Just One Picture

Can a person who is hurting and living with grief still laugh and feel joyful? Absolutely. Can that person cry and feel like never getting out of bed again? Absolutely.

Why is it that it’s encouraged and supported to relive and carry with us “good” memories but we are quietly (or not so quietly) nudged to let go and move on from the “bad” ones.

Take pictures of that awesome vacation and the hikes and the milestones that everyone is smiling at. Remember those times in your life blah blah blah.

But grief…loss…death? Oh dear, it’s bad to hold onto that. Don’t dwell on it. Let it go and move on with your life. Don’t let that shape how you see life now. Put it behind you and live your life.

Well guess what? All of those amazing experiences and those happy times are inside of me and helped make me who I am today – and so are all of the not so happy times in my life. Joy and hurt can exist in the same body and mind. At the same time.

Why is it ok for me to talk about a great family vacation and laugh as I remember the ridiculous events and the fun, but when I talk about how it felt to leave my son behind in an emergency psych unit, I get told that bringing it up will just make the grief last longer? Life is made up of laughter AND tears. Trust me on this one, not feeling hurt doesn’t mean that all you feel is joy. If you have lost – or pushed away – the ability to feel hurt, than what’s left is not just joy. It’s apathy and emptiness. As bad as grief can be and as badly as it can hurt, I’ll keep letting myself feel it because it means that I can also feel the swing side of it. There was too long after Willie died that I was numb. I’ve learned over the last two years that starting to feel “good” things again – happiness, love, sensuality and silliness – meant letting in the “bad” that I had been hiding away. I can’t move forward without bringing it all  with me.

Like a picture that hangs on the wall, grief is just there in my life. It isn’t the only picture on my wall and it isn’t all that my life is, like it was at first, but I know now that it will always be there.

It’s always present but I don’t always look at it or even really see it sometimes. Some days I go by and barely notice it. Other days, it’s all I can see on that wall. Its presence doesn’t affect what goes on in the room though. There are days that I cry and rage and scream there. There are other days that I laugh and make love and giggle in that room. Some days the room is quiet and mellow while some days the noise can be deafening.

My life is like that room. So much more than just one picture among the many that adorn its walls. It’s a combination of everything that’s there and all the things that will be brought in still as I experience and live my life. There’s always room for more.

Adding on and growing and with every new addition, it changes and becomes…. and is Life.

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Just under the surface

There are times when it’s further under the surface. There are other times it’s so close to the surface that you can almost see it. It’s always there though. That’s the truth of the pain and the hurt. The feelings that swirl and tumble under the calm surface.

They tumble and twist, creating torrents of discord in the underneath, the unseen.

Most days now it resides down deeper than it used to live. The usual now is an easier-to-live-with place that only sometimes breaches the surface.

Usually the winds of day to day life ruffle the surface and the pain is nowhere to be seen. Most days now, even strong gusts can churn the top layers of normalcy and the hurt doesn’t quite break through. It’s taken a few years to get here but that’s the way it is most days now.

Some days though, it sits just barely concealed. Almost visible to the naked eye. Those who know it’s there can see it then. The covering is too thin to hide it. On those days, even the smallest hint of a breeze is enough to blow away the veil and let it rise up. It easily breaks free and soars into the light, unbridled and unable to be controlled. It tears apart the fabric of the carefully and slowly built stability of life now. It threatens that it will stay free, it screams at the sheer expanse of space that it has to fill; and fill it, it does.

On days like those it feels like it will never settle back into its slumber. It is hard to believe that the usual now is not those days, but rather the ones where it is deeper under the surface. Not near it and not through it. On days like those it helps to have others to hold onto and to ride out the storm with me when it feels like I’ll be blown away and maybe not come back. On days like those it’s sometimes best to face the maelstrom alone . To know that I can calm it. The power to feel its wrath and hurt and still wake the next day to see that it is in it’s usual place again. The place where, while it may give the surface shadows and ripples, it’s far enough down to live with.

Dear Willie,

Willie,

There are days that I think about your choice. Days like today when, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get you out of my head. I try, trust me, I do. I don’t want to feel this anymore. I don’t want to see your face in my mind and miss you like I do. It doesn’t matter though, it doesn’t make any difference what I want. This is how it is and you are gone and I do remember and it hurts.

Did you have any idea how that one split second of a choice would ricochet through everyone’s lives? I don’t think you did. I know that your mind was too consumed with it’s own pain and torment to think beyond what you thought was the solution to ending your own hell. When you did speak of how you thought your death would affect us, it was with the certainty that your mind conjured up in your illness. The certainty that not only would we get over it, but that our lives would be better without you here. It wasn’t a pitiful, sad “you’ll all be better off without me”; it was a simply spoken belief that your mental illness was not only going to destroy your life, but ours as well. Making sure that it didn’t happen was something that you felt you could control.

You were wrong though. It’s not better. I can’t say for sure if it is better for you in some way though really. I don’t have that faith or belief that you are “somewhere better” so that’s a bust as far as I’m concerned. You aren’t still living in a mind that was tormenting you everyday with a developing mental illness that you did not want to stick around to see where it would end up. So maybe in that way, it is better for you. I don’t know though for sure. I do know that it’s not better for those of us left behind to try to pick up the pieces and move on. I do know that from that second that you chose to step off and not make that day just another “dry run” of suicide, so many other lives have been altered in a way that they can never be any semblance of the same.

Your choice was yours to make. It affected more than just you though.