I recently discovered the work of a local artist who had an exhibition where I work. One painting struck me to the core: it was Malcolm! Or at least it could have been. Same build. And the cap. And he is fishing – and Malcolm loved to fish. I had to have a copy. So I contacted the artist and now I have a print hanging in the dining area.
The painting was a beautiful reminder of Malcolm. Another reminder at work recently was completely devastating. A young man jumped off the parking garage to his death. I was at work when it happened and it plunged me into a depression. I should have been able to save him. Why hadn’t he waited, maybe I could have talked him down? Magical thinking, of course. I didn’t even know him and had no way of knowing what he planned to do. But reason had nothing to do with my reaction.
A few weeks passed. The anniversary of Malcolm’s death loomed. And then the daughter of one of the patient’s on my floor committed suicide and they asked me to come and support her brother – he felt guilty. The mother was in a coma, and would probably never know. So he was actually losing both of them. I couldn’t do it. I had nothing to offer; I felt empty.
I walked out. I told my boss I needed a few days off. A few days turned into a few weeks and now I am heading back to work tomorrow. (Positive thoughts and prayers would be welcome.)
What have I learned from this? Life is full of reminders, positive and negative. I cannot ever be free from them. However much we might try to insulate ourselves emotionally from the effects of our loss, there will be days when we are stabbed in the heart once again. There are suicide attempts in the hundreds every year in my city and some of them will end up in the hospital where I work. It is inevitable. I have to find a way of keeping myself emotionally protected while being able to offer support and empathy. A difficult dance. But March 19 comes around every year, so I have no choice, I have to find a way – or give up my job as a hospital chaplain. And May 14 comes around every year, too – his birthday. I don’t want to miss the positive reminders so I will have to accept the painful ones, too. The painful and the beautiful memories – every year.
Posted in depression, grief, hope, losing a son, loss, pain, sadness, suffering, suicide
Tagged depression, family, grief, guilt, hope, love, sadness, suicide
Ten years. Ten thousand sighs. Ten million tears.
Inconceivable that it could be so long, that I have carried on.
Unbelievable became the truth;
Grief became the norm.
But slowly inconsolable became absorbed
And glimmers of hope emerged.
Would there be new life one day,
Would I be glad I stayed?
I’m glad today.
And that’s all I have.
Posted in depression, grief, hope, losing a son, loss, pain, Parenting, sadness, suffering, suicide
Tagged grief, hope, losing a son, Loss, moving on, sadness, surviving suicide
How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?
This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.
Posted in anger, anniversaries, depression, doubt, faith, God, Grace, grief, hope, letting go, losing a son, loss, meaning of life, Moving on, pain
Tagged anger, Anniversaries, cycles, death, depression, doubt, faith, God, Grace, Gratitude, grief, healing, hope, letting go, losing a son, Loss, meaning, mourning, moving on, pain, sorrow, suffering, suicide, surviving suicide
Over the past few years I have used the opportunity offered by this blog to reflect on my journey of healing from the loss of my son. I thank all those who have reached out to me or shared their stories on this blog.
I have a new book coming out that tells the story of my healing journey and my journey through grief and loss if you are interested in my full story.
Posted in depression, faith, God, Grace, grief, hope, letting go, loss, meaning of life, suffering
Tagged anger, doubt, faith, God, Grace, grief, healing, hope, Loss, religion
Pull back the veil of fate
Does it have to be this hard
Does it have to be this way
Am I too late
There’s another day
Speak to your power
Speak to your hope
Smoke another cigar
Light another fire
Pull back the veil of fate
Walk through that door
It’s not too late
We wait for you each day
We say your words each night
We need your voice
Unwrap your fate
Undo your choice
Don’t let it be too late
Posted in grief, hope, letting go, loss, Poetry, sadness
Tagged grief, hope, letting go, Loss, love, sadness
When grief is cyclical you visit the grief over and over again. You face the same questions, the same guilt. Sometimes it seems to feel as bad as the first few months, or maybe you just don’t remember how awful that was anymore. Depression has a rhythm, too. The lows seem to get lower but the recovery and equilibrium seem to last longer.
After coming out of my recent depression I had the opportunity to accompany my husband to a retreat center. The truth was I wasn’t ready to be alone for three days and two nights. He was working a high school retreat, but I had the weekend to myself. I brought my memory stick containing my book on grief and loss and thought I might give it a look again. It had been stuck for quite a while on the issue of hope. The book had morphed from the theme of grief and loss to the theme of meaning and hope. The trouble was that I wasn’t sure what hope I had and what shape it took. For two years I had been thinking and reading and, yes, praying, even though I wasn’t sure to whom or for what purpose. Then I sank into depression and hope mocked me from the sidelines of my life. But now I was on the other side of the depression and something had shifted. What I had been reading began to take a meaningful shape. Quotes I had highlighted began to organize themselves, and I found at last I was able to get my head around the possibility of hope. I hoped for hope, and that was closer than I had been in years to actually being hopeful.
So for two full days I wrote. I got to know my book again and began to develop greater coherence. And I worked on the last section, the section that was now giving the title to the book: Traces of Hope. Those were a powerful two days. I felt invigorated and, dare I say it, hopeful that my book might make sense and might prove useful. I wasn’t sure how long these feelings would last but it felt really, really good.
Since that weekend I have sought out and enrolled in a program for Pastoral Care; I have begun attending a Christian church (The United Church of Christ) with a friend of mine, and I have begun a practice of daily reflection or meditation, usually at night because I am not worth a damn in the morning.
Lots of changes. I don’t know how long-lasting this sense of equilibrium will be, but for now I am appreciating the emotional peace. I have written about positive insights and shared positive postings on Only Good Things, http://wholiness.wordpress.com. And I have begun reflecting on pieces of my book on Traces of Hope, http://tracesofhope.wordpress.com. I invite you to visit. I hope to have an ebook ready in a couple of months and, who knows, maybe a real publisher. But that’s a bit too much to hope for, probably.
Posted in depression, doubt, faith, God, grief, hope, loss, meaning of life, Moving on, sadness, suffering
Tagged cycles, depression, grief, guilt, hope, Loss, meaning
It is now 2014. This year we will mark the seven year anniversary of Malcolm’s death and it will also mark a number of changes in my life. I lost my job in September and that could have been a real crisis. Well, to be honest I thought it was! But in retrospect it turned out to be more blessing than not. I have taken the time to examine where I want to go next, and I have decided it is neither back into Catholic education or into another office job. Instead I am returning to school to pursue training in Pastoral Care. Will it work out? I don’t know. But it is exciting to be trying something new.
There is a real sense of freedom when you have nothing to lose and no one to prove anything to. A small inheritance from my parents’ provided the fiscal freedom and the support of my husband provided the emotional freedom.
During this hiatus from work I have refinished lawn furniture and an old desk and chair. I have patch painted a water-stained ceiling, twice – they were very stubborn stains. I have cooked healthy meals and kept a clean house, and enjoyed doing all of this because I knew it was temporary.
The most important change was not home improvement, though, it was a change in my outlook. I have rediscovered hope. It wasn’t a sudden discovery it has been creeping up on me slowly and gently for a while now. The reason I didn’t pay too much attention was because it was not immediately obvious, the change was not linear but cyclical, just like the grief.
More to come.
Posted in depression, faith, grief, hope, losing a son, loss, suicide
Tagged career change, grief, healing, hope, job loss
Pain abhors words
thinks them trite
Pain gnaws at your bones
causing you to fade
from lack of substance
But over time
(it’s true what they say)
Anger enters then
the proffered hand of Grief
And at long last – weeps
I was at work when the news came: Kitty had died. It wasn’t a surprise but it was still an emotional shock. I was reading a T.S. Eliot poem on-line, Little Gidding, searching for a quote I wanted, and when the words of her passing came to my ears the poem became a prayer.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
I have always struggled to understand Eliot but have not, until today, tried to understand him with critical commentaries and scholarly insights. But Friday, when I lost Kitty, the words themselves were enough, speaking of endings and beginnings and oneness. And I thought about revelation and scripture and wondered why the poetry was more consoling than the psalm or the gospel verse. And I wondered: isn’t God speaking in each and through each of these? Writing that struggles to give voice to the mystery of life and death, give name to the Mystery of life and death, give meaning, give hope. Isn’t that what scripture is, what poetry is?
But here, in this blog I put aside religious struggles and honor Kitty. Her professional commitment to education, her pursuit of personal and institutional excellence, her devotion to her Jewish faith and community, her love of literature and her desire to create. Her compassion, her heart, her wonderful hugs. And I give thanks for the gift that she was in my life.
(For the full reflection about Catholicism see my blog: Catholicism in the 21st Century.)
It is time. I want to officially move to the Hope stage of survival. Of course I will still be posting here as well, because I need a place to write about the Grief and Loss too. They don’t go away, but they can make room for Hope and that is what I want to focus on in my next blog. This will be a place to share more pieces of my new book. The blog is called Traces of Hope.