Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Grieving 101

Losing someone you love is never easy, but losing your spouse, your soul mate, your partner in life is especially hard.

My husband died on September 5th, and the days from then until today have been a challenge. One part of me wants to bury my head under my pillow and never peek out at the sun again. Another part of me says, "Get up, do your chores and enjoy the glorious sunrise."


Life goes on. Life must go on.

It does help to have things you have to do. Mindless tasks like feeding the animals, clearing the pasture, doing some laundry. What is so terribly hard for a writer is trying to get back to writing, as any of you reading this who have walked this same path of oneness can affirm.

At first, you are just too numb to write. You're almost too numb to remember to eat or to breathe, and thank goodness we have friends and family to remind of us to do that.

At some point, however, you know you have to get back to the writing; just like you have to get out of bed in the morning. It would be easier if writing was more like other jobs or professions where you are focused on doing specific tasks and accomplishing them. My daughter shared with me recently that it has helped her to get through her days by getting back to teaching. She is a TA for a literature professor, and one of her responsibilities is grading test papers. There are 125 students in the class, so that is a lot of work. Doing something like that takes an investment of mental acuity, but there is very little emotional involvement.

With writing, however, it is all about emotional involvement. That is how we connect to readers through our work. While grieving, we bounce between that numbness and emotions that are so raw we don't want to touch them.

As I have been walking along this path of aloneness, I have realized so many things from the outpouring of support from my online friends, as well as those who can physically put their arms around me.

•    I am not the first woman to go through this, and I certainly won't be the last.
•    There is no right or wrong in the grieving process.
•    Give yourself permission to stop trying to work and do something totally mindless until your brain wants to create again.
•    Most people, when they ask how you are doing, want to hear that you are okay. They hurt for you when you are hurting, and they just want all the hurting to stop. But you do need to tell someone how terribly awful this is, otherwise the feelings bottle up inside and create havoc. I tell my horse every morning.
•    Take care of yourself any way you can. If that means lots of chocolate, buy stock in your favorite candy company.
•    Tell yourself you are strong. "I can do this." Even though you may not believe it. One day you will wake up and realize you are doing this. One day, one baby step at a time.



Maryann Miller
is a novelist, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent release is Boxes For Beds, an historical mystery available as an e-book. Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series. The first book, Open Season, is available as an e-book for all devices. To check out her editing rates visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. She believes in the value of a good walk.

30 comments :

  1. Thank you for sharing this moving story. Loss is dreadful but the living must go on.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Fiona, and you are right on both counts. :-)

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  2. Every loss is a learning experience we would prefer to do without. The trite saying, 'life must go on', is all too true however, and is something the bereaved must accept, no matter the pain.
    I send my condolences, Maryanne, and hope the grieving process becomes easier to bear.

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  3. I lost a good friend a writing partner recently and your words mirror my path. Less than a year before she died she published Surprised Pink Geraniums a story of her love, loss, and grieving. It is beautiful and human and eases me into joy or allows my tears. She is Pat Brown.

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    1. Kathy, thanks for sharing your story. I do love the title of your friend's book. I will look for it.

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  4. Firstly, condolences for your terrible loss. Secondly, feel everything for as long as you need to. You're not only allowed to, it is necessary for healing. Thirdly, write it out - everything, the fear, the anger, the loneliness, whatever your truth is. Writing down the truth heals. As women, too often we think we have to smile and be strong for everyone. You don't have to be strong for the page. The page can take everything you have to say to it.

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    1. You are right, Diana. I am doing a grief journal. It is a good thing even if I only write a few words some days.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your strength. None of us will escape loss, and it really helps to have those who have gone before in the loss of a spouse tell it like it is. I hope the telling is also healing for you.

    Alicia

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    1. Alicia, it does help. There is an axiom in the counseling and chaplaincy business that the grieving person does need to tell his or her story for a long time. it was therapeutic to write this post. I think I will do one next month addressing going through the holidays for the first time without that special person.

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  6. It's such a tough time, Maryann, and I think of you often and wonder how you're doing. It's the old "one day at time" thing that gets us through. Warm virtual hugs coming your way.

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    1. Something went wonky with my iPad keyboard when I tried to write more. Wanted to say that my son sent me a link to a song "Put One Foot in Front of the Other." It's a cute song, and if I was working with my main computer I could share the link. I am not up on the iPad technology to know how to leave this spot, go find a link, and post it. :-(

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  7. Grief is one of those human emotions we can't get around. I know it gets better eventually, and know you will get through this. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Lorelei, you are right that we cannot get around the grief, we have to walk through it. When I was working with grief groups as a chaplain, I remember talking about that, but didn't really have a grasp of what it meant beyond the intellectual concept. But sometimes the grief is like that thick morning fog. It just shrouds everything and you literally have to walk through the fog to find a clear spot.

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  8. Maryann, you've been in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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    1. That is so kind. Thank you. Te support of people like you has helped so much.

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  9. Writing from the heart is so terribly difficult. Writing when the heart is broken seems impossible. If we haven't walked your path, we will someday. Your words are a guidepost of hope and love. Know that you are not alone. Sending love and compassion your way.

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    1. Betsy, thank you so much. You are right that it is all about our hearts. Hopefully, soon I will be able to reconnect with mine.

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  10. Much love again, Maryann. You have been in my thoughts, too. xox

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  11. Maryann, thanks for being so open and brutally honest with us. I'm amazed at how you've kept on with your chores here and all around the Internet. AND the theater work! You are truly a model for the rest of us, and as someone mentioned above... we'll all take this part of the journey some day.

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    1. Thank you for that affirmation, Dani. "Keeping on" keeps me from the alternative. Some days it is incredibly hard to stay focused and motivated, and it has helped to have so much support. I don't think I could manage without my family and friends.

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  12. This is so touchingly poignant and so painfully raw at the same time. Thank you for sharing this difficult journey with us — who knows who your words might comfort or whose heart's agony you may ease? You've been in my prayers, too, Maryann.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I know I have found courage in the stories others have shared, so I do hope some find courage from mine.

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  13. Oh Maryann this is so lovely. And the fact that you are pouring your heart out to your horse brought me to tears—I know, it's true, that after a while people just don't want to hear it anymore.

    I think it's important for us writers to remember there are times to live, and times to record, and times to process. You have taken the time to experience your grief, and recorded it beautifully here. The rest will come, in time.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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