Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

Death by Scarf

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

etro scarf

I am now officially obsessed with death by scarf, following the news about L’Wren Scott. I didn’t want to believe that this really happens but as it turns out, hanging is the most effective method of suicide. Better than jumping or pills.

I am always prone to morbid thoughts but this is a dark endless loop. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything! I am just preoccupied with the question of Why, now that I’ve satisfied the compulsion to know How.

Let’s say her lover dumped her. Let’s say her business was on the rocks. These aren’t reasons to leave the world, to end your life forever, with so many possibilities ahead of you.

I know next to nothing about L’Wren Scott but I admired her as a designer and knew that she moved in a rarefied social circle. Maybe she had demons her whole life long that she hid from her closest friends. But didn’t any of them have enough insight or empathy to see that she was struggling?

I don’t want people to leave this way! The shock and the horror are unbearable. There are always answers. Let us reach out to anyone who seems more depressed than usual or who is experiencing a stressful life event.

Don’t use a scarf. Don’t leave us here without you.

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

Chris Christie: What a Fucking Cunt!™

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

chris christie pig improved

 

You know, I actually have mixed feelings about Chris Christie. On the one hand, he is a total cunt and a shameless lying pig who needs to go to jail. On the other hand, the daily tidbits about his various lapses of decency and ethics provide a welcome relief from the tragedy of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I can’t handle the sadness. I can’t dwell on the horror and the loss. I need Chris Christie more than ever, and he is stepping up. He has come to the rescue with his idiotic critique of his own appointee’s high-school record, therein behaving like the vindictive middle school bully that we all suspected was the real Chris Christie.

What a fucking piece of shit this guy is. Funneling Hurricane Sandy money to political allies and rebuffing calls for oversight of this money is even more egregious than the bridge fiasco. Mishandling this money while Sandy victims wait in vain for someone to answer their questions ought to qualify Mr. Christie for a nice long jail term.

The thought of this cunt getting away with his arrogant abuse of power is too much to bear. But I’m grateful for his continuing malfeasance. The mere sight of him incites my wrath and indignation.  It’s the best, most reliable antidote to sorrow. May it never lose its power to distract us.

Charlotte’s Web

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Magnum Opus - Garth Williams

 

Recently, some words from ‘Charlotte’s Web‘ surfaced from my unconscious. (If you’ve never read Charlotte’s Web, I don’t know what you’re doing here. We are probably from different planets.)

When Wilbur sees Charlotte’s egg sac, he asks if it’s a plaything. Charlotte replies:

“It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.” “I don’t know what a magnum opus is,” said Wilbur. “That’s Latin,” explained Charlotte. “It means ‘great work.’ This egg sac is my great work – the finest thing I have ever made.”

This is how I feel about my children, how I imagine all mothers must feel about their children. They were my gift to the world. And they are gone, one from the world and one from the nest.

At least Charlotte got to go first. That is the natural order of things. There is no consolation for me, but there is art.

What a wonderful book! It is so full of wisdom. I always thought it was about friendship, but it is also about death. I guess it’s about everything. When I read it to my kids, I remember feeling upset by Wilbur’s panic when he thinks that Charlotte’s children are leaving him.  It triggers my fear of abandonment.

Wilbur was frantic. 'Come back, children!' he cried.

Watching the last season of ‘The Wire’ the other night, I wondered if Templeton, the unscrupulous reporter, was an homage to E.B. White’s Templeton, a rat. Maybe all roads lead to Charlotte’s web.

Here is an excerpt from Eudora Welty‘s review of Charlotte’s Web, written in 1952 (which I found here)

What the book is about is friendship on earth, affection and protection, adventure and miracle, life and death, trust and treachery, pleasure and pain, and the passing of time. As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done. What it all proves–in the words of the minister in the story which he hands down to his congregation after Charlotte writes “Some Pig” in her web–is “that human beings must always be on the watch for the coming of wonders.” Dr. Dorian says in another place, “Oh, no, I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.” The author will only say, “Charlotte was in a class by herself.”

~

*illustrations by Garth Williams

Triggers and Tarzana

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

vintage sheet music

 

Once you are traumatized, you are vulnerable to triggers. And triggers are everywhere.

Jane Birkin’s daughter, Kate Barry, jumped from her fourth story window last week. I couldn’t stop thinking about her despair, and how fame and talent don’t protect families from depression or suicide.

Then, on Homeland, they executed the poor hero, making us watch as the life drained out of his face.

When I’m triggered enough, my mind reverts to familiar paths that lead nowhere. Often, it settles on Tarzana Treatment Center, a lucrative rehab business whose $45 million budget is largely funded via contracts with Los Angeles County.

I took my son to TTC when he relapsed during a period of hard-earned sobriety. They made a big fuss about payment and made a copy of my credit card. They refused to let the family inside the building. After a few days, I started receiving calls from a guy named Del, in the financial department. He said they needed more money, even though they were a Blue Cross provider and had accepted our son’s insurance.

Del’s harassing phone-calls brought me to tears but he persisted. He threatened to kick Max out instead of keeping him for the agreed 30 days. I came up with $1,000 and then another $1,100. Del kept calling and demanding money. He said the rehab cost $500 a day. Meanwhile, Max called me, sounding panicky; he shared his room with a bunch of convicts who played cards all night, depriving him of sleep. He was cold but I wan’t allowed to bring him a blanket.

After around 12 days, a woman called me and said she was a therapist at TTC. She told me that my son was being discharged for lack of sufficient funds, but that she had convinced them to let him stay until morning.

In the morning, Max’s dad picked him up from TTC. He was still in withdrawal from klonopin. At dawn the next morning, he jumped off a cliff.

So I think about Del. I sometimes call his extension at TTC but I always get his recorded message. A couple of days ago, I called and he answered.

I told him who I was, and told him what happened after he kicked out my son. He stammered that he was sorry for my loss but quickly regrouped. He denied calling me to demand money and I laughed maniacally. WHAT?!, I said, Are you serious? You called me a million times! You made me cry!

No, he said firmly, this never happened and couldn’t have happened. They never discharge anyone for lack of money. Never. He has worked there for 18 years and it has never happened. Furthermore, it wasn’t his call. It was someone else’s.

I asked whose call it was and after some arguing, he gave me a fake name with a fake extension number.

Now, if  you are still reading this, you can understand my distress. I’m going to call it distress because rage doesn’t cover it. Why didn’t that cunt just apologize and say it was a terrible unforeseen consequence, one that he regretted?

I don’t want to hear “Just let it go.” I want to hear useful ideas about how to proceed.

No Dancing

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Jessie Wilcox smith - At the Back of the North Wind

 

When I saw a few moments of the Cancer Dance video on the evening news, I was dismayed. The news people smiled and exchanged platitudes about courage and healing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, they mused, if people everywhere were inspired by the dancing mastectomy patient to face cancer with such joy?

If you’re reading this and you have cancer, and you like the dancing, please forgive me for my bad attitude.

I just feel that it’s one more way to pressure people into masking their trauma and fear and grief. BE HAPPY! Find a silver lining! Things could be worse! Be thankful for the ‘lesson’ of cancer or death!

Our culture offers nothing for the grief-stricken. We just want them to keep quiet or go away. What if some women insisted on wearing black mourning clothes to her mastectomy, to say goodbye to her breasts? That video would not go viral.

I will never be “over” my loss and I will always grieve. I accept that but no one else does, except for the parents I see on online forums, who express their anguish and desperation to strangers who have Been There. Online People can be remarkably patient and compassionate. Real Life people get sick of your morose demeanor. They get sick of hearing you ask with complete sincerity, “Why doesn’t so-and-so just kill themself?” They are upset by your negativity. And they feel helpless in the face of such intractable sadness.

A couple of nights ago, I chatted online with a total stranger who seemed really smart and really nice. I told her my story and asked what to do about facing or avoiding my dark constant companion, as I think of it.

She asked a few questions and then told me that grief was noble. She advised me to look for people I could help, and to honor my son however I could.  Her words were a huge comfort.

I’m going to just feel noble instead of hating myself for being sad. I’m not going to dance and act happy, because I’m not a model of courage and positivism. And If I find out I have cancer, I’m going to make a big fuss and take to my bed.  I wish America were like Africa, with shaman elders to dance around and perform some rituals for us who have lost our children or breasts or limbs or sanity.

At least there are wise strangers out there in cyberspace.

Lou Reed, Good Riddance

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

lou-reed

My memory of hearing the Velvet Underground for the first time is indelible in every detail. I had just moved to London and I was sixteen and up for anything. I was smoking hash with some guys I’d just met, sitting around stoned in their dark attic flat, when someone put on “Sister Ray.” I was transported to another dimension,  thrilling and unspeakably depraved.

I loved the Velvet Underground. By the time Max was in high school, he loved them too.

But in the last 15 years, I have come to hate Lou Reed, so his death left me cold. Big deal, is my feeling; he wasted a liver that should have gone to someone younger. Expressing my antipathy to Lou Reed on Facebook brought me new enemies and inflamed old ones. I guess that’s what Facebook is all about.

The problem, for me, is that Lou Reed was a willing and eager role model for young musicians who admired his stance as a flagrant dope-loving junkie, whose love-songs to dope make Keith Richard look like a Catholic schoolgirl. For those drawn to the dark side, Lou was a formidable siren. He made heroin synonymous with coolness.

I know you can’t blame artists for the actions of their followers. Marilyn Manson was rightly annoyed when people blamed him for the Columbine shootings. Gangsta rap might offend you, but it doesn’t turn law-abiding kids into gangsters.

Still, young people are vulnerable. They are searching for an ‘identity’ as they struggle to break away from their parents’ dominion. And a rock star who glamorizes intravenous drug use is a real problem. The worst thing Madonna’s fans could do was to go around looking like a slut. And they did. But fucking Lou Reed has lured kids into hospitals, Hep C and early graves.

I wish he had wised up early and had cautioned people not to romanticize heroin. Even William Burroughs described addiction as a gruesome nightmare of endless need and decaying flesh. But not Lou. For the last ten years at least, Lou Reed has appeared all over the place, blathering drunkenly about how important he is, or how important his friends are. Just a few months ago, I heard him blabbing about his friends Marina Abramovich, Yoko, Anthony Hegarty (who he kept calling ‘Ant’) and on and on. He was an asshole.

Max didn’t live long enough to see what an asshole Lou Reed was. He learned that heroin was a rocky path without glamour or romance, but then it was too late.

Lou Reed didn’t persuade me to use a needle, but maybe if I’d been a boy with a guitar things would have been different. If I was god, I’d go back and erase Lou Reed. I would also make sure that people knew about depression in children, so it couldn’t go on unchecked. I would trade the entire musical output of Lou Reed for the two kids I met in rehab who died from an overdose.

Fuck you Lou, and the horse you rode in on.

Beautiful Leg

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Kiera Roche - floral leg

 

Before today, I have felt offended by images of prosthetic limbs that seemed to fetishize amputees.

Even though it’s none of my business what people fetishize, I will always remember the doctor who told Max to consider having his leg amputated. Max was visibly upset, but somewhat resigned. Everything was as bad as it could be for him, so why not this new development, too. As it turned out, his surgeon disagreed. Further surgery and physical therapy could save the leg. But pictures of prosthetic legs continued to fill me with anger and despair.

Losing a leg seemed indescribably horrible and unfair. But it happens. And clearly there are plenty of people who cope with this loss and don’t let it ruin their lives.

Kiera Roche is a strong-willed amputee who has challenged herself with cycling and hiking. She has struggled with ideas of ‘normal’ and looking different. She loves her beautiful new floral leg, and I love it too.

Kiera and Anna

 

Keira and her beautiful leg have changed my thinking about amputees. I am grateful to have come across The Alternative Limb Project. I feel enlightened on a subject where my mind was once closed.

~

photos (c) the alternative limb project

Amanda To The Rescue

Monday, July 15th, 2013

It has been a heartbreaking weekend. God bless Amanda Palmer for cheering us up.

** If you don’t see a picture, go here.

Human Kindness Overflowing

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Nandini Valli Muthiah small

 

Last night, I stayed up until dawn after taking in too much suffering. I am trying to learn tonglen, a method of breathing in suffering and breathing out compassion, but I forgot. I forgot, and found myself dwelling on my own misery.

Earlier in the day, I wrote a letter to someone whose partner killed himself. Later in the day, I answered an email from a man whose depressed wife has taken to her bed, leaving him with two jobs and the care of their children. Then I read about the mother who killed her 14 year old autistic son, incurring the understandable wrath of the disability community and beyond.

So many problems and so many tragic circumstances with no easy solutions. It’s overwhelming. You have to do something, though, right?

I have a bunch of Facebook “friends” who I don’t know in real life. I acquire them for the usual reasons. One of them, Jon, had an accident a few weeks ago that left him paralyzed in a wheelchair and unable to keep his apartment. His story triggered memories of Max’s despair over his injuries.

I was determined to help Jon. I noticed that he had more than 1,000 Facebook friends. He is a political activist and provokes lively discussion on his Facebook page. So I posted my idea on his page: I exhorted Jon’s friends to each make a $5 donation to his Paypal account. What a great idea, I thought proudly! I felt deeply satisfied by my plan to rescue this person in need.

Jon received four donations, including mine.

He was okay with it, but I was horrified. I couldn’t get over it. Five dollars?? Wouldn’t anybody give five dollars to a human being in such difficult circumstances? What the fuck is wrong with people?

I’m upset by indifference, even though I’m guilty of it all the time. I would like to see more compassion. Coincidentally, I just came across this study in how compassion and kindness can be taught and developed, literally changing the brain in the process.

More kindness would be great. The messages I’ve received from strangers who read my blog have often brought me to tears, just because kindness seems like such a meaningful gift. When we breathe in each other’s suffering and breathe out compassion, we are all that much closer to healing the unbearable pain of being human.

in out

 

*photo (c) Nandini Valli Muthiah

The Problem with Living

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

ghostly

 

On Thursday it will be three years. I never expected to still be around. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but it changes your emotional terrain.

A couple of weeks ago, I considered living for the first time.  I was experiencing a patch of happiness that felt like peace.  Naturally, I had to question this. It made me feel guilty and shallow. I forgave myself the guilt and contemplated the prospect of living the remainder of my life as if it mattered.  Living on purpose, not just because I can’t bear to hurt my husband.

It occurs to me now that this is what Max was contemplating. He wrote that he wanted to wake up in the morning and feel like living, not just to avoid hurting his loved ones, but as a choice for himself. He gave up hope that this could happen.

I feel more hope than I did when I was going around looking for someplace high enough to make a successful jump. I feel like I could conceivably find a purpose in life and make a commitment to seeing life through to it’s natural end.

But then I would have to worry about all the stuff that people worry about when they want to live. I’d have to worry about cancer instead of mocking those people on the Cancer Center commercials who want so badly to survive. I’d have to worry about my bad cholesterol, which is sky-high. I’d have to worry about dementia and social security and losing my hair or teeth.

I’m just not sure. I’ve been hovering between this world and the next, trying to cultivate a saving level of numbness. Love can break through, and it does. Maybe instead of jumping off a roof, I can jump into life. It’s a new idea. It’s somewhat threatening. But I plan to explore it.