Monday, April 06, 2009

It's Just Grief...

"When sacred life is in your hands, it seems like it's always been there. But when it slips through your fingers, it's so easy to forget that it was ever there. And that absence becomes your life. The resigned life, the distracted life. The life in which you do not deserve happiness and love, and you were foolish to believe you did. You are too fat, to far behind the winners to catch up. And there are so many others like you, that you settle in, validated in your resignation."
My friend Bill wrote this. He wrote it because he was this close to falling in love with a wonderful very cool and hip woman who may have been very close to falling in love with him, except she died two days after they acknowledged their feelings for one another.
A few days ago I went to the doctor to check my cholesterol, since the diet I'm on is all about meat and cheese and nuts and eggs. He asked me how everything was going and I started crying. Right there sitting on the exam table. It snuck up on me, came out before I even knew it was going to. He asked was I sleeping?, am I lethargic?, how is my appetite? All okay, I told him. So what’s going on? he asked. It’s grief, I said, it's just grief. .
He looked at me kindly. Oh, he said, that takes time.
Time is my treatment plan.
Bill and I have talked about grief, more about his, less about mine. That is because I can hardly put words to mine: I didn't lose someone to death. The details don’t matter at this point and I can’t explain them anyway: essentially I lost a friend, but even using the word “friend” is oddly insufficient. Best friend, that’s closer, but still not full enough. In my mind we were "sames." The tradition of sames began in China centuries ago: two girls bonded in childhood, by familial tradition and agreement, committed to love one another and assure each other’s welfare until one of them died. That is how I felt about the two of us, how I still feel when I find it impossible to understand how the hell we landed where we could no longer right what was not right.
I used to think of grief as your fiancée leaving you or your brother killed in a car accident, or from nowhere your child has a brain tumor. I’ve followed the look on Bill’s face and sometimes I see resigned confusion, as though he’s put his hand in a bag of golddust but it’s all slipped through his fingers by the time his hand reaches the rim. So close, his expression seems to say, so close I almost deserved it. Or did I? It's a good question: how would he know? What would have been if fate had not stepped in at the moment that destiny and possibility intersected, a deadly crash with no chance of resurrection?
The look on Bill’s face is grief. Not always, because he has to live, afterall. Just like I do. But I know the look. I think grief gets harder as you age: you start to understand that you are dealing with not simply the loss of a person, but the loss of two.
You lose somebody you love, cared about, and shared the littlest things: a special card, planning a vacation, talking past midnight, watching a sunset and thinking how much the other person might appreciate it too. But in a real way you also lose yourself—at least that part of yourself that allowed a certain tenderness, that hoped and danced with the anticipation of trying comfort on for size, wearing it like the sweater you’ll never give up, even when it frays and unravels.
That’s what grief is. You hold on because you’ll lose some part of yourself if you let go. And you’re afraid you won’t have it again. And you hold on because you know those tender feelings may well remain in the present tense, live as long as you do, because they are and will stay a part of you. There is some beauty in that, I think, but you need time before grief brings healing, before you understand that love doesn't really go anywhere anyway.
The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief, but the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love. Hilary Stanton Zunin
I'd say that's about right. And I'm pretty sure Bill agrees.


  1. kj: This is such a real post and I am very sorry for your pain.

    When you started crying at the doctor's office, I could feel it. I think I get it. Just being overwhelmed sometimes with sadness.

    Thinking about you.

    Love Renee xoxo

  2. kj: I came back because I want to wish you peace. Peace in you heart and in your life.

    You will be okay, I know it.

    Love Renee xoxo

  3. i will be okay renee. really, i have a good life, one i am very grateful for. thank you for the love and kindness i feel from you, right in front of me across the miles. i've been thinking about writing about grief for a while and i hope it heals not hurts that i've done it now and here. i hope i don;t sound pathetic, because i don't feel that way. and renee, i almost included other kinds of grief too: having your life change, an uncertain future, body letdowns, etc. love to you, my friend. i'm glad there's giggles too. xo

  4. The whole universe is a game of peekaboo...
    you are not lost;
    nor am i...
    we're the same;
    surely the sames...

    this is just love
    playing like a child:

    lover's so close
    when the coy beloved
    starts a game... a chase...

    follow me... follow not...
    love me... love me not...

    and the lover leaves
    the lonely dot he's standing on:
    he will go on and on
    living evey dot he steps on
    just because he wants
    to show his beloved
    how much he loves to
    get to her
    to embrace her
    to say,

  5. Hello... I cam across from Willows blog... you write beautifully... I hope you don't mind me adding you to my list?

    Time.. yes that is exactly what you need...

    ... but sometimes I think it takes longer to recover from loosing someone who has not passed away.

    Do you know Elizabeth Bishops poem 'One Art'... take a look if not.

    Your Zunin quote reminds me of another saying. 'Its better to have lost in love than to have never loved at all'.

    thank you for letting me visit..

  6. oh my goodness, this has touched my heart so deeply, for all my losses, for those to come, for those still here but lost, for those i will never lose, all grief.
    how can i explain that having two front teeth pulled out threw me into such grief,it took days to stagger out...what was the feeling of loss? my looks, my time...all slipping away like sand on a wet beach. my god, i feel your pain and bill's right now, right here very firmly. i am sending you strong and warm arms to enfold you both while they still enfold me. hugs friend.

  7. From great joy to profound grief. I'm very saddened to read about your pain, and I wish I could quicken time and bring some healing. I know about breaking down in tears at the slightest provocation. I've done that in front of a teacher whom I didn't even know that well. I wish I could tell you that when you emerge from this grief, you'll find that the best parts of you are still there. Would you believe me if I did?

    Great big hugs to you.

  8. Kisses xxx and hugs ooo

    Love Renee xoxox

  9. kj: Nothing about someone's pain ever sounds pathetic to me.


  10. What Bill wrote is beautiful and powerful. Maybe the look on his face isn't grief, but resignation~why even think I'll find love again if THIS happened?

    Grief doesn't need labels or excuses like brain tumors or car accidents. Grief just is. It's something many of us can't get our heads around once it has its grip on us. It's like life tarred and feathered us.

    I love the paragraph where you dared "trying comfort on for the sweater you'll never give up." Wow. I'm sure we can all relate to that.

    Do you realize that our friendship arose through your grief? I can't take the grief away KJ, but I can listen across the miles and be your friend. If I could wave a wand to restore you, I would. But I have noticed you're laughing more and wanting more. I'll take that as a sign that time is doing its job ;)

    love you,

  11. there is an award for you on my blog. how you feeling now?

  12. oh dear...reading this brought tears to my eyes because i know this experience all too well and yet, somehow, you have found a way to write about it.


    if we sit together in our misery for just a moment maybe, together, we can know that we will both get to the other side of these similar experiences.

    thank for writing this. i guess you could say i needed to read it.

    big hugs,

  13. kj you know me. Ever the pragmatist and no stranger to real grief. There are stages . .shock, hurt, anger, sadness, and finally resignation . . you'll get there . . .

  14. hb, aaaaw, i just love you. this poem is magnificent. thank you.

    treesparrow, welcome. i will be delighted to link with you. i will check out eliz. bishop's poem for sure, and i will soon visit you at your place!

    you are such a good person, soulbrush. it comes through in so many ways. thank you for understanding.

    thank you, bella. i hadn't noticed the jump from the joy of drew's birth to this post, which i'd been thinking about for a while--i probably sound schizophrenic. would i believe you that the best parts will still be there? you know, bella, i can't say that i would. maybe in time, but i won't be surprised if i still feel this way twenty years from now. thank you for the hug--it means alot.

  15. renee, you are an angel, you know. thanks for coming back again. i can amost feel your arms around me, and i appreciate it.

    lo, my sweet sweet friend. you have been salve and bandages for me these months. i wouldn't trade our friendship for anything. i love you too.

    soulbrush, oooh, an award--that makes me feel better already! thank you.

    jessie, my soul sister: you will definitely get to the other side. you deserve nothing less. and i will get there too. then we can meet for coffee. xoxo

    baino, have i ever told you i love you? (awww, i've gotten all mushy). i love your perspective and advice. i know you've been there, and i know you are, to quote hemingway, stronger at the broken places. you are an awesome woman, baino!

  16. Whenever someone asks me how I am, I do everything I can to avoid answering it, because Im afraid I will start to think I know how you felt at the doctors office....but anyhow, time really is the only thing for grief, and it will get better, really...just be good to yourself in the meantime.

  17. Hello my friend, I am so glad that you poured your heart out in this beautiful post and with the doctor and all of us and shared it with Bill. I grieve a little every day and it feels like a constant at this stage of my life but I am grateful too. It hurts and I hope you understand this but if feels kind of good too. It keeps me in touch with the important thoughts I would like to maintain. That feeliing of holding on tight to the wonderful moments and not letting them slip through> Love to you :)

  18. thanks lavender. hey, i had quite a time on your blog while you were gone! :)

    val, you are so right. i know exactly what you mean. i am grateful too and the truth is i don't want to lose feeling the wonderful moments, even if they're just mine. love to you too, dear friend. i am so glad that is so. xoxo

  19. Thanks for dropping by and giving lovely comments. You have a beautiful blog and have the most passionate & beautiful sharings.
    For your info, I am struggling to find time to give comments. I will be back too:)

  20. You directed me here and I am at a loss for words for what I've just read. My condolences for all the losses here.

  21. Wise and sad and human.
    I think of you too, and of your friend Bill.
    Have a good day, taking one step a time,

  22. I read this and I want to help make it better, but I can't.
    Time puts endless bandages over a wound that will never really heal.
    The facade of healing is the best we get in this life. and the most we can hope for.
    I reckon if we could completely cleanse ourselves of grief, we would be less human.

  23. welcome yoon see. i will look forward to getting to know you.

    thanks lynn. sorry you've arrived for such a solumn topic. i'll spice up the subject matter soon enough!

    andrea, welcome again. i love following your art and escapades!

    hardwax, ahhhh, so you know....

    everyone: thanks for all your comments and emails. such is the way it is sometimes--all too human, that's all.

  24. so sad about your friend's experience. one of life's ironies, to take away the beloved just as she/he is found. i do think grief takes time to work through, to feel. does it go away or does the intensity lessen?over time. not sure. a big hug to you and to Bill. thanks for writing this post about something so hard to talk about. those tears that came unbidden--

  25. Thank you for your post, and thank you for that quote. I'm going through a new little grief right now, and remembering how important it is to risk love helps me keep my chin up.

  26. suki, i'm surrounded by a sad loss but i'm also an optimist. i will not love any less. and the pain, well, i don't welcome it but i'm trying to work with it, and honor it even.

    oh teresa, thinking of you. xo

  27. Beautiful post. I feel your pain and I relate. XOXO