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Grief

Grief, Guest Posts

From the Body to the Cosmos: Notes on Grief and Love

December 29, 2016
death

By Lillian Ann Slugocki

Here’s the truth about grief:

You are crazy, and nothing is real, and this is true for a long, long time.

When that passes, the hard work begins. You have to completely rebuild your relationship with the newly dead. It doesn’t just go away. The love is still there. The love that aches for connection at any cost has to be dealt with in some form or fashion. This is the hardest part. When you are no longer sobbing on the bathroom floor, or drinking a bottle of wine in the middle of the day, when you are no longer crazy, and you have a modicum of control– then it’s time to sift through the wreckage. And this is hard, stupefying work. Now, Mark, is my brother, even though he is dead. I still talk to him about his daughter, and his granddaughter, and what I’m doing with my life.  All of the other, painful shit has fallen away; the anger, the addiction, the dying days. And what has remained is my friend. Love never dies. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change shape. Death is the ultimate shape shifter. Out of the body and into the cosmos. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Life of This Grief

December 9, 2016
grief

By Lesley Harper

When I was a kid, I had panic attacks. I worried when my dad went into the bathroom late at night that he may not come out and that we would find him swinging in there once one of us was brave enough to open the door. I would close my eyes and hold my breath waiting for the sound of the toilet flushing and the footsteps back to his bed. My mind would play tricks and my heart would sometimes skip one of its beats when I felt there was about to be a gunshot or the sound of him stepping off the side of the tub and into his death. I didn’t have the word depression then or any of the qualifiers so often accompanying the word: clinical, chronic, cyclical, situational. But I had a profound understanding that my father was deeply sad and I lived in constant fear of the damage his sadness created in our home. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Hope

When Despair Tried To Settle

November 23, 2016
despair

By Melanie Brooks

On a Sunday morning in June, when my sixteen-year-old son reported the news that a gunman had walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, pointed his assault rifle at a festive crowd of people dancing to a Latin beat, and gunned down over one hundred of them, killing forty-nine, I felt it. An unseen hand reaching into my chest, grabbing my heart, and squeezing. Hard. Its fingernails punctured, leaving behind aching wounds.

The ache intensified with every new photograph or video of victims fleeing the horror of the scene, every interview with family members who learned their loved ones were among the dead, every narrative of a beautiful life taken, every media brief on the ongoing investigation that solidified the gunman’s motives of terror and hate.

There was an enticing drag to the hate that pulled at me in the days that followed, and my anger flared. Targets for my fury, the ones that crept into my social media feed or sought sound bites on the news, weren’t tough to find. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Still Talking

November 21, 2016
death

By Susan Barr-Toman

A few months after my husband died, Patti Smith was coming to the Philadelphia Library to talk about her second memoir M Train, a collection of essays. I called Missy right away. Patti was our thing. I was actually excited about something. We had to go together. Missy had given me Just Kids a few years ago. I’d never been a follower of Patti’s music, but I loved her memoir about a lifelong friendship founded on love and art. The two of us had a mini-pilgrimage to NYC. We’d traveled to the Hotel Chelsea, which unfortunately was under renovations at the time, and drank a cocktail next door at the El Quijote, where Patti had hung out with Janis Joplin.

The library would be my first outing since Pete died. At this point, everything was hard—eating, shopping, watching TV, making phone calls, getting out of bed. I needed to look forward to something that didn’t require much of me. But even with this event that required nothing of me, I needed someone to be with me in public, among strangers.  The day before the event, Missy said she couldn’t make it.

When my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer, people—those who’d experienced the death of a close loved one and the therapist I’d started seeing—warned me that death would change my relationships. Those who I expected to be there for me might not be. Others, unexpected, would be. Death affects people profoundly. Some people can’t be around it for an array of reasons. They’re afraid or they’ve just been through it themselves. And it turned out to be true. People I barely knew showed up and people I thought would be my core support did not.

Missy was one of those people. I’d imagined when Pete died that she’d practically move in with me and the kids. Instead, a few months before he died, she abruptly moved to D.C. for a new job. Of course, she hadn’t expected that she’d move in with me, and over the last few years, she’d taken care of her parents until they both passed on. She needed a new start; she’d had enough of death.

Without her, I didn’t want to go to the event. I was feeling a little devastated. But years ago, I had renounced the Catholic guilt trip. I would not make her feel bad in the hope that she would find a way to come. I said nothing. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

An Innocence Buried

October 26, 2016
funeral

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Lauryn Polo

January 31, 2008

I stood in a room that smelled too strongly of flowers, with the same people I saw every day, but this time, we weren’t in our basketball clothes or sweats– we wore dark professional clothing that our moms’ helped us pick out. We didn’t smile, didn’t joke like we were accustomed to at practice. Our coach’s dad lied still—he was gone. And for the first time, my coach was human. Here was a woman we all had known for most of our lives; had shared most of our winter seasons with her, along with countless hours in the offseason—but we had never seen her like this.

But tomorrow, after the funeral, we would practice again. She would still yell, and stop her foot so hard into the floorboards we would swear she would create a hole. The world, as we knew it, would continue—and this was something I would have to learn the hard way. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

What David Bowie Taught Me about Art, Death And Letting Go

October 14, 2016

By Grace Loh Prasad

The Montclair Railroad Trail is a mile-long, tree-lined path carved into the side of the Oakland Hills. From 1913 until 1957, the trail was part of a passenger rail line that ran from San Francisco through Oakland to Sacramento and Chico. Today it’s hard to imagine that trains once rolled on this narrow path through abundant eucalyptus and oak trees; no traces remain of the railroad or the station that once sat at the foot of Paso Robles, an area now occupied by a row of large, immaculate homes with two-car garages and shaded patios.

We go running on the trail almost every week. Years ago I pushed my son Devin in a stroller here; now he runs beside me and we race the last twenty yards over the footbridge to the stairs that lead to Montclair Village. Every now and then I run alone. I study the trees and I think about how old they must be, about how they have witnessed so much – the railroad being built then abandoned; houses rising one by one; families arriving, expanding and eventually leaving, to be replaced by new families. Time passes, but the trees always remain, season after season, year after year. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

What Is Grief?

October 7, 2016
grief

TW: This essay discusses miscarriage.

By Kate Kane

I hate the spring. All that sunlight and daylight and exposure; shocking and achy. All that light exposing the world.  Poor little buds trying with all their might to push out of the cold, icy dirt.  It’s so bright, the colors and clarity; it startles and hurts.  I want winter to keep on going.  The dark evenings and the cold nights. I am never ready for the spring.  The pressure of it all.

I remember I was wearing a bright orange skirt when I told you. And I remember you turning to straddle the concrete bench where we were sitting so you could look squarely at me; absorbing the news. And then you taking my hips gently between your hands and kissing the low part of my belly. Leaning your forehead against it.

Weeks later there we would be in the waiting room; you nuzzling my neck, and me having a distinct feeling that none of this was actually happening.  I remember you folding the white jeans that I had dropped on the floor while we were waiting for the doctor to come in. You, folding my white jeans. The irony of it all.  You, tidying up the mess.

“Is this your significant other,” the doctor asked with a casual gaze in your direction. We look at one another. “Yes,” I finally say.  Then the white, fuzzy image of the baby on that machine and both of us simultaneously straining to see it.  The monitor was a little behind me and I couldn’t really see the screen from where I was lying. But I could see you.  You. Looking intently with an expression I couldn’t quite pin down.  Those beautiful dark eyes narrowing. Leaning forward with your strong, tan forearms, resting on your legs. Squinting to see your baby. What were you thinking then?  I still long to know.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor says.  And everything fades to black.

I won’t forgive you for what you said to me later in the car. Because, no, I was not even a little relieved. We spent that afternoon together. Me feeling faint and dizzy, you managing to lose your phone, your house keys and your car keys in the span of a few hours.  The metaphor is not lost on me.  We went to your classroom to drop something off.  The window was broken – glass in the shape of a spider web.  It looked so violent and harsh. The sight of it made me cry.  You were busy emptying boxes of books. When you looked up, you looked pained for me, came to me fast and hugged me too hard but then went back to your work. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Arsis

September 30, 2016
shopping

By Suzanne Magdalena Rolph-McFalls

Shopping while grieving is a dangerous thing. So much so that my advice to you is to keep a dark suit, a black dress and shoes, at the ready, at all times. Mark it on your calendar to update the outfits, and sync it to springing forward and falling back, but be sure to keep something in the right size, appropriate for warm or  cold temperatures, rain or snow.

Because you should not shop while bereaved. You should not have to pick out a proper pump or a man’s black 34 belt while this mourning quivers so close to the surface of the thing that makes you yourself. You’ll lose your temper, lose your composure, spend too much money on the wrong thing or too little on the right thing, and end up wondering how you ever decided on a “right thing” to wear to that funeral. It will stay with you (if you don’t take my advice and keep the mourning suit at the ready!), the memory of a McAlpin’s or Nordstrom or DSW or Target or JC Penney. You’ll somehow fuse the event to the death, like  surgeons do with ruptured disks, to lend strength to the surrounding vertebrae. A metal cage and titanium screws will integrate into your spine, just like those clothes will become part of the narrative of that week; the story of the black trench coat with the red lining, and the below the knee black dress with the ivory panel down the front, the things you bought on a store credit card that equaled a month’s wages, but it didn’t matter because one more second in that store would have driven you mad. One more inane exchange of words with a clerk, the small talk of commerce, would make you spill it. Everything. The anger, the love, the guilt, the love, the jealousy. Yes, jealousy, because THIS not happen to him, or her, or her, or him, you are jealous of them. You do not know if it actually has, or not, it may have, it is not NOW, and the petty part of you is jealous.

You carry feelings, attitudes, on your skin and on your person, like a heavy pack on your back. There is superiority, because fuck them, they don’t know how strong your are being at this very moment. You are shopping for dress to wear to a funeral.  You are iron. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Pets

What I Think About My Dog’s Death

August 26, 2016
dog

By John Coleman

He who understands everything about his subject cannot write it. I write as much to discover as to explain. —Arthur Miller

Two days ago at this time, wife Kathy and I sat in our living room, not watching whatever cooking program was on television. Son Micah was in the attic having a go at his electric drum set.

When I got down to the last bite of my cold breakfast sandwich, I said, “I was just going to give this to Watson.”

But rigor mortis was setting in about this time, our old buddy having received the injections that cemented our decision to euthanize him. The first shot made him snore deep in his throat. The second killed him almost immediately. Once the syringe of blue pentobarbital started to empty, I wondered how often pet owners say, “Hey, stop, wait, I changed my mind.” Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Nothing Fancy

August 25, 2016
grandmother

By Sheryl Rivett

I watch, face pressed to glass, as the rolling hills of Miller county Missouri give way to breathtaking glimpses of sandstone river bluffs. A cloying sweetness wafts through my parents’ open windows, and I watch my mother hold her hair back from the wind, her manicured fingers shiny and smooth. I feel as if we, my mother and father and brother and I, are adventurers traveling the world in search of twilight sunsets and golden apricots, not the mere four hundred miles that lie between our home in Northern Illinois and my great-grandmother’s home in Missouri.

Addie greets us, rooted in St. Elizabeth like an ancient tree with hardy, sprawling branches.

We relax into small town life. Days inch by in the way that summer days pass. I play on the lawn in front of Addie’s clapboard house, while my father packs and lights and cleans his pipe and talks to farmers and neighbors passing by. The dolls I assemble on the lawn were once my mother’s, Addie their caretaker. She keeps them tucked away in a cedar chest, only unpacking the dolls for a special occasion. She lifts the top of the chest to reveal their shining faces, excitement lighting her own face. There is a magic in playing with the dolls my mother’s own hands once tended, a magic that opens a portal to her girlhood, and it’s as if I am playing side by side with another little girl, a girl with perfectly curled hair and wide, questioning eyes. The little girl frozen in the black and white photographs in an album that sits on a bookshelf back home.

2008. In the middle of the night, chest pressure and a feeling of suffocation. My diaphragm is locked tight. I leave my four daughters in the middle of the night when I ride by ambulance to the local hospital. The swoosh of the blood pressure cuff, the cool oxygen in my nose, blood snaking through the plastic tube. An xray. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Losing the Grandmother I Didn’t Know I Loved

August 10, 2016
grandmother

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Reyann Shah

We have always called her “Moti Mummy” and for as long as I can remember I’ve known exactly why. “Moti” is the feminine word in our language for “big” or old”.

Hearing my grandmother referred to as “Moti Mummy” always did well to remind me that she was the eldest woman in our family’s house in India. It garnered a certain amount of respect in that way. But it also had a way of making me giggle when I heard it. It’s the dumb humor that comes with alliteration. It was fun to say and it made me smile.

Hearing it from Mama today didn’t have the same funny effect that it usually did.

At 10:48 AM:

“Moti Mummy is very sick right now. She wants to leave and not go on anymore.”

At 5:20 PM:

“Moti Mummy passed away.”

As terrible as the initial news was, I had what at the time I thought was the benefit of simply reading the former in a text message. I didn’t have to bear the pain of seeing Mama’s crying face as the horrible news sank into both of our hearts. But it’s interesting. Upon getting home from work, I endured the latter in person with no keyboard or smartphone screen to protect me from seeing the pain in Mama’s eyes, and yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The reason was simple. With seeing Mama’s crying face, it was the opportunity to hold her in my arms that followed.

It was the opportunity to let her emotions pour out onto me without a shield or a boundary in sight. It was one of the very first truly authentic moments between us.

“I never got to be as close to her as I wanted to be,” I told others-through my tears- about my grandmother for most of today. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Bone Structure

August 5, 2016
mother

By Susanne Paola

She would tilt her face up to me.

And close her eyes. Like a cup brimming, steadying its restless surface. She didn’t easily give any part of herself to anyone else, to touch, to alter.

Her head tilted the same way laying out at the funeral home, before they shipped her to the crematorium. When did I cry? Only when I learned the fire did not burn her to ash but to bone, bones then ground in a human-grade grinder.

When my mother tilted her face to me I had my things, my colors, my brushes, laid out. We would probably be in the bathroom, her seated on the closed toilet. I started with the lips. Once the lips had color, the architecture of the face showed itself, and other shades came into focus. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Visitation

August 1, 2016
parents

By Donna Steiner

Yesterday at dusk a deer walked through the yard.  For about two seconds, we made eye contact.  The deer stood still, body facing away, head turned toward me.  “Be careful, baby,” I said, quietly.  She had just crossed the road, and I was referring to cars, and hunters.

This morning I went outside and scanned the vicinity, visually tracing her path.  I live on a ridge, which means she’d climbed uphill.  She may have begun at the base of the ridge, where a stream carves through stands of trees and knots of underbrush.  I’ve seen other deer down there, sipping clean water or, having heard the retort of a hunter’s gun, standing stock-still.  Hunters aren’t permitted in the area, but posted bans are rarely enforced.  One day I watched a deer stand, unmoving, for over 30 minutes.  I needed binoculars to see to the base of the ridge.  Every ten minutes or so I’d go back and check – the deer did not relent.  Her life depended on her stillness – if she moved, she’d be shot.

I’ve lived in several locales that were appealing to hunters, and there were times I’ve worried that I would inadvertently become a target.  When I wander into the yard, I try to remember to wear something bright and colorful.  More often than not, however, I realize upon returning indoors that I’ve been clad in earth tones, moving slowly, potentially mistakable for a creature not human.  Generally, when I hear gunshots, I stay inside. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

I Am My Father’s Daughter

July 31, 2016
grief

By Chamisa Wheeler

It’s OK, I tell my 37 year old self…

It’s really not.

I have not seen my father in 27 years until 2 days ago.

2 days ago,  I said Hello and a final Goodbye, in person, as my dad is lying in a bed, dying in a nursing home, after a short visit of 25 minutes and it was apparent it was time to leave…I said “I love you Dad”with a kiss on his forehead and walked out of the room.

Excuse my french, but what the fuck do you do with that?

Backtrack to last week:

I got THE phone call last week. The ONE call, I knew would happen at some point, for many years now, knowing it would come, and still not knowing what the hell I would with it when it came.

I had  thoughts before…had visions of what could happen. I saw myself driving with my brothers to go see our dad…see the town he lived in, called home. Hoped it wouldn’t be at his funeral, but in my thoughts, it was possible…Or maybe we wouldn’t go at all.

Had many years to think about this moment and I thought I had prepared myself. Continue Reading…