Surfing Grief

Today I watched a man grieving in the cemetery near our home. He was drinking a beer, swirling around in screams while the liquid fell out of the bottle as he stomped over the grass. He was crying. I stopped for a few seconds across from him at the stop sign, struggling with going to talk with him, or just giving him his space. The scene looked like something from a movie and I felt it. Whoever he was screaming and pleading to was absolute loss and grief.

And so I did….I left him in his private moment as the rain began to fall slowly over the mountains. I felt the break happening for me as well.

Grief does that to us. It is inexplicable. Its pain cuts through the depth of the soul. It has no limit, no expiration date that shakes us up and relieves the pain. We are turned around, upside down, through an inexplicable sense of shame, guilt and other emotions. We regret what we did not do or did do. We place those we loved on some pedestal, that at times, is pretty irrational as well. But, grieving the loss of a loved one is freaking hard. And, it comes in waves: one minute you are okay and the next your world feels unrecognizable.

The man over the tombstone reminded me of that wave. He reminded me that it never really goes away. Loss is a riptide that at times causes a wave that clears everything in its path. We move through the grief. We surf the deep waters of emotions wondering if we survive the heartbreak. We move into other paths of life. It doesn’t go away. We don’t get over it. We evolve and learn from it but the loss can still sneak up at any given moment.

In order to love you must risk it all and grief is a component of its circumstances because where there is love there is loss. Sorrow is a recycling sentiment that appears over and over in different events. It’s okay to let the emotions visit. It’s okay to sit with the memories of the things we no longer have, the loved ones who have passed on, the things that will never be. What is not okay is to get stuck in those moments and live in that time. There will be days that the pain is so much that you feel death clawing at you. You might want to go scream at the ground in a cemetery as well. Then other days you will be filled with the sweetness of gratitude for having had those moments in your life. No matter what anyone says grief never vanishes. It just masks itself into something new and you recognize it the minute you experience the tug in your heart.

Do yourself a favor and don’t close up to love. Don’t shut yourself off from the world because you deserve to live through love again. It will never be like those that you experienced. It will have different lessons, perspectives and joy. Loss does something to make us believe that we will never live that way again.

Grief doesn’t just change you, it reveals the innermost part of your spirit. We’ve come here momentarily to love, learn and experience life. In the sadness of grief comes the ability to rejoice and celebrate life to the fullest. So often we are consumed by mourning the death that we forget what lived in that person. We focus on the missing rather than the stories of joy. Truth is that each soul who leaves us has always left a little part of themselves behind through memories. And it’s from that other place that they start to reach out through dreams, songs, signs and synchronicity. Rejoice in the stories of the past. Allow for grief to show you how much you loved. It’s okay to feel that mystifying sorrow. This is how you know that your love transcends through time and space. This is how you know that your loved one will help you find love again.

If you find yourself at a loss today…please honor the moment. Send love to your missing parts. Be gentle with the memories. They won’t go away. To me, death is a door that ends one existence and opens up into another. There is the before death and the after death. And life is changed forever.

Choose Your Journey Into Love

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I recently read Kerry Egan’s book, On Living. Egan is a hospice chaplain and her insightful stories of her patients and the things that are important in our life is magnificent. Actually that word is an understatement. I was glued to each word, paragraph and page. It made me gasp several times with awareness, heartache and joy. This little glimpse into ordinary lives, with extraordinary stories, will remind you why we are here and how not to take things for granted.

Having been around folks with dementia, terminal illnesses, dying individuals of all kinds, I understand that the transition from this world is always challenging. The five plus years of owning a motel/retreat center allowed me to visit with some incredible folks from all walks of life. I witnessed the essence of the human spirit. I noticed that every single person can have four basic experiences in those lonely moments when they know death is near: Regrets, Nostalgia, Fear, and Shame. I have witnessed it over and over. Life becomes a delicate dance with the unknown and time seems to never be on their side.

I’ve heard stories from family members, friends, and strangers. The dying, most times, isolate experiences in order to leave a legacy behind. They magnify events. They idolize others. They share secrets on their dying moments in hope of being released from shame and humiliation. They want to be heard and understood and forgiven. We all want to be acknowledged for our lives. At the end of the journey we want to know that we mattered. We want to believe we did the best we could without hurting our loved ones. We want to be loved. We want to know that someone will miss us because we were important.

Throughout the book the author takes you on a small voyage into the lives of some beautiful souls in her care. She shares her own shame and guilt from an experience that changed her life. She is able to take the reader through a mirage of emotions that is recognizable to all. I don’t care what your belief system entails, this book will touch a part of your truth and humanity.

The human spirit is absolutely beautiful. The things we hold and treasure; the events that change us; the things that bring us joy and sorrow; the greatest loves that touched us; the regrets for not moving past fear…and so on…create the composition of who we are. We, as spiritual beings, are created from a source so bright but we forget to shine. The things we hold inside are the things that keep us prisoners or in some cases allow us to fly freely. It all depends on the type of life you have lived.

I love this passage:

“What if the thing you consider to be your greatest accomplishment is not seen that way by anyone else? What if the thing you are proudest of is also the thing that you are most ashamed of? What if your great love is also your deepest secret?

People keep secrets in a desperate and often ultimately futile attempt to protect themselves or the people they love. They thing that the secret will be a bulwark against rejection and public humiliation, and so they carry it, no matter the weight. In so many cases, people keep secrets and even lie to each other out of love, and not malice.

What they may not realize is that in holding on so fiercely to what they see as shameful secrets, they’re actually strengthening that system of shame. Keeping a secret is like fertilizing a weed, and the family secrets that fertilize shame choke out love before it can even grow. The secrets themselves, instead of protecting anyone from shame, become a source of it instead. Shame is the enemy of love; it can never serve it.”

I read a lot of books, but this one touched me deeply. I love stories about the human spirit. I was inspired to reach into my own collective memories and find the stories from so many folks who have shared their journey with me. I feel a book being created.

May this new year allow you the freedom to let go of all that keeps you in a prison of emotional turmoil. May you find joy, wisdom, forgiveness and an exceptional amount of endless love. I see you…I feel you…I know a part of you because we are all interconnected through the Divine essence called Love.

See you on the other side. I love you!!!!

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We Are the Core of Humanity

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I was coming out of Trader Joe’s this morning and putting the cart back in the parking lot area when an elderly lady was struggling to take one out. She could barely keep herself up. I took mine to her and said, “Here, ma’am, you can have mine.” I helped her get her empty bags and belongings in it. She looked up at me with such a shocking expression.

“Thank you,” she kindly said. To which I said, “No problem.”

“These days, at 85, I am invisible.” Tears formed in her eyes. And, I thought to myself, “It’s only a cart, not a million dollars…!” I told her that she wasn’t invisible. She stood there with such gratitude that I got a bit weepy. I was taken aback. Are we, as a society, that self-absorbed that we don’t see the joy in giving a simple supermarket cart to an elderly person? Well, of course, that moment opened up conversation for sweet Margaret and I. We stood there sharing what kindness is in this world and how it’s truly missing from so many. We hugged. She rolled herself into the store and I got into my car. Then it hit me like a giant freight train. Her word, “invisible” was exactly what I needed in order to release my own truth. I was transported back to a memory that I had forgotten.

Fifteen years ago I had a traumatic brain injury that to this day is still present. I was 33 years old. I woke alone in a park around midnight, with blood draining from my forehead, hands, and knees. I had a huge blot clot on the back of my head. I woke up thinking I was 19 years old. When I was finally taken by police and ambulance to the nearest hospital I was in and out of consciousness. As the next day developed I didn’t recognize any of my six children or my ex-mate at the time. I didn’t recognize anything from 2001. I was stuck in 1989. After 24 hours of scans, questions, spinal tap and other intrusive testings I was placed in room to heal and wait for the results of all the exams. They truly didn’t know the cause of my accident or what to do with me. I was stuck and felt invisible.

That night, I woke to go to the bathroom. Until that moment I hadn’t looked in the mirror. I still believed that I was 19 and I was being lied to…some conspiracy theory. It was like an episode from The Twilight Zone. No one believed me…not one person could understand how I ended up with such severe head trauma without memory. I saw my reflection and lost it in that bathroom. It’s bad enough that the lighting is atrocious but to see the aging from a teenage girl to a woman was devastating. To see scars and scratches and everything that was not there before was overwhelming.

I returned to bed and sobbed. I kept pulling on my IV as if that was the only lifeline available. I wanted someone to just point me into the right direction. I feared everything that night. I wanted to understand what had happened and how I was going to handle this new life…

…because, I knew I would be sent with total strangers to a home that wasn’t mine. Because I was not able to understand why I was at a park alone in the middle of the night. Because I had a new mate who was way older than me and not the husband that I had at 19. Because, because, because this was total shit and I was angry that I could not make heads or tails of this life that others insisted I was part of. Because, let’s face it you don’t know how strong you are until you have to use your strength to survive.

Shortly thereafter, a bodacious gorgeous black nurse entered my room. She checked my vitals. She held my hand while I sobbed. Then she grabbed a chair and sat next to me. She had a Jamaican accent. She was lovely. Her name tag said, “Cinthya” which I found endearing because of the spelling.

Cinthya sat with me for a long while. She asked questions. She let me cry and be completely raw. She told me things. These things have stayed with me over 15 years. She said that things happen every single day to push us to grow. I asked her what this particular event in my life was suppose to teach me? Cinthya stared into my eyes with her huge black gorgeousness and clearly said to me, “You will find the reason for it one day. You are not invisible so stop acting like you are. You have an opportunity to touch the world with compassion. And, even though you have not been shown compassion during the last 35 hours of this incident, I promise you that you will take this experience and pay it forward. You will have no choice but to live from your truth.” She showed me such compassion. And, eventually I fell asleep and Cinthya left.

In the morning I asked the other nurse to please ask Cinthya to come say goodbye before her shift was over. She assured me that there was no one with that name on that floor. She and two other nurses were the only ones working my room that night. I insisted that this woman had visited me. I even pointed to the chair drawn closer to the bed. The nurse, again, suggested that perhaps I had dreamed it because there was, “No one here during night, plus visiting hours stopped earlier in the evening.”

Now, folks, I might have dreamed that an angel came to console me. I might have been delusional with all the meds pumped for the pain in the body and my spinal tap. I don’t know. I don’t care because I lived that moment from a place of truth and compassion. But, what I do know is that someone took that chair and moved it closer to me. Some magnificent woman shared divine wisdom about grace, forgiveness, and how we are all here to love and change the world. She was pure love and I promised myself that I would always be open to every single experience that came my way, especially if I never got my memory back. To this day, I have lost a tremendous chunk of memories from when my children were young. But I also know that those experiences are somewhere in my cellular memories.

Today, Margaret reminded me of how we are failing in our compassion and kindness departments. We love to look out into the world and pretend that we can make a difference by wanting to do things “out there” when we need things in our own backyards. We forget that every single freaking day we get an opportunity to touch another. I am so grateful that on a daily basis I can experience it…one way or another.

When an elderly woman breaks over handing a shopping cart, there has to be something that we can learn from her. We are here to serve society with kindness and gratitude. I had just dropped off a huge car load of clothes and bedding to an abuse/battered women shelter before going to the supermarket. I was in full speed raw vulnerability and open to such gratitude for all that I have. I lead a charmed life. Margaret reminded me of such powerful acceptance and awareness. We are in this together.

Get your butts out there and help the elderly, the homeless, the children, and the neighbors in your area. They won’t ask for help. Your only job in this lifetime is to be kind and love. Pay it forward…you never know when your life can be altered in a second. Happy holidays and remember what this season is really about: LOVE!

I love you!!! You are NOT invisible. I see you. I feel you. I am connected to you.