SOME PORTRAITS OF GRIEF.

For me, it is impossible to quantify grief.  To qualify it.  To define it.  It comes as a surprise. It comes as a wave.  It comes suddenly.  Or it comes on slow.  It can feel like nostalgia, anger, sadness, gratitude, drowning.  It can be triggered.  It can be low grade.  It can be reassuring.  It can be overwhelming.


Journal entry: November 3, 2012 

The emotion of missing.  What is it?

Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English.  Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.  It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.  It’s related to the feelings of longing, yearning.  Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again…  It can be described as an emptiness and the individual feels this absence…  In fact, one can have ‘saudades’ of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future. source

As the numbness wears off after Dad passed away on October 25, I find myself longing for that numbness again.  Now I feel the familiar sense of fear- sort of like walking on a unsteady pier or a balance beam that wobbles or a tightrope over a waterfall.  I am flooded with thoughts of doubt.  Did I do enough?  Should I have been more aggressive in getting treatment for Dad earlier?  Should I have taken him for more walks in the electric wheelchair?  Was he lonely and scared at the end?  These are expected thoughts.  I know that.  They are not to be avoided or feared.  It’s the process we all experience as we walk through grief.  I get it.  I dare to look.  But it hurts.

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My various experiences of loss and experiences of grief are not like yours, or hers, or his or theirs.  Mine takes up a different space, shape, beyond time. Shifting, eternal.  Each one of our personal truths are unique.  Profound.

And as saudadic waves wash over me, I find it healing to explore:

SOME PORTRAITS OF GRIEF

Beverley Pomeroy:

August 2, 2016: Living Grief is the profound journey of ongoing loss; where we can neither grief nor celebrate. Yet, our loss is palpable. We feel it wrapped around our throat choking back vulnerability we’ve not ever experienced before. We journey through acceptance, make friends with physiological depression, butt up against anger, bargain with whoever or whatever holds our conscience…ultimately, finding the sweet spot of denial where we can see and be what ‘is’ and live in the joy of where we are at on our journey with our loved one.
My gorgeous daughter, Sophia, turns 16 tomorrow…16 years more than we expected to have her, 15 years later with a palliative designation. Tomorrow I will be swallowed up in denial…and will let joy breathe for me, filling up my lungs until I can cry no more and the melancholy rocks my broken heart to sleep.
It is like a play…and even though we know there will be a final act, we so desperately cling to the idea of it being never ending, no matter what.

Beverley is a passionate advocate, social intrapreneur, Community Engagement Strategist, LGBTQA speaker, author of Living Griefbeverleypomeroy.com

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Patton Oswalt:

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… If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get ’em to love you back.

But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel “wiser.” You will not have “closure.” You will not have “perspective” or “resilience” or “a new sense of self.” You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. And you’ll also realize that 102 days is nothing but a warm-up for things to come.

And…

You will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, “Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday.” Complete strangers will send you genuinely touching messages on Facebook and Twitter, or will somehow figure out your address to send you letters which you’ll keep and re-read ’cause you can’t believe how helpful they are… Read more

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C.S. Lewis:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear…

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time. – A Grief Observed

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Shakespeare:

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart? – Macbeth Act 5, Scene 3, Page 3

My study of Munch’s “Puberty” (china marker, oil pastel on wood)

William Cowper:

Encompass’d with a thousand dangers,

Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors… I… in fleshy tomb, am

Buried above ground.

Fleshy Tomb

Cat Webb:

There will be a moment where a memory will hit, or a milestone day, or just a moment of being overwhelmed with something seemingly unrelated… and grief pops up again. AND THAT IS OK!!! More than ok… this is normal… your sadness about your loved ones death is normal… Your grief is normal and essential for your healing. There is no wrong way to do grief other than to pretend it isn’t there… Denying grief is the same as trying to convince your subconscious that there was no love here, no good times to remember, and this person meant nothing to me.  READ MORE

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“Psychopomp” for Cat Webb

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Kay Jamison:

There is a sanity to grief… given to all, [grief] is a generative and human thing…it acts to preserve the self.

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Roar Thorsen:

Adjust yourself.

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There are no easy answers.  There is just process.  And breathing.  In and out.

Study of Picasso’s Guernica

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I miss the mundane to-do lists from my Dad. I miss the supply run. The putter of routine.

Dad longed to be back at his chair in his last few weeks, longed to be back to his routine.

From Drawn Together:

My every-second-day visits are full and busy.  Fold the laundry, pack the clean cutlery and Tupperware into the cart, add the clean laundry to the pile, shove in the old envelopes, check if Roar needs any printouts, pack up the car with the dog and computer and journal and purse and sock monkey bag (just in case we watch a video together and I can sew).  Head to the grocery store for supplies: Gas-X, Listerine, toothbrush, toothpaste, razors, shaving crème, pens, paper, salami, cheese, grapes, granola bars, gum, chocolate, lollipops, instant coffee, ketchup, blackcurrant jam, air freshener.  Pick up a bottle of whiskey, new art supplies, and pizza.  Load it into the room. Give the room a good clean.  Load in supplies and laundry, fill fridge.  Put dirty laundry and orange juice containers (my father saves the extra ones for me) into cart.  Grab the envelopes of news clippings he has collected for us.  Get Roar ready, pack his messenger bag, head to cafeteria to the favorite table (it must always be the same table), get fresh coffee, ice cream, etc., go through to-do list, get down to work.  After a couple of hours, take him back up to his room, unload his stuff, give him the time to check that we didn’t forget anything, grab the dog, dirty laundry and hug and kiss goodbye.  Ensure his phone is plugged in and routine is adhered to!

I find grocery shopping difficult.  That is missing-time.  It was the same after my mom passed away.  They were both so infused in my life.

I miss the mundane to-do lists from my Dad.  I miss the supply run.  The putter of his routine.  The structure that made sense.

Dad’s supplies:

… All [his] resistances, all [his] faults, all [his] unexpectedness.  That is, in [his] foursquare and independent reality.  And this, not any image or memory, is what we are to love still, after [he] is dead.

CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

See also:

Life has no opposite

Healing sock monkey watching over Dad

Document it.  All of it.

We’ve become a band of gypsies

Dad’s inner work

Dad’s last day

A pencil box. Regarded with reverence.

Change.  What does it mean?

Saudade- the emotion of missing

Drawn Together

Saying goodbye to Dad’s room with my brother and nephew. Photo by Darcy Glip.

Part 32 of 35 daily journal workshop. GRIEF. #arttherapy

LOSS.  What does that mean to you?  Are you scared of it?  Is the fear of losing someone or something preventing you from living now?  Have you experienced such profound loss that grief overwhelms you, and indeed, now shapes you?

Write it out.  Or draw it out.

There are no easy answers.  There is just process.  And breathing.  In and out.

Recommended reading:

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

Owning our grief:

Alana Sheeren believes in love, beauty and the transformative power of grief. After the stillbirth of her son she began writing about her personal journey into grief and whole-self healing. A Reiki Master with a MA degree in clinical and community psychology and a BFA in theater, Alana partners with women through the dance of grief, both individually and in healing retreats.  How does grief shape our lives? Does the way we experience it make a difference? Using personal stories, Alana opens up new ways of looking at grief and encourages us to stay open to its gifts and lessons. [source]

Frontline’s Facing Death:

How far would you go to sustain the life of someone you love, or your own? When the moment comes, and you’re confronted with the prospect of “pulling the plug,” do you know how you’ll respond?  In Facing Death, FRONTLINE gains extraordinary access to The Mount Sinai Medical Center, one of New York’s biggest hospitals, to take a closer measure of today’s complicated end-of-life decisions. In this intimate, groundbreaking film, doctors, patients and families speak with remarkable candor about the increasingly difficult choices people are making at the end of life: when to remove a breathing tube in the ICU; when to continue treatment for patients with aggressive blood cancers; when to perform a surgery; and when to call for hospice. [source]

Daily Journal Workshop:

JOURNAL PARTS 1 to 25

Part 26 PERFECTIONISM

Part 27 SHUT YOUR EYES AND SEE

Part 28 ANGELS AMONG US

Part 29 MINDFULNESS

Part 30 REVIEW. RESOLVE

Part 31 NEWBORN. BRAINSTORM