Tag Archives | Grief

Love and Loss


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Kani with Rio and his band

Kani (center) with Rio and his band

I recently lost a friend. And that loss hit me harder than I expected.

I was sad when I got the email that Sidney, a beautiful 12-year-old buckskin mare, had died after a brief bout with colic. We weren’t particularly close, although I would say Hello when I saw her and she would greet me, and I always had the feeling she wanted me to call her Heidi instead of Sidney. I thought fondly of her, but I thought more about Kama Kani, who was powerfully bonded to Sidney. I wondered how he would do without her; she was his anchor, his bridge to the rest of the herd.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Less than a week later Kani passed as well. I read the email that morning and wept, with a profound sense of… a lot of things. Maybe I should say I felt many things, especially a sense of the profoundness of this particular moment.

For one thing, I realized in that moment not only how much I loved him, but how much I owed him. He was pretty wild and nervous when he arrived at the ranch yet, while I was cautious around him, I was never afraid of him. And he rewarded me by being the first horse to ask me for Reiki. He taught me what I could do by asking me to do it, and he taught me to recognize the Ask. We grew to trust each other. That story, and the journey it launched, became my first published article.

Kani gave me confidence.

Kani lived most of his life in isolation from other horses, so he came to the herd in a state of… arrested development. Socially retarded. Even though he was an adult, he was like a gangly teenager, learning how to be in the world. Like a teenager, he quickly fell for Sidney when he arrived, and they became a bonded pair. But since he didn’t know how to interact with a herd and didn’t have much confidence, he got pushed around and had low status in the herd… until Rio arrived and carved out a mini-herd-within-the-herd, one that included Sidney – and Kani. Because where Sidney went, Kani went. Rio accepted Kani as part of the package, and Kani’s status in the herd increased.

When Kani came to the ranch, he arrived with the information that he was 18. He also arrived with his ribs showing and an unhappy stomach – for which he asked me for Reiki. But a year later, a visiting dentist said that, based on the condition of his teeth, Kani was likely closer to 30 – making him one of the elders of the herd. It also meant that most of the grass and hay he ate wasn’t getting chewed well and was passing through him mostly undigested. He was immediately put on a routine of twice daily feedings of mash. He appreciated the food and the attention, and he quickly got in the habit of leaving his pals and coming in willingly. And as he started getting more nutrition and his gut felt better he calmed even more and asked me for Reiki less often.

One day I was visiting the herd and I watched as Kani realized he could move Rio and the others – and he did. And they let him. He moved them around the pasture, having a ball. Again he was like an awkward, gangly, blossoming teenager, realizing what he was capable of and discovering his power. Yet he was an old man. I watched him, and my heart filled with joy.

Kani gave me joy.

I will also never forget the day Sharon and I went out to the pasture to bring Kani in for his evening feeding. It was one of the rare occasions that he and Sidney were separated, as she was in the barn recovering from a deep cut on her leg. We found Kani grazing contentedly with Rio and his band, put a halter on him and coaxed him away. I led him down the hill, and we got across the tiny creek at the bottom with no trouble. We headed toward the barn, and then something spooked him and he started circling me while I held on to the lead rope. I saw the two newest members of the herd pass us, and I realized they must have goosed him as they passed.

I managed to calm him and we headed off again toward the barn… until we passed the two newbies. Enjoying the realization that they were higher in status than someone, they came up behind us and moved Kani again. He stayed with me and didn’t bolt back to his pals, but he left his body and started circling again. This time, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t stop him. I started to get dizzy, going around with him. Sharon stepped in and I handed her the lead and stepped out, like a couple of girls jumping rope. She was also unable to stop him. Suddenly Michele, another member of the ranch team, appeared and stepped in and took the lead rope. She stood stock still, passing the lead from hand to hand around her, not turning with him, talking calmly, and suddenly they were moving forward to the barn.

He could have hurt us, but he didn’t.

And just like that day in the paddock when he trusted me enough to ask for Reiki and I trusted him enough be in that paddock with him, Kani gave me his trust, and I gave him mine.

On one of my last visits with him, I saw him with Sidney, apart from the others. I headed over to them, and he came to greet me. He didn’t ask for Reiki; we just stood together, enjoying the sunshine while Sidney slowly moved away down the valley, grazing. I scratched the hollow above his eye, and then he turned and followed Sidney.

Many times in the week after Sidney died, I held Kani in my thoughts and scratched that hollow above his eye.

So I wasn’t surprised when I saw the email with just his name in the subject line. I read the story of his decline and peaceful passing, and I wept as I thought about all he gave me. I wept as I pondered this equine version of those human love stories about life partners who pass within months, weeks or days of each other.

It occurred to me that he was not unlike the clients I worked with as a Job Coach, all of them challenged in some way, many of them unsure of themselves when we met, all of them delightful and earnest and brilliant. I thought about going to work with them, learning their jobs just one step ahead of them, learning things from them, and being so proud of them as they kept showing up and made places for themselves.

As Kimberly Carlisle, co-founder of The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership, which had adopted Kani, wrote,

“Though I grieve them both deeply, unlike the raw, too early departure of Sidney, Kani’s passing was bittersweet. Though he had lived alone for most of his 30 years, in his 18 months with our herd he had become a complete horse — more confident, balanced, trusting and expressive.”

I pondered all of this, remembering my time with him, and suddenly Kani was here with me. He looked around my apartment, and sniffed at my collection of pictures of roads. Pictures of going places.

After years of being alone in one place, Kani, you got to go places. You are going places.


Life is full of mysteries, and this is one. Sidney went first, and quickly… one day after Kani’s health began to decline. He passed less than a week after Sidney. Did he go because he was pining for her? Did his compromised health make it hard to survive his grief? I think there is something else to consider. What if… knowing that Kani would linger here and refuse to pass when it was time rather than leave her, Sidney chose to go first so that Kani would be free to go?

We’ll never know.

What I do know is that theirs is one of the great love stories. Sidney was a miracle horse, fighting to recover from a malady that almost killed her, coming back to meet Kani and bond with him. And Kani’s is a story of second chances, proof positive that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.


That night I had a dream about a horse. I was standing in the elevator lobby at a hospital where I used to work, and a black and white tweed horse (yes, black tweed with light flecks, not Kani’s copper red hair) stood with me. The elevator door opened, he kissed me on the cheek, and got on the elevator to go find his beloved.


Good-bye, Kani and Sid. My life is better for having known you.

Skin and Bones and Memories


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The other day I was reading an excerpt from “Writing Life Stories,” by Bill Roorbach with Kristen Keckler, PhD, and this paragraph struck me:

“And—I’m just realizing this—memory is what people are made of. After skin and bone, I mean. And if memory is what people are made of, then people are made of loss. No wonder we value our possessions so much. And no wonder we crave firm answers, formulae, facts, and figures. All are attempts (however feeble in the end) to preserve what’s gone. The present is all that’s genuinely available to anyone, and the present is fleeting, always turning instantly to the past.”

People are made of loss.

That’s a powerful statement. I feel the truth of it in my chest, in my heart, in my belly. Even as part of me resists it.

And. The present is all that’s genuinely available to us.

People are made of loss. Of disconnection. The good news is, Memory is how we maintain connection to what – and who – has gone away. Grief is the emotion of that disconnection, and Joy is the emotion of connection. So memories can make us laugh through our tears.

And. The present is all that’s genuinely available to us.

One of life’s paradoxes, where more than one thing can be true at once.

I have learned to embrace that paradox – to embrace the grief, with its happy and sad, and to embrace the here and now. Fiercely.

At least sometimes Fiercely. Sometimes Fiercely is required, and is its own satisfaction. And sometimes gentle Relaxing Into It is possible. Even necessary.

We are made of memories. All we have is The Present.

I have learned that when I am able to embrace both the loss and the Here and Now, without hiding, then I am able to also release.

More paradox. Sorry. *winks*

PS, March 31 2014: And then there’s this timely post from Wayne Wirs to consider: http://waynewirs.com/2014/assumption. Paradox resolved?


How would embracing this paradox change anything for you?

Please tell me in the comments.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New Normal


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“New normal.”

I dislike that phrase.

It makes me uncomfortable.

Because it’s new. And it’s dissonant. Normal should feel comfortable, because, well, it’s normal. But New Normal is new. And new can be fresh and shiny and invigorating. And – Or – it can be scary and uncomfortable. Like new shoes that haven’t quite been broken in yet. Like a room full of faces I haven’t met yet. Like a room full of faces with one important face missing.

It is better than the chaos out of which it has settled.

It is a soft (hopefully) landing for the other shoe when it drops.

It is landing in Oz, which is better than the tornado, but is still new and full of the unexpected, both helpful and beautiful and frightening and dangerous.

It is going back to Kansas and everything is the same… except for Dorothy.

*  *  *

I had an important realization several years ago, when writing “Remember to Look Up.” I realized that when we make a comeback, the place we come back to is usually quite different from the place we started. Different from where we were when disaster struck.

We come back to a new normal. There. A new normal. End of story. Everything should be fine, right?

No.

The term itself is deceptively simple.

Because how can you come back to someplace you’ve never been before?

The “new normal” is uncharted territory.

And the traveller has been changed.

These thoughts were prompted by a recent conversation with a dear friend, and by reading a poem the next day by a person whose heart had been broken – shattered – into a million pieces. Both spoke of how nothing will ever be the same. Their loved one is different – or gone. And they, themselves, are different. Nothing will ever be the same.

*  *  *

For most of us, most of the time, every day is a New Normal. We just don’t realize it because the change is so gradual.

But after a cataclysm of any kind – death, major illness, natural disaster, breakup, job loss, even Awakening or Enlightenment, the list goes on and on – the change is significant, and follows a major shift or a period of chaos.

The situation is different.

The world is different.

The people around us may be different.

Our worldview, our expectations, our dreams, our abilities, our illusions are different.

We are different.

The New Normal isn’t normal when we get there; it becomes normal as we settle into it. And that can take a long time.

And may require grieving for the Old Normal.

For the one who is gone. For our innocence. For our old beliefs and dreams. For _________.

“Mount St. Helens will never be the same. But the hills around it have turned green again and life has returned to the mountainsides.”

The new normal may be better than the old normal, but it still takes getting used to.

The new normal may be worse than the old normal, but it’s better than the chaos.

Either way, the old normal must be grieved and released. That is when the new normal really takes hold.

The good news, or the bad news, depending on your outlook, is that even this new normal is only temporary.


Have you ever found yourself at a New Normal?

Please tell me about it in the Comments.

I Finally Get It


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I finally get it.

Thanks to tripping over a blog post by Julie Daley, I just had an insight into something that has been puzzling me. Puzzling me, in fact, since I accepted the calling to work in the world of Grief. Since I realized that working in the world of Grief is really working in the world of Connection.

The puzzle?

Where does Curiosity fit into it?

Curiosity, which has been my focus, my bandwagon, for several years. My joy, my playground. My secret weapon.

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?”*

A puzzle. And my fear, at the bottom of the puzzle, was that Curiosity didn’t belong here any more, and I really didn’t want to give it up as a topic. Because it’s fun to explore, to write about. Because it is important.

“Three of these things belong together
Three of these things are kind of the same
Can you guess which one of these doesn’t belong here?
Now it’s time to play our game.”*

Actually…

Now I see that it is like the others, and it’s so obvious to me I wonder how I didn’t see it before.

In her post, Julie wrote about knowing and not knowing, about admitting what we don’t know, and owning what we do know. And something in what she wrote reminded me that Curiosity is what connects us to others. Curiosity is what is happening when we reach out to someone else, when we admit we don’t know, and we’d like to.

Curiosity is what bridges the gap between me and you.

Curiosity is what powers my reaching out, my desire to Connect with you. I don’t know, and I’d like to. To connect with Life. I don’t understand, and I’d like to.

Connection and Loss, Joy and Grief, are intimately intertwined. So Curiosity, as a fundamental aspect of Connection, is part of that dance.

<Ding>

And I have to laugh, because I have known this all along. After all, one of my handles is “Believes Curiosity and Wonder can save the world.”

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

They are… connected.

I know it in my bones.

Yes.


Does this resonate with you? What do you know in your bones?

Please leave a comment.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*That’s right, Sesame Street. “Three of These Things” by Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss, c 1970.

Happy Birthday, Bruce!


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Happy Brithday, Bruce! You would have been 65 today, and it would be a significant event.

You probably wouldn’t want a big party, but we would observe the day somehow… a drive through the country, a visit to a lake, the first eggnog of the year, orange cranberry muffins (you’d only eat the top – that’s what “muffin top” means to me). Breakfast for dinner, sushi for breakfast.

I remember one year Aunt Norma asked me what you’d like for your birthday. She told me she was thinking of getting you a shirt. I told her how you asked me early on in our relationship to promise I would NEVER buy you clothes for your birthday or Christmas. You had told me how you had gotten clothes as presents as a kid, and how you thought those were rotten gifts – you wanted TOYS. So I always made sure you got fun stuff. Aunt Norma was surprised – but she didn’t buy you a shirt. I helped her get you a juicer, and you loved it.

I also remember how you asked my mom to send you gift certificates from Lands End so you could pick out your own gifts – flannel shirts, turtlenecks, and so on. But the last few years you used those gift certificates to buy my Christmas presents: Shearling slippers, a monogrammed spa robe. You felt bad about being so disabled you couldn’t work and earn money to spend – to contribute, to spend on me – but the gift certificates were yours, so you used them on me. And you asked me to promise not to tell her. Oops, too late now.

I wish… I wish we had talked about death, dying. We didn’t. Not much, anyway. Even though we knew it was coming. I had my own baggage, and I stupidly feared that talking about your death would somehow damage your will to live.

I was wrong. I know that now.

You were always better about admitting you were wrong than I was. It took me a long time to learn that, and you were a good teacher.

I want you to know… I’m doing OK. Better than OK. It’s been a long process, with a lot of healing, a lot of choices. It took a long time for me to remember more than your last days. To remember the fun. The life.

To feel more than the searing loss. To feel your presence more than your absence.

The presence that made me laugh. That held me. That once wrote, “Remember my eyes, they’re just for you.”

Happy Birthday, Bruce. I hope, I believe, I know, you are out there. Dancing. Standing straight and tall. Helping people and animals. Watching over me as I learn to live. As I learn to love.

Happy Birthday, you awesome spirit. I wish more people had known you like I did.

Love,

Susan T.

The Road to OK


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Mt. St. Helens After Eruption - View Across Spirit Lake, National Forest Service

A fellow member of a FaceBook group posted a comment that made my heart ache.

She had told her dying husband that she would be OK… but she wasn’t. Oh, she took care of the kids, she went to work, she put meals on the table… but she wasn’t OK. And she didn’t know how to be.

Boy, did that take me back.

I had forgotten…

The hospice chaplain, when she came to give Bruce last rites, had me talk to him. To say good-bye. He was barely conscious, and only moaned in response. She coached me through talking to him, and prompted me to say, “And I’ll be OK.”

And I did.

But I wasn’t.

I wasn’t OK. Life sucked. It was worse than I could have imagined. For longer than I expected.

But I kept going. I got out of bed every day. I fed the cats, and myself. I paid bills. I went to work, and I appeared to handle it gracefully, with focus, so I’m told. (The operative word being “appeared”.)

And every fiber of my being hurt.

And I couldn’t give up, because I had told him I’d be OK.

Damn it!

I spent several months being pissed at that chaplain.

I got over it.

The being pissed part, anyway.

And eventually I got to OK.

First in moments and spurts. And then more.

And I have gotten to Better Than OK.

Much better.

Photo by Peter Prehn, http://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoscribe/1076805181/ c 2007, Creative Commons

Mount St. Helens will never be the same. But the hills around it have turned green again and life has returned to the mountainsides.

To my Facebook friend I said, You are on the road to OK.

I have walked that road.

It goes Somewhere. I promise.


“When you are going through hell, keep going.” –Winston Churchill

Grief and Joy


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This is the continuation of my previous post – which you can read here.

As I began to embrace shifting the focus of my coaching and consulting away from traditional Organization Development, Change Management and Executive Coaching and toward Grief work, an idea began taking hold in my head and my heart. It both mystified me made perfect sense. And it scared the hell out of me.

It scared me so much that, like Jonah, I ran away and found myself in the belly of a whale. Hiding. Waiting.

What was that idea? This:

Grief and Joy are the same.

Wha…?

I Know It to Be True

It makes no sense… and it makes perfect sense. It confuses me when I try to wrap my head around it, and it resonates through my body and out to the tips of my fingers.

My body knows it to be true. The same body that has experienced wracking sobs that felt like they would tear me apart, drain me dry, leave me desolate. The same body that has felt surges of energy when I have truly connected with others, and not just in sexual activity. My body knows it to be true. When I hold this idea for a moment, my body knows it to be deep and real like taking a deep breath. It fills me and feeds me like oxygen.

I don’t understand it, but I know it to be true.

Grief and Joy are the same.

A little bell in my soul goes ding. It resonates.

The Belly of the Whale

My brain, on the other hand, does NOT know it to be true. My brain is flummoxed. It resists the idea. How can two such different experiences be the same?

And how could I do this work with such a crazy idea as a foundation?

That is what scared me, scared me into silence and into running away until I found myself in the belly of the whale.

Grief and Joy are the same.

If someone had said this to me when I was in the deepest desert of Grief, in the bleakness and desolation… If someone had said this to me when I was there, I might have wanted to slap them. The way I wanted to slap well-meaning friends who said things like, “You’ll be ready to let him go someday.” I wanted to slap them… and they were right.

And yet…

If someone had told me that Grief and Joy are the same when I was fresh in desolation, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to slap them. Maybe, at a time when I was in touch with the physical pain of loss, I would have recognized the truth of it with my body.

Even though the physical experiences of Grief and Joy are so different.

And yet…

As I write that I am also struck by how similar they can be.

How similar the paroxysms of grief, the waves of wracking sobs, the grief spasms, are to the waves of orgasm.

Grief – the emotion of separation – and Joy – the emotion of connection… they are the same thing.

Or they are part of the same thing.

My brain says No, and picks out the millions of differences and distinctions. My body says Yes, and breathes into it.

I breathe through it.

Perhaps it is like that. Joy and Connection are the breathing-in. Grief and Disconnection are the breathing-out.

They are both breathing.

They are One.

Someone – I don’t remember who – once said, “Grief is how we love those we have lost.” So Grief is the emotion of connection, too.

Joy is the emotion of connection. And Grief is the emotion of connection. And if A=B and B=C, A=C. They are one, and they are different.

They are One.

And so I have come to the point of acknowledging the fear that this knowledge brings up in me, the resistance to the idea, and to embracing this knowledge, trusting the truth of it. And sharing it with you. Thanks to the help of friends, and to the fact that I can’t un-know it. I must share it. I was not meant for the belly of the whale. At least, not forever.

In the novel “Ordinary People,” Judith Guest wrote, “People who keep stiff upper lips find that it’s damn hard to smile.” We must embrace Grief and Joy. We cannot have one without the other. We can not live without them both.

They are One.

There is more to be said on this subject, and I hope you will tell me what you think.

Meanwhile, here is my promise to you:

I hold this thought for you when you are in the desert and I walk with you. When you dance in delight I will dance with you.

They are One.

Come with me. I will walk with you. Let us prepare… and experience it… together.

You are not alone.


Welcome to the rebirth of Susan T. Blake Consulting and Coaching!
Please contact me to talk about
dealing with – and preparing for – Grief. And Joy.

In the coming days, weeks and months I will be writing more about Grief, and Joy, and how they touch our lives in expected and unexpected ways.

And I will continue to write about birds, and horses, and Curiosity.
It is all Connected.

Please leave a comment, and share this if you are so moved.

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grief and Its Twin


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Over time, I have gradually come to the conclusion that my Right Path is to be working with Grief. With people who are grieving, with the people who support them, and with organizations whose people are experiencing – or preparing to experience – change and loss.

Now, considering that I’m a widow, and a coach, it may seem like a no-brainer. But it was a surprise to me at first. At first I resisted the idea.

And even as I came to not only accept but embrace it, sometimes when I thought about working with Grief, my brain would still say, “No, really? That’s so depressing. So dark.”

But I have a secret, a secret that lights me up and makes it not only possible, but thrilling, to work with Grief.

What’s that secret?

Joy.

Wha…?

Joy.

My friend Joie Seldon, who writes and mentors around Emotional Intelligence, taught me something very important:

Think about it. When you connect with someone, and you think, “Wow, this person is really neat,” or “Wow, they really like me,” or “Wow, I am so Freaking LUCKY,” or you don’t think anything at all but just bask in that connection for even a second, that is Joy.

What, you may ask, does that have to do with Grief?

Everything.

As I realized that my path is leading me to grief work, and I thought about the connections with others that brought me to that realization, I remembered what Joie had taught me. And I realized this:

Not the state of disconnection, but the loss of a connection.

Stephen Jenkinson, in his beautiful teachings on grief and dying, says, “Grief and the love of life are twins.” I would say it a little differently: Grief and Joy are twins. They are connected, they go together. Like two sides of a coin. One is Heads, and one is Tails.

Grief honors the lost connection, and in doing so honors and reflects Joy.

I can say that now, having survived the darkest, most barren days of my life while living through the grief of losing my husband of 22 years, my best friend, my favorite person. But in those darkest days I in no way associated Joy with what I was going through.

And yet.

In the days leading up to his death and after his death, people went out of their way to connect with me, to support me and catch me when I fell. I met people I wouldn’t ever have met if Bruce hadn’t died, and we connected. This is important, because I felt his absence so profoundly that I felt disconnected.

From everyone. And everything.

From life as I knew it.

From God.

But people flowed into that vacuum and created a lifeline. A net. And I became part of the net for others.

And I know that my grief was, and is, an honoring of my connection to Bruce. The depth of my grief was directly related to the depth of our connection.

So even in my darkest hour, in those darkest times, Grief and Joy went together.

Knowing that, feeling that, having experienced that over and over, I accepted that I can hold on to that as a a lifeline as I do this work. Even more, I accepted that I can hold the space for both Grief and Joy as I do the work, and hold that space for others, even if I don’t use that language.

It’s our secret.

But then…

As I contemplated this link between Grief and Joy, the connection that gave me the courage to embrace shifting the focus of my coaching and consulting away from traditional Organization Development, Change Management and Executive Coaching and toward Grief work, another idea began taking hold in my head and my heart.

And it scared the hell out of me. It scared me into silence and paralysis for several months. I ran away, and found myself in the belly of the whale.

To Be Continued

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Garden of My Heart


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In October of last year I had a Moving Sale and liquidated a big portion of my belongings – and my garden.

My little garden. Visitors would step out onto my patio, surrounded by a six-foot privacy fence and shaded by a heritage oak, and exclaim, “Oh! It’s like a secret garden!”

It was. With its fountain, bird feeders, glider bench, and plants everywhere, it was a secret garden. A little oasis.

And I sold and gave away almost all of it.

That was harder than moving. Harder than letting go of books, of furniture, of pots and pans. When I drained the fountain and watched it go out the door with a half-dozen plants, I thought I was going to throw up. Luckily a friend was there to catch me with a hug.

Now it is Spring. Daffodils are popping up and trees are blossoming out, and I am remembering my little garden. My volunteer oak and walnut trees are probably leafing out, my Chinese purple fringe bush is probably blooming somewhere, and I can see my foam flowers and coral bells in my minds eye. Soon the three-foot Sweet Lavender bush that I grew from a two-inch pot and looked like an ancient, gnarled bonsai will be blooming, and the giant rose geranium, also grown from a two-inch start that Bruce ordered for me eleven years ago, will open its riot of pink flowers in May.

Now they will be blooming for someone – many someones – else. Ah, my little friends, scattered to the four winds like seeds, I hope you bring them as much joy as you brought me. I needed to make room in my life for something new to come in, and it is. I wish you well out in the world.

And. I brought a handful of plants when I moved in temporarily with a friend. Not because I couldn’t replace them, but as a promise to myself. A jade plant (cuttings from a friend), an angel-wing begonia and a dragon-wing begonia that have followed me as cuttings around the country, a small ivy topiary, a peppermint geranium, and a rose geranium that I grew from a cutting from the original rose geranium. And another friend offered to foster my rose bushes in containers. It’s time to go and visit.

I have a tiny garden to keep my thumb green while I cultivate a new garden in my heart. Life’s transitions are sometimes painful, even if they’re beneficial, and Spring always follows Winter. Always.

Grow well, my little darlings that went to new homes. Bloom where you’re planted – a good lesson for us all.

Here’s a little Spring for your heart…


Would you like to talk to a coach with experience in
transitions and grief?
I invite you to contact me: susan @ susanTblake . com
.

Take Life by the Lapels and Shake It


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November 3, 2010. Today my late husband, Robert (the) Bruce MacRury, would have been 62. This is his fifth birthday since his death on June 14, 2005.

This birthday is a lot different from the first birthday. One of the things any widow(er) can tell you is that the first of anything is hard. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Holidays. Weddings, baptisms, funerals. The first car accident. The first time you have to figure out how to turn on the sprinklers. The first date. Some of those you see coming, some you don’t. But it’s still the first time you have to go through it without him. (Or her.)

One of the things I learned pretty quickly is that the anticipation is usually worse than the actual event. After dreading the event for days (or weeks) in advance, it was almost anticlimactic once it arrived. But perhaps that is because I also learned to be gentle with myself on those days. Although there was little planning I was able to do in those early days when all I could do was take each day one at a time, I did plan what I was going to do on those days. Even if it was only to plan to do nothing, or to play it by ear.

On Bruce’s first birthday after his death, I took the day off from work and went to a local park with a big lake. Bruce loved lakes and lake life, and if we didn’t live near a lake we would always find one near us and go hang out there whenever we could. So I honored the day by keeping some traditions, such as getting the first carton of eggnog of the season and a cranberry-orange muffin, and I went to the lake.

As I drove into the park, fairly early in the morning, the woman in the gatehouse asked if I was there to go fishing. “No,” I told her, “It’s my late husband’s birthday so I’m here to have a talk with him.” And she said, “Cool. Tell him I said Hi.” So I did.

I sat on the dock and drank eggnog and ate half the muffin and threw the other half in the water, along with a rose. I just sat and enjoyed the quietness of the lake, and talked to Bruce, and missed him. Then I made a little spirit bundle of autumn leaves and feathers, and went home.

The next year, when I was no longer living so one-day-at-a-time and was able to plan a little further in advance, I went to Yosemite for four days. By myself. We had been to Yosemite twice together, and it was a special place. This was also a special trip, symbolic in that it was my first trip by myself.

Every year it gets easier, although it is never Easy. I still miss him. He was smart, and courageous, and funny. He could always make me laugh. (When I showed the slide show for his memorial service to the minister who was to lead it, she said, “He was goofy, wasn’t he?” Yes, he was.) He was always up for an adventure. He watched cartoons on Saturday mornings. He would go out of his way to help people, and he was a teacher and mentor. He was my favorite person. And he believed in me.

I was talking to two girlfriends a couple of years ago, and I made the comment that I was very lucky. “You’re still lucky,” one of them said. She’s right.

It does get easier. It is a process. The third year I went back to the lake with a friend, and I can’t remember what I did last year (which says something). This year there was very little anticipation, and I am writing this post.

It does get easier. It is a process. I have reconnected with the wonder and sense of adventure that was part of our lives before. It’s part of what helped me commit to being here once I started to come up for air. I have learned not to drive myself crazy with guilt and what-ifs. I have learned not to ask, “Would I do this if Bruce were here?” He’s not here, so that question doesn’t have a place here either. I do sometimes ask, “What would Bruce say?” and that’s another question entirely.

I look at life differently now. I appreciate it more. I live it more. Not by going skydiving; I notice it more. I choose it more. And sometimes I have to grab it by the lapels and give it a good shake. I was thinking about that image last night, and how it’s not exactly a very Zen image. And yet it is a completely Zen, in-the-moment-right-now thing to do.

I have fallen in love twice since Bruce died. Neither relationship turned out the way I had hoped, but we are still friends. Those relationships do not diminish what I had with Bruce, nor does what I had with him diminish other relationships. I am writing, and singing, and taking photographs, and starting my own business. I am living a life I could not envision in the first months after he died. Life is good, even when it’s hard.

It is really too bad that it takes something significant like this to wake a person up, to make a person choose life. Maybe it doesn’t have to; maybe I can help with that. You can live. You can choose.

Yes, I look at life differently now. And I’m ok. I think Bruce would be happy to know that. And he’d be proud.

Happy Birthday, Bruce.

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