Dog Days of Life and Death

I can’t believe how quickly this summer has flown by!  I hear that sentiment repeated almost daily and sadly, its very true.  I don’t even know what I’ve accomplished this summer – work or otherwise.  I have so much to finish up – new families to get on my roster, current families updated in my records, cleaning my house and finishing the projects that I’ve started, registering for fall classes and finishing my spring work for my independent studies, reading for my new book club, lose weight so can wear the gorgeous dress I bought for my daughter’s wedding in October and oh, let’s not forget finishing up wedding planning for said daughter’s wedding!  What have I been doing all summer??  Certainly, not having any down time or fun.  Sad, but true.

I haven’t written in my blog for quite some time and I realized that the reasons for not writing are the very reasons that I write!  I love to find the humor in every day situations, but I haven’t been doing very much laughing these days.  I love to write about the ridiculousness of petty arguments and learn to realistically look at the things in life that make us human.  Nothing has been ridiculous or very real for that matter.  I never thought that I would have to defend the realness and honesty that I write with.  But – here I am.

I’m angry that I’ve had to hide my words and thoughts for fear that someone would not read them or understand them within the context that I’ve written them.  Instead, I’ve worried more about others contextualizing what I write to fit their agenda.  I’ve lain awake several nights writing blogs in my brain.  I see the words and I fit them together into a proper blog, but then the daylight hours arrive and I’m left with an empty head.  (Hey, no one’s ever accused me of having lots of words in my brain that make any sense…emptiness happens to the best of writers and I’m certainly not the best.)

I’ve been writing a blog for many years, and I’ve never had so much turmoil over what I have written in all that time until this year.  Tragic and sad things have happened in my family that have changed all of us.  There is a group on one side that is hurting and sad and a group on the other side that doesn’t know what to say or do to help.  In the end, all that left are words that hurt feelings and create chasms of dark foreboding.  What I can’t seem to piece together is how to get through the dark chasms to the light.

Grief is a topic that I’ve written about a few times.  I’ve written about how I handle grief and even though it’s not an easy path, it’s one that has served me well.  I have failed to mention, however, that it’s taken years of professional grief therapy as well as the love and support of wonderful family and friends that have helped me to develop my mechanisms for dealing with loss.  Also, now I have the distinct advantage of age to help with the me deal with grief with more patience and maturity than I did in my youth.  For instance, there are people that have left this earth that at one time, I thought I would rather die than try to live without them, but thankfully a well-placed grief counselor helped me see the error of that thought process!  The people that had raised me and loved me to be the  person I am today may not be here on earth any longer, but my memories and their energy still pulse through my soul every day.  I can’t stop living my life because they are gone – I have to keep living my life because they taught me the lessons I have needed to keep going through life.  I can’t let them down and give over to the sadness.  Again, this is how I deal with lossnot everyone deals with loss this way and I’m certainly not the expert on dealing with grief!

That’s the crux of my absence on this blog.  My intentions for writing about how I deal with life are meant in the kindest spirit possible; yet, every intention behind my writing has been misread or taken for something sinister and hateful.  Now, after meeting with a grief counselor,  I’ve learned that when others are grieving there are times when they can mistake the intentions or actions of loved ones because they are so entrenched in their sadness and loss and they lash out at those they love for not grieving the same way they are.  When someone is drowning in grief all they can see is sadness and loss.  They can’t breathe or move on because that would mean that their loved one is being forgotten.  They thrash around in the murkiness and can make it very difficult for their loved ones to save them from drowning.

I’ve learned that some people just need to know that their loved one isn’t going to be forgotten.  Unfortunately, if they see everyone moving on before they do, then the assumption is that they are being left behind as the only person in the world to keep the memory of their loved one alive.  I can relate to that and I can understand that.  I mean, there were times when I was angry at every family member I had for not continuing their vigil of constant sadness over the loss of our Grandma.  How could they just move on like she never lived?  Then I thought about the day that she left this earth.  I was there with her as she took her last breaths.  I remember thinking that she was there the day I took my first breaths and I was there when she took her last.  What a gift that was for us to share.  She ushered my energy into the world and I ushered hers out.  I felt her beautiful energy enter my soul and heart, and since that day, I’ve lived with her love in my life every day knowing that she is still part of my life.  Her love was real and true – that is energy that stays with us.  That was how I comforted myself and that was how I stopped being angry.

The other day, I read a post on FaceBook  from a woman who had a friend that had suffered a terrible loss.  She wanted to send her friend flowers on the anniversary of the person’s death, but was apprehensive to do so because she didn’t want to make the day worse for her friend.  Her intentions were to let the friend know that she remembered her loved one and knew that this day was difficult for her, so she asked people in the group if she should send the flowers or just let her be.  Overwhelmingly, the response was to send the flowers!  Of course, she would love to know that on this anniversary day someone out there was thinking of her and her loved one.  That the memories of the loved one were being cherished.  That it was “ok” to speak their name and share in her grief.  I learned something new in that post.

We’ve all wondered that at one time or another.  Do we talk about the person that died?  Can we still say their name without upsetting anyone?  How do we let the grieving know that we are grieving with them and want to love and support them?  Do we just charge in like bulls in china shops (which is my tendency in any delicate situation – and believe me, it is not welcome in any situation – delicate or no.)  or do we distance ourselves and let them handle their grief the best way they know how?  We watch what we say, do and think because we fear of doing it all wrong.  I’m here to tell you that doing nothing isn’t the way to go.

If you believe that by letting people handle their grief on their own is the best course of action, I’m living proof that you would be wrong.  Everything I’ve done and said this past year has been scrutinized, criticized, villainized and scandalized at every turn.  I misread cues, feelings, body language – you name it.  I took anger as attacks and reacted completely wrong.  I forgot that anger is part of the grief process.  Then in the process I’ve lost my family.  Sadly, I just pulled away even more thinking that if I just stopped writing, talking, and reaching out that eventually, everything would calm down and we could come back together to work through the hurt and anger.  Unfortunately, anything I say or do at this point is mere face value to them.  This bull has shattered lots of china in the shop and it’s gonna take lots of painstaking work to put pieces back together.

My counselor has been so great at helping me understand that how I chose to grieve wasn’t wrong.  I just didn’t do it the way others chose to do grieve.  No one is wrong in how they grieve because grieving is very personal and different for every person.  I wasn’t wrong nor was I right – there is no wrong or right in the grieving process!  So, I stopped questioning myself.  I didn’t stop loving or grieving, but I did stop being angry.  My counselor also pointed out that just because I stopped being angry didn’t mean that anyone else has stopped.  They may still be angry at me, at God, at the world, but that’s for them to work through.  I have known for a very long time that I cannot control how people think or feel, I can only control my reactions, my thoughts and my feelings.

The part that I’m really having difficulty with right now is this “us vs them” mentality.  We are all the same family with the same losses – why is there so much anger?  People that I’ve loved all my life are like strangers to me.  I can be in a room with them and I know my energy emanates happiness, love, kindness and joy – I know this because I feel it – but all I receive is strange, distant, and uncomfortable emptiness.  I feel the emptiness when they look at me or walk past me to just to brush me out of their way.  I see them look beyond me to avoid looking into my eyes.  Almost like I am not present; like a ghost – like I’ve been ghosted by my own family.  You know that feeling like you know you are there, but if no one acknowledges your presence then you just don’t exist?  All of these people that I’ve held in my heart have just walked out of mine because of grief.  I didn’t grieve appropriately.  I didn’t respond the way they wanted me to respond.  I protected my mother and father; not that I needed to, but I couldn’t watch them being cast aside and disregarded because they weren’t behaving the way others thought they should behave.  I just couldn’t…and it cost me.  A lot.

I’ve apologized for my behavior – I know it was misplaced anger at one time, but there is no forgiveness in grief.  Not the kind that we are working with now.   This loss has changed the entire dynamic of my family and that change is felt by everyone – extended family, friends and children all know that things have shifted.  I know better than to take on all the blame.  No one person can cause this much dissent in one family!  I simply do not have that kind of power or desire to rip apart the very people that I’ve treasured my whole life!  How does this change?  I don’t know.  I don’t believe it will ever be right again.  I believe that it will be tolerable eventually, but never the way it was.  I’ve been marked as evil and I can’t change how others feel about me or see me; only how I live my life.

For the record, if anyone is reading or sharing my blog, please don’t assume you know me unless you really do know me!!!  Someone’s version of who I am is not a representation of my values, my family, my friends, my heart, or my life.  If someone chooses to paint ugly pictures because they are in an ugly place is their choice – not a reflection of what I see in the world.  I can’t know what I don’t know and neither can anyone else.  No one knows what tomorrow will bring, no one controls anyone’s behavior or thoughts other than his own and what other people think and believe is truly none of my business – until those thoughts and beliefs hurt those I love and care about. Intentional malfeasance is not welcome nor is it necessary.  Just because you don’t like me doesn’t make me a bad person.

I can forgo all the nonsense now and be happy knowing that my heart is in the right place.  I’m not justified in asking for forgiveness…you don’t expect forgiveness from people who are grieving.  You give them space, love and understanding.  I have forgiven myself for not knowing how to behave or handle this particular death.  I couldn’t have known the ramifications for my lack of physical support.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  Would I have done things differently?  I can’t say…I can’t go back and change anything.  I can do things differently now.  I can only do what I am asked and allowed to do.  I can’t force my choices or experiences on anyone!  That’s like asking someone to follow me because only I know how to live life!  I only know how to live my life and even that is questionable!  We are all still learning.  The best any of us can do at this point is to keeping moving forward.  This doesn’t mean that we forget, this means that we move on.  Take it with a grain of salt…I’m rambling at this point!

I tend to get derailed from my initial intentions when I’m writing.  I started out wanting to write about the “Dog days of summer” and we can all see where that took me!  Obviously, my I’ve let my heart do the writing today.  My head just can’t keep all this in order any longer and if I didn’t write it all out then it was just going to continue to burn a hole in my brain – what’s left of it anyway!

We all have struggles in our lives.  Some struggle more than others and still others need help getting through their struggles.  I know these things for sure (as Oprah would say):

I’m not capable of being angry for a long time.  I have no right to tell anyone how to feel or live their lives, I can only do what I can do for me…only me.  I can’t control anyone’s behavior, but I can control how I react to it.  Not everyone in my life feels love and connection as deeply as I do and I can’t expect them to understand how much I miss having them in my life.  Whether they choose to believe me or not, I miss my family and the connectedness of belonging.  I don’t belong in their lives anymore and it’s taken me years to come to grips with that realization…then more time to be ok with that knowledge.  Some family members just don’t need me, want me or love me…that’s just how it is.  I don’t have to understand why and it’s not always about me.  Sometimes it is about me.  When it is, all I can do is apologize and do things differently from now on, but I can’t go back and change anything.

I see the effects of my behavior on others and I know some of you might find it hard to believe, those effects aren’t always horrific train wrecks!  I do help people, love others and care for my tribe!  I’m happy in my life and I live simply and easily.  I don’t want my life or anyone’s to be hard, so I try every day to make things a little easier for those that I care about and that are part of my life.  The people who love me and know me – those are the people that get me.  So…yeah.

ANYWAY….back to our regularly scheduled programming folks.  Let the blogging commence!  As always, I’d love to know your thoughts, your ideas and how you feel!  Please follow me and share with me!

Peace. Love. Light.

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