how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the art of grief

with all the books i’ve read, all the writings online i’ve read from those who grieve, and the way i, myself, feel, i do not see any true path to grief. there is no lighted runway that we are all circling in the darkness above trying to find. there is no single path to enduring this pain. i have seen people reaching out online and find it a struggle to be understood. i hear of struggles with family and friends not understanding what is "taking so long." even those who are grieving sometimes have a hard time finding it in their hearts to be compassionate towards their fellow widows and widowers.

each road in life is different so it stands to reason that each road of grief is different. for me, i was holding hands with my Dragon beloved on the road we both had chosen. we were a force to be reckoned with because of our love and devotion to each other. united, we faced whatever came our way.

and then he died.

it was so sudden that while he gasped for breath, i was gasping for air. confused and devastated, i worked on him, talked to him, left him to open the door for the Paramedics, sat in the police car racing to the hospital, to wait only 5 minutes before they came to tell me he had died.

and so i am left here on this earth with people who do not know me, people who have not accepted me, people who do not see value in me. i met two widows my age that could have been friends but used me in an unkind way. i was one’s “last ditch friend if my other friends aren't around,” her words to me. and i was the “crutch” for another and eventually abandoned because i did not call her everyday to check on her and do not own a car to bring her her meals.

in college i majored in art and psychology with a minor in philosophy. i took an argumentative logic class and on the wall above the chalk board was a sign that read: It is so seldom that we feel listened to that I wonder why it is we spend so much time talking. that semester he used it as the only question on our final exam. i believed that statement then and i believe it now.

however i fight against the sometime reality of it.

on that final i wrote that if we ever stopped talking to each other we would become disconnected and then we, ourselves, the part of us that longs for companionship, would suffer greatly. i wrote that we needed to try to communicate, however frustrating it is, because to lose the desire to try and connect means we have given up on being seen; that we were giving up on ourselves. then when we are in real trouble, we will not have anyone to call out to.

i tried to call out to others for decades, but no one listened. then i met a Dragon and he heard me off in the shadows. he wanted me. he loved (loves) me. i have value to him.

he left me behind and though i know he did not want to, the result is the same. and i still feel that if one of us had to go first it should have been me because i am so tired of people and life handing me sloppy fourths. but that is the weak, selfish part of me, my id. the part of me that wants to do the right thing, to be a better person, my superego, wants to try to do good things with my life. i want to feel brave enough to set free all that i am and have kept hidden and protected through all the years before i met my Dragon. he was working on my self-confidence. i need to honor him and honor myself with continuing that work. i want to earn my dragoness scales so when it is my turn to fly away from here, i can, with dignity and grace.

but it is tiring to work on my self-confidence and grieve for him while facing all that has happened to me since he died.

the VA, God bless them, are still working on my monthly stipend. i swear, if i owed them money, i would get a letter a week plus phone calls.

so i make things. i make them for other people and for myself. i sew. i bead. i quilt. i hand appliqué. i do it all by hand. it is solitary work. my own art of grief.

for this kind of work i should be living in a lighthouse on some remote island with a mail boat coming twice a month. now that would be heaven on earth. imagine my view of the moon and stars from there. imagine the storms coming in off the ocean. imagine the wind, the shells, the driftwood on the beach. imagine the things i could make.

and if i wasn't heard from out there, there would be the reason of geography rather than neglect. but having the pull to the ocean that i have inside me, i do not think i would be sitting inside much. i would set up my work outside for as long as weather would allow. my music would be the wind and the water and the gulls. and i would always believe i could hear dragon's wings behind the clouds. fantasy. whimsey. delusions. on an island like this, it would only add to my imagination, to my creativity.

there is another kind of art to grief. it is in facing it without letting anyone get to you with their pressures of how you should be doing or what you should be doing or feeling at any given point along the road. i have been looking for 16 months for someone to talk to to no avail. i do not have money to pay someone to talk to. i do not seem to be a good enough friend based on that same monetary limitation. what i say and what i give freely of myself is not enough. and so i make things. art is my grief therapy - my art of grief. all my creative work through every day and all my thoughts of my Dragon are what are seeing me through. these two things are my company on this road.

i am doing the best i can while i amble along this lonely road. i am going my own way. i am reassuring my children i will be okay. and without him, without the wondrous love of my Dragon, okay is the best i can hope for. dear Lord, i miss him.

i used to feel him there before i woke. if i had to tell you something great about being with him off the top of my head, it would be that i could feel him near without having to see him. if i had gone alone to the beach, i would sense him coming to me. i would look up and wait for a pause, and there he would be, standing at the top of the drop off casting his eyes to find me among the rocky shoreline. i would wave. he would smile and head down to me.

he would say the same about me. we always felt the presence of the other.

i used to wake in fear and trepidation for what the day would bring but when he came into my life, it all changed. the entire world could fall away, or we could fall off the edge and it would be okay. i would be with my Dragon and we would be holding hands.

i pray that i will be with him again and this time, we will fly together beyond the ending of time.


bev said...

For some of us, I think the alone-ness is what comes after we lose the person who was the other half of who we were. That's how it is for me now. I go for days without speaking to anyone "in person". But then, I went for days without speaking to anyone other than my husband before he died. I've always led a solitary existence, so it's probably logical to expect that's what would follow. Perhaps that is just what works for me, at least at this point in time. However, as you have written above, we're all different and we grieve differently - just as we live differently.

It is good that you have your art - and it is truly wonderful. For me, it is nature and photography. They are not the answer, but at least they are a form of expression - and that is needed.

Anonymous said...

I know I could say this to you on the phone but I'm putting it here. Damn the ones who don't understand that we can be pen pals. I was your husband's brother in the Corps and now that you're his widow, I check in with you. That's how it's done.

I know how inseparable you two were. The last missions were as hard on him as it was on you waiting for him. You've proven you can be a hermit. You're braver than you realize. The legacy of your art and your words is more than this world deserves of you. Over these months of getting to know you and handling some security things for you, I've learned what Dragon saw from day one. You're a rare person. You deserved your time with Dragon. Hell, you deserved more time with him. I know you will get your forever far "beyond the ending of time."

Semper Fi, Mrs. Dragon.

judemiller1 said...

I too am a solitary person and to be able to live on an island would be Heaven. Of course I still have my pal by my side so I am the lucky one..and a good thing we have each other because no one else calls or checks in to see if we are even still alive...and that is all right. We would both love to go to that island and live alone--with each other--it would be enough for us. Steady On, Dear Friend.

Dan, in real time. said...

I love the phrase that was on the wall of your class. I used to feel that no one really wanted to hear what I had to say about the difficult times. Writing my blog has helped me feel heard, even if only in writing. Lately I have been purposefully trying to get conversations with friends, or coworkers, about what's on my mind. My really valued time is my weekly therapy. It gives me the opportunity to express outloud what I usually leave to my writing. It also challenges me to slow down, and really try to sort out some of the stuff that can get all mixed up in emotion.

It would be nice if the V.A. would provide you with counseling services while they sort out the financial issues. I wonder if spouses of veterans can be served by them.

I'm finding that my first nature is to keep to myself, yet I want to keep challenging myself to get out of the house and seek new interaction.

womanNshadows said...

Bev, my children kept me from being alone and then i had my Dragon and we were alone together as much as any two people can be. i like being alone here to work on my art but i do wish i had something better to look at than an apartment parking lot. but i do have my imagination and expressing ourselves through our own personal form of art can bring a level of peace and for me, that is an answer to the question of "what are you going to do now?"

Brick, the few who do not understand that you and i can be just pen pals without it being anything more are watching way too many movies on Lifetime. your insights are always appreciated. i need the connection with my Dragon that you bring. but also, you are a patient and generous person, a good friend all on your own. i am humbled and grateful for your friendship.

Judy, that island up there, it looks like a sanctuary, doesn't it? i would go there in a New York minute to live out the rest of my days in solitary. how can anyone feel alone in such a place surrounded by all that ever-changing beauty? and i pray you never know a day without your pal beside you.

Dan, that phrase has come to me in flashbacks at different points in my life when i am trying to talk and no one listens even though they are looking right at me. some people trip over their own feet before they arrive at empathy or compassion. but we have to keep trying, don't we. as for my local VA, they do and i was on the list, but their funding was cut and they are in the process of closing their doors. the next closest VA office is 55 miles away. veterans are incensed but....i honestly do not know what the city thinks of it's veteran's other than Veteran's Day is a day off work.

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