Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post a reflection on grief as I continue to explore its landscape and listen to you. In the sharing of our stories with each other, we find encouragement and build a community of support.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Freedom of Walking

Walking is an act of freedom.

Taking a break from writing, I go out for a walk. This time I’m not heading into the woods. I’m walking on the streets of the neighborhoods around me. Literally. Some have no sidewalks. Some don’t even have a shoulder, and I have to step in the ditch when cars approach. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dark World Community

Since Evelyn’s death, I often go to Yosemite. In the darkness of night, I walk into the meadow and lose myself in the wonder of the constellations turning overhead. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Lost to Suicide

Laughter in the Darkness

Robin Williams died on August 11, 2014 from suicide. 

He was dealing with Lewy body dementia that progresses quickly and is marked by depression, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. His death brought light to a difficult subject, and the discussions I heard afterward spoke of the mental illness aspect of suicide. They took the blame off those who kill themselves, and removed the guilt from family and friends who felt there was something more they could have done the night before that would have saved them.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The First Death

In his poem, “A Refusal to Mourn,” Dylan Thomas said, “After the first death, there is no other.” He was writing about a child who burned to death in the bombing of London during World War II. In addition to the child’s death, Dylan might also have been referring to the death of his childhood belief in life’s innocence and that everyone lived a happy existence into ripe, old age. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Clara's Dead, Maybe

Riffs on Doctor Who and Grief 

Doctor Who is a science fiction program on the BBC that revolves around the relationship of the Doctor and a companion as they jump around different universes through time and space saving people, planets, and whatnot. They travel in a blue TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), which looks like an old, British police telephone box from the outside, but is enormous on the inside. The Doctor has a fondness for protecting humanity.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Accidental Grieving

It’s unsettling to read about someone who is in anguish and coming apart at the seams. At the same time, Maryanne Pope’s book A Widow’s Awakeningis a heartwarming story of her spirit’s ability to endure one of the hardest experiences we will ever face — the death of someone we love. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Talking to Trees

When a friend received bad news about her cancer, I thought, “I’ll go out and talk to the trees.”

Bear with me a moment. I used to light candles, think of those who needed support, and prayed. I sometimes still do, but talking to the trees seemed to be the right thing to do here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Bitterness or Compassion






Bitterness is a bale of barbed wire. After someone we love dies, we wrap it around ourselves to protect us from ever being hurt again. Life can’t get in, but we also can’t get out. 

Bitterness has razor sharp edges. At a time when we aren’t able to feel anything else, we can feel this. Bitterness is different than sorrow. 

Bitterness is sorrow covered with the jalapeno of anger and the habanero of rage.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Comfort in a Time of Grief

You know how it is when you suffer a tragedy and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and are happy again in no time at all? Neither do I.

When we’re deep in grief, there’s not much we can do to get out of it. There’s little that anyone can say that softens the impact of our loved one’s death. When we’ve moved further on in grief, we’re more understanding, but it will never be all right that our loved one died.  

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Broken Hallelujah

I'm delighted, and slightly snockered, to share the news that my essay on my mother’s work as an artist and her struggle with dementia, “Broken Hallelujah,” was published by the Chautauqua Literary Journal this month. It also won the journal’s Editor’s Prize and will be nominated for a Pushcart Prize later this year.

Unfortunately, the essay isn't available online. However, you can order a copy of the physical journal at the following link. Specify that you want the 2019 issue: 

Thanks, 
Mark

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Grief's New Normal

Recently I used the term “the New Normal” in a post to describe the time when we’ve put our life back together after the death of a loved one. This irritated some people. Is the New Normal a specific term or a generic description? Does it imply to some that we’ve stopped mourning and moved on with our lives? 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Being Creative with Grief

After being batted around by grief for a time, many of us want to do something creative with grief’s raw materials and regain a measure of control. The writer Isak Dinesen said that when she could put her trauma into a story, then it could live there instead of inside her. I don’t compose music, paint, dance, weave, or create sculptures, but I do write, and I wrote down every memory, image, and insight that came, and shaped them into essays and poems.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Finding Strength in Grief

As we follow grief’s advice, we are discovering that we have an amazing amount of strength. In the beginning, we weren’t sure we would survive this worst thing that could ever happen.

We have a right to grieve because people we love have died. They died too soon, and they died before we were ready. They were an important part of our lives, and their absence leaves a hole. We are learning to live with this.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Choices

Before the death of my loved one, I often lived for the future, dreaming about what life would be like one day, putting off dinners and nights out to save money for it. In grief, the opposite was true and I lived in the past because I couldn’t imagine a future without my loved one in it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Chrysalis of Grief

After we have dealt with grief for a period of time, we will reach a point where it feels like we are turning away from our loved one and moving on. We probably are, even though we don’t want to.

We will have changed some aspects of our life. Maybe we have given most of their possessions away and reset our home. Perhaps we’ve been taking care of a child or elderly parent, and we now have empty hours each day when we don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s been 10, 20, or 30 years since we lived by ourselves, and we’re learning who we are as a single person. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The New Normal










Let’s say we’ve adjusted to the death of a loved one to some degree. We’re back at work. We’re cooking, shopping, and taking care of the house. We’re gathering with friends and talking about something other than grief like sports, politics, and the sale going on at Kohls Department Store.

Hopefully we no longer feel like a victim but a warrior because we have battled tremendous forces and survived. We understand our emotions better, and we feel ourselves transforming into someone different, perhaps someone we’ve always wanted to be. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Parts Missing

C.S. Lewis wrote that dealing with grief was like adjusting to life with one leg amputated. He said our whole way of life changes, and that while we may get around pretty well, we will probably walk with a limp and have recurrent pain for the rest of our life. After his wife died, Lewis didn’t think he would ever walk smoothly again.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hospice Journey

If someone you love has died, you may be familiar with hospice. If you aren’t, a good and compassionate introduction is a new book by Larry Patten, A Companion for the Hospice Journey. Patten carefully lays out what hospice is, what the different people on the hospice team do (doctor, nurse, social worker, home health aide, chaplain), and answers the common questions people have.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Grief and Emotions

When grief hits, we are pummeled by a range of emotions. We never knew we could feel so much, endure so much, or rage for hours until we were exhausted. Grief unleashes a barrage of emotions that short circuits our mind and leaves us sobbing on the floor. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Body and Grief

Grief hits with the force of a dump truck, leaving us battered and achy for months. Every morning we wake up, remember that our loved one is dead, and the truck runs over us again.