Tag Archive: Grief


I have a Spotify playlist titled “Full Album LOVES”.  Today I wanted to listen to Guster’s “Keep It Together” and listened to a song or two before I asked my housemate if he’d like a breakfast sandwich with zucchini from our garden.  Sidebar – you should see this garden.  My housemate put his blood, sweat, tears, money, and LOVE into this beautiful garden creation.  We eat from our backyard almost every night and I’m learning the in’s and out’s of the gardening world day by day.  I feel so blessed to live here with one of bestest friends!

B Garden

When I came back down to my place from the Tree House (top floor), Jackson Browne’s “The Next Voice You Hear” had just started.  YES!!  I love me some Jackson Browne on a gorgeous summer day such as today. This artist makes my heart and soul soar.  His lyrics so profoundly describe many experiences I’ve had throughout my entire life.  For example, Late of the Sky (the song after the Fountain of Sorrow – which was the catalyst for this blog post) described my relationship an ex-boyfriend/first love I lived with.  So much, in fact, I played it for him a couple times.  Jackson Browne says it best sometimes.  The relationship may not have lasted, but I am still in the same home we moved into in March 2008.

The next song after Late for the Sky, The Pretender.  Oh, The Pretender.  This was the song that started it for me.  I heard it in the soundtrack of “Mister Holland’s Opus”.  It brought me to tears at 16 years old and still does today.  ““The Pretender” is the story of a man who betrays his ideals and principles in pursuit of the almighty dollar” (Jim Beviglia – AmericanSongwriter.com).  The activist, humanist, and lover in me, that my mother raised me to be, wants to scream this song from the top of my lungs just because “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  Where does this struggle come from?  Pathology?  Poverty?  Race?  Gender?  All of these reasons and so many more.  I’m happy to discuss Jackson Browne’s songs with you at great length another time.

The song before Late for the Sky is called Fountain of Sorrow.  After the second verse was complete, I was immersed in my Fountain of Sorrow tears as they came streaming down my cheeks.  The story of this song is told through the perspective of someone who is looking through old photographs.  They come upon a photograph of a friend and describes in detail the moment this photograph was taken.

“You were turning ’round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes”

Today, as Fountain of Sorrow played on my system, I glanced at a collection photographs placed purposely on my mother’s hutch.  My mother’s lens caught a 3 year old Marinda in a field surrounded by milk weed reaching out to touch the seeds.

Reaching out...

My mother died in February ’13.  That summer/early fall that year, when I would think about her or when I’d need some validation or a SIGN, a milkweed seed would float my way and dance around me in the wind.  From that point on they would represent my angels, universe signs, spirits… but it started long before my mother died, didn’t it?  That little girl in that picture, who wasn’t capable of understanding the depth of loss, was fascinated by a “weed” that 28 years later would remind her of loved ones past.

Milkweed Marinda 2

Never could I have guessed that on a beautiful Friday afternoon in July I would break down my walls and cry… HARD.  I cried for my 3 your old self.  She did not know why her father never came back after that accident.  She was there to witness but did not know… or did she?  The fact that I was triggered by the song and photo combination shows how far I have come and how much work still needs to be done.

               Milkweed Marinda 3      Milkweed Marinda 4

These moments of vulnerability, especially in public, are usually so fleeting.  Like the friend in Jackson Browne’s song who captured the look of sorrow in another, I see it in myself.  There are, however, many facets of loss/grief and can only truly be understood if you are the person experiencing this pain.  Sure, we can compare breakups, near-death-experiences, and death of our close family members and friends (all forms of loss/grief), but loss is complex and should be treated with LOVE and COMPASSION above all.  It does not come naturally for everyone.  There will be many who won’t see your sorrow and cannot understand your pain.  They may judge you.  They may even say hurtful things that are NOT yours to own.  Do not forget that your grief is unique to your spirit and is your job to be in it, understand it,  and move through it.  Not everyone has the same pace because we do not have the same mind and body.  Be gentle with yourself now and all of the parts of yourself that make up the beautiful you that you are.

Grief July '15

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Facing the Future

~*Inhale*~*Exhale*~

A new year has begun though the memories of the past 11 months linger – rightfully so.  A significant loss, so tragic, so sudden, as the loss of my mother, will take many moons to heal. I’m accepting of this.  I am still grieving my her – everyday is a new day and every breath is a blessing . It seems like yesterday we talked on the phone planning her trip to New Orleans in February.  She never came and my heart still aches for one more conversation, one more hug, one more laugh, one more dance…

Everything is different.  When Mom left her physical body I felt a piece of my soul travel with her.  And that shred of soul was replaced with my universal potential hugged by my mother’s spirit – and I was reborn.

Grief

The week of her death I was feeling more than I’ve felt at any one time in my life.  I was born into grief, again, and I had the feeling I felt this before.  Perhaps I experienced this after my father’s and my accident in ’84 or maybe it was from another life. Either way, I verbalized this intense feeling to everyone who came to visit me the week before her memorial service (a week after she passed on).  As much as I was in my mind and above, I was consumed with new physical bodily sensations. My mental image of my physical body was not my own – it was my mother’s – specifically her face.  I remember it vividly and luckily instead of keeping this all consuming feeling inside I shared it.  I never felt so present.  I was able to sit and listen, hold space energetically for people who came into our house, and articulate all that I was feeling while simultaneously feeling that if I looked into a mirror I would see my mother, not me.  Never did I get a shocking response or a weird look when I shared this sensation with those I trusted; it was as if they understood.  Anyone who knew the type of relationship my mother and I had didn’t need an explanation.

Reflecting Orphan

My mother made life comfortable for me by being the loving, nurturing, supportive, and giving person she was. Some may see this relationship as very co-dependent but I saw her as my companion. We shared our experiences and did everything we could to help each other when we were in need. We talked about the state of the world, family frustrations, relationships, finances, work, friendly gatherings, movies… life.  Both my mother and I never sought out therapy until a year before her passing.  Through therapy she was better able to understand her emotional pain and received validation for her sensitivity.  I always though that one day I might have to take care of her – and that was ok.  She took care of a woman with severe cerebral palsy who was developmentally 2 years old for 18 YEARS!  Can you imagine?!  I would have never sent my mother to a nursing home or assisted living.  I had this idea that I would make it work and I would take care of her for the rest of her days.  I also thought there would be a lot of time in between but I also know that time flies in the blink of your eyes.  I had the opportunity, a year before I started grad school, to move down south to New Orleans.  I took it.  I wanted to be more independent and I didn’t want to regret staying in Massachusetts forever (though I do love MA).  While I was down there I would only talk to my mother a couple times per week (which was a lot less than usual).  At one point she bought an iPhone and we started video chatting.  This felt right.  There was a healthy separation now and I couldn’t wait to live close to her again when it was time to return to school.  We spoke about our future and dreams of one day buying a house in New Orleans when I was opening my expressive therapy community centers after graduation.

Peas in a Pod

Right as our relationship was about to blossom,  she was gone, in an instant.  My mother and I lived for one another. She was taught the “life’s too short” lesson at 27 years old when she lost her husband, my father, to a drunk driver.  Why?  When I first heard the words “there’s nothing else they can do” at the hospital on February 12, 2013, I stood up, threw my arms in the air and exclaimed loudly, “WHAT FUCKING HAND WAS I FUCKING DEALT HERE???”  I was in the company of people/family I had known my whole life and though it was shocking for some to hear those words come out of my mouth I questioned why another precious person in my life was taken so soon.  I felt so alone.

I’m beginning to realize that these experiences were all supposed to be.  It doesn’t make my life any easier to say this but it’s medicine for my heart and mind.  I carry on day-to-day and have an amazing amount of support from my core group of friends (famibly) and others (some who were not in my life until this tragedy hit) – I’m thankful for these souls everyday.

What’s next?

I’ve spoken of my mother and her selfless gifts or organ and tissue donation in front of millions of people and will continue to be an advocate for organ donation and will promote living your life with love and compassion. I’m documenting my grieving process in order to help others who feel the physical and psychological pain of loss through coping exercises and validation that everyone’s process is different and natural to only the person suffering.  How do we move through it?  I’m discovering new formations everyday.  I will finish grad school and use my gifts to nurture and heal those I’m capable of helping. I will put my energy into being the agent of change I know I am. I’m one week away from giving a TED Talk  at Greenwich Country Day School and am honored they chose me.  My audience will be predominently 6th graders!  I’m not sure if that makes it easier or harder to write it.  The session will be filmed and I promise to post the link when it’s time.

As I face my future I know one thing is for certain: all we have is now.

All We Have Is Now

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Organ donation is usually the last thing on the minds of those who have lost someone suddenly.  I know it was for me.  But I am here today to share my experience and the impact it’s had on my life.  There’s absolutely nothing that anyone can do to prepare for a loss such as this.  But there were certain people who helped guide me through those last moments in my mother’s physical presence. They listened, heard what was unspoken, and showed compassion.

The week leading up to “the phone call” was Carnival down in New Orleans (also known as Mardi Gras). I had been living there for only 4 months and looking forward to my mother’s visit the following week.  My boyfriend Brain was visiting for his very first Mardi Gras.  We were having the time of our lives.  On Lundi Gras night I got a voicemail from my mother telling me she had a bad headache “which never happens. I think I’d feel a lot better if I heard your voice”, she said.  It was very late when I got the message and I was babysitting my Fairy Godchild at the time, so I would call her in the morning. I never got to call her back.

After 9 hours of travel we arrived at UMASS Worcester on Mardi Gras day.  It all happened in slow motion after this.  We entered into a room full of somber family members and there was my mother, laying there peacefully in a hospital bed hooked up to all sorts of tubing.  I still didn’t know then, or perhaps I was in denial, that “there’s nothing else they can do”.   I stood there looking at my mother in disbelief.  Though the room was packed, it was just her and I.    I told her she looked beautiful (which she surprisingly did after having a massive stroke).  I then took out the two stuffed Grateful Dead “Dancing Bears”, which we bought on our first road trip to Colorado when I was 16 years old.  They were our good luck traveling bears.   I laid them on her bed along with a framed photograph of her and my father from the day of their wedding.

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  My sweetheart, Brian, took out his ipod and proceeded to play her “Brokedown Palace”. I closed my eyes imagining her dancing around with that bright and contagious smile of hers.

“River going to take me, sing sweet and sleepy,

Sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home.

It’s a far gone lullaby, sung many years ago.

Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since I first left

home.”

A transformation was in progress and I was right there dancing with her.

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Most of our experiences we cannot control.  Scary thought, right?  I never want to hear those words, “there’s nothing else they can do” again, but if I have to endure that pain over, I can only trust and believe that “this is for a reason” and there is support in place to help me cope with such an immense loss.

Slide04

I accepted the reality of the situation and naturally wanted to move forward and not dwell.  I wanted to move through this heartbreak; through this deep sadness.  The only way out is through, right?  I kept reminding myself to breath and to do everything that felt natural for my body even if that meant laying on the cold hospital floor.  In that hospital room, a piece of me died while simultaneously being reborn; truly cathartic experience that would change my life forever.

The death of my mother was unfathomably painful.  My mother, my best friend, my soul mate, my everything, was moving onto bigger and better things; going on a journey I couldn’t follow her on (so I thought at the time).

Though I was still very much in a state of shock I conjured up enough strength to make decisions in a rational manner.  What would my mother want?  Like I said, we were one in the same, so the decisions were not “hard” to make, but they were nonetheless heartbreaking.  What made this emotionally

draining process a little easier was that little “❤” on her license.

 Slide05

Of course she was an organ donor!  That was so Mom; a selfless human being – a giver.

The staff at the Worcester Hospital was truly kind; changing my view of hospitals forever.  My family’s experiences at hospitals have never been positive; misdiagnoses, insensitivity, and a lack of empathy.  My mother was more Eastern in her beliefs, as am I, but Worcester went above and beyond to make us all comfortable. I felt blessed to be guided by some gentle souls through this process.  I was warned that the organ donation process was long but we could break at any time.  There were times I needed to lay down on the floor, stretch out my back, and breathe deep.  No one questioned that.  They were actually very attentive.  The hospital staff allowed me to hop in bed with my mother where I snuggled, held her hand, and napped by her side.  Knowing I was going to be there for a little while, they made us all feel very comfortable.  One nurse asked if she could put on Pandora’s “Grateful Dead” channel (one of my mother’s favorites).

 Slide06

When I awoke, there were more emotionally draining decisions to be made.  But I continued to feel the support.

My first angel organ donor rep, Denise ❤, was warm and nurturing.  I remember her kind eyes and calming smile.   When she arrived at the hospital there was no sense of urgency.  Filling out the forms, she said, could be very arduous task but kept reiterating that it’s perfectly normal to take a break.

Half way through, though I told her I was all right to go on, she read that it was time for a small break.  She took that opportunity to use the bathroom.  As soon as she left the room, I dropped to the ground and started stretching my body.  I was a struck with grief and I appreciated that small break.  When she came back in, Denise made sure I was all right (I think I may have worried her a bit) and we proceeded to fill out the papers.  My whole experience at the hospital was such a blur, especially at 1AM, but I remember Denise caring and I felt connected to this stranger.  She asked me who I was; and truly wanted to know.  I made a friend that night.

I thought the morning would never come.  I was advised by family and staff to get some sleep.  Tomorrow was going to be a long day.  When I awoke all I wanted to do was to lay down next to my mother.  My dear, sweet, peaceful mother who looked just as peaceful as she did the day before.  The nurses were kind enough to make space for me.  I climbed into her hospital bed, held her hand and fell asleep again.

Slide07

Not long after I was gently awoken and politely asked if I could get up; they needed to administer some tests.  As if on cue, my 2nd New England Donor Bank ANGEL, Dan ❤, entered the hospital room with grace.  He introduced himself and told us that he was here to support and guide us through the next phase.  Whatever this meant, it was going to be ok.  I trusted him.  He asked me if I’d like a few clay moldings of my mother’s hand.  “YES! We can do that?!” After we finished four of them, he asked if I would like a lock of her hair.  “YES! GOD YES!  I would have never thought of this.”  She liked to straighten her hair but I found a natural curl that I now keep in a bottle on my shrine.  Lastly, he asked me if I’d like her EKG papers.  He proceeded to give me four triangular glass bottles filled with her heartbeat.  What beautiful gifts.  I really didn’t know what to say.  Thank you, Dan.  I’ve created the most beautiful shrines and am looking forward to creating a “shadow/memory box” full of Mother Love.

Slide08

It was a long ride home from the hospital.  After barely making it up the stairs I pulled myself into bed and grieved my immense loss.   No more than 5 minutes later my house started to fill up with many loving friends.  All of them knew my mother.  I proudly shared her with my community of friends woven together by the local Cambridge/Somerville music scene.  They all welcomed her with open arms.

Dan called me a couple hours into this impromptu love fest.  I excused myself, and with Brian by my side, I took one of the most significant phone calls of my life.  He told me about this fairly new procedure that allowed those whose faces had been severely disfigured by traumatic events to have quality of life by receiving a facial transplant.  He couldn’t tell me who it was for, but he said my mother was a match and her beautiful face and skin could be the greatest gift ever given.  Without hesitation I said, “Yes, of course”.  It’s a decision I would want my family to make for me, and what my mother would want me to do.  As he explained what was to happen next, I couldn’t help but stare at this oversized Anatomy book that happened to be facing me on the floor.

My only question was, “is this person going to look like her?”  He explained that everyone had their own unique facial structure and it would mold to their face.  So, it was done the next morning… on Valentines Day.

Slide09

I would be here for another hour if I started talking about Carmen.  Carmen.  Beautiful, inspiring, resilient, brave, Carmen.  I think we both feel equally as lucky to be in each other’s lives.  Our bond is strong and I feel will only strengthen over time.  Their connection, my mother’s and Carmen’s is, well, ineffable.  Love fueled and on another plane.

Eight months have gone by and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think of her.  Every day is mother’s day.  Grief sure does come in waves.

Slide10

My mother and I have experienced so much loss in our lives.  The hand that we were dealt was not an easy one.  But the key players in your life are those who are around, supporting you however they possibly can, when all feels lost.

I think of all of the angels who guided me in that hospital – ICU Nurses and Organ Donor Representatives alike.  You, as health care professionals and organ donor representatives are in a unique position.  You are present for a life altering experience for those closest in the hospital to those passing on.  It’s a major transition that families are entering into without much guidance.  Without knowing how to feel and just feeling it all.

You have the ability to guide families into making selfless and life-changing decisions, which will, in turn, give life to someone else.  What an incredible opportunity.  The key is to hold that space for people by allowing them to grieve and showing them empathy.  It’s amazing how a little eye contact can bring so much comfort.

Slide11

Show your light.  Be a guiding light.  You have the ability to lead these grieving souls out of complete darkness, if only for a little while, by being genuine – by being human… and, sure, a little hand molding kit, a lock of hair, and a few bottles full of heartbeats can’t hurt.

Thank you.

If only I could write and say exactly what I thought.  I would love to know how many thoughts I have in a day.  Wait, even better; in a given 30 seconds.  I have recently been diagnosed with ADD.  This did not come as a surprise to me but no one, not even my teachers, ever mentioned that perhaps the reason I was… ADD.  I kid you not, at parent-teacher conference night my fourth grade teacher told my mother that I was an “airhead” because I kept forgetting my trapper keeper at school.  That’s right, I had the COOLEST trapper keeper that had a cute closeup of a Doxen Dog. Oh my, I just looked up Doxen Hound and found this lil love nugget: 

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 She also admitted to hiding it from me as a test to see if I would look for it.  That was her “benefit of the doubt” story.  She said I panicked, as she laughed. My mother wouldn’t allow me to come back for my last year of elementary school.

Wow, it’s been 1 1/2 hours since I started this blog.  When I first started this sentence it was “15 minutes I have returned to prove that I’ve had ADHD my whole life.  Sorry, got caught up on friend’s interesting facebook articles and then decided to update my status because I was feeling awful about missing one of my favorite bands because my heart was heavy and I didn’t(?) know anyone else who was going.”  

6.30.13 from 10:03-10:23PM – “Indecisiveness is going to be the death of me, I tell ya! I don’t remember the last time I didn’t go see a band, whom I LOVE, because I didn’t know of anyone else who was going. I know it would be great for me to let it out and DANCE but I still feel like I’m going to fall apart. Very much out of character BUT I remind myself that I am still in a transformational stage am and learning to fly again. So many obstacles to overcome but grad school starts in two months. Oh my heart. Oh my healing.” 

I’ve always felt overwhelmed about the many unfinished projects I have.  I always feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day.  I’m always thinking about my love relationship and/or friend’s who need some extra healing thoughts. Now, that has magnified.  I think of my mother all of the time.  We’re closer than I ever thought possible and that just makes my new life that much more challenge.  It’s manifests mind and body.  I’m in pain all of the time 😦 I’m glad I’m able to write. 

Lately, I’ve been keeping busy by excessively cleaning, writing, driving around… but really nothing for myself.  The answers are out there.  I have all the tools I need – music, mobility, an open heart…  

Speaking of tools, I need to go sow a dress.  It’s vintage with a Puritan-like (in a cool way) style; flowy bell short sleeves and lace for a high belt… I float in it… and I would rather not go another day without it. 

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 Keep Talking. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoDmX8EdVBQ

“For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals
Then something happenend which unleashed the power of our imagination
We learned to talk

There’s a silence surrounding me
I can’t seem to think straight
I’ll sit in the corner
No one can bother me
I think I should speak now ___________ Why won’t you talk to me
I can’t seem to speak now ____________ You never talk to me
My words won’t come out right ________ What are you thinking
I feel like I’m drowning _____________ What are you feeling
I’m feeling weak now _________________ Why won’t you talk to me
But I can’t show my weakness _________ You never talk to me
I sometimes wonder ___________________ What are you thinking
Where do we go from here _____________ What are you feeling

It doesn’t have to be like this
All we need to do is make sure we keep talking

Why won’t you talk to me _____________ I feel like I’m drowning
You never talk to me _________________ You know I can’t breathe now
What are you thinking ________________ We’re going nowhere
What are you feeling _________________ We’re going nowhere

Why won’t you talk to me
You never talk to me
What are you thinking
Where do we go from here

It doesn’t have to be like this
All we need to do is make sure we keep talking”

Love, 

Marinda Snow Love

 

PS.  Love yourself.