The journey through grief is such a solitary one, you can surround yourself with loved ones, mentors, and wise guides, but the one that knows what's best for you, the one that truly knows exactly how it is you're feeling, and what it is you need, is always going to be you...My husband would have turned 34 years old today on his Birthday, and leading up to this day, heaviness, sadness. Lots of process work, journaling, listening to and singing Adele, crying out to the ocean... I knew I wanted to be able to celebrate his life with my daughters today. And so I had planned to have a little birthday cake, grab dinner out, go to the beach, make it a joyful day, doing all of the things Mitch loved doing on his birthday, but at the last minute, I doubted the piece about celebrating with a cake, a friend's words repeated in my mind, he's gone.... And yes true, and when I had mentioned to my 3 ½ year old daughter Ava that we would be celebrating daddy's birthday, she replied, but he's an angel... And I said, I know, he won't be there, well, he'll be there, but not in the ways we've known before... And so I didn't pick up a little cake. And then today rolled around, and I wished I had, for me, for my daughter, for Mitch... For me, there's just comfort in honoring Mitch, especially on special days like his Birthday with some type of ritual, with some type of celebration that gets my little ones involved in the remembering of their daddy, and there was something about the cake that was warming and comforting. And we did celebrate, we went out for pizza, got ice cream, went to the beach, played in the pool, saw some friends, and in the end, we stuck a candle in the pizza and sang happy birthday... A lesson to me, to appreciate the support of loved ones, but know that the one who knows me best, that knows what it is I need, what is best for our family, is me. And to trust that, to seek wise counsel, advice, and support, but at the end of the day, go inward to find the answers that I am seeking because it is only I that walks in these shoes, or rather flip flops these days. Trust your inner-guidance.
After someone close to us dies, there are certain physical things that we can literally hold onto that give us comfort, that remind us of our loved one, that represent them in this physical world, that provide emotional comfort. But when that thing which was once was a source of comfort becomes a source of angst, sadness, anger, heaviness, or stress, it signifies that it is time to release that which you were holding onto, it is time to let it go.
This just came up for me in my own life. After my husband, Mitch, passed away 14 months ago, I began using his i-phone after mine “mysteriously” broke the morning after I had a dream that I dropped it in a pool of water. I held onto his phone like my life depended on it. I relished in all of his music, his photos, the messages we had sent back and forth to one another. I held it so close to my heart. Magical and mysterious things had happened with that phone, a new playlist surfaced weeks after he passed entitled, horses, and I felt every song was from his heart to mine. I looked at the otter-box cover with the camouflage coloring and I felt him. And then about 10 days ago, I asked Mitch to help me in releasing him a bit more, I asked him to help me release another layer of sadness in my heart, I asked him to help me let go a bit more. And then shortly after that, the i-phone no longer held a charge. I had to keep it plugged in in order for it to maintain a 1% charge. I panicked. I performed reiki (energy healing) on the phone, which worked for a short time, until the battery just slowly died once again, but held onto that thread of 1%. I called a friend and reiki healer to meet for a walk on the beach yesterday. I brought the phone in hopes that she, being a master, could heal my phone for real (in simply changing the battery, I risked the entire contents of the phone being erased). So I asked her, but then shared that I wondered if this was another lesson for me in letting go. She concurred with the latter. She encouraged me to release the phone. She held it before my eyes, assuring me that Mitch was not in the phone, the phone was not Mitch. The tears flowed, and flowed, and flowed. Deep in my heart, I knew she was right. I knew this was a lesson in letting go. She asked me if I was ready to release the phone, I knew the answer within was a yes as much as I cried. We walked to the top of one of the rocks along the rocky part of the shore. I looked down at the sea and was reminded of all the courageous things Mitch had always encouraged me to do, always stretching me to challenge myself, to step outside of my comfort zone, and jumping off a high rock into the ocean had been one of them. I smiled. A few butterflies swirled around me in the winds, the sea spray from the waves crashing against the rocks urged me that the time to release the phone was now. I looked down by my feet and saw a beautiful flower that had fallen from the tree above me. I picked it up, held it on top of the phone, said a prayer, wished Mitch release and freedom and myself the same. My friend stood beside me as my support, and I let go. My tears had dried and I hurled the phone into the ocean. I smiled. I thanked Mitch. And I immediately put the intention out into the universe that I was open and ready to be gifted with a new i-phone, as that had been my only camera. So for those of you reading that may have an extra that is looking for a home, I will willingly receive it with open arms and an open heart. I hugged my friend. I walked away feeling a little lighter and a little braver. And now I ask you to ask yourself, what is it time to let go of in your own life?
The feelings that threaten to topple over the whole tower of cards... the feelings we avoid at all costs, the feelings we try and push down, the feelings that we're afraid of.. the anxiety that we experienced four years ago that kept us awake at night... so that any glimpse of anxiety that shows up now, we run the other way, we drink an extra glass of wine, smoke a bowl, take a pill... Or for me, the sorrow I experienced all year, the pain so deep it physically hurt, the pain that kept me from tending to much else besides me and my kids... When we deny that anxiety, or that sadness, or whatever other feeling it is we don't want to feel, well, when it shows up, it has so much power over us. Just surrender to the feelings when they arise, sit with them, get to know them, offer them love, and then let them pass through us so they don't get stuck, or else they are always there in the background, threatening to topple over the tower. If we just surrender to them, without fearing them, without fearing that we will drown in them, while staying connected to our spiritual center, our source of love, and realize that the ups and downs of the emotions we feel are a part of being human, well, then we can simply notice when they arise, without stuffing them, fearing them, denying them, resisting them, just let them come and see what it is they have to teach us. And then offer ourselves comfort and compassion with a inner-knowing, a faith so strong, reminding us that we can get through anything... And being honest with ourselves, yes, there are days, there are moments, when it hurts, when we feel our humanness on every level, and the best thing we can do for ourselves is just be there in loving support, and hold the candle as a reminder that this too shall pass.
And today I woke up with sadness as I awoke from a dream. I dreamed that Mitch and I were re-united, like he never died, like he had been away somewhere... And the embrace, oh so real. I woke up with a closed heart, an aching heart, and at first I avoided it, so that all I felt was anger and constriction in my heart. And then I decided to move my body, move it through me. I played a Pink song, and I started to dance, and intuitively began to open my heart, open my chest, and then tears. And then after a little while, the tears passed. I chose to meet my feelings with courage (my only other option was to feel anger and constriction), and they literally moved right through me as I danced. And this is life, there are no perfect persons who feel perfectly happy all the time, we can learn to find our center of calm, and know that our ability to feel, that our feelings are the source of both love and pain in this life. To feel; it is a part of the human experience, and if feeling pain allows us to feel the love too, well then, it's a no-brainer, gotta feel to really and truly be fully alive to this experience of life.
As I walked along the beach this morning, I noticed my shadow, for the first time noticed it was just me, just my shadow, no pair, no partner walking beside me in this physical realm. I didn't cry with this seemingly simple revelation, just noticed, but for the first time really. As connected as I feel with Mitch in the spiritual realm, in this earthly physical realm it was just me now, I was no longer a part of a couple. I straightened by spine and stood a little taller with each step, admiring the reflection of my own strength, my own poise, and continued walking with a humble sort of pride in my step, I was proud of who I was. And as I walked I pondered how I didn't feel alone, everyday I engaged with my Self, everyday I engaged with my children, and everyday I engaged with a blessed friend or family member. This year I had learned to be “alone.” It was the most pained year I had ever experienced, and yet the most blessed year I had ever experienced.
And then I went to a yoga class, and what do you know? It was exactly what I needed, although I can't say I was surprised... The theme of the class today was love, and each pose we did was intended to open the heart. By the end of the class as we lay in shivasana, or corpse pose, I began to cry, I cried as I felt the tingly sensation that connects me to Mitch, that connects me to the divine. I cried tears of thanks for his presence, and leftover tears of sadness for his physical death, it felt like the emotional cleanse I needed. Ah life, this life, bringing me exactly what it was that I needed this morning, but then it always does one way or another, right? And so I let the tears flow until they were done, and thanked the teacher and my dear friend for inviting me to the class, and then went about my day with my heart just a little more opened than it was when I arrived.
My girls and I just spent one month back in California after ten months of having been away... When I left California last February to move to Costa Rica, I wasn't sure how long I'd be gone, I actually booked a return ticket for one month later, but that was just to be safe... I knew I was meant to stay, I had followed a very strong intuitive knowing in moving to this place I had lived years before with my beloved hubby. Yes, what a month in Cali, a lot of letting go's, saying good-bye's, moving forwards, and inviting in the new and exciting. It sort of felt as if in going back, I had come full circle. The one year anniversary of my husband's passing came just before my trip, and going back felt like a time to relax, catch up with family and friends (wish I'd had more time for friends...), reflect, feel proud of myself, and get excited for the new year, with this year's focus being on love, joy, and success, and inspiring that in others through my spiritual health services, ie. counseling, writing, meditation, and creative expression workshops, helping others discover and embrace their authentic Selves, heal, and transform experiences from the darkest of nights into the lightest of days, and write, write, write. This is a year of giving back, enjoying the fruits of my labor, which is the peace I feel now after having healed through the darkest of days when my husband passed in December of 2012, loving and supporting my daughters and myself, and listening and trusting my intuition. So, we've been back in Costa Rica for a few days now, and I've enjoyed catching up with friends, de-cluttering my house, really creating a space of ease and clarity, and resting. Now, I learn to honor my body's wisdom, and rest when I need to rest, clean when I need to clean, work when I need to work, cook when I need to cook, without a lot of the resistance I have had in the past, and this time with an infusion of ease and surrender into each of these processes, and it is a process... Try to find the joy in what you do, and the compassion for who you are, life is what we make of it, with a lot of divine intervention and guidance along the way... Blessings!
It's been nearly one year since you passed away, one year already since I saw you last. Wow. You have successfully helped me believe in life after “death,” and have shown me many ways I can connect with you, I love you for that, for guiding me through this period of my life without you, well, without you physically. You have completely changed my view of death. I was so scared of it before, ever since I was a child, and I'm not scared anymore. And I don't doubt that the spirit of each of us will live on after we die and continue to evolve through the stages of our soul's life, and I know one day we will give life another go, together, I assume it will be a more evolved union by then :). I know I've learned and grown so much from this, and I'm sure you have too. My goodness, growth on fast forward! You have given me the beautiful gift of believing, of having faith... I believe in your spiritual presence, I believe in the presence of angels, I believe in the spirit within all of life. Yes, all those years together of you trying to get me to have more faith in you, to believe everything would work out, well, this was the final test, the final lesson that will be an eternally ongoing one, and despite the pain, I am truly grateful for the truth that was revealed. Oh Mitch and our sweet little girls, Ava, oh my, she is a lot like you... with a strong mind of her own, and little Ams, sweet little Amelie, popped out looking a lot like you! Although I don't have to tell you, you were there, and are here to witness these two precious little peanuts... This has been the worst year, and yet one of the best years of my life. You died, and all the pain that came along with it, but this is also the year Amelie was born, this is the year Ava and I moved to Costa Rica, the year I graduated with my Master's degree, this is the year that I became aware of just how supported I am, and this is the year I learn to trust in myself and in life. Yes, it has been nearly one year since you died, I have nearly written a book already from this experience, thank you for that, I knew I wanted to write one, but didn't know what about... I have seen just how strong I am, I have seen just how supported I am, I have seen a lot my dear. I love you everyday and will continue to write you letters like I'm doing now, I will continue to tell Ava and Amelie stories about you and about our life together, I will continue to teach Ava how to connect with you (I'm pretty certain Amelie can see you, so don't have to help there...), I will stay awake to the beauty of each moment of this precious life we are living, and I will look ahead with faith and excitement for what's to come. I will live by your credo, “make it happen,” I will follow my joy in life as you always encouraged, and I will trust that it's all going to unfold beautifully, and just as it should. Thank you for ten beautiful years my darling. I love you. Be at peace, it's all good...
Hallelujah, Amen, holy mother, something happened the other day. For the first time since Amelie was born, four months ago, I went for a walk, by myself, and it felt so good. I walked along the ocean, contemplated my life, where I am now, where I've been, where I want to go. I thought of Rumi's words, “dive into the boiling sea of passion and all grief with run from you,” and I literally felt with each step I was leaving my sadness behind, walking into the next horizon, the next season, the next chapter of my life, with my husband so close to me. Sending him peace, sending me peace, and seeing in brilliant color the vision for this next part of my life. Now is when I fully embrace my work as a healer, as a writer, now is when I truly enjoy my life. I envision myself taking Ava boogie boarding, I envision me taking myself surfing. I envision myself giving my daughters the best life, and giving myself the best life, because now is the moment that I realize I deserve it. I've always deserved it, but now is the moment that I fully realize it, as all of my grief, all of my suffering, and all of my pain have led to this beautiful light horizon. My God, I thank all that is holy, I recognize it and I praise it. Every. Single. Day.
There's a guilt that comes as a heavy layer of grief lifts, as another layer of letting go is exposed, as I start to feel better...I really loved him you know, ten years of my life, I'm just trying to heal... Yes, a certain guilt when you let go of another layer of grief, especially when someone else is still cloaked in a heavy sadness for him, when they're still crying, and I'm not crying as much... Part of me wants to justify my feelings, I still love him too, I've been sad too... As if my love is measured in how long I grieve. Everyone goes through their own process of grieving when someone close to them dies, and goes through their own healing process too. Ahh, the pain of being heartbroken after someone dies, and then the guilt of starting to feel better... This part can't last, I know he knows I love him. I decide to give myself and everyone around me permission to go through their own process in their own time. I send my beloved love and embrace each moment of joy I feel. I let go of that nagging guilt, it's okay to heal, it's okay to feel better, it doesn't mean I don't love him still.
How much time is enough, what's too long, what's too little, to grieve a loss such as this? Well, honestly, I have processed my husband's loss every night ever since it happened last December, every night I meditate, or I write, or I blog, or I call a supportive someone. I have kept a candlelight vigil for my emotions to find expression, held them long into the night, cried to the ocean as I walked along the shores like a ghost, I have howled at the moon begging for another chance, I have connected with his spirit, heard his voice felt his energetic embrace, I have screamed in anguish, gritted teeth, danced, I have sung him songs of my love and sorrow, I have birthed our second daughter, I have doubted the spiritual world, I have experienced the spiritual world, and here I stand nearly a year later feeling more whole and beginning to see myself emerging from this. But, how long is enough? Well, last week I re-read a piece I had written a week before and realized I was tired. Tired of writing about it. Slight panic, is this what it feels like to let go of yet another layer of the heaviness of this grief? Is this what it feels like to inch closer to accepting him as a spiritual being, as a guide to me now? Is this what it feels like to stop wishing for things to be as they were? Yes, it seems so. I move through my fear of shedding yet another layer of this, and stand back and look at where I've been, all that I've done. Ok, he knows if he were here physically I would be just as in love with him as I always was, but he's not here in that way anymore, I know he wants to see me healing. I know he wants me to feel whole again. I stand tall, I stand proud. There is light. Thank you.
Control, out of my hands, in your hands, in his hands, in her hands, in the metaphorical hands of the Divine creator, that bringith and takith at willith, and I hold my hands up in the air, I surrender to the knowing that control is out of my hands. But it seems I agreed to all of this at a time before I can remember, but since I can't remember, I have to simply trust that all of this is for my greater good, for my evolution, for my journey, and trust that we will meet again, and trust you come to me every time I call. A love so real it leaves me gasping for air sometimes when another layer of grief is exposed, when I realize again and again, in all shapes and forms that I will not hold you again in this life, there are no more embraces, no more shoulders to cry on, no more adventures together. You had us going full speed, a speed that was not sustainable indeed, but here I am somehow sustaining, learning how to believe in things I can't see. I throw my hands up, defeated, but yet somehow better, somehow closer to remembering why I'm here, a foggy dream we have to feel our way out of, experiences, people, all planned for our growth... All of this growing has given me growing pains. And so I stretch my way through them, I dance my way around them, I sing my song to them, and I remember why I am here, and put my hands up in the air and I love. I love with all my might this human experience, my children, myself, this life, with all its joys and sorrows.
Time, as time passes, my heart heals yes, but as time passes, the heavy hand of finality sets in, time begs for a sort of acceptance, or I find myself racing against it, bound to lose, because time keeps moving, as fast or as slow as I please. Time, it was his time, his soul chose this time to leave, this time to be born, and we are just a little out of sync with our timing it seems... Time passes, he wants to go fast, I want to go slow, we slow down the clock so I can rest, he slows down and he lays down to rest, yes, but time was unforgiving, because it was his time and not mine, and so I accept this time and hope that next time we last the whole time, together. Knowing that it was his souls time, and now this feels like my second time, I better make it count. Slowly. So I meditate, I heal in my own time, make peace with my time that's left until next time.
In the still of the afternoon after both girls have gone down for their nap, I let myself feel the sadness that has been welling up inside me since Ava's birthday party two days ago. I tried to feel happy today for Ava, but then after we ate lunch, she asked me why I wasn't happy... I guess I wasn't fooling anyone... I think putting aside certain feelings and allowing release at the appropriate time (aka not at your daughters birthday party), is one thing, but it is quite another thing to try and pretend that all is happy when it isn't. And to be okay with that. To let that emotion arise, find healthy expression, so that you can move on, a bit lighter, a bit more healed. But trying to pretend to be happy, to see all the bright things, all the while ignoring the dark things, is just simply bound to drive a person mad. And so I tried to pretend all was well. Be strong to send Mitch only love and peace, but right now, I am feeling sad, I am sad for my daughter, I am sad for myself, I am sad for Mitch, and I am sad for my family. But, time has taught me that these feelings don't last forever, I was never completely consumed by a sadness I couldn't come up from... In fact, time has taught me when I've ignored real feelings, the painful ones, they just linger in my body, eat away at my soul until I cry, write, and simply let go, and stop trying so hard to be happy all the time. But, seeing as it's Ava's Birthday, I will work through some of this stagnant emotion that has been lingering, begging for expression now while both girls are napping, so that when they are awake, I can be fully present to the joy and excitement of my daughters very special day. And then I won't be faking it because I am acknowledging what has been lying below the surface, I will express it, and I will allow for more healing. I will weather through the pain so I can fully enjoy the pleasure that is sure to follow.
Accepting my life for what it is now, means accepting Mitch for what he is now, a purely spiritual being. I was brought to this place, this place of surrender the other day when all of a sudden Mitch started to communicate to my friend, he communicated his overwhelming sadness. In that moment, knowing he was being affected by how I was feeling, I made a choice, an act of love really, to send him only love and peace. I couldn't and can't bear the thought of him being in any pain, and so I let go of another layer of my suffering, another layer of resistance to his passing. Except I'm finding that this is no easy feat... A part of me simply doesn't want to accept it, even though I know this is the only way. But knowing that ever tear I cry pains him as well, helps me to move more and more toward healing. And the Alicia Keys song pops into my head, “Cause I am a superwoman, yes I am... Even when I'm a mess, I still put on my vest with an S on my chest, oh yes, I'm a superwoman...” And once I made that choice in my heart, to send him love and peace, to work through another layer of my grief in order to feel more peace in my heart, my friend could feel Mitch's peace and I could too. And now a part of my mindfulness practice becomes sending him love and peace. I surrender to what is.
There just aren't quite words to describe the depths of my pain at your passing, I feel it was just too soon, but what do I know? Perhaps I knew it all along, perhaps we agreed to this before we were born into this lifetime. Why? I don't know, you did so much good in your 32 years, and perhaps through your passing, I will do so much good with the rest of my life. I'll never forget the voice of officer Machado on the night he told me you died, “I'm sorry, I don't like to do this sort of thing over the phone...” I just knew. I dropped to the floor. He said many other things, but I was in an altered state of reality, nothing made any sense. All time ceased to exist, you were no longer apart of the reality I knew and I couldn't even begin to comprehend a world without you. I just remember laying on the floor, confused, shocked, listening but not really hearing, and the screaming and crying of my mom, the crying of my dad, and then our two year old daughter Ava woke up... I immediately went to her, laid with her, hugged her close, what just happened, how did that just happen? Take it back! Take it back! Let this be a horrible nightmare, but alas it was not, and in the ensuing days, it was like the nightmare just wouldn't end.
Driving to your mom's house in the morning to pick her up so we could go to see you, the prayer group that came over to pray for us, to share their condolences, all of the pictures of you in your mom's house, in the room we shared together for the last eight months of our lives, your clothes still smelling like you, and then we started the 14 hour drive to Yreka to see you, your body, what was left of your earthly existence. The the long drive listening to the haunting songs you posted to your facebook, studying the bible verses you posted in the weeks prior, reading and re-reading our last texts, trying to determine exactly when it was that you passed based on your last messages to me, speculating how it was that you had passed, was it appendicitis? Overcome with guilt for not going with you on that trip, I changed my mind at the last minute... Yes, that long car ride, everyone grieving, Ava wondering about all of the sadness, our dog, Chi Chi knowing something was wrong. And then arriving at the funeral home, trying to prepare to see you, but we couldn't because they had just finished the autopsy to determine how you died, and the man said it was kind of messy and to come back in the morning when you'd be all ready for us to see... That's when we made the arrangements for your cremation for the following week, they said they didn't do that sort of thing on the weekends.
Eating breakfast in the hotel cafeteria in the morning, throwing up all that I ate in the anxious anticipation of seeing you, your body, with you no longer in it... Walking into the funeral home, walking into the room where you laid, there you were, just laying there, like you were sleeping, yet I couldn't wake you. At first I hesitantly touched you, you felt so hard, so cold, you had a look of peace on your face tinged with sadness, with heartbreak that only I could see. I touched your face, touched your lips, traced your features with my finger, wanted your face to imprint into my memory forever, breathed in your smell like my own life depended on it, and I cried, how could this be? We came back to see you once more after that, we played your music, talked to you, I tried shaking you to wake you up, even though I knew you would not come to, you just looked so painfully normal, laying there, as you always did each night. As if in a dream, a horrible, horrible dream that I couldn't wake from, that I couldn't wake you from. I was forced to just sit with the reality of the life I would have to face without you.
We drove to see the horses after that last visit with you, the horses we'd visited with you on our last visit to northern california. These horses were loving on me, all over me, I felt they were you, I smiled from my heart for the first time in days. I explained to our two year old daughter when she asked for you that you were an angel now... We went to our cabin, the place where you lit that last fire to keep you warm that night, and there it was, that little wood burning heater/bbq just sitting there, right by where you laid your head that night for the last time, your poor body poisoned with carbon monoxide while you slept peacefully. Your tooth brush, your shoes, your machete, your hat, everything was just the same as you'd left it. I cleaned that day, it was painfully cold, Ava cried wondering where you were... we had never come without you. And there was our car parked underneath the oak tree, right where you left it, the oak tree that we were going to hang a swing from for Ava. Yes, everything just as I remembered, just so much colder, so much more painful, my heart now missing, you were missing, I was broken into a thousand pieces.
I went into the police station to retrieve your more valuable belongings, the keys to our car, your i-phone, your camera, and there it was, all that was left of you that I could still hold onto, all that was “valuable,” in my two hands. And in the ensuing days we waited, waited for your body to be burned to ashes, so that we could take you back home with us. The heavy urn, metal contained filled with what was left of you. We drove home with heavy hearts. In the days that followed once we got back to my parents were a blur. Crying on the floor in my room, a room that we had once shared, asking you to show me your presence if you were still with me, tingles and warmth on the left side of my body, that was your confirmation to me, you were here. Just as you told my brother on the night we found out, you told him while he was praying that you were ok, and that you would never leave my side. I began going to intensive meditation sessions so I could learn how to more fully connect with you, that was all I had. I prepared for my daughter and I's move to costa rica, the place we had planned to return to, and the place I decided to birth our second daughter due seven months later. I settled your debts, I finished my Master's program. And miracles, miraculous happenings to prove your presence to me amidst my confusion and doubts, like the playlist on your i-phone that appeared soon after you passed named horses...
And now, the question of forgiveness... I haven't had it in my heart to be mad at you, just horribly saddened, angry at what I believe to be fate, that you were simply a part of, that I was simply a part of. I look forward, I look all around me for signs of you, I depend on friends and family hearing songs that remind them of you, or seeing visions of you, or receiving messages from you in dreams, and then passing these along to me, because sometimes it's not so easy to feel you, to connect with you, but now I am learning to see you, or perhaps some of my grief is lessening a bit so you can more easily come through to me, I thank God for all of the ways that I can see you, feel you, hear you, touch you... Yes, I have since given birth to our darling Amelie, who I'm sure you visit... And take care of our nearly three year old daughter, who I pray to God that you visit in dreams, and I pray for the wisdom to help my children through understanding your transition into a purely spiritual being and out of a physical daddy body, and I pray for the strength of heart to fulfill my dream of being here in Costa Rica now with our girls, yes, prayer, meditation, good friends and family, signs of your presence, and purpose have gotten me through this madness of losing you as I had always known you. I forgive you my love, I know we would be together if we could and I thank you for being here with me now in the ways that you can. I send you only love, and I know I will get through this, I am getting through this, and I will help people because of it. I will honor you by lovingly and patiently raising our children as close to the kind of life we would have given them together, beach, freedom, culture, travel, creativity, and lots and lots of love. Yes, I will love you forever, I almost said until the day I die, but I know our love extends way beyond those measures of time and space, yes, I will love you as I have always loved you.
It's strange because as time goes on in the grieving process, I start to feel like I “shouldn't” talk about it, like, enough time has gone by, and I "should" be moving on, I don't want to burden others with my sadness, nobody wants to hold space for that kind of pain... That voice inside that we all have sometimes that keeps us separate from one another... So, I write. But it ends up making me feel sort of alienated from people when I don't talk about it, because even though the pain has lessened, it is still a process that is very much a part of my everyday reality. I feel my husband's physical absence everyday. It's been nine months. It is getting easier, I cry less now, I express my emotions as they arise and let them move through me, but why do I feel like I have to apologize for my sadness when it arises? I think it is difficult for people to hold space for the kind of sadness I have experienced. Right after my husband passed away, even good friends weren't quite sure how to approach me, worried about what to say and what not to say... I will tell you what I told them, there is no “right” thing to say to someone who is grieving the loss of their husband, just stop worrying about what the “right” thing to say is and just say something, anything. If someone asks about what happened, or asks about my husband, or asks how I'm doing, I welcome sharing, I need to share, and if I cry, don't worry, it means I needed to cry, but I don't always cry now. So, if you know someone who has experienced a loss, don't worry about saying the right thing or the wrong thing, and just say something, from the heart is always a good option, it's not like it's not on their mind anyway, trust me.
And just when I think the day's work is done, I remember that there is still more to do, and then I remember to surrender to the work so that it becomes no better or worse, no more or less than what I'll do when I'm done with the work. Surrender to it, accept it, so it becomes a part of my meditation, a part of my spiritual practice, and then I realize this is what I have to offer others, what I have given to myself that has helped me out of the darkness. So, what has helped me? A daily spiritual practice, which happens to be writing, learning the art of being present and still through a meditation practice that has allowed me to bring this way of being into other parts of my life, being committed to seeing the spiritual in all things, circumstances, and roles, allowing emotions to move through me without judgement or resistance, the same way we birth our children, without resistance to the pain, but rather by surrendering to it, allowing it to move through us, our children, our ideas, our emotions, our thoughts, without guilt, without struggle. Finding a way of creatively expressing my emotions, leaning on friends and family that support me, lift me up, letting go of ways that no longer serve me (first becoming aware of those ways), and really allowing myself to be silently drawn to pull of what I really love -Rumi, and making that my career. Five years ago, googling spirituality and psychology and discovering a perfectly suited educational track and creating a career for myself based on how I could best serve others while utilizing all of my gifts, passions, joys, and learning how to follow my bliss, my peace, and my joy. Yes, we can all live a life fully awake, with hearts wide open to let in love and let go of pain.
Yesterday, I nearly got carried away on waves of bitterness, resentment, and in general feeling low and very sorry for myself. It is very easy to get over-identified with one particular emotion or thought, especially if it is a very potent one. Yes, yesterday by the end of the day, my back hurt from carrying around my newborn, my toddler had two accidents on the floor (very uncharacteristic of her), it was three days into a brand new routine of my toddler returning to school, and nearly marked two weeks of adjusting to caring for the girls without the help of my family, and oh yes, without the help of my husband that passed away nine months ago. Yes, I began to completely identify with my negative feelings... And then I remembered my meditation practice. I am experimenting with a chanting mantra meditation right now, and so I did that. It reminded me that I am also experiencing many other thoughts and feelings besides those that threaten to take me down a not-so-nice rabbit hole, and that helped dilute the potency of the bitterness, resentment, and victim-mentality that was starting to build. I began moving my body into yoga stretches to ease the pain of my back and hips, I washed the dishes from dinner, and then I called a friend with whom I could vent with, cry with, and then finally laugh with. Yes right now is a challenging time in my life, but is also providing me with an opportunity to grow and evolve through it. And now today is a new day, filled to the brim with moments to start anew and see the silver lining...
In my dream I jump off a high mountain peak, at first I am free falling, my stomach drops, I feel fear. And then all of a sudden I realize that I can fly... I begin to do somersaults through the air, I spread my arms wide, I float along freely and after a while, I land safely on the Earth. This feels like a visual metaphor of my life right now, I must simply spread my wings and trust I will fly, and for me spreading my wings means sending letters to editors to publish my writings, it means creating more therapeutic workshops, and it means fully embracing my life as it is right now with my two little girls knowing full and well that I will triumph above adversity and fully realize all of my dreams. Yes, we all must jump off that mountain peak, or we'll always wonder what it would have been like to feel the wind beneath our wings and step outside of our fears. My dream also reminded me that I am already being carried, even if I am afraid to fall. I'm being carried by my loving family that came in rotation to help me with the girls for the first five weeks. I'm being carried by my friends who are taking turns cooking me dinner this week while I transition into flying solo without the help of family. I am being carried by the faith that others have in me, which gives me strength to have faith in myself even when life seems a challenge. Yes, I will rise to meet the challenges that we all face during this life, and I will spread my wings and fly.
It was 7:00pm on the night I gave birth to Amelie, in the little house I rented in Costa Rica, and I had just kissed my two and half year old daughter Ava good-night and watched her fall into a peaceful sleep... My contractions were coming with more frequency and more intensity, about every six minutes. I began to create the sacred space in our little rented house to birth Amelie while I waited for the arrival of the midwife and her assistant. I lit candles, placed framed photos of my late husband, Mitch, in easy view, burned sage, laid out the yoga mat to stretch through my contractions, and put Mitch's i-phone music on shuffle. As I was creating the space, I was overcome by big heavy tears of grief for Mitch's physical absence. I let them come to move through me as I knew pretty soon I would need all of my focus and energy directed toward one thing and one thing only, birthing Amelie.
The midwife and her assistant arrived at 7:30pm, they held space for my grieving, and then after I moved through my fears of a stalled labor, which was what happened with Ava's birth upon my entry into the hospital, my contractions began to come faster and stronger. I breathed through the pain, was massaged with essential oils during each contraction, and prayed for the support of Mitch, the angels, and God. Any conversation I had been having with the midwife and her assistant had come to a halt as the strength of each contraction took all of my focus, energy, and breath. At about 9:30, the midwife and her assistant began setting up the birthing pool in the living room while I laid in bed with Ava who had temporarily awoken. By 10:30pm, with Ava once again sleeping soundly, I got into the birthing pool, and with each contraction, I visualized my breath opening my cervix with as much ease as I could muster to allow the little one to pass through her birthing canal peacefully. I visualized being in bed with my two girls... When the pain was overwhelming, I remember hearing a song come through on the i-phone, “Walkin' on a dream,” by Empire of the Sun, a favorite of Mitch's... It was the only song I remember hearing during that intense period of labor. It was that song, and a memory of a dream I'd had the night before in which I gave birth in the squatting position, that gave me the energy to refocus my efforts and energy to safely and quickly deliver Amelie. I got into the squatting position in the pool, and asked my midwife if she could see Amelie's head with her pocket flashlight. She said she couldn't, but that I could reach into her birthing canal to feel for her head. Well, I reached into her passage to the world and felt her head through the amniotic encasing that was still intact. My midwife offered that I could keep my hand on her head while I pushed to help direct my energies. So I did just that, I prayed and pushed, and felt Amelie's head move further and further down the canal. I switched to a half laying/half seated position so my midwife could deliver Amelie as she made her entrance into the pool.
With a few final pushes, at 12:23am, Amelie was pushed safely through her birthing canal, her cord was unwrapped from her body by my midwife, and she was placed into my arms. I did it. I home birthed Amelie in Costa Rica, with a midwife, in a birthing pool, without Mitch's physical presence, all while not waking Ava who was in the next room. I sat in the pool with Amelie for a few minutes before I got out and did one last minor push of the placenta, and then laid in bed while the midwife did a health check of both me and the baby; we were both fine. Just then Ava woke up and got to meet her baby sister for the first time, pure love and perfect timing... After showering, I crawled into bed with my two girls, and it was just pure heaven. All I could do was marvel at the little miracle that I had just birthed, thank Mitch, the angels, and God for her safe delivery. The new chapter of our lives was just beginning...
Last night I meditated with my brother (thank you Ramsey) for the second night in a row, just a 15 minute session with a beautiful indian chant to begin, “thou and I never apart, wave of the sea, dissolves in the sea... I am a bubble, make me the sea...” The lyrics of the chant, “thou and I, never apart” played in my heart throughout both meditations and felt like a strong reminder that Mitch is always with me, and even more than a strong reminder, a felt sense of knowing that he is always with me. This was a shift in my grieving process because of the knowing, and the knowing was accompanied by a very receptive, peaceful feeling in my whole body. There have been many times throughout this grieving process where I have felt as if I was grasping around in the dark to connect with Mitch, but last night there was no grasping, just a knowing that was accompanied by a calm, peaceful feeling in my heart and spirit. I was reminded of my last night with Mitch when we were sitting in our car, and all of a sudden I was overcome by a wave of peace that I could feel in every part of my body, and all of a sudden I knew what peace truly felt like. I remember sharing that with him, and being aware in that moment of how damn lucky I was. And I always pay attention to songs that just “randomly” come into my mind, because they usually hold some kind of significance to me, either a glimpse into my unconscious, or communication from the divine... Well, the song that came into my mind last night during the meditation was a song by Mason Jennings called, Southern Cross, part of the chorus being, “have some faith...” Another reminder for me to keep my faith strong. It's amazing the difference just 15 minutes can make....