A community of peers created by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation
It has been nine months since DJ died...early on I had pledged not to become a slave to the dates; I had read and seen enough of the anguish it caused some of us and I decided I didn't want to become a victim of the emotions I had seen described, and for the most part I have been able to keep that pledge; trying to ignore the dates as they passed...purposely not paying attention to the passage of time, with varying degrees of success...still...that time has actually passed....those months...if I take an average of a 30 day month, that's 270 days; DJ and I were married for 14,400 days, we knew each other for over a thousand more days than that. It's ironic that nine months just happens to be the gestation period for human beings...the time required for a new human life to develop. The thought struck me that in those nine months, a different, new life has developed for me too. And much like that embryo which can grow during that time, I didn't have much choice in going through those months, it simply happened (ha!). In that time an embryo develops the necessary physical appointments to survive in the world outside of the womb...if all goes well, it's mental development will begin once it's introduced into that world.
Thinking about all of this led me to draw a parallel to my own life over those months..how, like that embryo I did not ask to be put here, but I am here...how both of our journeys to a new, outside world required us to grow and produce various attributes to survive in that different environment; for the embryo, to adapt to the outside physical world beyond that of it's mother's body, for me, to adapt to the world outside this cocoon of grief; and make no mistake about, it is a sort of cocoon. It can shelter us from the realities of the outside world for a while, allowing us certain behaviors that are not normally considered acceptable. They are two very different places as I view them however, these places we come from after these months; the one providing safety, protection and nourishment, the other offering unimaginable pain, and at times, terror, despair, and anguish along with any temporary shielding it might provide. For the embryo that womb serves as a protective barrier to the outside elements until it is prepared to live and thrive in that external world; our cocoon of grief provides some of that, but more often it appears as a barricade, for a while blocking us from moving forward, trapping us in our own thoughts and minds...It is a curious parallel indeed. The pain, if any, that the embryo endures after having come full term, tho it be the cost of passage to that outside world, we have no knowledge of, that embryo doesn't remember, it cannot talk if it did remember, and often appears unmotivated to do so as it often sleeps immediately after entering this world. Our breakout is not so forgiving, it has no built in memory protection, in fact I believe an honest evaluation of the entire spectrum of our memories up until that point in our lives is required in order to escape it, speaking of it does seem to help us, as sharing with others allows us to understand better and grow even more; yet at times we share that same affliction of not being motivated, with sleep often becoming a desired but difficult to attain commodity, and it's presence being varied and often scarce.
But we are not as fortunate as that term embryo, we are not afforded the luxury of loss of memory during our emergence in whatever large or small way from the envelop of grief; with large or small meaning just how ready we are to really move forward. In fact, to even reach that level of maturity to be prepared to move through it, we have to use our memory, and memories to assist us in understanding what will be required for us to live after our ''birth'' into the different life. Tragically, sometimes the embryos are stillborn, for whatever reasons, the developmental process is thrown awry and the new life is never given the opportunity to greet that outside world...and so it is with grief; some of us are destined to be held in perpetual widowhood, failing to acquire those things necessary to carry through in the physical world as well as in our minds, with the reasons for that being both varied and valid, i can make no judgments on the condition, only mention it in passing as something I believe I have observed...truly a curious situation. In my own case I think I have avoided that stillbirth, as today I feel better prepared to face the different life, not totally prepared, just better equipped to deal with it. The time in my grief cocoon has been spent, from the day of DJ's departure, in an attempt to grasp, understand, and accept what has happened, from the most mundane and seemingly insignificant items to the most obvious and crucial components which make up our daily lives, and, the ramifications these things have for how the direction of the remainder of my life will be affected. it has been a time of intense pain and startling self revelations; a period replete with the entire range of human emotions laid bare...exposed not only for me to have to dissect and review, but in some instances for all those in my immediate and not so immediate life circle to be privy to as well. I was as unaware of all of this those things just a few months ago, just as that sleeping possibility in the womb is unaware of it's surroundings and the many challenges which awaits it in that outside world...I was unknowing of the many twists and turns my mind would endure or where they would lead me...from that first budding kernel of terrifying realization that DJ was truly no longer with me, to the forming of some blossoming ideas as to how to reorient my mind to just what that meant in real terms for my future well being, both physical and mental; and if I was at all willing to attempt the effort required for the challenge.
I have mentioned before that I claim no special knowledge about this cocoon of grief, no inside tips or tricks to our surviving it with any modicum of sanity; just the detailing of my own personal experience through it, and some of the thoughts that have occurred to me while on the journey. But unlike that emerging being from the womb which often rests after it's entry into the new world which awaits it, there is very little resting for those of us attempting to affect our own birth into our different lives. Work is required...thoughts and ideas have to be dealt with, certain emotions brought under reign, and a special vigilance is required for us to have any type of successful entry, through the grief. I feel I am at that certain point...that point of exiting from the cocoon and into that different life; tho not nearly completely healed, I feel in far better shape than those first raw, and seemingly unreal days and weeks. That time when looking ahead, for me meant checking outside of the window to insure I was up high enough to guarantee that I would not survive once I leaned all of the way out of it. I do not say these things lightly, this is serious business to us who are trying to adapt to the very different life before us, unwanted as it may be. I am finding that altho I can feel the emergence, even welcome it, unlike that newborn, I do not get to sleep after the pain of entry, I am turned squarely into the winds of the future and through all of this, I get to remember every damn thing about before, during, after and the process itself.
Today, as I welcome hope and a faith in the possible as newly rediscovered friends, I am aware that the work for me is not over, that there is still much to do in preparing for this different life if I am to have even the slightest chance of success, that being born into it is only another part of the process, and that now, It will be necessary for me to actually accept and implement those things I have attained while in the cocoon...see, that embryo for all it's glory as a tribute to miracles, cannot tell us one thing about it's life inside; but we can speak of the things we endured during our time in the cocoon of grief. We can recall and relate the agony of realization, we can denote those events which cause anguish, pain and terror. We can trumpet the small victories achieved during that time, and can possibly accept some of the shattering revelations we learn about ourselves and those whom we once thought were so willing to be our friends. These can be hard things...very hard things indeed, but birth has always been that way and we should expect this one to be no less painful, with our feeling the pain of the labor, as well as those near and dear to us. For myself, I have spent a great deal of time thinking, feeling, writing, crying, cursing, lying, hiding, begging, praying, screaming, avoiding, wishing and doing all the other things that grief appears to demand of us; I have attempted to catalogue some of my true emotions which I have been subject to; the seemingly random, and ofttimes unforgiving nature of grief; not as any offering as an aid to others, no this cataloguing was strictly a selfish endeavor, suggested to me as a tool to maintain a measure of good mental health. That other's may find some small bit of solace in these ramblings is an unintended by product for which I really cannot take full credit. After these months, It is somewhat unsettling to have a memory and not experience so much pain; to see a specific item of DJ's and not tear up, to lay in the quiet night willingly unsleeping, without having the visions of past memories and events and that deep longing, torture us and provide the emptiness we all know so well. Unsettling yes, but welcomed...it is what we have been striving for, and for me, I feel confident enough to say that this is starting to happen on a consistent basis, I am emerging. I waited almost a full month before mentioning it here because in the past I have had stunted starts...times when I thought I was ready, but like false labor pains, they were only precursors to the actual delivery.
It may well be the greatest challenge I have faced to date, to do this work, for I am still plagued by the same personal shortcomings and character defects which existed before DJ died. And while then she might have been here to blunt some of the negative results caused by my behavior or thinking, or to assuage my bruised ego in the event I feel slighted by some person or situation, from here on out, it will be up to me to insure my well being in these areas. It has already come to my attention, that some, really only had anything to do with me at all because I happened to be DJ's husband; for some of us this may be hard to digest, but the reality is many times we were only tolerated because of our spouses, by both friends and some so called ''family''. The fact is that those visits we are not receiving and calls that are not being returned are not, not happening by accident. In my own case the incidence of this is but little or non existent, but I know it occurs; I use it her as an example of the sort of things we will be dealing with in the different life after our birthing through grief. The decisions I make regarding my life from here on out will only take DJ's opinion into account in as far as a thought as to what I think she might think, or what I think she may have suggested, the only consequences from her will be in my own mind; life from this point forward will truly be a result of decisions and choices of my own making and for our own selves, alone. We cannot shy from the realities the different life will present, I believe it is what we strive to achieve as a result of our journey through grief, that it may be easy or difficult is of no matter...it is what we have, it is what most of us want. But I am optimistic, as I like to say, we didn't come this far by accident.
Of course DJ remains in my every other thought and at certain times, my every thought, but now, thinking of her is not quite as painful as it once was; recalling the many things we did together, the times we shared, the trials we faced as one over those thousands of days, from the memory of that early morning which does not seem that long ago now, as we sat in my car after her Prom when I explained to her how she had to be my girlfriend, and later, my wife; when I let her know that I was prepared to accept the answer she gave, either ''...yes...'' or ''...hell yes...'', as there simply was no third way...to the memory of another morning which does sometimes seem very long ago indeed, as she lay there, quietly passing on before my eyes and when the answers this time were required of me, with all our yes'es' having been explored and the futility of the no's exposed for their glaring ineptness and I was forced to accept some third way; all of these memories and more come with less pain and more understanding. It is my hope that they remain that way, becoming even more commonplace without garnering the contempt that is so often associated with familiarity.
To insure clarity I should state here, this recognizing of the birthing into the different life does in no way solve all the issues we suffer from while grieving; it does a great deal, but not all of the things necessary to purge our minds of the many thoughts attendant to our loss. We still have work to do...this emergence does not remove the issues brought on by sometimey friends, snotty clerks, spiteful inlaws, cold hearted IRS agents, or stubborn lawnmowers...the fact that I am feeling quite optimistic about the future will not remove some of the nagging questions which may remain forever a part of my questioning brain. It will do nothing to educate the DGI's (Don't Get It's) or those who are unwilling to consider the realities of life and death in a serious manner. That I might recognize and embrace a change will do nothing to quell the tremendous sense of loss I carry and which sometimes explodes from my eyes...it will do little to dampen the blows of secret regrets and uncompromising loneliness; no, many of these, and other things will remain and will need to be dealt with further. But, with this gaining of some measure of acceptance I believe we will be in a better position to more rationally deal with them...especially the nagging loneliness.
I offer these thoughts merely as a report, as an observation on my own progress; not knowing fully how to describe or totally explain them, only knowing that it has, and is happening and yes...it feels good, this emergence. Losing apprehension about having your next thought, being freed of the fear of closing our eyes in any attempt to blot out the world and simply rest, having to ability and freedom to believe, to have hope, to live without so much pain is indeed as much a miracle for many of us, as is that of a human birth...I am embracing my past 9 months...I am trying to view them as that time required for my development to be prepared for birth into my different life. For me, this is very serious stuff because at various points along the way my sanity has been in jeopardy and even my continued existence. The work involved so far was not all of my own doing either...for me to arrive at this point in the journey, in tact, required the assistance from many others including family and friends, both old and new, and it does require me to continue to be Honest, Open and Willing to some degree and to actually ''walk'' what has become my ''talk''.
I am well aware that the timing of this as it relates to human development may be merely a coincidence of my own case, a random occurrence at some given point on my journey through grief; that I choose to view it in relation to that human development is my own doing, with the full understanding that each of us have different timelines in our efforts to gain acceptance, and I believe that is what we are all trying to do, gain some understanding and acceptance, it may be called by other names, but in the final analysis, i believe that is what is being sought. For sure there will be a new identity born for me from all this, that has not yet fully taken place; here, I am just emerging into a position which will make that identity possible. I am very interested in seeing just who the hell I might actually turn out to be.