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Grief

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Trigger Warning: guns, violence, death. Grief.

I am astonished at how aimless I remain, Dana.

I’ve been waking up even earlier than my usual 5 in the morning, often at even 3:30. I get my coffee, my laptop, candles lit. Meditate.

I get online, ready and raring to work, and then… I lose focus.

I see your leg and how it was ripped open in half, gouged by the bullets and then by surgery. I think of the gunshots on TV and how being shot is never really shown, you don’t ever see what it really looks like, when your beloved brother is on a fucking hospital bed, pumped with air and compressors and his leg is fucking ripped open, as is his chest, and you still think he’s going to make it and you celebrate every fucking little thing. Like his fucking rectum surgery.

This time last year, I was about to leave Redding because I was SO SURE you were going to make it, and because Mikey wouldn’t come and stay with me at the hospital because he “was working” and it was harvest and he was “busy.” All of this is in quotes now because who the fuck knows.

I was positive you were going to make it, Dana. I was positive you would wake up, and that it would be on Saturday, and that I’d miss being there when you woke up, but it would be ok, I’d be there for the rest of your time in ICU and would help with your rehabilitation and everything else.

I am so angry, Dana.

I am so sad. 

I’m so angry.

And I can’t stop seeing your leg in my mind’s eye and I know I need to pivot and think about something else, but it’s so, so hard when I’m full of this anger and sorrow.

If I had known then that you wouldn’t make it, I would never have left the hospital, left Redding. I would never have left because I would need to know that I had done everything I possibly could to help keep you tethered to this world.

If I had known you wouldn’t make it, I would have begged Mikey come and take care of the kids in the hotel so that I focus on you, 100%.

kids knees sitting in a circle, holding hands

I would have held your hand as long as I could have.

a man's hand on the bed, with iv lines and bandages attached

Your hardworking, warm, big hands.

Hands that have held mine for as long as I’ve been alive.

two children hold hands while facing the seaI would have grabbed on, and held.

I would have played every song that I thought might make you smile through your coma. I would have blasted our cheesy favorites and Hot Blooded and everything in between, disapproving hospital nurses be damned.

I would have joined Mom in sitting up all night with you in the hospital.

woman sitting in a chair in the waiting room, sleeping

If I had known you wouldn’t make it, I wouldn’t have made those jokes about your feet or the leg compressors, trying to make your kids less scared of what was going on with you. I would have cried and made sure that we all stayed with you, one of us, for every second of every day that we possibly could.

man in a hospital bed, in a coma, with a ventilator

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee

Trust in the beauty and purpose of the universe is something I’ve always believed and worked hard at aligning myself with, you know that Dana.

Even as I sit here and type this out, I remember so many times in this very room where you’d sit next to me and we’d talk about this stuff.

I’ve never been angry with God for taking you – but maybe I’m angry with you for going.

Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

the name "dana" written in sand

Maybe I am really angry with you for going.

Maybe I am really angry at some choices you made along the road of your life.

Angry at the trajectories that lined up.

Angry that they resulted in your leaving.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners. Now, until the day of our death, amen.

If I had known you weren’t going to make it, I would have done more, been better.

I would have been perfect.

I would have arranged the world and restructured the universe to have had things been different.

I would not have lied and told you that it would be okay – that you could go if you really wanted or needed to, that we would be all right.

Because I don’t know how I’ll ever be really all right again in a world that has shifted so hard for me.

I really miss you, Dana.

When I was a kid, I thought it would be pretty cool to be a nun and live on some moss-drenched green hill in the middle of nowhere, free to really delve into all aspects of holiness, the universe and God.

Careful what you wish for, kids.

This is the yurt at night. Uh huh. Up on that hill of green, all alone.

Isolated, with neighbors a few miles away.

It’s absurdly gorgeous, other-worldly even. The perfect setting for midnight meditations, morning yoga and other spiritual delights.

It’s the absolute-perfect place to shave your head and go monastic.

Totally, utterly THE BEST PLACE.

With 3 kids though, it’s full of choices like, “hey guys! want to hike?” or, “how about a hike?” “Feel like a hike this morning?” “A little hiking for ya?”

he is not amused

Ha.

That hill is not an easy place to hang out with these guys.

It’s challenging on a “real-life” spiritual way that I’m sure that God loves and gets a kick out of, and even while I can feel the universe laughing around me, I hightail it out with the kids as often as possible during the summer.

So we went on over to Eureka to house-sit for a friend of a friend.

So, there we were, staying in Eureka
So, there we were, staying in Eureka
and Micah turns to me and asks if we can make some pie the next day
and Micah turns to me and asks if we can make some pie the next day
It was around 11am, so I asked, ``why tomorrow? why not today?``

``Well,`` he said, ``we don't have enough time to drive to town and get the ingredients, drive back and still make it``

It was around 11am, so I asked, ``why tomorrow? why not today?``

``Well,`` he said, ``we don't have enough time to drive to town and get the ingredients, drive back and still make it``

There you go, friends.

I have given you CULTURE SHOCK from within California!

I laughed as I explained to Micah that we were about 10 minutes away from a store. Going and picking up whatever we needed, coming back and whipping up a pie would be a piece of, um, cake.

We went to Agate Beach

One of my favorite places. I have memories of tearing that place apart with Dana, looking for those elusive agates.

My kids tore the place apart looking for clay instead.

I have no idea how or why that happened (where’d they get the idea for clay at a beach?)

They went all ‘Lord of the Flies’ and marked up their bodies in tribal “tattoos”.

Mine too

I missed Dana viscerally that day

I miss him every day, but on that particular day at Agate Beach, it struck me hard that this time next year, I won’t be able to say that that this time last year, Dana was with me.

Because this time last year, we were hanging out on weekends when I went to Blue Lake to spend the night. This time last year, he was making stupid, funny bets on snickers candy bars with me, we were sitting on the swinging bench together talking about things we wouldn’t tell anyone else. He was being my best friend.

As always.

I took an accidental selfie while I was lying on the sand, trying to get the perfect angle on one of these photos of the kids.

I like this picture because it’s a real visual of me in this moment of time.

I am 44.

I am holding on.

My body is a mother’s.

I am trying to grasp, frame and treasure what is beautiful to me in this here and now, and I am praying that God will keep me while Dana sets up the net for me to jump.

Mack and Moxie, Humboldt County, California, 2017
Mack and Moxie, Humboldt County, California, 2017
Dana and Meriah, Humboldt County, California, 1980

A Message for My Patrons:

First of all, THANK YOU.

You are inspiring me and helping me right now when I really need it.

Thank you for that.

On a super-awesome-happy note, the swag bag that one of you awesome Patrons will win is plumping up. I’ll select one Patron at random on August 1st to win, and I’ll send it off.

The photo of the month:

Mack and Moxie, Humboldt County, California, 2017

That means that everyone who is PADD level ($5/month) or more will be receiving this in the mail.

If you want to be a Patron, the link is here.

It does not have to be big bucks, you guys. Those dollars add up and I appreciate everything.

My brother has been gone for 4 months

I’ve developed a routine: I wake up in the morning, go and light a candle for my grandparents and for my great-aunt Ruby and place it in my shrine.

I light another for my brother, Dana, which I carry with me to the couch. I wear Dana’s warm and fuzzy jacket, cross my legs and practice meditating – breathing in and out, focusing on the light of the candle, or closing my eyes.

Either way, any way, I want to know how to do this, how to meditate, how to silence the monkey in my mind.

My brother has been gone for 4 months.

I can’t explain what it’s like to see these guys hanging out and having fun together.

It’s happiness at what they have, pain in what I’ve lost:

This bittersweet joy that they are now experiencing what I once did.

Sibling love.

As pure and true and whole as it gets.

A brother and sister who will hold each other’s backs. Best friends. The only person in the world who knew all of my secrets, who’d hang out with me and talk apps, pinterest, self-improvement books and in the next breath, call me a wimp and laugh at me (not with; at).

My back-up plan has always involved Dana – “if something bad happens, I’ll go to Dana,” – he was only barely a year older than me, but I turned to him more than I ever turned to my parents.

That’s Dana. Bright light, golden boy.

Micah picked the lemons and the mint, then made lemonade and brought out a couple of cups to his brother and sister to enjoy while they soaked

What a kid!

Micah made this, too – a home-made hummingbird feeder.

I’ll write a post at some point about his school pieces, but in a nutshell, he’s going to school 3 days a week now and at home for bigger projects for 2 days. We’ll see how it goes. We’re discovering that Micah’s an exceptionally gifted person, and an asynchronous developer – which means that he’s developing on-par with his age for some things (like his social skills), and through the roof with others (like his critical thinking, reading and more). We’re trying to figure him out, and in that figuring out, I think we will be testing him in a wide-range of things soon.

He’s a very interesting and unusual cookie.

We’ve been going to Blue Lake – my Mom is working on transforming Dana’s house (and also where my Grandma lived) into a grief and loss retreat.

It’s so painful to be in the spaces where Dana was, sometimes it just about knocks me over.

But those places are also where I most want to be. Not because I like pain; it’s just memories, the physical connection.

I want to hold my brother close for as long as I possibly can, never let him go.

I know it’s moot, but in replaying the last time I hung out with him, I want to go back to that moment and take Dana with me to Oregon, kidnap him if necessary. Keep him with me until the day that he was shot passes.

I want to wake up and have all of this be one really bad dream.

Did you see “The Little Prince” on Netflix?

The rose in the end, right?

I loved that. I think of that all the time now, with Dana.

Because I need to see him in everything.

He is the beauty in the sky now, the bird flexing his wings.

He is the morning mist, the song of the wind, harmony in water.

My heart still physically aches.

I simply can’t think of the reality of the rest of my life without Dana.

I can’t go there.

It hurts too much.

I’m still just walking, step by step.

One foot in front of the other.

Trying as best as I can to move forward in the light.

There’s a part of me that wants this post to be helpful in some way. Point out something that has been useful to me in this grief process.

Say something positive like, ‘these walks really help!’

And it’s true, I suppose, that the walks do help.

Walking is better than sitting inside all day.

But often I’ll be walking and I’ll come upon a place where Dana and I once stood and laughed, or a memory will flit through my head and I swear I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut, I stop, I can’t breathe, I just choke on my tears.

No fucking way I can do this.

So I find myself blocking off my emotions because the pain is just too intense, the reality is more than I can handle.

This is why I instinctively turn to meditation. 

Through that, the monkey in my mind can be silenced (with work, and boring work at that), and I can get to a space in which I simply be, without thought, pain. Just be, exist in my consciousness.

A lot of the photos on this post are for sale on my photography site, Meriah Snaps. Or  you could call it Meriahs Naps.

I want to start this post out by being really clear about one thing: grief is hard work. There is no way around it: it is simply a process that one must fully engage in. I am quite certain at this point in time that grief is a process that will never be complete. To fully engage in it means that it becomes a part of the fabric of your life. It changes the design you weave, lends it’s light and sorrow to the threads that wrap you in your reality.

Perhaps for some, it is also a catalyst for spiritual growth, propelling you to where you want to be on that level.

This stuff that I’m listing below are simply (for the most part) material tools that I have found helpful in my process so far. They are NOT listed in order of importance, and I am not including things like ‘eat/drink right, exercise’ because everyone tells you about that. You know it already. I’m just adding the pieces that might be new to your own list.

Please dive in and add what you’ve found to be helpful too –

  • Proof of Heaven

I am convinced that my brother sent this book my way, and also nudged the Audible version at me. The last hour of the Audible version was far and away the most useful element in it for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough, because it described the process of dying, of heaven, of God (“Om”), the brain, this world, the next, karma and more in ways that resonated with me.

  • Coventry Candles

My Mom got me on these. Coventry Candles come with affirmations wrapped around them, and are long-burning, made of essential oils. They smell divine, and the affirmations are comforting. I think any natural candles are wonderful, especially right now, but I especially like the ones that are made with essential oils and “dipped when the moon is right.” The “Healing” candle is my favorite.

 

  • Essential Oils

Mom got me on these, too (you’ll notice “my Mom got me on this” a lot in this post). Essential oils have been a part of my life for a while now (remember my post on essential oils for weight loss?), and at this point, they take on a healing element for my spirit. My Mom has a massive collection that she is very generous with me – right now, I’m using a lot of Young Living‘s “Abundance”, “Inner Child”, and “Pan Away”.These are pricey, so I’m very grateful that my Mom gives them to me – thanks Ma!

  • Abraham-Hicks videos on YouTube Red:

Abraham-Hicks’ “Money and the Law of Attraction” and the book that started it all, “Ask and It is Given” (which my Mom also gave me). I’m NOT writing this to convince you, but if you are looking to make sense out of life or anything, this might help. It helped me get through everything that has happened in the past 8 years (panic attacks, PTSD, my Dad, postpartum depression, Moxie/Down syndrome, leaving my job, leaving my life in the Bay Area, full time family stuff, income struggles, isolation, friendlessness, washing clothes by hand in a Humboldt winter, the loss of both of my Grandfathers, my beloved Grandmother and now, Dana. If I thought anything was big before this, I was wrong. it was all piecemeal compared to this.)

I had to take a leap to get over some of the “out there” stuff to me (like the whole “Abraham” and channeling collective consciousness bit), but the actual content is gold, solid gold, priceless.

I’ve read and watched everything they have that I can borrow/buy – I’m on repeat-land here. So I was thrilled to find that with YouTube Red, you can save videos OFFLINE and listen to them or watch them whenever (which is a big deal because I can’t stream well off the grid).

The whole smorgasbord is there, and it helps me tremendously. For it to be of use to you, or for it to make sense, you might need to backtrack a bit and read the first book (Ask and It Is Given – that’s an Amazon link there but you can get it in the library for sure).

I watched this 30-minute video over and over for about 2 hours the other day, for example, as it spoke so perfectly to how I feel about where I am in my grieving process.

  • Gaia TV

Why YES! My Mom got me on Gaia TV, too! How’d you guess?!

Even my Mom says that some of the stuff on Gaia TV is “out there” – it is – but there are some real gems on it.

I also like the Kundalini Yoga series.

  • “Breathe” app

I have this app set to a timer and it reminds me throughout the day to stop everything and breathe. Just focus on my breath. I think there are a lot of apps that do that. This is the one that I use and like.

  • Therapy

I have a therapist that I love.

She meshes talk therapy with action lists, nutrition and advice. Now, I was lucky because I had already started working with her before all of this happened with Dana, so I didn’t have to look for her. I’m not sure I’d have the wherewithal to if I hadn’t already had a relationship with her.

I think we all need to have a safe space to “let it out” and process things in our lives. Get help for hard things. The sooner we find a person that works in ways we find helpful, the better.

  • Boundaries

This isn’t a material item, but I wanted to include it because this has also been very helpful for me.

I can’t really be around people that much now. Kids, yeah (and they are very helpful for my spirit), but the strong energy that comes off of most adults is just often too much. I have had to learn to say things like, “I need to be alone now” – which I’ve never been able to clearly define before.

I just need to be alone. I need to have this space and walk this walk. I can’t physically talk too much about it or have other’s energy come into it, because it is so deeply personal.

  • The Grief Emails

This came from the Mortuary that helped my Mom with her parents and with Dana. Mom told me about these emails – they send one daily and it’s truly wonderful. It varies from ideas and tips to quotes, nuggets of wisdom. Daily Email Affirmations.

  • Body Care

cloud of protectionI have been slip-sliding around with food and exercise, but I’ve found that massage helps me find more balance and love with my physical self. I use my friend Nieves’ line of body oils. She uses essential oils and all good-stuff and I can really feel it as I put it on my skin. I use Legs n’ All, Bath Salt, and “C” Perfect Skin.

She also makes this thing called “Cloud of Protection” (which my Mom actually introduced me to!) – I carry it with me all the time and clear the air with it.

And…

I’d be lost without nature. Living where I live, being able to walk the hills with the mist, the trees, mountains – it is a real gift right now. Nature is the closest I can get, perhaps, to God, and it’s there that I find the most healing.

10 things to help with grief

 

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