and you’re reborn
you continue to live
with each breath
that life is what you make of it
and so is loss,
so is death.
and you’re reborn
you continue to live
with each breath
that life is what you make of it
and so is loss,
so is death.
My first Christmas with grief
was a mere three months after Paul passed away.
I didn’t even have time to prepare,
I didn’t even know such a thing was impossible yet then-
the pain was palpable,
cold and on the surface,
the loss starting to etch itself in my eyes and skin.
I barely remember it, though I do remember drinking my way through it
and at one point booking a tarot card reading. I recall that the reader said
“you’re trying your best to celebrate but you’re depressed”
to which I replied
I went to have dinner at his parent’s house on the 25th.
His mom was sick and after saying a cordial hello,
spent the rest of the evening upstairs in her bedroom.
I didn’t blame her.
It was unbearable to try to celebrate without him there.
My second Christmas with grief was better.
Mainly because I decided to skip the whole thing all together.
I didn’t send anyone any gifts. No christmas cards. I wished everyone a merry grinchmas and allowed myself the freedom to do as I pleased with my feelings.
The only celebration was an intimate Christmas day spent with my then-
roommate and her immediate family and her boyfriend in Fort Collins.
Christmas morning I woke up to snow and tears.
Merry White Griefmas.
But they didn’t last all day, the snow and tears- and they didn’t keep me from getting dressed and playing white elephant for the first time with everyone else around the Christmas tree.
I felt loved.
It was nice.
But it all was still heavy. To me, anyways.
Probably because I was sad and sadness weighs a ton.
The thing about holidays is that they make the loss feel fresh all over again,
it’s like the scars are picked by the fingertips of
each encounter forced upon you,
each table you sit at surrounded by couples and family members,
and then there’s that damn empty chair beside you,
the thought of the perfect gift you would’ve gotten him this year,
the memory of your very own christmas tradition you had created together-
brunch with a lot of Champagne and just a little bit of Santa,
just to say you celebrated it properly,
a balanced holiday affair,
if you will;
Fresh tears and blood start to flow with
each christmas card that arrives,
joy and love so clearly stamped on your friends’ faces
it’s so awful and conflicting
to feel so happy for them
and so sad
Self pity comes easy then. Automatically, even.
But that was my second Christmas with grief.
My third Christmas with grief was 4 days ago.
I spent Christmas eve at his parent’s house, with his immediate family and growing parts on his brother’s side.
His mom and I were in high spirits.
We spent the day cooking up a feast and she ordered a special riesling
to go with dinner and she even baked a pie from scratch!
The house was decorated with wreaths, the Christmas tree hung with vintage, curated ornaments his parents purchased in different parts of the world,
shelled nuts ready to be cracked near the fireplace…
it was the image of a Scheffler Christmas.
It may have been missing my favorite Scheffler of all, but there was joy
in that house that night,
and it felt good to be able to actually feel a bit of that infamous holiday spirit again.
But no one talked about him.
We didn’t want to remember his death on Christmas eve or day.
The afternoon and evening of Christmas was reserved for a close group of friends, a night spent drinking and eating, surrounded by good people.
I came home around 10:30 pm.
I was starting to feel worn out from all the holly jolly,
I could feel the sadness starting to seep through…
On the 26th, when my third Christmas with grief was supposed to be over,
that’s when the pain hit.
that’s when the loss refused to be pushed aside any longer,
that’s when it took over,
the wave I have come to know so well, knocking me down,
bending my body forwards,
making my bones heavy
The next three days were a blur of takeout, hot tub dips, wine and beer, absolutely no exercise and 12 hours of sleep each night.
For dinner one night I ate a 12 inch pizza, 8 chocolate chip cookies,and half a pint of ice-cream.
I was desperately trying to make myself feel better, instinctively, in any small way I knew how.
I couldn’t talk to anyone.
I couldn’t deal with anything.
I felt exhausted and sad and fat and
Then, on the 29th,
I woke up and noticed I didn’t immediately dread
the fact that I was alive.
I fed myself a healthy breakfast and sang some songs
and worked on the book, and took some pictures
to remind myself that I’m beautiful,
and cleaned out my closet, vacuumed the carpets,
drank a green juice for my afternoon snack,
witnessed a sunset from the hot tub
and thanked the heavens
that the holidays were almost over
and that today,
I was feeling better.
That meant the wave was passing,
the worst had been felt,
there was lightness of being to look forward to again.
It’s not that my third griefmas was easier than the ones prior,
it was just that the days of sadness were fewer than those of happiness
and when grief hit, I knew
it was just another wave I had to ride through.
By then, I guess you could say,
I had a bit of experience
with grieving during the holidays.
I’ve started to own this grief
I’m not going to let it kick me off field any longer;
I’ll bring it up on first dates, share it like
small bites of chocolate with my roommates on the couch,
drown in it as if it were a giant glass of red wine;
I’ll scream it out of me and into pillows and
bring the subject with me to dinners and various bars
across town, neatly tucked in my clutch
like my favorite lipstick.
I’m going to own this grief publicly
and you’re going to watch me
so that the next time they ask me how I’m handling things
I can look them in the eye and say
I’m handling it just fine, thanks.
I know what loss and grief and sorrow feel like but I can’t imagine what it’s like to realize you’re dying. Is it a long, drawn out realization, or does it take your entire body and world over in one split second? Do you feel afraid for the unknown, or is it more like relief? Does your life play out in parts, your memories connected by flashing neurons strung together like pieces of clothing hanging on a clothesline? Do you think of love? Do you hope for the warm hands that touched you last? Do you pray, even if you don’t believe in God? Do you say whatever words you have left in that last breath out loud? And if you only have a second of life to spare, how long does that second really seem to last?
What is it like to know you’ve reached the end and might never again get another beginning?
Questions without answers and answers that don’t make sense once asked.
If life is such an enigma, can you imagine death?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”
I finally understand that saying now, how life can break you just to remake you- stronger, wiser, aware of the beauty in my own breath and the importance of love.
The last 365 days without you to share my accomplishments and failures with have been the hardest. I have no regrets of things left unsaid like so many others because my words always belonged to you. And the ones I kept locked away you read in my eyes. But what do I do with my words now?
I wish you were still here so I could tell you how much you changed my life, how your love gave me strength, how I finally learned to see myself with your eyes. But the only thing left to do now is remember, celebrate the years of life you had by drinking your favorite IPA. And it all still doesn’t make any sense. You were once a lover but forever my best friend. You challenged me to be better but loved me at my worst, and among all of the things I still don’t understand are your unwavering faith in me and neverending love. You were my soulmate and I was yours, no matter what, we decided. You made me angry, you disappointed me at times, and you were awful with directions and going to bed instead of falling asleep on the couch. And yet. The mornings when you brought me coffee in bed and danced with me on top of your feet in the kitchen and hid from the world underneath piles of blankets in our own grown-up fort and held me close to your heart the first time I let you see me cry and told me it would all be alright… THAT’S what I remember when I think of you now.
I remember you and I remember love.
But I still hate the fact that all I can do is remember. All I can do now is sit here, drinking your favorite beer and writing honest words you’ll never read.
365 days later and I still feel everything.
You would’ve liked the woman you saw if you had seen me last night- my skin sun kissed, hips swaying back and forth to the rhythm I learned in the only home I’ve known, to the songs I used to spend hours dancing to alone on the patio on days when the sun shone too hot and there was no one around to talk to.
You would’ve liked the way my mouth molded over the notes, my tongue dancing, vocal chords ringing, my spine standing strong and upright. You would’ve appreciated my small efforts at comedy and human connection sent to the crowd over the twisted microphone wires and afterwards I’m certain you would’ve declared that I had been born for the stage.
You were, after all, my biggest fan.
You would’ve sat right in the first row but you would’ve stood up to dance, even if your feet never did quite learn all the right steps to take.
That’s what you had me for, after all.
You would’ve liked what I have done with this life I realized I took for granted when you died.
Why have I wasted so much time?
I have learned to ask myself the hard questions even if I don’t have answers to so many of them.
What I do know is that it isn’t enough to just breathe and pay the bills and kiss new lips every now and then. Not anymore.
You would be proud of the woman I’ve become.
If you could only see me now.
What I wish they’d told me about losing someone you love is that you’ll never be the same again. You’ll finally understand the illusion of time- how some days feel as though they’ll never end, and others like a brand new beginning. Many a sad memory will come to pay you a visit. You’ll suddenly remember the first kiss again. And then, the last. For a few months you’ll act unlike yourself just so you can feel alive again. You won’t be able to stand that dull, numb sensation taking over the space where your heart used to be. You learn death doesn’t just take your loved one away and leaves after that. No. Death hangs around. It stays. It becomes a part of who you are now. For better or for worse. Some days it makes you passionate about things you never even noticed before, like the white trail clouds leave behind. And others, it makes you never want to see a blue sky again. It’s messy and disorienting and heartbreakingly painful. At first. And then, always. It doesn’t get any better with time like they say. You just learn to live with it. To befriend it and let it in. And then it never leaves. You let it take over so the past can die and stay behind. And that’s how you learn to live again. That is the time of your rebirth. Your heart and soul will grow so big that one day you stop being who you were and you become love. so let the tears come. let them wash away the pain.
(this is how you grow)
I have cried on the wooden floor
beside my dresser
my hands caressing the imperfect object with love
I have cried on the sofa,
head buried in pillows as my mouth
gasped for air
I have cried on my bed
and on pages scribbled in black ink
my tears distorting my words
turning them into strange shapes-
this one, a boot
and that other one, a star
I have cried at my work desk, right in front
of the computer
and on the massage table so many times
now I’ve lost count
I have cried while riding my bike-
I can’t help it
this mountain town used to be yours alone
but now it’s become mine.
I have cried on runs around the lake, while
chopping vegetables, and a handful of times
on first dates
I have cried in the public bus,
most often behind dark sunglasses but
in front of strangers who’ll never
know my name-
which to me seems strange.
we have shared so many of my tears
I have cried as I stood held in long embraces
by those who I can sense feel bad
for not having the right words to say-
they still haven’t learned that
there are none.
I have cried as my face seemed to freeze
distorted with pain
and as my voice escaped from me in the shape
of a scream
the only sound I can make when nothing
makes any sense
and not always, but sometimes
I try to muffle it so the neighbors don’t think I’m insane
I think that’s ok-
the screams are not like the tears.
I have cried over both
death and life
and all the words I can no longer write
without hearing his name
I have cried in planes and
in cities far, far away-
enough to know that my tears will always
tag right along with me
the saddest carry-on.
I have cried in the arms of my mother
a few times but last time
was on top of a carpet covered with crumbs
which gave me a kind of sad comfort-
to know I wasn’t the only thing broken
I have cried until lashes fell out
enough of them for the entire world to make wishes with-
because the lashes
(it seems funny to say it now)
wanted nothing to do with my tears
and I can still remember the first time I cried
in front of him
my hands on my face and then, his
I hid in shame because back then
I didn’t yet understand
are just feelings I haven’t learned how
to write down
But I do know how to cry now.
and someday I’ll learn to write the tears away
but even then I’ll know
it will only be because
It’s been 182 days of words for breakfast
and tears as a bedtime snack
I’m still in this space where I can’t understand
just how it is that someone you love
can disappear into thin air
but leave a giant hole in your chest
It’s been 182 days.
I still miss him
I miss him again.
I never asked that much of life
couldn’t you please
give me my best friend
You know when you get a new journal
and it’s time to write on the first page?
I’d like to feel that way