Saturday, November 14, 2015
Heart-Sore, Heart-Sick, Heart-Broken- Levels of Grief
Grief, sadness, despair- they affect us all in different ways, creeping into our souls and affecting every part of us, from how we eat and sleep, to the choices we make in the future. Some pains are so debilitating that we are stopped in our tracks, unable to move forward. Others rock us to our core, but ease a little day by day and allow recovery at a quicker pace. Coping mechanisms help, friends and words of loving support help more. For me to sort through these experiences, I've found that it helps to be a little clearer in "labeling" the kind of pain I'm experiencing. And so I began using different phrasings to elaborate on levels of grief.
When I found that my partner of 6+ years had been lying to me, cheating on me, and living another life, I was heart-broken. That is to say, the bottom fell out of everything I knew and I was a pit of despair, disbelief and raw pain. I felt like I had been dragged across a giant cheese-grater, tearing holes in every part of me. Betrayal engulfed me. I not only lost him, and was losing my place to live, I lost my spiritual faith that there was a greater good supporting me. I had no focus, no future. I called my mother and said that if they would let me, I would move into my parents' basement, get a menial food service job to help pay bills, and take care of them as best I could, until we all aged into obscurity. I gave up on everything. It was only when they accepted some portion of my offer, and steps began falling into place to remove me from my life in LA and relocate me to the East Coast, that a tiny voice began to rebel and fight for the life I had. By that point, too much ground had been lost and I was carried by the tide of events, out of my 2 decade world of friends and habits and into an strange new place. I would wake in the dark basement bedroom of my parents' home, tears on a pillow from weeping in my sleep. I did not know how I could recover. I just woke up each day, out of necessity to pee and find a job, and I kept blindly going one step after another.
Still gob-smacked from the pain of loss and relocation, I did begin to move forward, a bit, in North Carolina. I secured a job, not in food service (which I know nothing about) but instead in animal care in a vet's office. That in and of itself shows that recovery was already happening. As much as I swore that I could not care about life as I once did, I could not let go of my passion for animal welfare. I did not love my job. In fact, most days I absolutely hated the stress of it. The hours were long, the pay sub-standard, and I went home mentally, emotionally and physically drained. But it gave me a reason to get up (other than needing to pee.) I found my own living residence. I had few friends, but I had some. I had no social life, but I read a lot of books. I tried re-engaging my spirituality, not very successfully. There was, for the first time in my life, no ocean for me to sit and watch (and the ocean is a great source of peace and strength for me, so this was devastating). My apartment was on the dark side of a mountain, so no sunbeams came into warm my body or light my hopes. There was no place to go dance (another intrinsic avenue of healing). At night, when the demons came to whisper in my ear, I had no defenses. I was drinking heavily, cutting occasionally. I was heart-sick. Unable to say "This one thing is wrong", but I was trapped in an all-encompassing and overwhelming unchanging pattern of disrepair that seemed to have no solution. I trudged on, one day after another, with not much belief of improving my situation. Only a small spark of hope kept me trying to better my situation. Hope was so foreign and unrecognizable, I didn't even call it that at the time. I just knew that something had to give. Either it would get better, or my cutting would go too deeply one night. I wasn't sure at the time which I wanted more.
But then came a job offer, and another relocation. This had perks, as it was a job in my field, in a new state, with warmer temperatures and a home that had large windows for sun to shine in. Somehow, I had turned a corner. I was no longer sick or despairing, just anxious to make my new life work. That was early Summer of this year. Things have been much better, and I'm pleased to report that I'm doing fairly well, alive and kicking, trying to respark my magic, my hopes, and even my romantic opportunities. Which leads me to my last category...
Two months after arriving in this town, I found a club where I would go dancing, much to my heart's delight. And there, I met a boy. A sweet faced boy who was not my usual type, but upon conversation, I discovered to be charming, witty, and very unlike the stereotypical natives. We began with a few tentative dates, to sushi, to the aquarium. We shared pumpkin carving, and Halloween movies. We laughed, we kissed... I tried to be slower in approach, but I emote with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. Not sure if I wanted this to become a serious long term thing, we had a conversation in which critical bits of information came to light that made it clear that I should no longer pursue the relationship. It hurt like hell. I had been so happy for 6-8 weeks after nearly 3 years of darkness. I didn't want to let go, but I knew it was best. (god, that sounds SO much like a cliche, so fake, and yet my bloggy friends, it is true.) I saw what was there. I saw the potential for happiness, and I saw the potential for disaster. It might be "good", but it could not provide what I was really craving, and worse case scenario, it had some small echos of my relationship with my ex, which is what sent me on this multi-year trip through the underworld to begin with. For my greater good, and for the health of my continuing recovery, I let go. Endings suck, and I wept, but I was only heart-bruised... heart-sore. No devastating despair. No suicidal thoughts. OK, I haven't eaten a decent meal in a week, and have probably drunk my body weight in cheap beer, but these are triflings of pain compared to 2012. I'll lick these wounds clean, and be better for it.
It's so easy for an Internet meme to tell us to "Love like [we've] never been hurt" but the actual practice is much more challenging. Still, I'm trying to put all the broken and sick parts behind me and open myself for the idea that rebirth is in process and healing is 3 steps forward/2 steps back (god, another cliche). Yes, I'm still sore. Still bruised, not just from this latest encounter, but from the whole experience, LA to here. But I'm progressing through these levels of grief and making my way back to something new.
Author's Note: I've been working on this post for a few days now, and thought it was mostly done... until last night, when Paris was so tragically torn apart by terrorist attacks. Obviously, each person's response is different. Perhaps you lost someone in these attacks and are heart-broken. Perhaps you are worn down, unable to get through another day in such a violent world, trudging heart-sick from one news report to another. Perhaps your heart-pain manifests in anger, resentment, or a complete lack of ability to respond in any way just now. Whatever your level of grief, however this violence affected you, please be kind and compassionate with yourselves, with others. Love and support to Paris. Je t'aime.