Right after John passed I wanted to go after him. I needed to find him. But of course I couldn’t. I have an intuition – and other guides, psychic,shamans have confirmed it- that I’m going to live a long life. Great. So the thought of living out all my years without him, waiting to be with him again, was absolutely terrifyingly brutal. I was horror-struck at this notion.

So I got it in my head that if I were to have an “awakening” or become “enlightened” that that would so radically alter my consciousness and my sense of time – that the rest of the years of my life would fly by just like that – snap*. This was my only real intention for cultivating a regular spiritual practice: to shift my sense of time so the years don’t drag by and before I know it – Viola– I’m with John. Many people aspire to be awakened because they want freedom from suffering. Now that sounded like a nice by-product but it wasn’t part of my main purpose.

I am very fortunate to have many amazing like-minded, spiritually minded, psychically abled friends in my life. Well one of these such friends – let’s call him Ben – was staying with me and sleeping on my couch for a time right after John passed. We stayed up many late nights talking about John and trying to piece together the mystery of his suicide. Those were very intense and very dark days. Ben is an amazing mystic and widely read expert on esoteric and occult phenomena. He also is a hard core meditator, so his presence in my life had a big impact on cultivating my beliefs and practices that could help me get to John.

In those early days he shared this with me because he felt it rang true to my style of spiritual path. It comes from this book called The Seven Rays (there are many with this title and I’m not sure exactly which one it is – although this was printed in 1930) which I have to say I don’t know much about. The concept is about different approaches to meditation that are best suited for different types of people depending on what ray they come from.

The Ray of Devotion is pre-eminently the ray of sacrifice.  When it is the egoic ray the method of approach through meditation takes the form of one-pointed application, through love of some individual or ideal.  A man learns to include through love of person or ideal; he bends every faculty and every effort to the contemplation of what is required, and in sacrifice for that person or ideal lays even his causal body on the flames of the altar.  It is the method of divine fanaticism that counts all lost apart from the vision, and that eventually sacrifices joyously the entire personality.  The causal body is destroyed through fire, and the liberated life streams upward to the spirit in divine beatification.

Though I have always been a seeker, questioner, explorer, and experimenter with all kinds of spiritual paths, mind altering substances, and paranormal stuff, it felt like my devotion to John was the kick-start to a commitment to the beginning of something – my true spiritual path. And I would burn all of my causal body and sacrifice everything – whatever it would take- to see and be with John again. I printed out this quote and hung it on my wall.

I began to practice meditation every morning for 15 minutes and every night for 15 minutes. I used a process called The Presence Process which is an 11 week process for attaining more presence and for untangling the conditioning of the mind that goes back to early childhood. It was intense and challenged me to be very disciplined. It was not my favorite but I do recommend it.

So in the mornings, I sat and meditated and did the breathing exercises that the book advises. I also learned from working Liv, the Shaman, to sit and make offerings to my guides, my angels, the elements of spirit, and to John. I created a little altar space where I set up photos of John and any special objects, crystals,feathers, poems, flowers, books, that were meaningful to me. Each morning before I meditated, I took a bowl and poured offerings into it. Now there are many teaching about the different offerings and they vary from culture to culture and shamanic lineage to lineage. I’m not so familiar with these teachings but based on my work with Liv, I loosely copied what she did. She usually made offerings of ash that had been created during a special ritual. I had no access to this kind of ash, so the ash was out. She usually made an offering of some kind of alcohol to her ancestors. I know that John loved red wine and my grandfather loved scotch so I alternated between these. Liv told me that I have a big posse of Angels that surround me and that I am most guided by the angelic realm. She also said that angels like sweets (hence I have and always have had a MAJOR sweet tooth– it’s a problem :)) and so I would also make an offering of honey or sugar. Cinnamon was one of John’s favorite things in the world – he used to put it on everything, so I would also offer cinnamon.

So the process looked like this: I would (out loud or in my head) welcome John, spirit, all my guides, my ancestors, my angels, the earth spirits, the water spirits, the air spirits, and the fire spirits into the space. One by one, step by step, I would announce that I was making an offering of wine and then take a sip, spit it out into the bowl and then pour some into the bowl. Then I would pour the honey into the bowl, and then next the cinnamon…and whatever else it might be- flowers or something Liv suggested… and then always end with an offering of water.

After making the invocation and giving the offerings, I would sit quietly with my eyes closed and notice any sensations around me in the air. Did the temperature change? Did I feel something move? Did  I feel an itch? Did it feel like I had a hair fall on my face? This one I feel/felt alot- like a hair falling over my lip and then I would go to move it and there was nothing there. ALOT of the time I would get chills. This is pretty common when talking to mediums or people who are in touch with loved ones on the other side. I’d pay attention to any images that would come to me in my mind’s eyes. With my eyes closed I often feel and see light- lots and lots of light. John was always very light when he was in a body, and when I am feeling and seeing lots of tingling warm  bright light I know it’s John. And he comes alot. So much of the time during my sitting practice, I will sit and feel chills all over my body and see and feel a warm light and feel flooded in this sense of light and love. And its amazing! It’s like being flooded with love. And it can also be hard, feeling so much love- especially when there’s so much grief associated to it, can bring up a lot of emotion. Often times when I bask in his love I am overwhelmed with tears (of all kinds) and sit and cry and cry. It can be hard, but it is also healing and feels good. I just go with it.

I think sitting and basking in the love, chills, tears, and light coming from our loved one on the other side or coming from whatever/whoever source – is the most healing and essential part of any sitting practice and I think that holds true for everyone, not just those who have lost someone and who are grieving.

But back to the offering ritual. After I have made my offerings ( I no longer do this- as I’ve felt that it’s no longer necessary for me- but I’m sharing it because it’s how I started to cultivate my relationship with the other side) – I expressed thanks for things in my life that I appreciated and thanked everyone for all of their help. I get as specific as I can. Then I would ask for help with certain things that I was working on or struggling with. A big one that I asked for was for help in cultivating my psychic abilities, for help in knowing- really knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that John was still alive and that he hadn’t died. I asked for signs from him to show me that he was still alive. I asked for ways in which I could grow to be able to see him and feel him and hear him as strongly as possible. I asked for help in eliminating my mental, skeptical, and doubting filter. I asked for strength, guidance….things like this. I usually asked to be able to see John again or asked to have a dream about him. Sometimes I would talk about a dream I had and then ask for guidance in understanding the messages of the dream. Then I would sit and allow myself to receive an answer or imagine the answer as best as I could.

Sometimes I would practice imagery/visualization exercises like imagining a gold ball in my minds eye and holding it there for as long as possible. This was to help sharpen my ‘inner seeing’ / clairvoyant sense. Sometimes I would practice listening and hearing all of the sounds around me, as many as possible and from as far away as possible. Then I would play with how I could magnify these sounds. How could I hear things that were even farther away?

After all this, then I would  begin the 15 minute meditation process from the Presence Process. Over the course of the last year my practice has changed as I change. I like to keep things fluid and adaptable, not rigid or dogmatic. I have let go of the ritual of offering wine, water, etc. But I do still welcome everyone and especially John every morning and offer gratitude for all their help, guidance, wisdom, and inspiration in my life. I talk to them about what’s going on in my life, and I ask them questions and wait for the answers. I set my intentions for the day and ask for specific help about specific things.

There’s this Yes/No communication technique that I learned from a service called Inner Expansion that helps people learn to communicate with their angels. I ask a question in a yes or no format – phrasing it with: “Is it in my best interest to x,y,x ….? And I let go of effort and let my head either gently fall to the side as if it is about to nod “no” or fall slightly forward or back as if it is about to nod “yes”. If it falls to the side, the answer is no. If it falls forward, the answer is yes. You can learn more about this at the website: they have a service where they “hook” you up to your angels and do an analysis about which psychic abilities are most natural to you and strongest – that’s how I learned that my clairaudience is strongest.

Another resource that I found incredibly helpful in shifting my beliefs about all of this stuff and moving from the rational, skeptical, into a place where I am less doubtful about all of these phenomena and am more and more  open and know that anything is possible – is an audio program called the Spontaneous Healing of Belief by Greg Braden. He explains the physics of many scientific experiments that prove the possibility of other dimensions, paranormal phenomenon etc..

A great book about meditation from a now deceased Buddhist master is called Dipa Ma. This woman lived through the death of two children and her husband. Miserably sick and grief-stricken she started to meditate and soon had many enlightenments and became an amazing teacher. She used to say “If I can do it, you can do it.” I highly recommend this book!

So what’s it all been good for? Have I “woken up” or haven’t I? I’ve had some amazing profound shifts in awareness. Perhaps I will write about those experiences in other posts. There were around two or three major ones that I could try and write about in some way. But whatever it was that happened — and I have experienced so many different kinds of healing and so much growth and transformation in the last year – (it’s pretty crazy) –  I am in some ways, literally a different person— and so yes, I have noticed that my sense of time has changed. It feels pretty blurry and amorphous and it has definitely sped up. Time is flying by. While most people may lament this, I love it and celebrate it. Can you believe it’s already practically September? Where did the summer go? Ahhhh……… cie la vie!

If anyone has any questions about any of this or wants further clarification, please feel free to ask. It’s alot of stuff to write, and I feel I’m only barely scratching the surface of my process and the effects of the healing work I’ve done. I’d be happy to explain more!

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Fellow Travelers

August 27, 2010

I want to share a link to the recent article in the Huffington Post by the beautiful and amazing Elisa Medhus – author of the also beautiful and amazing blog channelingerik. Her blog is truly an inspiration to me. Somehow between working as a doctor, being a mom to 4 kids, and going through her own grieving process she has time to post multiple blog entries a day AND respond to practically every comment. I’m in awe of this woman, and on more than one occasion I have had some rather funny and moving communication with her son Erik who has passed over to the other side.

I really like this article because she explains how she moved from being very scientific to now having a true knowing about spirit and the afterlife. Like me, her grieving process – and the shock of the loss of her beloved son to suicide – has rattled all of her firmly held beliefs about “the way the world works- goddamnit!”

I am in the midst of an intense letting go process right now (since i just recently completed my book) – and i feel like crap, and so I am not able to write about my daily spiritual practices and processes that I have cultivated through out my grief like I have been intending. Once this thing has moved through me I will be sure to get back to it, as it was an invaluable learning experience and helps me connect daily to this new way of being in the world and to John on a regular basis. But Elisa speaks about this in a way, so she will provide a wonderfully articulated context for me. It’s all a process of opening the heart ~ opening the mind.

A Skeptics Journey Through Grief ~ By Elisa Medhus

I thought I’d share a short movie that a friend emailed me around 9 months ago. It’s heart wrenching – reminding me that life is an amazing bittersweet  sweet journey, and I’ve got to keep going on.

“The greater the struggle the more glorious the triumph”

Immediately after John passed, that night in fact, I had communication with him. I have always had natural psychic abilities and experiences from early on, but because whenever I had shared these with people, I was often branded crazy – I had sort of dismissed my abilities and shoved them under a rug. But things had changed, I was living out in California amongst like minded and abled people where these things are quite common and acceptable, and using my extrasensory senses was what would help me talk to John. So part of my daily practice was to sit down every morning and talk to John and try and develop my clairaudience abilities (the psychic sense of hearing- which I know is my strongest ability)- by just listening to whatever thoughts came in my head.

For many months I struggled with doubts about what I was hearing and receiving. I thought that I was probably making things up and that the things I was hearing were obviously not John and even if it was John I was missing a lot of what he was actually saying, it was like I could only make out a few things here and there and the things I was hearing were only what I wanted to hear. I struggled with my own innate and New York conditioned skepticism and doubt, especially self-doubt. My mental filter was still too strong. It was like on top of all the grief and pain I was experiencing I was struggling with calling myself “crazy” for “hearing” and communicating with John- surely I was insane and none of this was real, and I couldn’t trust my intuitive or clairaudient abilities even though I have had so many varying experiences over the years and so much proof with my own eyes…i kept asking for more “bizarre” contact and proof that John was still alive because my mental, rational, old way of being, all of my conditioning, and all the criticism I had received and internalized over the years had such a strong hold over me and wouldn’t let me believe or allow or have faith.

And now I’m happy to say that this part of me has died, another odd gift of John’s/my death. But I had to work on this, actively. I kept asking John for signs of his presence– and they would come – like electricity blowing out in my kitchen, or candles exploding, and many others– but I also worked on this process in therapy : understanding the origins of all this need for “proof” and analysis and making sure everything was rational and sane…and learning and acknowledging what purpose that role had served in my life- how it was a necessary adaption and one that, given my current situation, was just no longer relevant.

I also worked on my doubt with Liv, the shaman. She assured me that all of my abilities and experiences were real and in fact were coming from John, time and time again. She and I practiced my communication with him together and she confirmed that what I was hearing was in fact what was being said. She was the one who pointed out that the only thing blocking me was my mind which was acting as a “filter”  and blocking the flow of messages from John and Spirit. It was like opening up to the signals instead of negating what I was receiving before I even let it have a chance to come through. I just had to TRUST a little and let it be and see what happened. Often times I would hear songs in the air right before they came on or words that were right about to be spoken. So for me, practicing this ability was not so much about practicing “making” things up or guessing but more about practicing getting out of my own way and allowing what is already there to move through me without me stonewalling it. It was a deeper practice of allowing, trusting, and believing (especially in myself) – which of course healed and continues to heal all aspects of my life and facilitates exponential growth spurts. And so every morning I asked for guidance around letting go of my mental filter and for help releasing doubts, skepticism, and cynicism so that I could open to and receive and flow with whatever communication and guidance I was receiving.

I also read a bunch of books about channeling and ‘how to’ be a medium, and about shamanism. These were helpful too – in terms of practical techniques, anecdotal evidence for my questioning mind, and to also provide context and “theory” for what I was studying. The more I read the more it opened up my imagination and that was crucial in developing these abilities because John would share with me things that he is/was doing over there on the other side that I would have no reference point for or no way of imagining from my limited perspective, so I had to keep taking my imagination to places it had never been or seen.

Next time, I’ll write about my daily practices, what I did, and what they were about.

Right now I should be working on my dissertation and writing a scholarly section on the Jungian significance of Synchronicities and irrational causality in the mate selecting courtship process, but after hours of dragging through the material, I just can’t bring myself to write the write-up. It’s a magnificently gorgeous day here in Los Angeles as I sit in a glass library atop a hill overlooking the City of Angels I’m having a hard time focusing on academics.

Instead of dissertating, I’ve been recollecting about how far I’ve come in the last two years and the ways in which I’ve gotten to the place to which I’ve gotten. In my mind I’m outlining a process that I would like to eventually formalize into an integrative grieving process that guides and navigates people through the stark and hellish bereaved landscape. As is consistent with the title of the blog and my point of view, this process integrates the dark and the light: a full descent into the abyss and embodiment of the pain and the darkness while also allowing for a newfound awareness of Spirit, the other side, and the miraculous overlap between the worlds that manifests in a variety of signs, symbols, and synchronicities. It is a massive overhaul of the old way of viewing death and a doorway into a new understanding of what we consider to be death. Like I have written before, it is a healing journey of faith and of opening up to new ways of perception and a six sensory type of reality.

So allow me to start mapping my process and join me as I see what happened to me and was has helped.

Three days after John passed, I happened to have had a chiropractor appointment scheduled from weeks before. Rather than cancel, I went because I knew my body was a mess, I hadn’t eaten or slept in any real capacity. I don’t remember much except that the chiropractor said that my body was barely breathing, my chest and lungs were hardly moving, and while I had been lying face down he had even wondered if I was even alive at all. I barely was. He was helpful in reminding me to breathe, and shifted some things around to help me breathe a bit more easily.

I looked for some grief support groups…and crazily enough there was a wait list for the Suicide Survivors group. In Palo Alto there’s a fantastic organisation called Kara that deals exclusively with grief and so I had an appointment with the intake director. At the end of our session (she was very empathic and supportive) she told me that she thought what I was struggling with was of course my own grief and loss but also issue relating to my own mortality and she thought that I would perhaps be best helped by working one on one with a therapist and she recommended some names.

Over the course of 9 months I worked with two different therapist. One was a transpersonally oriented one and we utilized modalities such as Authentic Movement, Art Therapy, and gestalt work in addition to the usual talk therapy. I really loved the Authentic Movement (but I’m partial to movement) She also held a lot of space for me to just cry. I think she was excellent and if anyone in the Silicon Valley area would like her name, feel free to contact me through this site.

The second therapist was a Jungian expert specializing in symbols. I saw her on an occasional basis and we mostly worked on understanding my dreams. During the first 6 months after John passed, I had a very active dream life, a lot of dreams about John, and a lot of dreams about New York City. I kept a dream journal and recorded them every day. I could tell that something major was happening in my dream life and in my unconscious and I wanted to learn the language my dreams were speaking and also have a trusty translator. It really was like starting to learn a new language. I’d be happy to pass along this therapist’s contact info as well, so just email me.

In addition to keeping a dream journal I also kept two other journals: one for the regular journaling I did every night, and the other was to log all of the signs and synchronicities and messages I was receiving from John on the other side. I felt I had to write them down so I didn’t lose them or forget them, especially for the years to come. Writing has been enormously therapeutic and eight months after John’s passing I started writing my book.

In the first few months I went to acupuncture because my energy levels were so low. This was helpful.

I saw a spiritual guide on a few occasions, but eventually he wasn’t helpful because it was obvious he just didn’t get what my pain or grief was like. He encouraged me to really “surrender” and know that the pain I was feeling was God feeling separate from himself and me and that my missing John was just the separation I was feeling from God, and that in the depths of my pain I should be aware of this and when I truly became aware of this truth then I would “wake up” and no longer feel separation and despair. I’m rolling my eyes as I write this. There may be some kernels of truth in certain things about what he was saying but this was just b.s to me and minimized my loss and my excruciating pain. I then stopped seeing him.

The other practitioners I saw included a shaman- Liv – whose website I listed on the Healing Resources Page. She was powerfully helpful. She channeled John and communicated with my ancestors and others on the other side and we were able to make some sense out of what was going on. She was very instrumental in helping me learn and grow through the grief. She also opened up a doorway into a magical way of being in the world that is not just airy fairy and “delusional” side effects of grieving but rather rooted and grounded in the ancient, indigenous, shamanistic cultural heritage that is intrinsically more connected to nature and has a more interconnected relationship to the realm of Spirit. I learned these new ways and they inspired me into cultivated a new relationship with the invisible, one that is manifest through objects, nature, and ritual. Liv also did a variety of healing practices on me- soul retrieval – that is – scouting out lost parts of my soul that had broken off over the years since I have been born, as a result of trauma or fear. She said she found a lost soul part that had left when I was 29 – right after John passed. She also found and reintegrated other parts that had left at earlier ages. Whether you believe in this or not, all I can say was that regardless of the objective truth of what was or wasn’t happening, I certainly felt lighter and more in tact, and once again inspired by the possibility of the infinite and of miracles. Liv often had me do “homework” where she would give me an assignment or a ritual to do. For instance, she told me to take wine, chocolate, and flowers to the beach and sit and have a picnic with John and make offerings of flowers and a picture of John to the ocean. Another assignment was to gather with my friends and ask each of them to tell me how they saw me. Ack! That one was hard- terrifying and embarrassing, but ultimately well worth while for everyone who shared. Liv taught me several practices and rituals to do every morning during my daily morning practice, which I did for a while and I will surely share in the next installment of this post.

For now, I hope that those reading are garnering some ideas about how to begin a healing journey. I know some of my ways may be too out there or alternative, and I know in some cases resources may be an issue. Whatever the case, I hope you find some way of taking care of and befriending yourself. Maybe it’s just writing out dreams, or starting a daily journal. Maybe you’ll seek out a therapist (I hope you do– a good reputable one who has personal and professional experiences dealing with death and grief).

I will write about the other important things I did to pull myself up out of the abyss, as soon as I can.

Sending strength,

Here’s an excerpt I’ve been editing and I feel moved to post it. As always, I welcome comments and feedback! (*just a note – it’s brutally honest and might be triggering. So please read with self-care*)

Date: November 28th, 2009

Subject: in between worlds

Dear John,

I don’t know if being in New York right now is good for me. I’m falling back into that in between state, not wanting to be here anymore, searching for you, longing for you. It’s dark and cold again. I can’t type, I’m going to write by hand. I miss you.

I don’t feel well. I don’t look well. I look pale, dark circles under my eyes. My eyelids are puffy. My muscles feel weak and slack. I feel I am losing my strength, losing my grip again, losing the joy and the drive that I found recently to go on. Life just doesn’t feel worth living without you in it, and what am I supposed to do. I can’t go to where you are. I couldn’t deliberately take my life and yet I don’t want to be here. Don’t want to go on. I suck smoke into my body, slowly poisoning myself with a hard edged glee. And I don’t care.

What would it feel like to be with you again? To run into your arms and race into your chest and feel you alive in my arms? For you to be real again. I would squeeze you so tightly the air would evacuate. You might not be able to withstand my ferociousness. The tears stream and fall down out of my eyes every day. Love and kindness are what bring me to tears. When I see it in life or in the movies I feel you and my heart aches with pain and with love. It fills me with emotions that I can’t describe but they take the form of tears. Grieving is a form of loving.

As time passes it can sometimes seem as if you never existed at all, like I made you up and you are a figment of my imagination. You came and went and the evidence of your life now lives only in my memories. But as time moves on, will I be able to remember you anymore? Some of it has faded. Like I can’t remember exactly what you sounded like and I can’t remember exactly the kind of words you used when you spoke. You were real though right? Too good for this world. And I was lucky enough to have known you like I did, to have shared a piece of your body with you, and to have taken care of you as best as I could.

You haven’t been in my dreams for a while now. I remember when you had first passed, the electricity in my kitchen would go out and a candle exploded mysteriously. I had dreams of you often. Dreams where you were still alive but also dead at the same time and you were going to kill yourself. But this time you were going to kill yourself in different ways, with needles or with a gun. And I wanted to save you. I tried to save you in my dreams but I got there to late, too damn late, and I couldn’t save you. Ah the frustration and rage burns me up. I want to rage the world in a howling lightning storm and smash it all to pieces, smash myself to pieces for getting there too late. My heart is shattered and oozes out love in fragmented ways. It will never be whole again and I don’t know if I can ever love anyone again. I’m growing old and haggard. I see it clearly in the mirror. And it’s ok. The older I get the closer I get to death and the closer I get to you. My smoking helps. I can’t wait to be old. I’m jealous of old people I see walking in the street or wheeling around in wheelchairs. I’m envious of how much closer to death they are than me. I have a good eight to ten grey hairs now in the front. I’m sure they have sprung up in this year of mourning. So be it. I welcome them. I have a feeling though that I’m going to live a long life, like into my eighties. That’s at least fifty years from now- more than what I’ve already lived so far. I can’t fathom it. I don’t know if I can bear all that time ahead of me without you, waiting to see you again. In heaven I want to see you play football. I’ve never seen you play. I want to hear you singing in a concert hall. That would be my version of heaven right now. I never knew you in high school as a football star but I feel like I did. Like somehow I did know you when we were teenagers and I can feel it in a weird way that I can’t describe. I would have loved you and recognized you anywhere, anytime, in any place in history.

I dream of us being kindergarten sweethearts. You chase me around the playground trying to peck my cheek with kisses. I savor each one. I tell all my friends, my teachers, and my parents that one day when I grow up I’m going to marry you.

Oh, I’m not well. I’m really not doing so well right now. But who is there to tell. What is there to say even? My sister Eden is in the next room, pregnant and asleep. I know I should be happy about the things that I have to live for, but deep down, I’m not.

I have to keep believing, keep trusting that things will work out for the best- that everything happens for a reason, that there is some reason for this loss in my life, some reason that you are not here anymore. Its got to work out better than this. It’s got to have a good ending some way, some how. What kind of good ending could possibly make up for the loss of you? I doubt it could be anything that could make up for your death. If there was a way to bring you back, I’d trade all of this, my lot in life, my purpose in life to be together with you again. If only I could.

Sad eyes. You had sad eyes. Sad eyes and a big heart that was so beautiful to me.

I would do anything to be with you again.  Ha. Anything but suicide. Have I said that enough? How nice to be like Romeo and Juliet and have the freedom to die for each other. I don’t have that freedom, I’m trapped in this body and trapped here on this Earth to serve out the rest of my days until I can be with you and die my natural or accidental death. Oh my god. How I wait for the day where I can be back with you and never ever leave your side again.

Everybody has somebody it seems. Loving someone who isn’t actually here is a strange thing. It moves forces in me that I never knew I had. It’s sickly and melancholy and challenges my faith every day when I wake up and I renew it anew. I feel you everywhere. I want to believe it’s you. No. I know it’s you. Am I getting weirder to people because I’m still holding on to you. You the love of my life that abandoned me to suicide. Why does she even still care about him? What is she so hung up on? I can hear them say in their minds. How can I explain all that you mean to me? I can hardly explain it to myself. All I know is that it is love. A love that makes me whimper in the dark with the pain of missing for you and the knowledge that you will never be found.

It’s a year after your death. I have tried to move on. I make a commitment to be happy every day. I am in New York, in bed, writing this to you in the dark. I am in the room that I slept in every night as a child. I am in the room where I lay on my turquoise carpet in despair from my own frustration of not being able to live up to my own potential. I am back in my own familiar darkness and loneliness. The bare trees, sepia sunlight, abstract city lights, cozy interiors, family I feel separate from, and the old familiar ache of something missing. Always looking for love. It’s sixteen years later. Most people’s lives have changed. And somehow mine still feels the same. Almost everyone I know is married, engaged, pregnant, successful, or famous. I am neither of those things. I still lie here alone crying privately with a broken heart. Waiting for you my dear. Waiting right here because there is nowhere else to go.

Nothing compares to your likeness and nothing ever will. Football and wheat fields, the forever golden boy who dies by train. Farm boy superman. The weight of the world on your shoulders. Bitter beauty and sadness everywhere. Down the first road to your farm, down the dirt road to your pond, under the thunderclouds in the rain. The sky is so big I could lose my mind with love. Love that has nowhere to go.

I get sucked down over and over again in endless cycles and waves of grief. I go up for air and I feel I’m starting to reemerge into the world of the living – feeling some joy, vitality, appreciation for life’s gifts and miracles. Finding myself enjoying commercials, consumerism, romantic comedies, trivial conversations, and celebrity gossip. I feel driven to work, to finish this book,  get the PhD and serve others who feel suicidal, help them find the will to live; the will to love. Things seem to be going well and then I get sucked under by a wave of grief that seems to come out of nowhere and the riptide pulls me back into that place where death is near. I am pulled back into hell. Things that might have brought me brief joy are no longer interesting, no longer happy. I don’t care. My pain is too great and all I want is you.  There is nothing in the world that will bring you back and so there is nothing that can help me.

I pray to see you in my dreams tonight. Give me some relief.

Sarah

the art of heartbreak

August 11, 2010

For a while I was thinking of calling my book Heartbreak, because that’s essentially what it was, what I experienced. As cliched as it may sound, the loss of John shattered my heart into a million pieces. So I sat with that title for many months, but a writer (and psychologist) who was working with me on the drafts, wisely asked me to re-think that title. It was too Daniell Steele, she thought. But it’s the truth, I argued. It’s what my book is about: heartbreak and the anatomy of it, the piercing lived experience of waking up one day to a permanent and irreversible fate. Still, she said, the word heartbreak is everywhere, it’s trashy, its lost its meaning and carries no weight. How can you convey your heartbreak in your own personalized way? She asked. So I sat with that question (as well as my thoughts around how heartbreak has become meaningless in our society). And eventually the line from a poem I wrote about John while he was still alive, called My Blue Sky, came to mind. And with that, was born the title Love You Like the Sky: my own personalized expression of heartbreak.

Last weekend, a friend took me over to El Mercado in East L.A. I’d never heard of it, as it’s a Mexican mini shopping plaza with actual Mariachi restaurants. She’s in the process of getting a divorce and since she’s from Mexico, Mariachi music is apparently the way even the most macho of men drown their sorrows- usually accompanied by a bottle of tequila. So we went. I was the only gringa in the place and English was just not spoken. It was awesome. I felt like I was in Mexico with the murals, Spanish tiles, and of course the noisy Mariachi bands flanking stages on all sides of the central plaza.

As we drank margaritas my friend translated the lyrics. Mariachi music is all about heartbreak. I’ve always ignorantly assumed Mariachi was just some cutesy touristy band music used to solicit a few bucks and help men woo their dates. I had no idea it was the precious art form of heartbreak that it is; expressing with unabashed abandon the exquisitely painful longings of lost love. My kind of music. Woeful, from the heart, from the soul. Not the American version of soft rock love songs on Lite FM (and god knows I love a good Journey song…). Mariachi music is the real deal: the my-life stops-without -you, I-would-die-for -you, life -is -not -worth -living -if -you -are -gone  REAL deal. I suppose every culture has their own unique expression of heartbreak. No matter who we are or where we are, it’s a truly universal human experience, and I challenge anyone to go through life without feeling it in some form or another. It’s almost the essence of what we signed up for when we enlisted on planet earth —  spurring innumerable expressions of it in every possible medium and every possible way– propelling men and women throughout history to epic greatness beyond imagination. And to paraphrase the late Buddhist master  Chogyam Trungpa, the ideal state for the warrior is broken-heartedness.

And so…before I even heard the translation, this mariachi song moved me by its passion and its longing as it mirrors my own.

Como Quien Pierde Una Estrella by Alejandro Fernandez

{Like Who Loses a Star}

(this link may need to be streamed)

I love you, I say this as a lament,
a moan that the wind carries everywhere
I love you, what pain losing you
like someone losing a star that is going to infinity
ayyyaaayyyyyyyaayyyy, aaaaaayyyyyy
I want you to hear my cry, how I miss dolio
much love after
after trying both ayyyyyy
dear Lord give me comfort to me from inside
this is killing me ay ay ayyyy, ayyyyyyy …

I love you, I say this as a lament,
a moan that the wind carries everywhere
I love you, what pain losing you
like someone losing a star that is going to infinity
ayyyaaayyyyyyyaayyyy, aaaaaayyyyyy
I want you to hear my cry, how I miss dolio
much love after
after trying both ayyyyyy
dear Lord give me comfort to me from inside
this is killing me ay ay ayyyy, ayyyyyyy …

* * * * * * *

There’s so many of us out there around the world, experiencing their hearts broken open and relating to these feelings. Why should they be minimized, cast as cliches, or meaningless. It’s real. The jagged edge of life and death.

Here’s to reviving the significance of Massive Colossal Heartbreaks of Epic F*ing Proportions

** At High Risk **

August 8, 2010

I didn’t know this at the time when I was going through my grief- and it’s something I came across in my research on suicide:

Widows in general (of non-suicide related deaths) are one of the highest risk groups for suicide.

Thus making widows of men who completed a suicide the group that is MOST at risk for suicide.

If you are a widow of a man who completed suicide, or you know of a woman who lost her husband, boyfriend, or partner to suicide – it’s important to be aware of this vulnerability. These feelings are normal, natural, and common; we just don’t speak about these things in our society. We’re too scared to.

Make sure you have support, loved ones around, and group activities to partcipate in. The more “buffers” (people around you, community, events, activities) you  have in your life, the safer you are.


Faith. Hope. Strength.

string of moments

August 7, 2010

Today on my way back from rollerblading on the beach, i carried a skate in each hand and walked barefoot through the sand. A crowd of people were gathered in a circle. Portable tables and folding chairs held in place by bags of food were set up a short distance away. A biker going by called out “Is it a funeral?” I stepped a little closer to see.  In the center of the crowd stood a man and a woman dressed in a white wedding dress. As i walked past, the group began to singing softly yet passionately: “And we’ll share this moment… together. And I’ll always love you…forever.” (you know that song Always & Forever, but with a wee twist)

It felt to me like some sort of sign. a low maintenance wedding abundant with love and harmony, and i happened to be walking by just at this precious moment…and i did share it with them, together. what that sign is, i don’t quite know.

i never was really a believer in signs or things like that. but after john’s passing, everything cracked. in my in-between-world state things that used to seem mundane, somehow suddenly, magically became imbued with spirit, with meaning and significance. Like the moment a bird flies across my path, or leaves brush on my head, or the right song plays on the radio at the right time, the wind blowing as if in answer to a particular thought…all have significance, and are all interconnected with me, to me, and through me.

In the cracking of realities, everything shifted. the boundaries between this world and the other side, the realm of spirit, became blurred. and in the depths of this fissure i could feel the pain of everyone and all the sorrow and suffering of the world. it swallowed me up into hell, defying and daring me to hold on as tightly as i can for as long as possible: weeks, months, years, the rest of my life.

And somehow the little things, the birds, the sun, the waves, the songs, the happenstance weddings i stumble upon, the ladybugs at my feet, the flickering of lights in my room, the rainbows, the perfect movie my tv happens to be on …all have a mystical message for me. It’s all significant. the year of magical thinking has become a life of magical seeing. and it’s a bittersweet gift.

In various areas of my life i hear people commenting “i got too emotional- so i stopped myself from crying..” or “i can’t read that- it makes me cry” or “i just don’t want to go down or get low.” I’ve had clients tell me they just can’t let themselves cry, or greive…that crying is a sign of weakness, they need to be strong, hold it together, dad never allowed crying in their house…i hear this a lot- like it’s an epidemic in our culture.

And I can understand it. Before John passed I was mortified of showing emotion- real emotion in public. And it would have been abominable for me to actually shed tears in front of anyone. That was something I kept to myself; i only allowed myself to cry in the privacy of my room, behind closed doors.

All that changed, with or without my consent. In the weeks before John killed himself, I found myself breaking into tears on the phone with friends as I expressed my sadness about what John was going through. I had no control, I couldn’t keep it in. And then once I heard word that he was lying unconscious in the hospital, on his deathbed, sobs – sounds i never heard myself make- flew out of me. they filled up the waiting room in the hospital. i tried to speak, but words couldn’t come out. from then on the tears have flowed and flowed and they haven’t stopped. i would be doing grocery shopping at Trader Joes, hear a love song that reminded me of John and then sob uncontrollably, needing to leave the store. i cried in the car, driving up and down through the streets, the cemetary of the world i used to know with john. i cried in class, on my front porch, on my back porch. everywhere. i cried at the shore, at the edge of the bay, in the woods, at the movies, on the kitchen floor. my tears express everything, every feeling i couldn’t possibly name and then some; sadness, loss, despair, rage, anguish, longing, isolation, separation, alienation, death, love, hope, beauty,futility, apathy. All of life, the totality of the human experience is awash in these tears.

i know it’s painful, i know it’s hard to feel so much at times, like we will lose our minds, lose ourselves to the tears, be swallowed up into the depths of the ocean and never find our way back, but why would we deny ourselves this experience? this is the stuff of life. this is why we came here. to fully feel it all. why would we bypass this part just to only feel joy and light? i do know the value of feeling joy in every moment (this is one of the curious by products of an intensive grieving process…go figure…)- however skipping over the darkness and the pain to get to the light and the transcendent and the spiritual does not lead to wholeness or complete healing. The journey is to integrate the dark and the light, the pain and the pleasure, the human and the divine/transcendent, until they ultimately become one and the same. so you can walk in the dark and be the illumination and not feel threatened or scared, know that you will not become corrupted or lose yourself.

And from my experience, when i let myself feel it all, eventually the tough emotions, the sadness, anguish, despair- even my longing to die, gets dried up for a time. the heart opened and what needed to be cleansed moved through. and what’s left is love.

now that i am over on the other side of the grief I FEEL things so much more fully and intensely than ever before. like my feelings and life are now in technicolor, i feel so much more love .and it’s amazing, delicious, and such a new way of being in the world. i would have never in a million years thought it possible.

So why not cry your heart out and let yourself heal as fully as you can? that’s what our tears are for. there’s so much excruciating pain in this world, and the pain is as beautiful as the most magnificent sunset. may you all have the courage to feel ALL of  your life fully.

Classic and lovely: Feist, I Feel it All