Category Archives: grief

For Hazel…

In darkness under the bridge we sit,
your ashes secured in a wooden chest.
The tiny weight of you reduced further still
by the trappings of your final rest.

The loss of you pours from me in salty waves,
I’m nigh drowning in the undertow.
While alive your heart was joined with mine
with you dead, mine doesn’t know where to go.

Any dream I had of seeing you again
vanished with the puff of your last breath,
for what chance does hope really have
when faced with the harsh reality of death?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


There’s a certain heaviness to chronic pain. It’s an ephemeral heaviness, a constriction of muscles a healthy person might get in a P90X class or carrying their neighbor’s couch into the house for them.

The neck muscles are tight, the shoulders are tense, the back aches, all from a mixture of “guarding” – the act of holding your body in a particular way to avoid or minimize pain – or a lack of activity from feeling to ill to do much.

Over time it becomes a literal weight. You wake up in the morning and in order to get up out of bed you have to consciously choose to pick that weight up and carry it again. You can feel the lovely release of sleep slip away and the various and sundry physical alerts begin to wake up in your body.

Hey there, your head really hurts today. Maybe the weather is kicking up.

Hi, jaw here, just wanted you to know that we’ve got some extra tension from that really great conversation you had last night so you’ll see some extra stabby moments from us today.

Um… yeah, it’s your back. You did something, or maybe you didn’t -hell I just work here- but whatever the reason you will be having some difficulty moving around today. I’m going on break.

You’ll get up and agree to carry these issues again because the other option is don’t get up. An option I hear some people choose but I personally believe all us spoonies choose to get up more than we choose to give up. So you move on with your day, dressing, maybe showering, eating, and then you will have other weights fall on you.

Joints here, did you know you can sprain your wrist picking up a box of cereal in the “wrong” way? No. Well now you do.

As you move through your day you will feel heavier and heavier until at last you are able to place the nearly overwhelming weight of your maladies into bed for a few hours of rest. If you can rest. If not, maybe a few hours of a good book or movie.

Sometimes the weight is harder to carry than others. Right now, for me, with the recent death of my wonderful and amazing support cat, I am really struggling to lift it all. I haven’t lifted a paint brush since she died. I feel all the pain more intensely without her here to help. My mind races with anxiety and possibility and doubt and fear. There is no furry face in my face forcing a distraction.

Without her support I find myself at sea, having to find new ways to carry the weight with me throughout each day.

In the meantime each little addition seems more personal, more targeted to make my day difficult instead of just something I have to move through.

My patience is frayed, I am restless and uncertain, and my body continues to pile it on, day after day, smothering me in the weight of a disease I cannot control.

So I shared some of it with you in the hopes the load lightens a little. Thank you for helping me carry it.

So not self-helpful…

I think I may have PTSD when it comes to self-help books, books on migraines, or generally any written device intended to explain to me how to make my current state in life better.

I have been trying to unwrap why I loathe self-help lately and I have hit upon a theory. It’s a relatively new theory so bear with me but here we go.

Ours is a society of the quick fix. If we have a cold and can’t sleep we take NyQuil. If we have a cold and need to go to work we take DayQuil. What we don’t do is rest long enough for our bodies to battle the cold on their own.

Due to our quick fix mentality we have a tendency to offer solutions to the people in our lives who express problems. We rarely actually commiserate. It’s not because we don’t feel sympathy or even empathy for them, but our language of caring has morphed over time from listening and empathizing to offering solutions.

As a migraine sufferer I have had a lot of experience on the receiving end of solutions. It doesn’t bother me from friends or family but it’s the complete strangers that make me crazy. Usually when I meet someone and they find out I have migraines I get asked my entire medical history by someone without a medical degree because their fourth cousin once removed has migraines and maybe they can mention something my nationally recognized neurologist hasn’t thought of yet. It is exhausting and not a way I want to spend one of the rare times I actually leave my house to go out into the world.

I think this is why I hate self-help mechanisms. Rather than listening to each other, talking about our feelings, and creating deep, strong bonds of friendship we are offering other people’s takes on our interpretations of someone else’s problem.

Meet someone at a party going through a divorce? Offer them this book. Got a brother with MS? Here’s a book on how one person worked through their experience with it. Children being… children? Here’s a book on how to parent in a way the person who wrote the book likes most.

Now I am not saying seeking self-help is a bad thing. Personally, if you want to read books on parenting, relationships, investing, whatever medical diseases you may have, and that helps you handle life, go for it with my blessing! There is nothing wrong in my mind about seeking out information.

What upsets me is offering these unsolicited solutions to others in lieu of care.

I get it, caring is hard. It’s time consuming, it takes real listening and empathizing to truly succeed at it and none of us have the time or the energy.

Is that last part true though? Would we find consoling someone less tiring if we did it more often? Could it be we are out of practice and therefore it seems more tiring and time consuming then it truly is?

Here’s my truth: My best memories are from times when I opened up my mind and heart and joined someone in their hardships. Really joined them. Crawled down into the hole they were stuck in and sat with them for a while. I have been blessed enough to build truly amazing relationships with people because I was simply sitting with them and listening when they were having a hard day.

Sometimes the way to be the most helpful is to offer no help whatsoever.

Measuring life in hours…

It’s been a while since I posted about chronic pain primarily because I still feel like a whiner even on my own blog, somehow. I’m blaming German stick-to-it-ed-ness and the fact that my grandparents lived through the depression as farmers in the Dust Bowl and probably ate pickled tumbleweeds without complaint. They were the boss.

I have a new medication. It gives me about three hours of low pain twice a day. This is good news. I now have six hours a day where I can be productive in a way I haven’t been in a while. There are some side effects. I can’t concentrate very well and I get super tired. I forget things and get flustered and double book and am generally not the best friend in the world to anyone. However, I get six hours where I can crochet, or read, or do chores, or play with the kids. Six hours when I can see movies or friends.

I am not sure when I began measuring my life in hours. I suspect it started after Michigan when I first got medication that gave me some relief. All I do know is I now think of my days in terms of how many low pain hours I can get. Do I schedule a movie? A party? Dinner with a friend?

I am blessed to have these hours. I have far more hours now than I used to. I am also sad I don’t have more hours and envious of those who do. You healthy people with your bodies who don’t prevent you from being anything you dream of. You people who can be at parties all night, see any movie you want, go to a rock concert or night club. Your vibrant lives flash before me and make my previous self cry out in recognition and despair.

I miss you! She says. I used to be like you! I want to be like you again! 

You don’t measure your life in hours. You may not even measure it at all. I know I didn’t used to. I had the luxury of a limitless existence with nothing but my own ingenuity to stop me. Now I struggle to carve out a happy existence in a world increasingly defined by limitations.

I envy the freedom of your limitless hours even while I am happy you have them.



Grief and other socially unacceptable attitudes…

I have had a number of lovely discussions with a friend and mentor about grief.  “Of course we should grieve the things we have lost.” He says.

He says it so simply, as though it were a given.  Every time I hear it my brain erupts into hundreds of little voices, hungrily digesting or spitting out the simple truth behind his words.  The chaos this phrase causes inside of me seems ridiculous because of course we should grieve the things we have lost.

Why don’t we?

I learned, as a weird and often rejected child, not to show the sorrow and hurt I felt when a person or group dismissed me.  If I showed them their words stung, they won.  If I hid it inside and pretended not to care, saving my grief for the privacy of my diary or best friend, I won.  I soon learned to build my entire life on this simple principle.  Do not show people they have hurt you.  Do not share your grief with people you don’t implicitly trust.

I remember one day in high school when a friend gave me a great gift.  I was dating a boy in my choir, one who had asked me to keep our relationship secret at first and then threw a nasty public scene when I ended it.  I mean nasty, in front of everyone, calling me a whore, etc.  I bravely stood up and fought back and showed nothing but disdain for him and his sharpened steel tipped words as they ripped through my skin and bled me in front of my entire social group.  A friend stepped in and took me aside, saying “C.Mon, he’s not worth it.”  He walked me to his car and told me to hold on for a few more minutes.  Then we drove around the block behind a building and he said “Okay, now you can cry.”

This person had taken me to a safe place away from the prying eyes of everyone who would have taken pleasure in my pain and given me permission to grieve.  I grieved.  I cried like to world had ended, not because I had broken up with a boy, not because I had been so publicly renounced, but because I had someone in my life who had offered me protection for my feelings.

Over the years, each time a relationship ended and the friendships I made were divided, I grieved for the lost friends privately, showing nothing but understanding and acceptance for those who decided to toss me aside and stay connected with the other person.  I shared my grief in journals, with one or two people, or sometimes not at all.

My conversation with my mentor, his simple acceptance that we should all grieve what we have lost, opened up a maelstrom in me.  I have spent the last year trying to pretend I accept and understand the behavior of the people I called friends during the last ten years of my life.  People who chose to toss aside the relationships I built with them and never even bothered to ask me what happened.  People who cared so little about me that they just threw me away.

Of course I should grieve what I have lost.  I have lost the illusion that I mattered to these people.  I have lost the belief that they cared about me. I have lost the certainty that the time and effort I put into them, listening to their problems, helping them with solutions, loving them, would be returned.  It won’t.  When the shit hit the fan I was tossed aside in moments.  No questions asked.

Just as I mourned the loss of connection with the friends I had before my marriage, the friends I didn’t get to spend time with because I was busily putting energy into my husband’s group of friends,  I mourn the loss of connection I had with his friends.

However, I have another nugget of simple truth to get me through.  “Of course I grieve the things and people I have lost.  You have to.” He says over coffee. “But I also have to realize that there are other, sometimes better people and things in my life now. ”

The secret.  Grieve, and then let go.  You can’t let go if you don’t grieve.

So today I shed the tears my younger bullied self so bravely taught me to hide.  I shed them openly and honestly. I grieve here, in a public forum, no building to hide behind.

I grieve the loss of the easy banter I had with my husband’s friends.  I miss the group outings, the parties, the shared jokes and experiences. I miss feeling they were assholes for sending one person into a movie theater line to save the space for eleven of us and knowing every person behind us hated us as the rest showed up.  I miss arguing politics with them, celebrating holidays with them, sharing stories with them.  I miss every single one of them, but mostly I miss them all together.

And I am letting them go.

Thank you

Thank you to all the people who have shown me kindness, especially in the past two years.

The last two years were the darkest time in my life.  I made it out.  You helped.

If you made me smile, even once, you helped.

If you sent me a note telling me you loved me, you helped.

If you gave me a hug, you helped.

If you posted a note on Facebook or sent me a link to read, you helped.

If you came and sat with me, read with me, talked with me, you helped.

I am thankful for each and every moment of kindness you gave me.

I am thankful for your love.

It is doubtful I would have made it out of the darkness without all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The tick-tick-ticking of the clock…

In two months it will have been a year since my hysterectomy.

I try so hard not to let January 6th, 2014 have any monumental significance.  I have read that it takes about a year to feel normal again, my doctor has told me it can take up to a year to heal.  When a year was seven, six, five months away it was a reassuring thing to tell myself.

You aren’t back to where you were, but it’s okay, they said it can take up to a year.

Now that a year is two months away I stare at my swelly belly and wonder;

What if I am not better after a year?

So much has happened this year that I haven’t had time to deal with my sense of grief, my anger, my loss.  I feel like the whole world has moved on and I am just now finally feeling it.

I am deeply sad.  I am ragingly angry.  Nothing about having a hysterectomy before I was ready to be done having children is ever going to be okay.  This will always be a pang I feel.  I feel as though so much of me was literally ripped out and tossed away and somehow I am supposed to go on as though I am normal.  Somehow I am supposed to reach a point where I have healed.

This was the hardest part of my life and it was overshadowed by marital strife and relationship drama.  It was the experience that cemented in my own mind that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you try to do about it, things will suck.  You can work as hard as you can, harder even, and the world will keep on moving while you fall apart.  I lost my home, my friend group, my intact family.  Those are the things people saw, commented on, dealt with.  But I lost so much more.  I lost my fertility.  I went to bed a 37 year old woman and woke up in menopause.  I can build a new home, I can make one with my family, I can work on my friendships.  I will never get that back.  It is gone forever.

Motherhood is the only thing that has ever come naturally to me.  It is the only thing I have ever felt truly amazing at.  I grow strong, intelligent, beautiful children and I am a wonderful mother.

Except now I can’t grow strong beautiful intelligent children.  And please don’t tell me I already have two so it’s okay.  It’s not. It never will be.  I can be a wonderful mother to the children I have, but that doesn’t take away the pain from not ever being able to even think of having more.

I have had my heart broken before.  I have had it torn out of me by death, divorce, anger, violence, and more.  It always healed.  Now I doubt it will.

The clock ticks away the minutes toward the end of my first year without a reproductive system.  It ticks away toward physical health.  It ticks away to a new period in my life, a time of health and happiness.  Each ticking second carries with it increasing expectations.  From my family, my friends, and from me.  Everyone, including me, is waiting for the healing to end.

The thing is, it won’t.  I am forever scarred by this, forever changed.  The year will roll around and my core muscles may be strong again, I may be able to run and box and chase my kids.  I may feel better than I have in years, but it won’t be me.  I have had to let go of the 37 year old woman who went into surgery on January 6, 2013.  For all intents and purposes, she died.  The person who emerged from that surgery has a lot of similarities to her, but she is not the same.

I don’t think I ever will be.