Tio Carlos

October 13, 2010

My beloved godfather, Carl Fritz, died last night.  My heart is filled, overflowing its banks.  Carl was my late father’s best friend, my little brother’s mentor, and for me a lifelong well of profound wisdom and unconditional love.  His death represents the closing of a chapter, the growing of my soul, the liberation of his.  Godspeed, Tio Carlos.

Tomorrow I head for India, to visit my Guru’s ashram for the first time, in the foothills of the Himalayas.  It will be Durga Puja, the festival that honors the Divine Mother, and also the 9th anniversary of Jenny’s death.  Last night Ram Dass blessed me and blessed me again over the phone:  Mother India, he sighed, Let her carry you.  Yum yum yum, he crooned, Oh boy oh boy oh boy.  This will be a big journey, he told me, but you have taken big journeys before.

I carry the spirits of my child and my godfather with me.

Have You Seen A Therapist?

October 7, 2010

I remember how difficult I was to please in the early stages of my grief journey.  I would feel bereft when people did not ask me about Jenny, or how I was, and yet bristle at the inevitably weird things others would say to me.

Here is a journal entry from one of my students: a beautiful, brave, feisty, dignified, blossoming being named Bev.  See if you can relate to the complexities of needing to tell your story and needing not to be told that you need to tell your story.

I got irritated at the airport. But I always did. I got irritated because the windscreen in the PT Cruiser hire car is so far away I can’t stick the GPS to it easily. Later, my friend asks if I have seen a therapist. Or was she suggesting that I should see one? If I’m being gracious, I know she raises it out of concern for me. As it happens, I did see one for a couple of months. It is not difficult to speak for an hour a week about myself and what happened. But it didn’t change anything. It didn’t change how I feel about losing my baby. Why do people think that ‘talking about it to someone’ will miraculously make you feel better? I think it might lift their own conscience about talking to me about what happened. I don’t have a problem with the therapist. I have a problem with you. Don’t misunderstand; I appreciate your willingness to raise it at all. Most people don’t. My own family included. In fact, especially my family. Nobody asks me how I am anymore. Perhaps just in case I tell them. They arrogantly think they know that I am unravelling. Yes, that is the word that was used when I asked someone to please ask me how I am.

That I could make you all walk a mile in my shoes, for just one minute each.  Am I angry? Sometimes. Not as much as I used to be. I have realised that people are just people, fully flawed. Intentions may be good, but mostly they are just protecting themselves from opening the door to the fire, for just even a peek. Whereas I have to stand in the fire every moment of every day, until I am totally burned to ashes. So that one day, hopefully, I can rise out of the ashes like a Phoenix, beautiful, pure and indestructible (till next time). But till then, I just feel the flames licking at my flesh.

I don’t need a conventional therapist. They specialise in professional detachment. I want someone to stand in the fire with me. Even if for just one minute.

And I would like someone to compliment me on just how well I am doing. Because I think I am. Everything I’ve done is normal and healthy. I have been in denial, I have wailed, railed against it. All the classic stages of grief. And then slowly, I have come more to accept what is, than to silently scream ‘NO!’ with all my being. I understand at my core that I cannot turn back time and undo what happened. Of course I have tried. Everybody does. But it takes every ounce of strength and courage and resilience that a human can muster to get to ‘Yes’.

So what do I have to do to persuade you that I am OK? Should I talk about my feelings, or should I put out my cardboard cutout of the old Bev? I know I am broken. I can’t change that, and no therapist can. I refer you to the wise Leonard Cohen, ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’

And I wonder if you know how you are a hair’s breadth away from standing where I am? (Actually every parent is.) Now it is my turn to be concerned for you. But I pray for every parent that their worst nightmare never comes true. And I also know that ‘each moment a white bull steps shining’ into somebody’s life, somewhere. I see the news. I hear the stories. Can you pray your child safe? I have a horrible feeling that the answer is no. I built a safe place for my baby. Or so I thought. But then there was the matter of the blind cord hanging against the wall in a deadly loop, like a hangman’s noose. And I left my most precious thing in the whole world in the hands of someone I suspected didn’t care enough. They say it is never just one thing.

So yes, I have seen a therapist.  I’m sorry to say that she cannot help me gather up my scattered energy so that I can always focus on the task at hand. She cannot put the pieces of my broken heart back together. She can’t even help me with anger management. I get up every morning, wash and dress and present a human face to the world. Simply because I decided that lying on the floor in agony was the less pleasant option. I don’t want to feel this bad. But to quote another song, ‘Only I can feel the rain on my face. No one else can do it for me.’

But I have found some teachers, some people to lead the way. And I have found some fellow travellers. Ultimately this is a very solitary journey, back to life. But I’m on the road. Thank you for your concern.