September 20, 2017
Grief is a wall I have crashed into, sending me in unexpected directions. How many directions I will go, have yet to be determined, I’m just trying to figure it out as I go. There are so many ways I have come to experience loss. I am just one person, this is just my point of view of telling it how it is for me. It has been hard to acknowledge my own thoughts and feelings, and even more difficult to take in those feelings of others who also share loss. Writing out the breadth of my highs and lows reminds me that this is my life, acknowledges I’m still alive, and this isn’t some messed up dream I’m in where I can’t wake up. I thank you for reading and for holding on through my journey. Need I remind you, this is a love story after all, and grief is a form of love itself. If you find anything here, I hope it is this love that you hear most through my words and stories.~P.
A poem of transformation.
The former me has been burned away,
the blackened charred pieces of me,
torn in large crusts.
Underneath, my flesh is hot and pink,
blood flow has ceased,
only a tear-like fluid erupts,
out of cracks in between.
My fingernails with their shredded edges, have clawed and scraped,
at the burnt remnants,
they are useless to me now.
What remains is a human being in the shape of former me,
but forever changed,
but forever marked,
but forever scarred.
To see me now standing is quite a shock,
my head is lowered staring at my planted feet.
I can feel your gaze and sense the tension in your mind,
wondering how this happened to me.
You’ve already seen me naked,
I no longer need clothes.
I hide nothing.
I feel nothing.
I am nothing.
From this spot, I take my first steps,
finding footing in the crunch of ash and wisps of smoke in my path,
my hands that see very little reach out now,
steadied only by my weakened state.
It’s time for me to look with my eyes,
at what lies ahead of me,
I already know what’s behind me.
My head is too heavy.
My neck is too tight.
My back is too broken.
Only my eyes can do the work,
slowly opening and lifting them now,
to find the horizon,
focusing on somewhere in the distance.
The murmur of voices surrounds me,
my name sounds unfamiliar in the chatter,
but I know it is us about whom
they are talking,
they are worrying,
they are crying.
Rain drops come now,
stinging, cooling, and soothing what is raw and tender,
this sensation evokes a memory of fingertips,
that once knew every part of the former me.
I stumble as my legs give way to the wash of emotion buried,
now returning to the surface of my new skin,
helpless to stop it,
swollen from the pressure of too much to bear.
The others reach out to catch me, they take hold of
Breath is heaving from my lungs,
sound escapes from lips,
tense under taut skin.
I don’t know how, but I am now walking,
hearing my feet scuffing the cinders and feeling the pricks of shards through my soles worn from too much heat,
from too much everything.
I am bare.
I am tattered.
I am scorched.
Wet hair now hangs in limp ropes,
silently drips while clinging to my neck,
draping on my chest and arched back.
I feel cold from every direction,
ignited by a wind that has now come,
to blow away remaining ash and char,
sealing every surface,
and pressing my face smooth.
Who will I become?
What will I do?
Where will I go?
I am somehow able to walk on,
heavy enough to brace the wind,
light enough to withstand the rain,
the others are losing their grip on me,
my new thickened skin is slippery and cannot be held,
they stand behind me now with squinted eyes,
eyes that do not see what I see.
My own reflection is of what surrounds me,
it has made me invisible to them,
but to know I am still here, just listen
for my heartbeat,
for my breath,
for my footsteps.
For almost a whole year now, I’ve been exercising nearly every day. In those early months after he died, I’d even work out three times in the same day if I really needed it: cycling, weight lifting, running, or occasional tennis. It’s how I’ve dealt with my racing heartbeat and all of this anxiety in the dimension that me and my family now live. And now today, I’m making it official, I’m adding another kind of exercise program: my house. For so much of this past year, it’s been put aside, the innocent bystander to loss, now one of the most neglected in this healing process to a new normal. Piles of paperwork to be filed, shelving not dusted, things in place for him who will no longer be coming home. It’s time to get this place in shape and in good working order.
So it has begun: nearly three weeks ago in my closet. No longer our closet, he is gone and now he has been moved out. Distributed, reclaimed, shifted to those who will take on new ownership of the things that were once his. There seems to be invisible deeds and titles that have been signed by all parties to make it official. It feels right. My master bedroom and bathroom are also now just that, mine. It’s been a lot of hard work to make this happen so far. I’m checking in with my parents, my kids, and of course me, saying “I’m thinking of doing this, I need to put him in a proper place, the time has come.” The consensus I received was that ready or not, change was needed, mostly for my own sanity. What I see around me needed to calm my mind, and find that visual order my eyes demand.
Some parts of grieving are an ever-writhing sea, up and down the waves never cease, if I did not make this space in which I live comfortable, I was going to continue slipping under the water’s surface more often than I could stand. I’m no longer continuously gasping for air, and my heartbeat is just a bit more steady. Do not think that this is some grand solution “one and done” deal. As I clean up tools and little vignettes of his unfinished projects and things he last touched, the hurt and his absence overtake me, and I’m sobbing and sometimes collapsing on the spot. It’s kind of like a badly sprained ankle: I have to rest it, but I also have to use it despite feeling pain, it’s not going to be re-sprained, I will only feel the swelling, and every time I walk on it, it may hurt just a little less. Maybe if I’m lucky in the future, it will hurt and twinge only as a sign when rain is coming. Ah, if grief itself could actually be managed: not.
So now my kids are back in school. It was a long, sad summer. My relationship with them continues to be very fragile, and we are taking things slowly. I’m not the only stubborn one who lives here, and our trust in one another is starting from zero. I am the sole-surviving parent, and for them to trust me and to love me now is taking a risk for more loss of losing me, too. Besides, they see I am not the same mom they grew up with, they are in many ways looking at a new person. They are still wondering and skeptical of where that other mom has gone, I sense so much of their uncertainty. The three of us are all growing up under this one roof. And under this roof, I’m now exercising the acts of cleaning up, reorganizing, and honestly catching up with where our lives are right now. Most days it’s like skipping rocks on a lake. I keep trying to find that perfect stone to toss. I’m whipping it out with hopes of two to three skips, but truthfully I’ll just be happy if it lands in the water. Belief and hope are half the part of trying, success in the attempt itself in the very least. There is such truth to the difference between living in a house versus making it feel and be a home. As me and my two teenagers attempt to find our own truths here, so I hope to continue to put in the work of finding the new dimension in this house: this house that will now be made into our home. ~Paula