why grief is hard


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The work of mourning is piecemeal,  Freud noted; though reality tells us our loved one is gone, “its orders cannot be obeyed at once.” We grieve by calling up one memory at a time, reliving it, and then letting it go (if we can). Sometimes this process can occur and unfold many many times.  At a brain level, Norman Doidge writes, we are turning on each of the neural networks that were wired together to form our perception of the person,  experiencing the memory with exceptional vividness,  then saying
goodbye one network at a time. In grief, we learn to live without the one we love,  but the reason this lesson is so hard is that we first must unlearn the idea that the person exists and can still be relied on.

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accustomed to pain; are we or are we not?


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Last evening I visited my osteopath to treat my ongoing, lingering, persistent, lower back pain.  He asked me if my back ever wakes me up in the night?  I had to think about it for a few seconds before replying.  Does my back ever wake me in the night, I thought?  But more precisely, does my back wake me up because of the pain?  Do I ever wake up because of pain?  And then I realised something.  I never do. And certainly not from my back. Once I’m asleep, I’m gone for the night. There are dreams I never wake from. Getting to sleep however is another story.  

Pain keeps me awake but it rarely wakes me up.  So I told him that.  Then he asked if I had better days or worse days with the pain and I said “well not really, it’s kind of there all the time, like a dull ache I carry round“.  And it’s familiar. And there’s something else actually. It’s MY ache. It’s kind of who I am in a way.  Of course I would quite like the ache to dissipate; to feel looser, but I know the day I do, I won’t even notice it. It’s a lot like noise and stench.  You only notice these things when they present themselves.  So in terms of pain, I notice it now precisely because the ache is present.  And I live with it.  It’s my familiar, comfortable, shadow.

Today, a fellow blogger, Jin, reminded me of something else which prompted this train of thought and this post.  He said something really quite profound. He told me that he has grown accustomed to his pain.  And that made me think.  And when I start thinking I end up with many questions but very rarely, with any answers.  But that’s OK. I don’t mind.  I’m not really looking for answers anyway.  Anyway I digress. The questions:

Have I grown accustomed to my pain? Have you, to yours?  Do we, all grow accustomed to our pain?  

We are, naturally, products of our environment and pain is a huge part of it so I guess we do become ‘used’ and accustomed to pain; that this is what we, as humans, do.  Are we as accustomed to sweetness and joy I wonder?  There are no scars to show for happiness.  Do we become as accustomed to happiness as we do with pain?

Now ten years ago, the notion of being accustomed to pain would have freaked me out totally. Now I quite like it.  I guess I am more accepting of life. Don’t get me wrong. I am no sadist and on most days I remind myself not to be no martyr. I still scream and shake my fists when things get unbearable, albeit silently, or into my pillow but I don’t fight so hard any more. Either I am tired or I just know it’s pointless. And that in its own way, is a relief on many levels and one my psyche seems to appreciate.

I was looking for quotes about pain and found this one by Jim Morrison. There were many to choose from (!).  But I settled for this one.  I think it captures what I am trying to say in my ever so clumsy way.  I wish you all a safe, peaceful, WILD, happy or sad weekend.  Whatever and however it comes, be kind to yourselves.

P.S.  Jin – thank you for the inspiration.

People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.

beauty, rising from the ashes


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The Love themes for this month seem to be overflowing for me at present.  I am discovering that there are many stories to tell and that somehow, in some mysterious way, these stories are finding me in wonderful, unexpected ways.

Last night I found this wonderful picture of a Heart (posted above) and I knew that I wanted to know more about the creation and more importantly the person who created it and her story.

There is always a story behind everything we create and express.  Something must always come from something.  So I sent a note asking if I could write about her work and her creations.  And she wrote back.

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Her name is Antonella.

A few weeks back we had connected over a letter found in a park written by someone who has lost someone dear.  Funny how paths can cross sometimes.

I asked Antonella if she would be happy for me to write about her Heart and the story behind it.  She said “yes”.

This is our dialogue that took place last night:

justme:  I write a blog and if you were willing I’d like to write about your work, your creations, especially the Heart.

Antonella: you can write using my heart but please I would like you to use my watermarked pic.  This Heart has a special meaning for me and it is a result of a painful Love.  It took me years to express what my Heart feels like and how long it too me to be where I am now.  It is a Heart of a Survivor.  I thought I could not live without him.  I consumed myself until my Heart almost died of Hope.  Although my Pain, I still have the courage to LOVE.  What else would you like to know?

I noticed whilst typing this out today that the words of “Heart”, “Love,” “Survivor”, “Hope” and “Pain” that Antonella wrote were all written in capital letters. This, to me, symbolises how important these values are to Antonella (note: ‘him’ is in lower-case, symbolising that some processing work has taken place).

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Some of us, (not all), can connect with this type of Pain.  I know that I can, as I have.

It is a kind of Pain that is all-consuming. It takes over everything. All colours become grey. Your senses are more fragile than they have ever been. It is a Pain that threatens to rip your heart right out of your body so much so that you struggle to breathe. Each breath you take, is laborious and painful, and so difficult (and at times, seemingly pointless).

You wonder why your heart has not stopped and why (and how) it continues to still beat, day after day. It is the kind of Pain that seeps, deep, into your bones. Every part of you aches. You are in agony and darkness. And even after time, which in all honesty has been pretty much senseless, has lapsed, and you think you’re stronger, you know traces of it still run deep in your veins as you are able to feel its presence in your every-day. The Pain is sedimented in your psyche, in your soul. It follows you like your silent shadow; your familiar companion. It is a kind of heartbreak that never leaves you but somehow it breaks you open in ways you can almost feel grateful for. But only later. Gratitude comes, but much, much later.

After all, it is the cracks within us that allow for the Light to come through.

It is our journey through fire (and pain) that allows us to come out the other side, beaten and bruised, but a little wiser and certainly more connected with our fellow human beings, who suffer as we do.

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Our eyes see what we now resonate with.

Antonella also said to me: well behind everything I do there is a story, an event…I turned angry feelings into creativity and if this Heart can put a smile on someone’s face, then it mean I have a good use of my energy.  Creativity has given me wings to fly 🙂  Please if you can use what I have sent you.  Thank you for wanting to write about my Work.  Spread Love with your beautiful words because the World is craving for it 🙂

And what I would say to her, here, now in this blog is this:

Thank you Antonella for sharing your story with me. It has certainly put a smile on my face and I am sure others will connect with it too. The Heart you have created is a joy to look at for it is truly Beautiful.  I do hope that you go on creating more wondrous delights and share them with the world. The world is hungry for your work. Be like the Phoenix, rising from the ashes for as the story goes, the phoenix is a mythical bird with fiery plumage that lives up to 100 years. Near the end of its life, it settles in to its nest of twigs which then burns ferociously, reducing bird and nest to ashes. And from those ashes, a fledgling phoenix rises – renewed and reborn.

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So there it is — another story. And now I turn it over to you. What have you learned about going through hard times? I’d love to hear…

Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. In those transparent moments we know other people’s joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.”

~Fritz Williams