Grieving Promise

Grief is hemorrhagic.

It shares no umbrella of the same color or shape. You can’t expect someone to stay dry using yours because it worked for you.

I promise you will grieve.  And there is nothing I can do to prepare you.

I can share literature and lead by my example but there is nothing I can do to help you understand.  Like birth and like death, the journey to your  certain discomfort will only be known by yourself.  There will be nothing to catch you, nothing that can console you and nothing to fill the shatters in your soul.  A deeply painful and personal unraveling of all the words you could have said and all the moments you had the opportunity to say them.  Of all the chances you missed and the chances you took.  You will find discomfort in every choice you created and every choice you allowed.

I promise you will grieve. And there is nothing I can do to prepare you.

What I can prepare you for  is that no one will understand the depth of your pain. They will try to understand, attempt to console, try to catch you when your knees burst and you fall to the depths. But I can promise you they will not know how deeply you will drop because you are falling through your own waters and bringing your own beliefs, thoughts and regrets as your swimming companions.

I promise no one will understand your pain.

Your pain is as individual as your fingertips, your DNA and your thoughts. While many will commiserate and understand the experience of loss, they can never truly seek to understand your ownership to the individuality of your story.

If we are to help one another through grief, we must be aware that not one process is like another.  We cannot seek to know the physical and emotional results of a heart that is punctured; whether once or a thousand times over.  The choice of injurious results lies with each individual story.  Over time hearts will heal, some more quickly; while others will leave nothing more than sinew to toughen the holes and to make them impenetrable to the possibility of further bleeding.  In both there is strength. And in both we have no right in our opinion of the process.

I’ve heard it enough now in my lifetime and my career. The judgements on how the grieving can grieve.

“He’s already moved onward to a new spouse. Her body is barely cold”

We have no right.

“She’s pregnant again, so soon. She hasn’t grieved the child she lost”

We have no right.

“You are angry and not what I knew. I cannot work with what I don’t recognize”

We have no right.

“Get up from the couch. Uncurl your hands from the teddy bear. You have to keep going”

We have no right.

Until the moment that the sharp pins explode  into our own hearts, our own souls and our own understanding of what that looks like…

We have no right.

And even after that moment…

The only right we are afforded…

Is the right to finally understand that we can offer nothing to change the experience.

Nothing that is…

Except to love them through it.  Whether we disagree, we wouldn’t have done it the same way, or we think our way is better.

Their way is the only way.

Love them through it.

Love them through what they need to do in order to survive.

Surviving might be angry, risk taking or silence. Surviving might be running forward to something new. Surviving may be terror in allowing anything or anyone to come close again. Surviving might be bottled or prescribed. Surviving may be tolerable only in introversion or in dancing through the streets.  Surviving may be in dying and breathing concurrently.

Love them through it anyway.

Grief is hemorrhagic.

It shares no umbrella of the same color or shape. You can’t expect someone to stay dry using yours because it worked for you.

Love them through it.

Let them bleed.

Only they can stop the flow because only they know where the punctures exist.

Love them through it.

Love you through it.

 

Be kinder. Be more compassionate. Don’t push. Don’t force.  Be gentle. Be tolerable because understanding will be obscure.

Just love them through it.

 

Loving you through it

Tania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Strong Soul: If Anyone Can Handle This It’s You

“I couldn’t find my words this past several months because I was out of words you expected me to say. I was out of what might feel comfortable. Comfortable for you to hear and more importantly comfortable for me to say…”

I have been struggling for months now to find my words because I thought I’d shared all that I could share to help with the process of loss. Last night I found them again. Life is all about timing. Painful yes. But a much needed lesson in allowing others to hurt authentically.

We made my best friend cry last night. Her dead sister and I. Unashamedly. Unabashedly. Uncontrollably.

It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced, and that’s saying a lot from someone whose job it is to bring you to tears.  As I watched her little face crumble into her chest I shoved my tongue hard into the roof of my mouth to distract from the heat of my own tears that were threatening to pour over my cheeks. I found myself looking upward and to the left to avoid being pulled into her discomfort. I was working and as such that demands a different part of me that cannot be taken off balance.

In one fell swoop her deceased sister had moved the conversation from laughter to profound discomfort. I was completely unprepared although I should know this energy well enough by now to have been ready for just about anything.  Over this past year since her death she has provoked me to issue ridiculous and often off color comments via text to her older sibling.

“Tell her she forgot to shave her belly button” among other things that should likely never be shared publicly.  My friend wouldn’t care what I shared here but that’s really not the purpose of my thoughts today.

I had no idea that she was in such profound pain.  She is so forthcoming about her journey through loss in her own blogs that I missed it somehow?  Maybe because we are too close to recognize it? Maybe because she is a lot like myself, she counsels the grief of others? Maybe because I hold her up as my example of how to be strong.

That’s it.

I hold all five feet of her as my idea of strength.  In fact, if I am honest about this, I can well recall the moment that her text arrived to me on the morning of her sisters tragic death. “She’s gone. My sister is gone” and the first thought that swept over me was….

“You got this girl. You got this. If anyone can handle this, its you”

I never told her that but I think she knew that’s what I was expecting.

So she did. She handled it. She swept through what had to happen in the days to follow. She got up, she brushed her teeth, she put on her eyeliner and she took charge. Exactly what I expected is exactly what she did.  I never saw her break. Not even as she stood in front of the colorful flowers and the urn at the funeral home and recited her own version of her sisters life and how she might expect others to handle her death.  And my friend handled it the way she thought her sister might expect.

She handled it the way I might expect. The way her mom might expect. The way her friends might expect. Her clients might expect.

She simply handled it.

And then last night as her sisters words about sex on the dining room table faded off into the inevitable giggles, she turned that table and took me to the truth. The room suddenly emptied of those that were physically present as I watched this little sister pull her broken older sister into her arms and rock her like a child.

And that’s not what I was expecting.  And I don’t think that’s what my five foot Wonder Woman was expecting either as her eyes darted quickly and then somehow slid down her face like wet paint and splashed into her broken heart.

In fact just this morning she recounted to me that it had all caught her off guard. Not that I needed that confirmation because it was written all over her brown eyes as she struggled to hide the fact that she knew…that I knew….

That she had been handling it because she was expected to handle it.

I knew the look.

Intimately.

And I will expect that many of you do too.

It caught me off guard too. A scene swelling in my mind of my caped crusader curled up into a ball that made her no bigger than the pillows on her couch.  With her sister in her awful polyester navy pants and bright red blouse wrapped tightly around her trying to console her pain. Not what I thought I would see. Not what my friend thought I would see either.

But something I needed to see. And something she needed to share with someone other than the little bear that was made of her sisters clothing. The little bear that was hidden under her chest as she curled up like her throw pillow.

I couldn’t find my words this past several months because I was out of words you expected me to say.  I was out of what might feel comfortable. Comfortable for you to hear and more importantly comfortable for me to say.

I’d like to thank Kerri. The little sister that died because she couldn’t hit a possum. Because her heart was too big to cause pain. Because she talked about bleaching her backside. And sex on the kitchen table.

And because she showed me what real strength looks like. It looks like a throw pillow wet with tears wrapped around a small bear. A wee Wonder Woman that breaks apart in the early hours and then unravels herself to her full five feet as the sun comes up. Brushes her teeth. Puts on her eyeliner.  And handles it the way she’s expected to.

The way I do. The way you do. The way all that feel so deeply do. Every single day.

And now I am left wondering why something so incredibly beautiful and courageous is something we don’t talk about.

Because it opens our own discomforts? Our own what’s “not expected” of us?

Perhaps.

Lets change that.  Because my intention going forward is a whole lot of….

“Well I didn’t expect that”

Of course not. Because you are doing what’s expected. In grieving, in losses, in love.

Stop it.

Show me. Show others. Show them the truth. Because they might be hiding their own.

Show us what we don’t expect you to do.  And then we can heal together.

Sending love to those that are curled up and crying before you stand up and do what’s expected.  I got ya. xo

 

Tania

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Best Thing

Ridiculous maybe. It’s how my heart works. Maybe yours does too and that’s why you’ve stuck with me through the narrative above.

Maybe you’ve felt disposable and that’s why you’re still with me.

Maybe it would help if you knew that I’ve felt that way too. Maybe if we are honest we can truly say that we feel like this today, or we felt like this yesterday.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Margery Williams Bianco The Velveteen Rabbit

Somewhere out there is a worn out Steiff teddy with a hole in his foot and a nose stitched from heavy black thread. He was a gift to me as a baby, some 50 years back now, my companion who sat patiently in my pram waiting for me to grow old enough to love his fur off.

If you happened to find my old friend, I lost him one day two decade or so ago, during a move. It was only in the aftermath of unpacking that I discovered him missing and I was devastated. I can only imagine in my romantic mind that he zipped across the country in a U Haul and found a new home with someone that needed him. If you happened upon him, the slice in his foot a testament to the interest of a ten year old in all things medical. Craft scissors as scalpel I had only sliced but an inch when I realized that my friend was straw filled. I never forgave myself for causing him harm, so you may have found a worn band-aid stuck to his course fur. Oh, if you tip him the right way you might still hear the growl, its hard to say because it was beginning to fade in the years that I loved him.

I never replaced him. I couldn’t replace him. Wound into every sharp piece of straw were a thousand childhood giggles, a plethora of adolescent pain, and a smattering of fear of an adulthood I wasn’t necessarily prepared for.

You might have wondered at the worn places where his fur was rubbed clear off and replaced by something that resembled a blank needlepoint canvas.  One or two sharp mohair tufts existed in the middle and I would wake with red scratches on my neck from curling him up in my arms.  He was my best friend and I hope that whomever he found took from him the comfort that he so steadfastly offered me in my early years.

I will never fully understand how or why I lost him along the way, but he will always stand out in my mind as my old friend. Broken and wobbly where his knees bent. His head lopsided where he loosened in his neck joints. Two poorly constructed eyes and a tightly sewn nose with one black thread that stood straight out like an unruly whisker.

He was…the most beautiful friend in my world. I hope you treated him kindly despite his ugliness in appearance. I hope you understand that he wasn’t disposed of but lost one day by a young mum who still looks for him on every antique store shelf and at your local yard sales. Not out of nostalgia but out of a need to reconcile my guilt at feeling that an inanimate straw filled toy might feel that I simply let him go.

Ridiculous maybe. It’s how my heart works. Maybe yours does too and that’s why you’ve stuck with me through the narrative above.

Maybe you’ve felt disposable and that’s why you’re still with me.

Maybe it would help if you knew that I’ve felt that way too. Maybe if we are honest we can truly say that we feel like this today, or we felt like this yesterday.

It’s hard in our present world to not feel like something better is right around the corner. Technology is flipping devices our way with the speed of Grandma at the church pancake breakfast.  So much so that it is getting hard to keep up.

Way back in the day there were no ” no down payment, take 24 months to pay” that allowed us to rid of the furniture that we tired of after a short 6 months. Toss to the side of the road to become someone else’s “old but new to me”. By the time we got around to replacing something it had been completely used up, bereft of any plushness in the pillows, torn at the seams and it shifted sideways when you sat as if it may fold in half at any given moment. More often than not it would make its way out to the garage or the tree house, sometimes it found its new home among the paneled basements, but unless it was in two or three pieces, it stayed. Filled with memories of TV dinners on the aluminum fold up trays, memories of first kisses or when the baby peed all over the new upholstery. If you searched in the creases you might find pennies, or if you were lucky a quarter or two. Finders Keepers.

Today we have build a bed, build a shelf, build a bear even. A much cheaper version of things once crafted with care, now easily erected ( for the most part..have you ever read IKEA instructions after the age of 50?) and just as easily discarded when the mood strikes for a new color or new shape.  When the fiber fill rolls up and creates empty pockets, we wander in search of something that is better filled out, more comfortable to rest upon. Something prettier than what we had before.

It is most uncomfortable when you notice that we have started the same practice with each other.  Just today I read about a young man that took his own life at the urging of someone that boasted to love him. As I scrolled through the texted conversation that ensued prior to his death I was overcome with the painful realization that the words that flew were no more than instructions on how he could dispose of himself. Her words screamed to me, to him; that he was replaceable. His own words in reply were of a young boy scrambling to hold on to the end of an old couch that was tipping with each syllable that she presented. “I have to go to the beach with my mom, I’ll do it later”. There he was gripping onto something familiar, something that had been with him for years and something that felt safe. But to no avail. He asked for one more moment to say “I love you” and she doused it with “They know how much you love them already”.  Carefully deconstructed I read “You’ve loved them enough, that will get them through this, and now it’s time for you to go” Something else will replace you…eventually.

The usual comments followed on the news thread. I was grateful to see so many that shared the pain of the family left behind, those that empathized and were so deeply affected by a death that was so needless. I was then truly horrified at the comments that suggested the young lady had done no more than to encourage someone who didn’t want to live in the first place. “So what” “She only helped to deplete the surface population” “Waste of space”.

Like the corner unit that no longer fit into the decor it was perfectly OK to break him down and to throw him to the roadside.

It is not OK at all.

It’s reprehensible. This is not OK. It’s inhumane.

Souls are not disposable.

Human souls are truly no more than the teddy bears that we wore the absolute hell out of because if we did it right; we loved them too hard to let them go. They stunk, they were stained. Their ears fell off, their stuffing gave way to holes that you could stick your thumb in and use as a carry handle. They were no less important just because their eyes fell out or their mouths drooped into the corners. No less important because they could no longer sit straight up at the end of the bed but sat flopped because the joints wore out. We cried on them, drooled on them, dragged them through the yard, in the wagon and stuffed them into our bike baskets.  We wrecked them with love.

We don’t love something until it falls to pieces and then replace it with the next best thing available.

I don’t comprehend the thought process of a disposable world.

I hope I never do.

I think I’ll flood the world with teddy bears.

If you find mine. Call me. He was loved into ugly. And he’s completely irreplaceable.

 

#buysomeoneabeartoday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Life As A Psychic Wallflower

I’ve stood in front of no less than 5000 people in this last ten years. I am still shocked to be truthful, given that I couldn’t even pee in a public bathroom until I was 40 and only then because well..three kids..impatient bladder..there was no other option but to make peace with it.

For anyone that has seen me in a live show environment it may come as a surprise to discover that I am incredibly uncomfortable there. I am not entirely sure what I am doing up there; in fact, I am not even sure how I get there in the first place.  I simply know that someone sweeps onto the stage like she was born to it, but I seriously don’t know who that person is. The only thing that makes sense to me is that I have a spirit guide that dives in and takes over before I have the opportunity to sage them into stupidity and run off to my corner to hide. I suddenly find myself staring into the top of a microphone and off we go. I have no explanation short of divine intervention.

It tends to throw some people when they meet me in an environment  that is new to me and doesn’t come with a microphone attached.  That’s pretty much any place where people gather and it’s ten times worse when it’s people I don’t know. There can be one stranger standing in a gymnasium and I will make every effort to stealthily move along the wall like Spider man trying to avoid being noticed. If I could throw string I’d simply swing over but in the real world…I’ll just glue myself to the nearest wall and avoid all eye contact believing that I am blending in and you will not notice me. Kinda like a praying mantis. You see me, you don’t see me. Except that it works for the odd green insect. Not so much for me. I’m too big and well..I’m not green and sitting on a fruit tree.

I am the most introverted and unintentional extrovert I have ever known.

I’ve stood in front of no less than 5000 people in this last ten years. I am still shocked to be truthful, given that I couldn’t even pee in a public bathroom until I was 40 and only then because well..three kids..impatient bladder..there was no other option but to make peace with it. To this day I will still lean over to scan for feet in the stalls to each side, and then carefully hold my breath while attempting to stream like a gentle brook babbling over pebbles. This is, however, becoming increasingly difficult to do and has taken on the sound of something similar to white water rafting as I move into my mid fifties. So now I have taken to making little tutt tutt noises with my mouth to deter you from the fact that I am emptying my bladder in the stall next door.  It’s quite a life let me tell you.  Peeing incognito to not draw attention and then dancing all over a stage with your grandmother five minutes later. I still struggle with understanding it.

Try to stop me and engage me in a conversation in any situation outside of my spirit stage and I will likely stare at you like a deer caught in the headlights. “Oh lord..you need me to talk right? Oh boy..how do I do that? What do I say? Why are you talking to me at all, I am not interesting and I just know I am going to trip over my own tongue. Please just back away slowly, you’re freaking me out a little”

But wait…hand me a microphone and push me on the stage and it’s all bets off. I open my mouth and something happens that even I don’t see coming. Words tumble from my face like confetti sprays on a bride and I suddenly become witty and wise all at once.  It’s messed up, because I am not witty nor wise in any other environment. Unless I am at home. There I am both witty and wise ( and smart and absolutely adorable)  although my spouse may call it something else entirely.

I cringe..I absolutely curl up from my toes when someone in a room full of strangers says “This is my friend the medium” Oh good God no. I think that often times people assume I am trying to hide that fact as a form of being standoffish, when in truth, it’s a protective thing to avoid having to speak to you at all. You scare me because you expect something profound to drop from my mouth, and the profoundest I can do is ask you for directions to the bathroom to pee quietly.

I realized how clearly I introvert when a comment was passed at the outset of my recent travel with my work cohorts.  An additional artist that I don’t know well was coming along on this tour and as I settled into my space in the passenger seat, Sarah remarked “And now this is where Tania will just sit quietly and not say a word”.  I was a bit taken aback until I realized that she wasn’t at all wrong in that assumption. I did exactly that for probably 2/3 of that entire ten days. On our long drive home she turned to me and asked me where I was as I stared out the side window.  I replied lazily, “I’m nowhere really, neither here nor there” She stared at me for a moment before we both agreed that I am a bit of a weirdo.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, for a couple of reasons.  One being that I don’t really wish to be a social introvert but I am and there is simply no way of getting around that. It seems to be imprinted into my DNA somehow and no matter how hard I try to rewire, it’s here to stay.  The last thing I would ever want anyone thinking is that I am aloof when in truth I am just ridiculously shy and lacking in communication skills because humans for the most part intimidate me. Dead people clearly not so much right?

Which brings me to the main reason I am sharing today.

People will often ask me how I know what I know about details of lives that I have no connection to. How I know about the orange cat that you have at home, or the fact that you absolutely love blueberries. How I know that you sleep in your spouses old socks, or that your collie just died last week. How I know that you have a tattoo over your heart when you have a shirt on that allows for no physical reason for me to know at all…

How do I know?

Because I trust completely.

Because I know myself well enough to understand that without trust I sincerely have no voice.

I have somehow developed a collaboration of trust between myself and a world that many can’t reach. I don’t know how I did it, and that’s absolute. I simply know that somehow I did or that perhaps somehow they did. What I do know with certainty is that I don’t communicate well on my own; I never have, and I doubt I ever will. But someone speaks when I grab the microphone and I know without a doubt it is not me. Crowds scare the bejesus out of me so let me assure you that whatever is happening has little to do with me personally. What I do accept with complete faith is that when I step up to that microphone that I am given an opportunity to use a gift that I have no clue how I got. I have an opportunity to actually hear my own voice. For someone such as myself,  that is the greatest gift in the world. And your loved ones give that to me. Every single time I lift the mic. And what an incredible pleasure it is to accept that.  I am grateful.

How can I not trust something as beautiful as that?

 

Please don’t follow me into the bathroom deal?

In love….

Tania.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And If You Go First – When A Child Dies

Only parents that have lost a child can understand a parent that has lost a child.

And only children that have left without you can understand a child that arrives without you.

“Follow me, follow me, I know the way”

I am no expert in child loss. I am simply a mum with an unusual ability to help you in some small way to navigate the profound pain of your journey.

No one likes to consider the possibility that a child may go ahead before we do. In the textbook of natural progression, the expectation is that the children assemble at the bedside of the aged parent as they draw close to the end of the physical breath.  And although this process is still painful, the ability to find closure is simply easier.  The dying adult has forged relationships along the way, expressed their own understanding of what they might expect once they arrive to the other side, and take with them a myriad of experiences and memories. It’s just easier.  We derive some measure of comfort that dad or mum might be waiting to greet them. Maybe the neighbor of 40 years that became like a brother…or someone else that the loved one has created a relationship with over their human lifetime. We just innately understand that somehow, in their adult years, that they are safe on arrival.

If you are a parent or a care giver of a child you will understand the overwhelming fear that strikes you as your five year old steps away from you in the clothing racks.  You glance down with the expectation that they are standing beside you and your heart leaps in panic when you don’t see them there.  Logically we know that they can’t possibly be more than ten feet away but this does not deter us from the parental instinct of fear.

“Where did they go!?”  presents a tunnel vision type of scenario where you rush to find them, everything in your cart forgotten in a split second.  Finding them moments later giggling behind the service desk you finally release the breath you’ve been holding.  “Don’t you EVER do that to me again! You scared poor mummy half to death!”

I’ve spent thousands of hours with parents who can’t find them.  And whether it be that they have passed through to wait on the heaven side, or that they are missing the desperate need to know where they went is crippling.  To know that they are safe and not afraid is overwhelming.  It matters not that they were with them when they left. They do not know where they are.  Long relationships were not forged. A lifetime of memories were not created.  The child is gone and to the grieving parent…

The child went alone.

And for those that support or have in your company those grieving this pain I beg you to consider for a moment that these parents will never stop looking. Please be mindful to not deter them from their need to do so. It is an inherent right as a parent to seek out their babies.  Never ask them to give that up by suggesting that it’s time to move on. Or that other children need them now. Or that other children are possible. To these parents their children are missing. And as a parent yourself, would you ever stop looking…ask yourself before offering advice….would I stop looking?

Now for my words and from the value of my abilities, I can offer you the comfort of knowing that they didn’t go alone.  Call them Angels, call them Divine presence, call them what you are comfortable with. But the little ones..they never go alone.  As you sit with me and tell me that no other family that they would “know” was waiting, I can assure you that there was. But first….

A child will appear. A child not much older than your own. With sparkling eyes and dimples that dance as they call out to yours…

“Follow me, follow me, I know the way”

A child like your own child. A tiny soul that had to leave their family too soon . A wise young soul that understands everything that you don’t in that moment. A patient little person who knows that you are aching and struggling with who is waiting.

A perfectly divine child will be there for you when you can’t be there for them. An entity of the purest love and the the lightest of giggles will lead them home. A child that smells of sunshine and sand. A child that lived a brief lifetime here yet carries a hundred lifetimes of heaven. A child that understands your pain more than anyone else can possibly understand.

A child of parents just like yourself.

A child just like yours.

And one day, not too far from today, the child you grieve will be that child…

And another parent will grieve.  And another parent will ask…

“Where did they go?”

And your child will answer…

” Follow me, follow me, I know the way”

And I will smile softly as an Angel leads them away.

Only parents that have lost a child can understand a parent that has lost a child.

And only children that have left without you can understand a child that arrives without you.

Angels don’t live full physical lifetimes. Angels always go first.

My love to all that are looking for their children.

One day an Angel will be waiting for you.

With sparkling eyes and dancing dimples.

Love each other.

Tania