in her obituary were long jingly strings of karmic payback and wishful thinking: combinations of our Mama’s real first name alongside my sister’s absent father’s surname.

She didn’t meet her biological father until she was a grown woman.

Come from a childhood with no fixed address.

Identity, a combination of what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, flawed mosaic of who you are, and who others think you are. Not who you are inherently, but also who and where you came from, and what you were able to make of yourself.

Outcomes.

Origins.

Consequence.

She was Mama’s favorite child and most constant companion, always riding beside her in the front seat of the car as we traveled from town to town. Disregarding its isolation, she accepted the position of best loved, her dark head barely visible to the other kids crammed together in the backseat. When left behind with the rest of us she became inconsolable, running after the car, plopping herself on the sidewalk as Mama sped off. Sat there, cross-legged, head thrown back, mouth wide open and skyward, wailing with all her need, outdoors and out loud, for her Mama to come back home. My peaceful respite, lolling alone on the motel carpet unobserved with a new Nancy Drew, was her full-bodied pain.

The daughter in the front seat never learned to be alone; disconnection terrified her.

I ran away from all my family, especially my Moody Sister, putting real distance between us, and seldom looking back. Her unhappiness was of another order altogether from mine: unquenchable, indulgent, and seductively unhealthy, like too much syrup on an already too sweet dessert.

The last time I saw her, I drew her portrait. Pencils sharpened, I layered colored lines on a flat green page, porous and textured. Watched her bow her head slightly to the left, as she had done so often in our earliest days together, and recorded what I saw and what I knew to be true. Made art of our brutal detachment.

Long black bangs curled across a forehead into downcast blue eyes.

A heart-shaped face held sharp lips painted red.

Absence charged by a presence, deceptive and confounding. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts

295 North Toward Baltimore

April 16, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lexi Weber

I want to tell you to stop being such an asshole. For all you know my hands are white knuckled around the steering wheel and I am sucking in tiny breaths in rapid succession. For all you know the height of this hill, the sharp turn around the corner, and the anticipation of Baltimore traffic below have paralyzed me with fear. For all you know taking the exit for 295 today feels like cliff jumping. Maybe if you knew, you would stop honking, stop yelling, stop riding my bumper around this narrow bend.

What if I told you that my grandmother is one of my earliest memories of love? I don’t remember what it was we were doing, but I remember that I was small enough to fit in her lap. Her long fingers were clasped around my back, my face was buried in her sweater and we were rocking back and forth. She was singing. That is one of the few memories I have of feeling safe. Now, nearly thirty, I still cling to the sound of her humming.

As we inch along toward the exit I am sweating through my fleece jacket and cautiously tapping the brakes. I want to tell you to just back off a little bit.

You only know that I have stopped my car on the Beltway and proceeded at 12 miles per hour. You only know that you have had the terrible luck of being stuck behind this white Jeep Cherokee at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. I bet the lime green sticker reading Island Time really pisses you off. But I want to tell you that there is so much you don’t know.

You don’t know that I buried my grandmother yesterday. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships, Truth

We Can Pretend

April 14, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Kylie Foy

The doctor said if they couldn’t find a solution, Andrew would die within the year. That’s what Andrew said, and so that’s what I believed.

We were 17 when this started. The blackouts. The first time it happened we were in his bedroom – a little boy’s bedroom with panda wallpaper. He started whining and thrashing around. He clawed at his ribcage like he had some kind of animal in him trying to escape. It went on for a few minutes until he was limp.

I pulled his face up from the side of the bed and put it on my lap. He wouldn’t wake up. My knees started shaking. My tears mixed with my makeup, my face streaked in black.

Then nothing was wrong. He moved. He woke up.

***

 We grew up together in our quiet town. He was the skinny boy in middle school who took pictures and wrote poems. He was the one with the mom in the wheelchair. We saw her at the chorus concert.

He was twelve when she started to die from ALS. He was thirteen when he had to help feed her. He was fourteen when he was too weak to help carry her. He was fifteen when he gave up. He was sixteen when she died. That’s the story he didn’t tell.

***

A few weeks into our relationship, we were sitting in the auditorium waiting for play practice to start. Andrew was suddenly running out the door, head in his hands. I followed him and found him curled up outside the doors.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “You can tell me. Trust me.”

He wept as he told me his little cousin Cooper had died from leukemia: “He wanted to be a barber. He was supposed to be a barber, and now he’s dead.” Continue Reading…

eating disorder, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

Losing My Soul Sister To An Eating Disorder

April 6, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jessica Lucas.

Some of this content may be triggering to anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder.

It was the day of the Leeza talk show taping. The topic: eating disorders. I walked into the Hollywood studio prepared to talk about the one thing that tormented and tortured me every day, anorexia, and I had never felt so overwhelmed, frightened, and ALONE – even as I was surrounded by hundreds of studio audience members.

“No one understands. No one gets it. No one can relate. No one will care. I’ll sound crazy. I’m not sick enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not articulate enough. I’m not thin enough. I won’t make any sense. I am all alone.” The all too familiar harsh criticisms and relentless fears ran through my mind more quickly than I could slow them down or resist them.

As I began to feel like a deer in the spotlights – visibly shaking, paralyzed with fear, drained of all color, wondering what I’d gotten myself into and ready to turn and run away – the studio wrangler led me to my seat near the stage.

Immediately, I was drawn to the woman with the comforting smile, Bo Derek-like braids in her blonde hair, and big blue eyes sitting in front of me. I knew her, but I didn’t know her. I loved her, but I’d never met her. I related to her, but we’d never spoken. We were best friends, but I’d never seen her before. Continue Reading…

death, Guest Posts, healing

An Unfinished Life

April 1, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Rachael Koenig.

When my sister calls me in the morning much earlier than she usually does, I know there is something specific she wants to tell me, and I am proved right as she shares the news of the death of a successful young comedian and writer the day before. She knows his sister well. I am not familiar with his name, but I know why she called to tell me.

It doesn’t quite hit me yet as I talk to her on the phone.  “Oh my God, how terrible,” I say, “I can’t even imagine,” which is something that comes out of one’s mouth automatically when discussing these things, but I correct myself when I realize I CAN imagine, because it happened to us. And, then I think to correct myself again, because it happened to HER, our second sister, but I realize I was right the first time, because it’s still happening to us.

I google the comedian and read about his successes. Writing and producing hit television shows. Famous friends and peers. Regular columns on comedic sites and youtube clips of standup shows. I read his articles and watch his clips. He is hysterical and talented. A life to be envied. And I think what I always think  – what potential; how tragic; what an unfinished life. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A Teenager on Grief.

March 30, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Breanna Bridegan.

I thought once, when my father died that life was playing a sick joke on me. Because why would you put someone so amazing, so completely captivating in some ones life  and then take them away. I blamed everything, even god, mostly god. I tried to think of things I said to him before, I replayed the last time I spoke to him so many times in my head. I started to become another person, I didn’t know who I was without him. My life was something off a television show, I didn’t recognize anyone anymore.

My father was the glue that kept us whole, without him we became aliens to one another.

I no longer felt like I knew who I was. I desperately craved good days, I was exhausted from trying to save memories of my  life before his death. I missed everything about him, mostly the love he gave for his children, my siblings who were both too young to know what happened.

I think now to how my baby sister, who was only five, never experienced his love like I did. I cry for her because I know the pain she will go through as all her life moments come and he isn’t there.  I cry because she has so much of him in her that it takes my breath away. Her spirit is so spontaneous and quirky. She has so much love to give just like him, she reminds me so much of him. I know she’ll come to me with a head full of questions, and I’ll cry because she wants to know things about the other half of her the parts that make her who she is. Continue Reading…

Binders, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

The Ghost of You

March 24, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Piper Selden

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”  ― Salman Rushdie

Serenity House, Room 114. Hidden on a hillside among Santa Barbara’s majestic coastal oaks. The slick ad reads like a vacation destination. It is not. Serenity House is a hospice facility, a place people go when they can no longer live at home. It’s a place people go to die.

 

In my mind’s eye, the door to Room 114 is closed because I wasn’t there when you died, when they blessed your body and anointed it with oils. When the ghost of you didn’t haunt me.

In my deepest dream-space, you are still alive in that room. Heart pounding, I know my biggest fear is beyond the heavy oak door, and I must enter alone. I press the cold metal handle and walk inside.

You are there, propped in bed and shirtless, not dressed in a jewel-toned silk shirt, like the ones you used to wear. I place blessed salt on your chest. You, for purifying, salt of the earth, my father. And me, for salting the dark field of my childhood. I don’t want to go back. I can’t.

Enough salt, enough tears. We’re free to love and forgive now in new spirit bodies. Continue Reading…

death, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Steele Grey, Part II

March 21, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Julia Cassels.

Read Part I here.

My brother and I retreat through the vestibule of the funeral home. I pick my way through four inches of uncleared snow in the parking lot, navigating in my oh-so-appropriate black stiletto knee-high boots, and climb back into the cab of his pick-up.  I slam the door as he starts the engine, and reach for the pack of cigarettes we had bought for the occasion on the dash. “Where’s the fucking lighter?” Jeff fishes through his coat pocket, pulls out an AC/DC lighter, and passes it over as the heater in the truck comes to life.

“Where to?”

“Lager’s.  Now.” A divey bar with peanut shells on the floor, orange vinyl booths, and wagon-wheel light fixtures. A decor mode not uncommon in that part of the world. Perfectly appropriate to a day such as this.

Rap, rap, rap.

There is a man at the window of the pick up. He is wedged between the window and the side mirrors which extend far out in this monster of a truck.

I look to Jeff. “Oh shit. Are you kidding me?” I hit the automatic button to roll down the window, against my better judgment, although ignoring him and leaving the parking lot would have resulted in taking this poor guy out with the side mirrors.

“You must be Julie. We didn’t get a chance to speak. I’m Pastor Dave.” He is breathless, partially from the four degree weather and his lack of a coat, and partially from the chase he just gave us out of my father’s viewing.

“Yes?”

“Are you coming to the memorial service?”

“Um. I don’t think so, no.”

“Can we talk for a moment?”

“I don’t believe there is anything to talk about.”

“And you are?” He leans further into my window. I move the cigarette to my left hand, trying to keep the smoke out of his face, and let it burn.

“I’m Jeff. That asshole in there was my step-father.” Continue Reading…

Binders, death, Guest Posts

The Standalone Gift

March 18, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Teri Carter.

I first saw the chair in a catalogue, the kind we all get too many of with thick red and green pages, the kind that land in our mailboxes before the holidays with a thud, the kind of shiny wish-book that draws us, even if reluctantly, into its pages in search of the elusive perfect gift.

The chair caught my eye. It was almost Christmas, my mother’s last, and she was so puffy and swollen from the steroids she hated to see herself in the mirror. She mostly complained about not being able to cook, that she “couldn’t even stand up long enough to boil soup.” She’d tried pulling up a chair but the sitting/standing/sitting/standing routine wore her out, and she’d cried on the phone with me, “I feel like I’m just waiting.” When I saw the chair I saw a solution: this adjustable, portable, ladder-like contraption was just what my mother needed. I got out my credit card and dialed 1-800.

No matter our age, it’s so hard to understand what our mothers need. Looking back, I wonder if I ever stopped staring into my own mirror—worrying about some weight I’d gained or a bad haircut or the wrong clothes—long enough to care. There would be time for that later, right? Later, there would be time?

When I was eight, I discovered my single mother was having an affair. Let’s call him Jack. Jack was married with two little kids and worked nights as a delivery driver for Purolator, a FedEx-like company, and he lived in our very small town in a nice ranch-style house you could see from the main road. Sometimes my mother and I would drive by on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to see if he might, by chance, be outside mowing the lawn or washing the car or even throwing the football with his son. Jack never waved, never acknowledged my mother or me in any way, and we didn’t wave either, but I swore I could see Jack tip his head a little and I felt my mother slow the car just a bit and, with that slowing, I felt the electricity that passed in the space between them. Continue Reading…