Browsing Tag

death

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…

death, Guest Posts

Silent Witnesses: A Night at the Morgue

April 26, 2017
chair

By Nina B. Lichtenstein

There is a beautiful and ancient Jewish tradition of reciting Psalms while watching over a deceased person until burial. A few of us had decided to take turns sitting with our friend Philip’s body overnight. Philip was a handicapped man in our synagogue who was loved and admired by all. When Philip recently died, his death, as his life, brought some unexpected gifts for those close to him.

It was almost 12:30am and the air was thick with the humidity of balmy summer nights. After an eternity of banging on all the windows and doors of the seemingly empty funeral home, which also functioned as the Jewish morgue in town, I suddenly saw lights turn on inside. The door swung open and out stepped a bushy-bearded and bespectacled man with a sweatshirt hood covering his head. Not young, not old, wearing a pair of baggie, well worn, beige Dickies, he stood tall, like me, and cocked his head slightly to one side. Standing in the dim light, he said, “Yes? How can I help you?” gazing quizzically at me from under a knit hat, the kind fishermen wear. It was pulled down on his forehead, resting on a set of overgrown, gray eyebrows. He didn’t’ exactly look your clean cut funeral-home guy, but instead more like a version of the troubled poet John Berryman, or worse, Charles Manson. He was the night guard, or the shomer.  Continue Reading…

Addiction, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Surviving

To The Girl Whose Mom Just Died From Drugs: It’s Not Your Fault

January 11, 2017
drugs

By Lisa Fogarty

Before you watched her unravel, bit by bit for all 17 years you’ve been on Earth; before she pulled the plugs on people and places until there was just an empty room and her in it; and long before she died from the complications of a debilitating drug addiction, your mother was a little girl with skinny legs and a laugh like a solar eclipse.

We were friends, but more like cousins. She’d sit on her twin bed cross-legged and stare into my eyes with feline expectation. She wasn’t another aloof victim of my generation’s casual contempt for everything. She was a mental vagabond who once got homesick after a weekend away, which should have been our first clue that this world would never give her what she needed. She was too thirsty to be happy, but had a fat laugh that stayed nourished throughout her life-long drought, a laugh independent of joy and one that made the entire room quake with the force of her freedom.

Before she saw too much, your mother was almost infuriatingly naive at times, hiding cigarette butts and cheap trinkets from boys in an Aldo’s shoebox beneath her bed. She stashed dollar bills in there, too, and no matter how desperate she was to split a $4 calzone from the pizzeria on Lefferts Boulevard, she’d let us both starve before touching the money she was saving to buy a Ferrari. On the weekends I slept over we watched Friday Night Videos and I made fun of her for shushing me when sappy songs came on. One Saturday afternoon in October we got caught in a rainstorm. She was 14 and failing math class. “Let’s stay out!” she shouted with a laugh that had grown threatening enough to challenge the sky. We roamed through the neighborhood like stray cats, sticking our heads under drainpipes. She had a way of making you feel like there was no better way to spend your last day on Earth than washing your hair in cold rain. 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.

+

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…

Current Events, Guest Posts, Hope

My Idols Are Dead and My Enemies are In Power

January 1, 2017
idols

By Meghan O’Dea

Two days after Christmas a fellow author posted to Facebook an image of unknown origin I had seen before. A pale hand, female, dangles a thing white cigarette between calves wrapped in black pantyhose, bent at an insouciant angle. The smoke from the cigarette wraps around the subject’s right hand, a gold band around her middle finger. Below a caption, in a yellowy sans-serif font, introduced by a hypen like a subtitle or Emily Dickinson poem, the quote at a tense angle. It reads: “— My idols are dead and my enemies are in power.”

It was, coincidentally, the same day that Carrie Fisher died. My friend, the author, posted the photo before the news broke that Fisher’s heart attack some days before had resulted in her passing. But it summed up well a year in which so many idols died, from those of my childhood (Richard Adams) to those who inspired my teen idols (David Bowie) to those I had little sense of connection or references to (George Michael). The image appeared four days after I showed up at my parents’ house with a suitcase, face still puffy from crying over the end of a relationship I had thought would end in marriage.

Around the time that I had been dreamily listing out the songs I would like to make up the soundtrack to my wedding, Leonard Cohen passed away. At the time, Cohen’s was one more in a procession of celebrity deaths and personal losses that had marked the almost two years I had been with my former partner, a series of blows that took a subtle, steady toll on a new love. The much-beloved cat, hit by a passing car. The friendships faded and fraught, just when they seemed the most needed. My mother’s mid-life crisis, set off the previous summer when I had spent three months at my grandfather’s house and unwittingly stepped into a tight woven trap of family tensions. The mounting pressure and humidity of the political climate, like the Tennessee summers of my childhood just before a storm comes screaming in off the plateau.

Despite living my whole life in the South, I had never seen so many Confederate flags as I had that summer in western New York, so close to Canada I had brought my passport along in my bag. The stars and bars lined the porches and truck bumpers in that sleepy Rust Belt town for weeks after Dylann Roof’s massacre in Charleston. In hindsight it’s hard not to imagine they heralded Trump’s victory, the coming appointments of Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions.

It had been so strange to explore a brief, unfamiliar sense of romantic happiness in the midst of what often seemed like the world falling down around our ears. But there were those before us who had survived equal or greater tumult. The very elders who were dropping like flies were a testament to what had changed and what had endured since before we were born.

Cohen had been first introduced to me by another former lover, who had played me “Anthem” in a moment of crisis, and unwittingly given me several minutes of of balm to the inevitable heartbreak. There is a crack in everything. That’s where the light gets in. As I drove to the gym after hearing of Fisher’s passing, the strains of Cohen’s baritone drifted by chance out of the local radio tower, through the speakers, and soaked into the worn upholstery. Everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight was fixed. The poor stay poor, the rich get rich.

In a year of endless losses, the partnership in which I’d sought solace became one more unexpected casualty. There was the subtle toll my mental health had taken on my lover’s, the way my history seeped into our present. There are, as Cohen and Fisher and so many others know so well know, cracks and fissures that may let light enter, but which even love cannot fill or heal.

The day after Christmas, the night before Carrie Fisher died, I watched one of my very favorite movies, Meet Me In St. Louis, for the umpteenth time. After I fell down a rabbit hole of re-reading articles and essays on Judy Garland’s life, along with the inevitable mention of the scandals that she felt defined her.

Then the news broke that Fisher had died, and in a way it was all so beautiful in its synchronicity: the timing of finding myself attuned to the parallels and lessons of these two extraordinary women’s lives. They each lived through mental illness, weight fluctuations, disappointments in love, the pressures of their professions, and the burden of existing in a system that was not made for or kind to them.

There are the women you want to be— the women you idolize and wish you could inhabit. And then there are women like Garland and Fisher, whose lives are not exactly enviable, but who have shown that life does not have to look any particular way to be considered a success. Moods shift, bodies fluctuate, lovers come and go, careers rise and fall, times change. It is art, intelligence, and sheer presence that endure. There are the women you learn from.

It was a year that tore us down, and stripped so much away. The year that has become infamous in the lore of internet memes and obituary sections. Yet so many of our fallen idols left behind last works of startling beauty and darkness and celebration. Fisher revisited her younger self in The Princess Diariest from the perspective of one who views youth as something to survive, not maintain. Bowie spoke of resurrection on Blackstar. And Cohen left us with an accusation, a dare, in the title of his final album: You Want It Darker. Perhaps I did. Perhaps we all did, and that is why the world is in the state that it is in. Perhaps this is simply a season we must walk through.

My idols are dead. My enemies are in power. The man I thought I would marry did indeed, in the words of Cohen, dance me to the end of our love. And yet I stand here hopeful. There will always be lovers and enemies, work and slow songs, black nights and bright ribbons. These things unfold endlessly around that which is both ephemeral and enduring, that which is ceaselessly reborn. In the face of all this loss, I am writing again. It is here and now, when so much has faded and changed, when I feel the most certain and strong. I have learned that in the middle of the darkness and tumult, we will always have ourselves.

Meghan O’Dea is a writer and editor who just completed a masters in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She writes primarily on space and place and the meaning of home. On the weekends she is the homepage editor for Fortune Magazine. She has been published in Washington Post, Fortune, Huffington Post, Hello Giggles, ink&coda, and has an essay forthcoming in The Rumpus.

What’s Jen Pastiloff’s workshop all about anyway? It’s about being human. Connecting. Finding your voice. Not being an asshole. Singing out loud. Sharing your fears. Bearing witness. Telling your fears to fuck off & fly. Listening. Moving your body. Laughing. Crying. Finding comfort. Offering comfort. Letting go. Creating.
Next one after this is NYC Feb 4 at Pure Yoga West. You don’t need to be a yogi at all. Just be a human. Click photo to book.

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

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…

Adoption, Family, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

Living the Mother

December 28, 2016

By Anne Heffron

My mother asked for me to read Mary Oliver’s poem When Death Comes at her funeral. I cried when I got to the last stanzas, not because they rang true, but because I felt devastated that, even from the grave, my mother wasn’t telling the truth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

 

This is the story I grew up with: after my mother had gone to Smith, she’d gone to New York and had gotten a job as a fact checker for Reader’s Digest. She listened to Kennedy give his “ask not what your country can do for you speech” and was inspired to do something she felt would help the world, and so she joined the Peace Corps and went to Nigeria. Shortly after arriving, she wrote a post card to a friend that described the conditions of Ibadan:

Dear Bobbo: Don’t be furious at getting a postcard. I promise a letter next time. I wanted you to see the incredible and fascinating city we were in. With all the training we had, we really were not prepared for the squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions rampant both in the city and in the bush. We had no idea what “underdeveloped” meant. It really is a revelation and after we got over the initial horrified shock, a very rewarding experience. Everyone except us lives in the streets, cooks in the streets, sells in the streets, and even goes to the bathroom in the streets. Please write. Marge. P.S. We are excessively cut off from the rest of the world.

 

The next day there was an uprising because my mother had dropped the card instead of getting it into the mailbox, and a Nigerian student had found it. The Nigerians protested the Americans and my young mother almost brought down her beloved President’s cherished organization.

My mother was sent into hiding and then flown home where my father met her at the airport and asked her to marry him. And so supposedly that was her happily ever after moment.

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…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Tough Conversations

Conversations On Baseball, Zombies, and Death

November 5, 2016

TW: This essay discusses suicide.

By Meg Weber

My daughter was six years old the first time she asked me for details about Melissa’s death. She knew Melissa had been my best friend, that she had died, and that I missed her. I had staunchly avoided any other details.

One morning, just over a year ago, Kai finally voiced her questions. “Why did she die? Did she get sick? Did she want her bones to be a skeleton?” Although we’d talked about scattering Melissa’s ashes, I had purposefully skipped over describing how bodies become ashes.

I hadn’t explained how Melissa died, mainly because walking in the forest on a clear blue sky day is something I want Kai to be excited about, not scared of. I want her to love trees, not fear them. But the day she finally asked her litany of questions, I told her the truth. Melissa had been hiking in a forest and a big part of a tree broke off and fell on her. “Momo, did her blood come out? Momo, why didn’t she just run really fast to get away from the tree? That’s what I would have done.” Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

The View From Here

October 3, 2016
birth

By Abby Mims

Four months after my mother died at 66, I was closing in on 41 and pregnant. Her dying had been long—four years—but my pregnancy had happened fast, only a few months of trying with no fertility drugs, narrowed down to one hectic shot in the right 24-48 hour window, and we had what could be classified as a minor miracle on our hands. I thought I was ready. I thought I was ready because my ovaries were ticking so loudly I could practically hear them in the quiet of certain mornings. I thought I was ready because I had learned to take such good care of my mother in the last years of her life. The cancerous brain tumor took her mobility and her speech and eventually, everything else, and because I had been the daughter least likely, but the only one left standing, I knew I could take care of a child. I thought I was ready because I believed that having a baby would cure my grief, that there would be a way to trade her death for his or her birth so that I would come out even. Whole again. But then the hormones hit, the reality, the heartbeat, the perfect spine lit up on the ultrasound at 13 weeks, and my loss was only magnified by this gain. Her absence, which was already taking up 90% of me, went for 100% and then some.

***

When I was in my early 20s, my mother gave me the book “How To Survive The Loss Of A Love” to help me get over whatever wrong boy had most recently dumped me. It had a cheery red cover that I thought didn’t quite match up with its outline of the stages of grief. It included a tidy graph of said stages—denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, acceptance—and I studied its ups and downs for the answers as to how and when I would feel better. Those jagged lines and plot points were comforting, because it indicated there was, somewhere in time, an end to my pain. Post-breakup(s), I would check in with myself: What stage was I in? Was I angry or bargaining? Anger was good, as that usually meant things were progressing; bargaining was bad, it meant I wasn’t anywhere near acceptance. Sadness was mind-numbingly boring and full of drama at the same time, with hours spent on the floor sobbing, promising myself I wouldn’t call him and calling him anyway, along with myriad lost afternoons (read: days, weeks and months, sometimes years) devoted to extensive forensic analysis of the situation with my girlfriends and my mother. And on it went, until I met the next wrong boy, who would conveniently stand in for the acceptance stage if I hadn’t quite gotten there yet. I believed the pain of losing those boys was the worst kind I would ever experience. I also believed that this roadmap out of mourning and grief was reliable, maybe even foolproof. 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…

death, Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

Lying To A Stranger & Then Finding Love: A Tale of The Interwebs & Connection.

August 17, 2016

Note from Jen Pastiloff:

So I received this message on Instagram from a woman I didn’t know the other night. My community there is beautiful and active. I had posted about an opening in the “Writing & The Body Retreat” I do with Lidia Yuknavitch. For those of you who don’t know Lidia (and you should! you should!)- I call her my “wifey.” She has written life-changing books, given a bring-you-to-your-knees TED talk (watch it here) and teaches writing (and also, basically, how to just be a free AF human being.) If ou follow her on Facebook, you know what I mean. People live and die by her Facebook updates.  Her memoir, The Chronology of Water, starts with the loss of her daughter, who was born stillborn.

Read it if you haven’t yet. (Thank me later.) We do have one spot open for next month, otherwise catch us in Portland March 15-17 or take one of her amazing online courses. 

That book (and Lidia) changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly.

So I posted on instagram about our retreat and I got this message after someone had commented that Lidia’s book had really helped her. Her brave message to a stranger moved me tremendously.

Here it is:

“Dear Jennifer, I’m not sure you will read this and I’m not sure I will even send this but I need to get this out, either way. I want to begin by saying that This Instagram thing is so strange and so beautiful and so weird. Connecting with strangers and the desire to be “seen” and “heard” through use of language, likes and emoticons (our modern day hieroglyphics) It’s by explaining this that recently I have been leaving comments on your pages beneath the beautiful and raw as red meat posts on Motherhood.

You have written back a few times and I felt less alone. And inspired. And when I received your words, my heart bloomed and gushed. That’s the beauty of social media. No, I’m no stalker. Or a weirdo (only stalkers and weirdo’s say that, right?) But I’m trying to get somewhere in explaining all this with you.
You probably don’t remember, as you receive so many messages, but yesterday you posted about your friend Lidia Yuknavitch. Now here’s the weird thing part of social media.

I wrote beneath your post that lidia’s work, the Chronology of Water helped me through the time in my life when I grieved for the loss ofmy own daughter at birth.
I’m ashamed to say this but that was a lie. I have never read any of Lidia’s books. I have wanted to. I’m going to. But I haven’t. I wrote that because I needed someone to catch that memory. I wrote that because it felt scary to fling it out there into the dark void of Instagram and for my pain to be caught by your kaleidoscopic care. It’s bizarre I’m telling you this.

But that’s it. In a nutshell, I lied to you, a stranger who I read about on Instagram, me who you don’t know. Me who is writing this Unshowered and sweating with an hour for myself before my husband comes back with the baby. And this ridiculous lie was on my mind all night, and I didn’t need to tell you because there’s really no need and you won’t give a fuck anyway but I lied that I had read your friends book, your friend who has suffered a similar loss as mine. A lie in order to connect.

Actually, not a lie to connect. But a lie because I’m so fucking lonely in my grief and in motherhood and finding myself within the thicket of sleep deprivation and deeply caring for my boy.

There I said it. I was vacuuming and I added this on.

Like you’re listening. Like I’m having a conversation to myself.

But maybe you’re there-“

——–

I told her I was. There. And that I was listening.

Connection is real- however you get it. However you find it. So we started talking and she sent me the following essay about losing her daughter. And I think you should read it and let her know in the comments because I do believe connection is everything. As Brené Brown says, we are hardwired for connection. That is at the core of all the work I do and why I am started an online course experience next month. To simply connect and be more free, to take up space in the world, and to share our stories. Like this one:

By Katherine J.

It was backpacking through China with my husband that we came to know I was pregnant. The little stick I peed on told us so. And then a second one told us the same. I was so eager to return home, to care for myself, to prepare for this little being. My husband was ecstatic. Very early on in our relationship, we had always spoken about the children we would have together. And here we were.

Once back in America, I felt safe and ready to nest. This feeling would not last long. The first blood test and ultrasound revealed that my baby was in some way “abnormal”. What that abnormality was, they did not know and it could only be revealed through more thorough testing. It took weeks, months, of waiting, waiting, always waiting for results.

They told us over the phone. Our baby was diagnosed with a major heart defect. And one that could not be fixed. They would not operate at birth. My baby was deemed incompatible with life. I kept repeating the words over and over in my head, tapping each syllable onto my arm, the kitchen counter, my coffee cup.

In-com-pat-i-ble-with-life.

That man over there yelling at his wife, is compatible with life. That child eating ice cream, is compatible with life. That flower, that dog. And aaaaaaall the other babies. Compatible with life.

I thought of my daughter’s heart. I thought of her tiny heart that would not function. Never ever. I thought of her tiny heart that was rushing like a freight train within me. I heard it once. And then I asked to never hear it again.

You see, she was thriving within me. Growing, and moving, and swishing and she was all elbows and legs, kicking softly.

When we were told the diagnosis, I was a little over six months pregnant. But I did not stop being a mother. I sang to my baby, I danced with my baby, I played music to my baby. My daughter. Through my womb, I sang to her lullabies, I let her hear the sound of the ocean, the sound of water trickling in a fountain, I let her feel the cool rain as it fell on my belly, I crushed crispy fall leaves near my belly in the hopes she could hear. I gave her flowers, her father played songs on his guitar and he whispered love to her and we touched her through my belly- tickled her.

It was time to let her go. It was no longer safe to keep her, for me or her. I gave birth to my daughter, in a hospital. I was induced. I went through contractions and everything else that comes with birth. Only I knew my daughter would not be born alive.

My husband never left my side.

During labor, I saw four people dressed in white in the corner of the room. Later I asked my husband who they were. I thought they were doctors or medical students, observing. My husband said besides himself and me, there were only three people in the room- two nurses and the doctor. I’d like to believe they were protectors or, yes, angels even.

She was born so peacefully. With the softest smile. Breathless.

We held her. She was weightless. Already of the stars. Her gentle fingers around my thumb. Still warm. Then, stone cold stiff.

I gave birth to death. The sweetest death.

My daughter. Sunshine. That is her name. That is what she was.

And is.

All other names were too earthly for her. She was bigger than life. And so free. She knew only love.

“You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine…”

The aftermath was grueling. An unbearable grief.
 And when the milk came in, it was as if my breasts were weeping. And at sunset, and sunrise, it was as if she was dancing and laughing across the skies, finger paintings for Mom and Dad.
 At night, I would wail.

At night, I would walk around the rooms of our apartment, searching for her. During the day, the Southern Califonian sun was relentless and there was no hiding from the red raw pain of my post-partum body under the light of the stark sun. I wanted to run into the rain and drown in it and pull the dark sky over me and hide. The names of the days no longer mattered. Time felt like one long Monday. For a long, long time.

Until, he came along. He, who began to heal what felt broken.

A son that is sleeping beside me as I write this.

A son that giggles and breathes and poops and crawls and wriggles and reaches for me in the night.

A son that points to the moon.

A son with a heart that beats like a jungle drum.

Katherine J. is a writer and yoga instructor. She lives in California with her husband and rambunctious one-year-old boy. Katherine is not on FB so please leave her a note below.
Join Jen Pastiloff for an online experience called "Don't Be An Asshole: How to Forget Perfection and Be Human." Email, prompts, a secret Facebook page, videos & connection. $50 for the first 40 to sign up & then $65. Click photo to book via PayPal.

Join Jen Pastiloff for an online experience called “Don’t Be An Asshole: How to Forget Perfection and Be Human.” You will receive emails, prompts, a secret Facebook page, videos & connection for 4 weeks. $50 for the first 40 to sign up & then $65. Click photo to book via PayPal.

 

 

Guest Posts, Surviving

There Is No Story Until It Happens To You

May 18, 2016
surviving

By Richard Fifield

Someone else is driving your car. He thinks this road is a video game, accelerates to sixty on the straightaways, slows for the sudden plunges, and your car rollercoasters and dips past reedy bogs. You step on an imaginary brake pedal. You are no tourist, you were born and raised here, you hate these roads.

This road is notorious, chiseled through mountains. On your left, a steep plummet to the Yaak River. To your right, ridges rise out of sight, emerge from a mighty ditch that is a dumping ground for road kill. Not just unlucky animals, white plastic crosses are riveted to stanchions, the Montana American Legion honors every highway fatality. One million acres of national forest, this northwest corner an eruption on a topographical map. Your birthplace has been christened by drunks and geniuses: Burnt Dutch, Red Top Cyclone, Pete Creek, Lick Mountain, Devil’s Washboard. You are thankful your mother gave you a normal name.

Jacob is driving, and you think you can trust him. There is no cell service here, eighteen miles from Canada, thirty from the Idaho border. This land is a secret to most people, primitive, unpredictable, occasionally vicious. This is why you left. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Can You Have A Birthday If You Are Dead?

May 6, 2016
grief

By Leah Sugarman

Do you still have a birthday if you are dead?

Facebook reminds me all day that today is my mother’s birthday. 

My youngest son has special needs and is obsessed with birthdays. When he asks this morning, as he does most days, if it is anyone’s birthday I consider lying and saying no.  But I am a bad liar and almost always get caught so I tell him it is grandma’s.  But then I remind him that she’s all gone.  He declares that we should sing happy birthday to her.  I wonder if he maybe understands things much better than the rest of us.

I am supposed to light a Yarzheit candle on the anniversary of her death but do not have a clue how to mark her birthday.

Later in the day, we have dropped his sister and friend at dance class and are driving home.  He casually comments from the back of the car that it is grandma’s birthday but she is dead.  And then tells me that my grandmother, Evelyn, her mother, will celebrate her birthday with her.  If only Jews had a heaven, my love. Continue Reading…