Cutting Loss Down to Size: 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mornings are the hardest time

Going to a therapist for grief work can bring out the cynic in me.  So many of the questions seem facile and pointless:  when is grief hardest for you?  Can you think of  a certain incident or memory that particularly seems to give rise to it?  Is there a certain time of the week or day that seems to trigger it?

I confess…the questions annoyed me.  It’s easy to think “oh, brother…she really doesn’t get it, does she?  Grief stinks and it hurts all the time.  What’s wrong with her??”  But then the softer side of me encouraged me to go with the program just for the hell of it.  So I cast aside my all-too-quick, haughty criticisms of this approach and just tried it on for size.  I sat with those questions for a bit.  Each time the hurt, smart-ass part of me surfaced, I sent her away.  After all, she wasn’t very pleasant…and she was extremely non-productive, also!  Think about it:  telling ourselves “they just don’t get it” may be valid, but it’s also a show-stopper.  It doesn’t get us anywhere.  It’s just a one-way ticket for one to Griefville.  And that place is no 5-star resort.  It’s more like a cell in solitary confinement.

 So I tried to really think about those questions in an objective way.  Sure, grief may always be with us, but if we think about it…there are certain times when we are able to smile, to laugh, to be in the moment.  Those are times when Grief is a smaller part of our lives.  If Grief can vary in size and degree…that means its power is variable.  And it is useful to observe its fluctuations…very useful.
When I was a student working on my Masters degree in Counseling, one of my teachers told an interesting story.  She had a client seeking  help for her young son’s extreme temper tantrums.  The child was loud and out of control.  Anita asked the mom to “trigger a tantrum” so that she could observe.  The mom took away his stuffed animal-and the tantrum began.  Anita then began a therapeutic  technique I like to call: Be the Movie Director.  Much like a director instructing an actor, she began to comment on the child’s technique: “that’s really some loud voice you’ve got there, kiddo…can you make it even louder?  Wow…good job.  How does it sound when you get a little softer?  What if you pounded the floor with your fist as long as you’re down there?”  In this way, she gradually was able to show him that HE was in charge of this tantrum…and not the victim of some nameless Temper Monster who comes and carries him away.

In the deepest throes of our grief, we so often feel like that small child, overtaken by a quite monstrous Grief who controls our thoughts and feelings.  But what if we…like that small child…could learn to control him, if only in a small way?  That was the purpose of the therapist’s “inane” questions, of course, and I tried to embrace those questions  rather than give in to my cynical resistance.  Yes, I did, in fact, find some answers.

Mornings are the hardest time. Waking up to an empty house underscores the incontrovertible fact that all the people who were part of my universe have gone missing. I don’t know where the hell they are,  they’re just not with me. It hurts most in the mornings. So I try to get dressed and out the door quickly. I ride my bike or go to church or run an errand. I try to break the rhythm of Grief beginning my day.  @#$ you, Grief. I win. You lose. Therapist: 1 Me:1 Grief: 0  J

Sunday, July 20, 2014

It doesn’t go away; it just changes

The pain we feel from our losses doesn’t really go away.  It is transformed over time, softening into a different sensation, only to return with startling strength in odd and unexpected moments. I don’t know, but after you’ve lost someone, you will probably experience the aftershocks. Anything might prompt it. Parents of children lost at Columbine say it comes back to them every time there’s a new school shooting. Many of them say the loss is always with them and that there is no closure.

Closure is a nice idea, but I haven’t experienced it, either.  Yes, we can close the door on the acute pain we feel at the loss, but we’ll never close the door on the relationship we once had with the person we lost.  Our relationships make us who we are.  So, for good or bad, we will think of them.  Sometimes that will be pleasant; sometimes it will make us cry.  Always it will make us a bit more empathetic, a bit more compassionate, a bit more human.

Today I took my very active Border Collie, Pino, to the dog beach. Pino is officially an adolescent—14 months old. He used to be such a good boy. Now he does as he pleases. He ran away from me and found a gang of rascal dogs to attach to. He had such a good time. When I told him it was time to leave, he sat down in the lake and turned his back to me. Everybody laughed!  It was like slapstick comedy: okay, the pie in the face is funny initially, but it quickly gets old. Come on, Pino! Out of the lake, damn it!!  Trite, really cliché. This is beneath you!

After we got back into the car, I looked into his soft amber eyes and his sun- glazed  brown and white coat, and I told him what a bad boy he had been. He smiled at me. It was a perfect moment; I was happy! I took a wrong turn, made a u-turn, turned on the radio, and heard a song that reminded me of Bob. And I cried. I told myself not to be angry with myself for not conquering Grief in that moment. I told myself the pain would pass. I told Pino that he had a dad he’s never met and I was pretty sure that dad would have liked him a lot.  Pino smiled wisely.