While everyone else throws back rum and eggnog and busies themselves with holiday shopping, those of us in grief are doing our best just to get through the day. Hearing a holiday song, smelling a familiar scent or walking by a decorated store window can be all it takes for us to come undone. So, what can you do? Well, quite a lot. Below are my suggestions for how I plan to get through -- I hope it's of help to you too.
I am terrified that tens of millions of Americans came out in spades to support a man who is endorsed by the KKK, a known terrorist group. Trump is an admitted sexist, a liar, cheat and alleged rapist. A man(child) with zero political background -- completely and entirely unqualified for any position of stature. He is Hitler 2.0, and he now represents the most powerful country in the world. It is, in a word, devastating.
I am a non-binary trans person. I know that many people do not yet understand what this means. Many people refuse to acknowledge my existence. Being seen as I am by people is a remarkable feeling, and my grandmother gave this gift to me in the most unexpected moment. My grandmother spent her minute of clarity, while suffering in a state of almost perpetual dementia and physical exhaustion, to give me a beautiful gift of cross-generational respect as a trans person. To see me as I am.
On the night of Tuesday April 28, 2009 our son died by suicide. As the shock lifted we began the agonizing process of trying to comprehend our new reality. Our 23-year old son had lived with a robust disease that had been brewing for years. He was a strong, intelligent young man; however, even he could not see where his path was headed. Mental illness is a formidable foe. Our tragedy is his absence from our ordinary lives. We are now referred to as survivors. What exactly we are surviving is unclear. We are broken in so many places; trying to put the puzzle that was our life back together. Only now, the pieces do not match.
Why didn't you answer our calls that night? We couldn't figure out why you hadn't come home for dinner. When did you last think about your family that terrible night? Did you consider, even for a moment, that our lives would be a living hell after you were gone? Why didn't you tell us that you hated who you had become? You had lost hope. Despite all of the good in your life, I think there was a layer of fear and uncertainty that left you adrift.
It's hard to imagine there is life beyond your exploded heart. How can you possibly merge back into the cacophony of dailiness and demands when your life has been captured by grief? The hollowness, the memories, the break-downs, the images, the gut-wrenches, the what-ifs have kneed you into a tight, dark corner. You can, and will, get out, but it cannot be rushed. Here's how.
For anyone who's lost a pet, the heartache is significant and can last a long time. Feelings of grief can cause mental distraction, loss of appetite, bouts of extreme sadness and even lasting depression. Why, then, are we expected to get back to work after the loss of a pet without being allowed to take time off?
This is death. This is the heartbreak that inevitably comes for all of us when we open our hearts to receive love from another sentient being. From someone we showered with affection from the moment we first met. From someone who shared so much of our joys, sorrows, and laughter, and was ever supportive of us, unconditionally. From someone who we will miss with every fibre of our being from this moment on.
Nothing feels safe. Nothing feels right. And there is the "who-cares-anymore" well of depression. You are in a place you never imagined, much less prepared for: you are in hell. Dealing with this anguish and sorrow is a rocky, uneven road. Eventually, you manage to put one foot in front of the other, even if you have been robotic and numb.
Love is doing acts of service and kindness. That goodness, compassion, generosity of spirit is a kind of light. And the more light we share on this planet with one another the more darkness is diminished.... We love by showing compassion, tolerance and acceptance as we strive for peaceful co-existence with one another.
Though assisted death is now officially legal in our fair country, we have yet to formalize a national framework and the debate over the specifics of the regulations seem to omit the most critical voice -- that of the individuals and families who have and continue to be subject to archaic mindsets that deny certain patients the right to end their own life, and control their own destiny. It is imperative we hear these voices -- and so here is mine.
The vet prepared the needle that would put Lily to rest. She gave Lily the needle and to everyone's astonishment, Lily got up and walked towards my husband. The vet has only seen this happen one other time in her 26 years as a vet. So she turned to my husband and said, "You have to tell her that it is time to go. She doesn't want to leave you so you have to tell her that it's ok."
The emotional distress started to make me feel sick all the time and it came to the point that I just couldn't continue like this anymore. I decided that my first step to healing was to talk to people who have experienced the same type of loss, and by doing this it helped me realize that everything I was feeling was normal.