Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Friends

I have the best friends in the world. Every day, they give me little pieces of themselves in dozens of big and little ways. I would not be here, or anywhere realy, without them. They make each day mean something, and some days that's much more than I can do for myself

For instance, Lisa sent me this poem a few days ago and it's been pinging around in my head - and propping me up - ever since.

The Mystery of Meteors
by Eleanor Lerman

I am out before dawn, marching a small dog through
a meager park
Boulevards angle away, newspapers fly around like
blind white birds
Two days in a row I have not seen the meteors
though the radio news says they are overhead
Leonid's brimstones are barred by clouds; I cannot read
the signs in heaven, I cannot see night rendered into fire

And yet I do believe a net of glitter is above me
You would not think I still knew these things:
I get on the train, I buy the food, I sweep, discuss,
consider gloves or boots, and in the summer,
open windows, find beads to string with pearls
You would not think that I had survived
anything but the life you see me living now

In the darkness, the dog stops and sniffs the air
She has been alone, she has known danger,
and so now she watches for it always
and I agree, with the conviction of my mistakes.
But in the second part of my life, slowly, slowly,
I begin to counsel bravery. Slowly, slowly,
I begin to feel the planets turning, and I am turning
toward the crackling shower of their sparks

These are the mysteries I could not approach when
I was younger:
the boulevards, the meteors, the deep desires that
split the sky
Walking down the paths of the cold park
I remember myself, the one who can wait out anything
So I caution the dog to go silently, to bear with me
the burden of knowing what spins on and on above our heads

For this is our reward:Come Armageddon, come fire or flood,
come love, not love, millennia of portents--
there is a future in which the dog and I are laughing
Born into it, the mystery, I know we will be saved

Friday, March 5, 2010

And, Another Thing

Here's a podcast of an interview with Meghan O'Rourke. More good stuff, and interesting to note that many of the ideas we've shared here keep surfacing again and again.

A Podcast with Meghan O'Rourke : The New Yorker

Finding a better way to grieve: From The New Yorker

For any of you who are interested, here's a link to the New Yorker story Cara mentioned. Excellent reading.

Finding a better way to grieve:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Further Thoughts

I've been thinking about yesterday's post all day and I think what bugs me the most is the way these sorts of things - seeds of pop-science wisdom - seep into the culture. They affect the way all of us are treated by our physicians, how we're perceived by the people around us, and even how we view ourselves. More distorted scales and faulty yardsticks by which we can weigh and measure and find ourselves lacking or failing or falling behind.

Yesterday's example is cranky-making one, but the most egregious example I can think of is the continuing misunderstanding of what we have come to call the Stages of Grief. Forty-ish years ago, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross* wrote a wonderful book called On Death and Dying in which she examined the psychological process of coming to terms with one's own, imminent death. Her work changed for the better the way we deal with the terminally ill on every level. Somehow, early on, her research was co-opted by the culture of grieving and soon everyone dealing with death (their own or anyone else's) or just about any form of loss (being fired, getting divorced, moving, etc.) was urged to 'work the stages.' You remember the stages, right? 1.Denial 2. Anger 3. Bargaining 4. Depression 5. Acceptance. And, following Acceptance comes the unofficial sixth stage: Moving On.

Moving On is also known as 'getting back to normal' or 'getting over it.' And that's the stage that other people are really waiting for. Unfortunately, this life I'm living now isn't about stages. Nor should it be. There's plenty of current research on grief and bereavement that does not support the Stages model and, increasingly, therapists and support organizations that specialize in bereavement are moving towards recognizing that grief and grieving are not a cookie-cutter, step-by-step process. Unlike preparing for one's own death, there's not a definitive end in sight...there's just life - as much of it as might be left - to navigate. Unfortunately, it's taking a while for that message to reach the general (and not so general) public.

So, consider this me doing my part to spread the word. Because, I assure you, when your child dies, there is nothing neat about grieving; it does not happens in stages. It just is.

*I wanted her to have her umlaut, and I still don't know how to make them. I am reduced to stealing umlauts.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's The Little Things

It really is. The small smile-making things that can turn a day around. And also the littlest indignities and slights that can spawn a thunderstorm in your head.

For instance, earlier this evening I was wandering around a website that belongs to a friend of a friend. Just clicking through pages, really, getting a feel for the layout and the sorts articles they publish when a comment about stressors caught my eye: divorce was the second most stressful event, topped only by the death of a spouse. Seriously? Who makes these lists?

Now, I don't fault the website, or even the person who wrote the article, because you can find these "life stressors scales" just about anywhere (I've seen dozens of them) and - unless you are reading a list specifically ranking types of grief - you're not going to find "Surviving The Death of Your Child" on any of them. And, I'm not arguing the stress-factor of either of those events; I've been divorced (okay, a few times) and while I've not buried a spouse, I have read enough about grieving to know I'm in no hurry to. However, most of these lists are based on the Mother Of All Lists, also known as the Holmes-Rahe Scale. There's no child-death mentioned on the HRS...and so no child-death on any of the other lists either.

I wish I could make this go away by ignoring it, but I can't. The grief is huge and real and everyday is, as Renee once said, like walking a minefield. Even if it isn't on the list.

This is my Buddha Frog, dusted with snow. Imagine.