Grief: 3 years on

Gimp boot photo

When two significant people in your life have death anniversaries 6 weeks apart, odds are pretty good you’ll get emotionally walloped in any given year.

Last year was my mom’s one-year death anniversary, so I was pretty wrecked in January 2013. This year, I prepared for mom’s day, and instead was completely side-swiped by my brother’s day in February. The fact that nobody in my family contacts each other on the anniversary doesn’t make it easier.

I try to be compassionate that we each go through our own version of grieving. It humbles me to think that others in the family are equally as devastated and simply can’t reach out. I meant to call my aunt in January, and still keep meaning to call her. Sometimes, it’s hard to admit these horrific things really did happen. Somehow by talking to another family member who lived and breathed the daily cancer agony, it makes it real.

This February was interesting. I got strep throat the weekend of Mickey’s anniversary, which also happened to be Valentine’s weekend, which also happened to be the first week I wore the plastic gimp boot to work. If my body doesn’t lie, which I’ve already discussed, then what was I not saying during that time? What was stuck in my throat?

Grief, that’s what. I’ve already been told once here in Colorado in a different situation, that grief is not something to be shared publicly. It’s not something others should see or know about. Recently, I also got the message that crying big tears, and wailing big sobs, was uncomfortable for some. I was told by one person in particular that they just “thought of the good memories of that person”. “It’s been 3 years,” he said.

And to that, I respond, “Take these last 3 years and shove them up your keister!” because nothing in the last three years can mask the fact that it’s 3 years without Mickey, 2 years without my mom, and I would give my left lung to spend ANY amount of these last years with them, even if they hurled insults at my face the entire time.

More public acceptance needed

I met a great gal locally here, who runs an orchard with her husband. On the side, she manages the published content for a company called “Living With Loss“. Although they sadly no longer publish their beautiful quarterly magazine, they do still sell their booklets, and act as an outlet for authors who specialize in grief.

This gal mentioned that back when Living With Loss first started in the 1980’s, there were no materials to help folks cope with grief and loss. What started with psychologists’ work on grieving, spread to literature on losing jobs, homes, and spouses to divorce, and surviving cancer and the grief process through that, among other loss topics. She commented on how the grief “market” was saturated.

Although I was lucky enough to receive a book on grief from friends during our family’s ordeal, it seems pretty clear to me that unless I’m at a hospital or visiting a licensed therapist or healthcare worker of some kind, talking about grief and finding materials on it is just not done.

Three years later, grief is still swept under the rug by just about everyone I’ve met. My mom lived here in Montrose with my dad for a few years before splitting, but apparently made no impression whatsoever on anyone out here because not one person remembered her. Seeing how over-the-top she was in so many ways, I find that hard to believe, but then again I’m biased.

Either way, I’m pretty tired of people telling me how to grieve. I’m tired of getting the false impression that someplace is a safe place to express myself, only to be shut down with a vengeance. I’m tired of being compared to folks who suffer along in silence, stoically. Why is this method better? Why should I “try” to be like people like that? Why can’t I just express my grief in whatever way serves me best?

All in all, I’m just plain tired. I wish the grief was gone, over, and that I could just fully move on into a glorious, happy life, the life I’d really like to start living. But, just when I think I’ve arrived at that life, I feel like I’m floating in a pool of nothing all over again, unmoored, untethered to the human race, an alien in my own home.

Feeling misunderstood is almost as bad as feeling grief.

It’s my party…

…and I can cry if I want to. Yes, that’s right. I can cry whenever I want. I can cry in public, I can cry at my job, I can cry when the tears need to be released. Period. The more people allow for this to happen, the better our entire world will be, instantaneously. There certainly is a time and place to put one’s emotions into a tidy little box with a bow on top, and stick it on a shelf. But, allowing someone 10 minutes, 5 even, to shed a few tears and be a _real_ human being is compassion, pure & unadulterated. It’s just plain compassion.

Despite struggling with the physical demands of my job in Telluride this Winter, I must admit it has been one of the MOST supportive and caring environments I’ve ever worked in. Not every department is like mine, but even so most of the managers in most departments I’ve met have been superb. They all know everybody busts their humps for peanuts because they love skiing, and they try their best to accommodate people’s family schedules and personal issues. It begs the question: if a tourist resort can be like this, why can’t the rest of corporations and society around the world?

The sooner we accept sadness, grief, melancholy, and “da blues” as being normal and appropriate reactions for loss, the healthier we will collectively become as a species. Obviously, lines need to be drawn on when feeling low for a long time becomes crippling depression with the threat of harm to self and others. I’m not saying folks that have these kinds of problems shouldn’t be treated. I’m saying it’s perfectly normal to experience “lows” in life, along with “highs”, according to appropriate circumstances, like losing two loved ones to cancer within 11 months of each other.

My reaction this February was one of feeling “disconnected” to everyone around me: locals, family, supposed friends, even my dating partner. Big crocodile tears began to fall, sobbing ensued, and I was a slobbery mess once again. It drove my partner away in fear, but the resulting fallout has been great! Finally my frustration to get back to The SpokenCoast Project came to a head. The dam of irritation about long hours, unknown living situations, and general distractive chaos preventing me from focusing on my main purpose finally burst. Really, what I was feeling back then, was disconnected to myself.

As a result, although not blogging often, I cranked out an interview. Hot damn! Did that feel good. I continued to heal my ankle, my body, and edit like a mad fool. I got a new job lined up for after ski season, as a substitute teacher. And the last week of all this fun stuff was done while nursing a terrible flu.

Take that, naysayers! I’m done listening to scared old men in my family put me down for trying to live my dreams. I’m done with people trying to date me without bothering to get to know my passion for this project. I’m done with people who don’t support my grief process, and instead will spend time with people who do. I’m done giving a flying rat’s ass about whether people like me, think I’m “nice”, or I fit in. I’m done listening to others’ suggestions on how to live my life (Oh! Become a yoga instructor! Oh! Sell this organic stuff! Oh! Work here because we know your go-getter energy will bring our business lots of money!).

And, most importantly, I’m done with choosing distractions & chaos to stave off grieving. It’s taken 3 years to uncover this habit. Even with the oceans of tears that have already glided down my cheeks, there are still plenty of times my mind tricks me into not feeling. Mickey’s death anniversary was a great example. I had two fabulous days writing and editing over his day, and a phone call from an old friend on the evening of the 2nd day set that bullet-train of denial to a screeching halt. God bless my friends. Even choosing the job in Telluride was a terrible, distracting choice. I’ve been so disconnected from my true spirit, true intention, and just my personal truth, that I’ve been unable to carry on with the one thing that keeps me grounded, motivated, honest, humble, and moving forward through my own grief: The SpokenCoast Project

Time takes time. For whatever reason, it’s taken this long for me to motivate to get these videos done. If I was able to do it before this time, I probably would have. Whether coughing up phlegm balls, nursing injuries, or simply sacrificing sunny days to stay indoors, I will continue to get this project on track, even if all I have is a steam locomotive. Getting one video done inspired me. It’s time.

It’s my grief party, and I can cry if I want to…three years out, 13 years out, 30 years out. Whenever. I. Want.

I’m done.


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2 Responses to Grief: 3 years on

  1. Trina says:

    Hugs, Marissa. I share your grief. There are so many times in the day when I want to share a moment with Margie. She and I laughed to tears whenever we were together. Yes, I laugh with others but not to that depth. I miss that. Sometimes I start thinking about one of our adventures and I want to ask her the name of a person, place, sight we saw…but I can’t and it hurts. Sometimes when I’m driving I can almost hear her giving me directions (sigh), she loved being in control and I even miss that.

    We were as close as two sisters could be…..part of my heart died with her. I have pictures of her all over my house and I still marvel at how beautiful she was…..those gorgeous eyes. I smile when I see people at the gym wearing neon shoes and always think about the 3 of us running all over New Orleans back in the 80’s in those shoes….first ones. She was such a big part of my life – 40 years. I’m angry that she was taken so soon. We had plans for our “old lady” trips.

    Last October, I went to FL and Kathy and I took my final sachet with us to the gulf. We had a bottle of wine and music from a wedding down the beach…we danced with her, toasted her and sprinkled the ashes into the surf. Just what she would have wanted….but we wanted her to be there with us in life.

    Marissa… will miss her for your entire life. She loved you deeply and soundly even during clashes. You can’t have her back but you can always feel her. No one ever truly dies when even just one person keeps them alive in their heart. She will live on in our hearts and those who loved her evermore.

    The double whammy that befell you with the loss of first your brother and then her was most horrible. There is no explanation for it – I still find it hard to believe it happened. Mick was such a beautiful soul and I loved him for all that he was.

    What do you do? You take up the gauntlet and soldier on – you have their genes. You’re a beautiful child with a great heart and you need to share that with the world. You need to pursue whatever dreams you have. There is no “maximum time for grief”….it’s there, it’ll always be there. There will always be times when you need to cry just as there will always be times when you’ll think of them and smile.

    Hugs to you Sweetheart….Love Auntie Trina

    • marissa says:

      Thanks so much for your supportive words, Aunt Trina, and for sharing your experience with my mom. It means so much to me to hear about the closeness between you both, and how deeply your life was impacted by her friendship.

      I appreciate so much your acknowledgement around grief not having a timeline. Somehow as a society, we’ve lost touch with rituals like wearing black, that let people know we are processing things. Sometimes I feel like I should just tape a sign to my back that reads “I’m grieving, proceed with caution.”

      Meanwhile, the moments I feel great are when I’m sharing this project with the world. It’s something I plan to keep going. It heals me, helps me process, and helps me find a worthiness to my existence, after witnessing so much needless suffering.

      Thank you again for your wisdom and stories, Trina. I’m grateful to have you in my life! Love, Marissa

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