Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slaying the Grief Beast

So, based on my last post, where I said I was going to be more real and authentic in my blog—all I can say is… here I go. Melissa helped give me the courage, because she is so honest and real in her writing… she doesn’t hide, and, you know… I think that’s a good policy.

The reality of my life is that I’m getting divorced.

At the moment, I actually feel okay about it. It’s not like these things happen overnight… the decision came after years of serious consideration. And I don’t want to go into details, because that isn’t fair to him, or to me. But, suffice it to say, this year has been a rough one in countless ways.

Grieving my marriage also caused a lot of other things to spring up and slap me in the face… things I’d never dealt with. A litany of choices, events, and traumatic experiences have come back to haunt me in ways I never expected.

Big things, like the death of my grandmother.

I thought I had grieved her death, but what I’d actually done is shut out all feelings I had associated with her: the good, the bad, the indifferent. I hadn’t actually grieved her passing, though.

She was a special woman in my life. A beacon of light, a pillar of strength, and the tallest five-foot-two-inch woman I’ve ever known.

And by denying all of my feelings about her death, I also denied her importance in my life.

I’ve been through a lot over the past six months, but I’ve turned a corner, and I’m on my way up. Looking at my life, and all the choices I’ve made that have led me to where I am right now, I realized that my grandmother is not only with me in spirit—she’s in my blood. The decisive, action- and results-oriented parts of me, the bold woman who travels by herself without giving it a second thought, the fearlessness I’ve recently re-discovered… those parts all come straight from Bessie Pauline Freeman Johnson.

Realizing this gave me a breath of new life. I don’t worry about missing her anymore, because I know she is within me. She is here whenever I need her, in my heart, in my veins, in my very cell structure, helping me make tough decisions and get on with living my life.

But it’s not just about moving on.

Grief is about honoring the pain, and allowing feelings to rise to the surface and be. And somehow, I have found the courage to do just that.

I’ve cried in more places than I ever thought possible: on the public benches of Kennebunkport, Maine; in Rockefeller Center, New York City; in Starbucks; on the subway; in a bead shop; in Times Square; in the privacy of my own home; in so many other places…

The tears have come,
in the most unexpected moments,
in the most unexpected ways,
the tears have come,
and they’ve shocked me into submission every time.

And I’ve written every day. I’ve written in a paper journal since I was 9 years old, but this is different—in September, I committed to write in my paper journal every single day through the end of 2010.

I’m on my fourth journal since making that commitment. Apparently I have a lot to say!

But, doing that writing has helped me so much. Sometimes, it’s helped me shake something lose that I’d been picking at in my mind for ages, but until I wrote it down, it didn’t quite make sense.

Sometimes, writing has helped me capture memories, and other times, it’s just a daily record.

And it’s all been part of my bizarre, lonely, twisted path of grief. I have been walking through it, for the first time in my entire life, actually dealing with all the things I’ve never grieved.

Grief is a strange thing, and I don’t really understand it. It is an odd and shocking beast. The only way to slay it, it seems, is with a tiny, inadequate sword, one slice at a time. It takes too long, it’s arduous, the beast keeps coming back for another round, mutating in places where you’ve made progress… it’s elusive, hiding in dark shadows and broad daylight.

I think that if you’re exhausted, all the time, then you’re probably slaying the Grief Beast properly. That is to say, you’re creating room in your heart for the good things that come after.

And that’s important, because there are many good things that come after a time of grief… and they deserve to be received with an open heart.

And my heart is open wide, for the first time in many, many years.

You know… it really is a remarkable thing to be human. The capacity to laugh, to cry, to feel such deep and intense emotions—and, when sunk at the bottom of the pit of despair, something simple and honest and real can be just the impetus for a hearty laugh that instantly transports you back to normalcy.

Being human is a treasure. Not always a pleasure, but always a very special privilege.

I am privileged to be me, right here, in this moment.

I am right where I need to be.


  1. Linda it takes alot of courage to put your life out there, and I admire you for that. I know we don't know each other personally, but I enjoy seeing your artistic creations and feel honored to be a tiny little part of your life. So with that I send you a giant HUG. You are right, your Gramma is right there with you and I'm sure she's super proud of you!

  2. Precious, Linda Lee...Wow. I can't imagine how FULL your head and heart and life have been. It's humbling to have you share such important things. You tapped into some places in me that I've been avoiding. Whew. I'm sorry about your divorce, but I'm so glad you're finding the light in the darkness. You seem to be very good at that, and it's inspiring. I wish you the most wonderful new year! Enjoy exploring your beautiful, open heart, my friend.

  3. You know you're right where you need to be and you know how much all this grief is doing you good in the end, so I won't reiterate it to death... but even so, I offer my empathy for having to go through it. Grief is... somethin' else. I am still working on much of mine, and I thank you, deeply, for your honesty and your incisive analogies, to remind me to forge on and to plow through. My dad, my life choices, still a lot to deal with. And thanks for reminding me too that an OFFline journal is a good place to get a lot of that going.

    Lots of love to you and I have a feeling - and I think you do too - that you are going to have an awesome new year. And you and I will see each other before the year is through. Yes.

    *Big hug*

  4. As once divorced person I know what you are going thru. You are brave and seeing the light after the tunnel is good thing and it helps too. I am sending you more courage and love to your way.

  5. Thank you all so much! It does feel good to be more open and honest here... I plan to continue the trend.

    I DO think 2011 is going to ROCK!!

    And Melissa, I'm going to hold you to that! ;-)