Saturday, November 28, 2009

Helpful Suggestions: Things Not To Say

1) Don't tell me we might have/would have broken up. Our mutual love is one of the things I've still got.
2) Don't tell me I'll find someone new. It's not a breakup. We loved each other deeply. When he passed, we were planning on soon being engaged. See above. Our mutual love--and the memory of that-- is one of the few things I've still got.
3) Don't tell me I'll eventually be ready to find someone new, find new love, etc. I really don't care. I found the real thing, I found the man I wanted to get married to, and he died. Whether I get married now, ever, or not, I don't care--indefinitely.
4) Don't tell me I need to move on. It hasn't even been a month yet since his death. From all accounts, the first year is very hard, especially for widows, which I might as well be (albeit not legally).
5) Don't be afraid of mentioning him. I want you to mention him and tell me your memories. They are all precious to me.
6) Don't tell me I need to take, or increase, my psychopharmaceuticals. I can manage that myself.
7) I am coping as best as I can. Please spare me your advice on how I need to cope better. I can walk, I can drive, I can see without double vision. I'm doing much better. Right now I am focusing on getting through one day at a time.
8) Don't tell me it was God's will as if that will make me feel better. I wrote my thesis on the subject. I've probably pondered the issue more deeply than you have. God's will governs all things. Telling me so isn't really going to be helpful.
9) Don't tell me you understand because you lost your mother/father/sister/brother/friend/etc. It's not the same. Or at least, if you do, don't use that as your excuse to give me advice about it. If you use your experience to empathetically listen, though--that's good.
10) The Biblical saying that we are not to grieve as those without hope (1 Thess 4:13) does NOT mean that we are not supposed to grieve. Got that? If you want to get into an exegetical argument with me on that passage, bring it.
11) I believe he is in heaven. I believe he is praying for me. I pray for him. I talk to him. That mitigates the agony. But telling me, "At least he's in heaven now" is not going to make it go away. It's grief. It hurts.
12) Don't tell me I need to a) move on, b) move on faster, c) get over it, c) get over it faster, or ask me, at any point in the indefinite future, if I'm still grieving. I'm on grief's timetable, not yours--not even on mine. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18) I am being brought where I did not wish to go. Any assertions as to the slowness of grief's timetable, or questions thereunto, are manifestly unhelpful.
13) Don't assume that because I laugh, or smile at something, that it means I'm not grieving. It just relieves the pressure for a second. It's always there.
14) Don't tell me that, because I'm suffering, I need to see a doctor, or a psychiatrist, or a psychologist, or any other such professional, or ask me when I'm going to do so. Please assume I've got that covered.
15) Don't extrapolate your experience with grief, or your friend's, or your family's, onto my own. You may have handled your grief by a) throwing yourself into work, b) retreating into a little cave and shutting yourself off from everyone, c) needing antidepressants or sedatives, or needing the doses raised, d) or buying a farm and raising llamas. Everybody grieves differently. Don't assume that because I'm not grieving your way, I'm not grieving right.
16) Don't assume that because I'm grieving, I want to be left alone. Apparently that's not how I roll. Please call me. Please come over. It's hard to make calls, and it's hard to reach out to people, but when people reach out to me, I really appreciate it. The love and support of my friends and family is helping me get through/survive this.

grief poem. Tuesday Nov 24, 2009, 10:34am. 2 weeks 3 days.

Every morning I go about mourning
And my tears begin afresh
My wound opens as I remember
And I groan in my deep sorrow
Break all your weights and measures
Break all your instruments
For you cannot measure my grief.
My sorrow cannot be measured,
It would break all your paltry instruments.
My tears could fill up the sea,
And they would not be finished.
The light of my eyes and the joy of my heart,
He was taken from me
I shall not see him again while I live
My love does not mourn now; he is happy
In a place where no mourning is
In the light of eternal morning
Of the Orient from on high
But for me there is only great sorrow
That will bleed yet afresh come the morrow

Had I known! Had I known this could happen
I would never have left your side
I would have been like a mother hen
Would have hemmed you in from every side--
I would never have ceased looking after you
But I thought you were strong, I was weak--
But now you are gone, I remain.
No one on earth can tell me why;
No one on earth can explain.

grief poem. written Mon. Nov. 23rd, 2009, at 3:17 pm. 2 weeks, 2 days.

I was already a student of sorrow
I thought I needed no more education
I thought I knew all its ins and outs
And its every permutation

But the love of my life has now left me
For that most ruthless mistress, Death
She has kidnapped my love, he is stolen
And she mocks me as I stand bereft

Oh, how could you doubt I'd be faithful?
I was faithful to you to the end
And now that you're gone, I've put a ring on
Where a wedding ring should have been

My true love and heart's one desire
Is hidden now out of my reach
In no time for him, we'll meet again
But a lifetime ahead is the breach.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

grief poem 2. Mon Nov 23, 2009, 5:02pm. 2 weeks, 2 days.

Careful of thought; polite; refined
An aesthete with an earthy mind
And no effete; Impossible to find
Someone with whom I'd better sync--
Charming, attractive, and could think!
With electric touch and penetrating mind--
Why could I not have written this
When it was still possible to kiss
And to your face tell you all this?
All, all of you's what I shall miss--
Hated pop music--but could quote KISS--
Sang along with the music at the CVS
And won my heart; loved me in heels,
But still found me hot in flats;
It was surreal, you'd have thought me
Cute in a potato sack. Of us two, you
Were better dressed; but you
Loved me fine the way I am;
I loved you deeply, madly, truly
Like water bursting from a dam
And I was lucky that you loved me
Never again your like I'll see--

And at your death, the earth went still
And all around me turned to ash
How are you gone, and I'm still breathing?
I loved you. And I love you still.

Grief Manifesto (posted as "Reflections" on Facebook)

I did my thesis on the value of suffering--actually the paper in the library is one I consider unfinished--and in my research I concluded these things:
1.) These things happen for a reason. A Reason Exists.
2.) Even death can be the provision of God. Yes, that sounds crazy. It also feels crazy. It's one of those God paradoxes, like the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection--which, of course, are all tied in with this.
3.) Basil the Great's homily goes down such a long laundry list of possible reasons for why the bad things in this world could be, my conclusion was that it could be caused by any number of those things, so why speculate? Only God knows; I won't understand it til the hereafter.
4.) Even if I knew what the reason were, I wouldn't like it. Especially now. If you try to guess it, you'll probably guess wrong anyway. Even if you're right in your speculation, it would probably only make things worse. Perhaps that is why we are bewildered and confused by it, and why the future is hidden from us. If we knew it, could we bear it?
4) The only evil that is evil in and of itself is sin, which originates from man, not God; other things we perceive as evil (like physical suffering) might actually have some purpose for good. And that evil itself is a parasite, a corruption of that which was good from the beginning. Only that which is good truly exists, and that not in and of itself, but because God sustains it. All that is created depends on the provision of the Creator to exist; only God exists in and of himself, and He is the ultimate Good.
5) It's enough for me to know that A Reason Exists. I actually don't want to know it.
6) If suffering is good for anything, it's to train you in virtue. Of course, that's what the fathers say everything is for.

But nevertheless. I am reminded of Joseph's words to his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but the Lord meant it for good." Also of Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

It is no accident that those words come right after the passage that begins, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." (Romans 8:18-25)

The whole creation--and, Paul goes on to say, we ourselves--groan like a woman in labor. I have never been in labor, but I have it on good authority that it is a painful experience. But Paul is analogizing this to all the sufferings of this life. And all the ills of the world are likewise like labor pains. As the pregnant woman endures the pain of labor in the hope of holding a newborn babe, so we endure the pains that come with living in hope of the resurrection, of being delivered from corruption. We are like women in labor, but it is we who are being born. Which is, of course, a paradox; but so it most of the really true stuff in theology. That's why we call it a mystery. And of course, Paul speaks of perseverance--perseverance through the agony of this world, which longs to be delivered from corruption.

Only after speaking of suffering, labor pains, and perseverance does he say, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." All things. Not just the good things, not just the happy things, not just the things that our senses would call good, or our human understanding, which is finite, but ALL things. We hope for what we do not see--and one of those things which we hope for, which is given us in the life of the age to come, is the understanding of the why of all this.

We were not created for a world stained by sin and suffering and death; therefore our human understanding rebels at this. Death in particular. But the hope of us Christians is that death has already been defeated and made finite, by the paradox of the cross: that God took on himself all that goes with being human, even suffering, torture, and death--and by doing so broke their power forever. Death is horrible--death is beyond all human understanding--but death is not permanent! This is the hope of us Christians. This was Nelson's hope. The suffering of separation that I endure by his death is the suffering of labor pains, but it is I who am being born. He, however, is already there.