8 Years Today

I did not write last year. I still feel conflicted about that. I was busy with the distractions of life, sure. But mostly I just couldn’t bring the words up. I couldn’t write about how the 7 year mark brought little shift around the grief, anger, despair and rave once again about the pain of it all. I also couldn’t find the words to express the new ways I was experiencing life both in an enjoyment of and anguish. Reflecting upon this time last year, I see where I was deeply entrenched in the Patterns around my various traumas and simply had nothing to say that felt acceptable to write the World.

I am unsure that this year’s post will be any easier around the expression piece. Yet I am writing.

I don’t have the acute agony to write about at this point. It feels normal. It is there. This agony. Is it still considered acute? It is more like void that can never filled. I have come to realize that is simply a part of my baseline of being in this world. Many days I enjoy life, I smile, and even laugh on occasion, and the agony is still there. I’ve learned that having one emotion doesn’t ‘cancel out’ or ‘even the field’ on another. If anything, in the last couple of years I’ve learned that in order to truly be present and feel any of the ‘desirable’ emotions like joy, happiness, contentment or peace; I also have to be open to the pain, grief, anger and despair that is often up. This often seems like entirely too much to truly feel in one moment. At times, I sit in complete silence, unable to wrench a single sound from my throat even as every muscle in my body contracts from waves of anguish and rage, somehow shackling all movement but the tremors of tension my individual muscle groups exude. Grief and despair seem to suspend my actual heartbeat, time doesn’t exist here, what gasping breath I can get is gone in a second and the weight on my chest lasts an eternity. It is utter agony. My physical body literally can only experience the various emotions I contain for so long before it tries to tear itself apart. As someone who has been run over, crushed and dragged by horses many times; I feel I can honestly say the expression of ‘I feel like I got run over by X’ and it is exactly how my body feels after such intensity.

In all honesty this ‘dark’ anniversary from an outside perspective looks pretty quiet. I may not sleep much around this time – but I’ll fall asleep for a few hours rather suddenly from what I’ve come to see as simply sheer exhaustion from witnessing the various thoughts and emotions I experience instead of just reacting to them. I’m often too tired to do things I really enjoy – like hunting a spot to view the Northern Lights outside of the city. Years past I’ve often judge myself harshly for this type of weakness. For ‘allowing’ this date to dictate me so, to miss parts of a class or the start of the Iditarod yet again. Instead, I have come to a wary place of peace around the fact that grief has its own timeline – and doesn’t give a rats ass what the world or the people in my life think it should be.

I personally struggle the most with being around people on this day. I really do not care to force a smile because it would make someone else feel better. Or to put a little ’emotion’ in my voice so it doesn’t come off as less than alive. I also have no desire to inflict my frustration at the lack of understanding and space upon those who probably do not know or may not remember why I am extra dark today. Most of all, I simply do not want to feel more than I already do on this day, to be around people and their own stuff. This year I have many things I could do, and few things I want to do. Choices like being around various friends and events, or space and quiet.

A sleepless night has left me with no profound words to share – only that this day is here. 8 years of eternity since I heard my Mother’s laugh.

~ Joannie

 

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5 Years Now Without Mom

I read the ‘4 Years Gone’ write up I did a year ago basically to the day, and I am struck by how much things have changed – and how much they haven’t. I could just copy/paste most of the words again for this year. The emotions, the thoughts, the memories; very little is different in those areas, even with another year for perspective. That in itself is a little scary. Makes me want to rage at those who quote that insufferable phrase ‘Time Heals All Wounds’. Dumb fuck who wrote that was clearly in-denial or hadn’t lost very much. I rarely feel angry, except at shallow empty words thrown in my face to ‘console’ me (but only them, in reality). Then the extraordinary pissed-off redhead temper comes out in force.

As you may have guessed, I don’t feel any less grief this year then I did the last 4. I do however feel more sadness than anger (or at least I believe I do) with the world. I also find myself looking back at my experiences with people those first few years, and having much more anger now than I did then, at the level of shit I went through. All it takes is a misguided statement made by a family member or friend and I feel the slow burn of angry pain that they still don’t get it. Maybe my increased sadness is that they and most of the world never will and its unfair of me to want them to be able to grasp the faintest idea of it.

Last year I attended a Tracker class with the 3 women who many know as my ‘Element Sisters’. Though I was around people and not trying to shove everything down, I also didn’t share much – and what I did share was mostly through the girls. Tracy, Linda and Afsoon’s support that year was the beginning of me not trying to hide 24/7. This year, the Healing School I have been apart of ran the 3rd class during the corresponding weekend (the dates are set when we sign up). So not only was I in another class, but this time it was even more hands-on with the emotions of life. Instead of fading into the background and only letting people know the significance of the dates via my Sisters, this year I had to do it myself and beforehand. Instead of standing on the edge of the 130+ group of classmates – many whom I didn’t know – I was in the middle of a very close knit group of 13 that I have worked with before. Not only did I not sit in silence all day, I shared my experience with classmates and friends, many of whom are quickly becoming true family.

I keenly feel the lack of contact from most people in my life, particularly this day. Lorien, best friend, person that Facebook says I am ‘In a relationship with’ and many people do believe that (which is totally okay by us) and the first person who ever sat with me in the long silences always makes contact this day. Even if its just through text. This year I had more people than I honestly know what to do with make contact with me. Interestingly most were not actual family members – or even old friends. I also shared my experience with feeling for the first time since the first weeks of 2009. In class, while words can be important and are often used to jumpstart an event, its the feeling, the emotion that we are most concerned about. I was the ‘group project’ to experience past events – all 12 classmates and the 3 instructors at the same time. Those of you who really know me, will realize that it is close to the last thing I would ever want to do, share ‘feelings’ while actually in contact with a shit-ton of people in person! But I did. Many may think that the ‘talking’ part is hard. Its not really, I’ve had to tell that fucking story over and over again. For family, for friends, for police, for doctors, and lawyers, therapists and teachers. I’m so not in touch with my emotions when I talk about the days leading up and shortly after Mom was killed, that I learned to ‘fake’ some reaction so as to not upset family or alarm the doctors for the first few years. In the past I’ve been accused of not caring, being a cold heartless bitch and having ‘something really really wrong with me’ because I can’t talk and feel at the same time very well. Clearly the world isn’t as ‘aware’ as they think they are about things like PTSD. The worst part was never how I felt talking about it, but how the other people felt. The shock, the disbelief, the looking for the silver lining, the inability to grasp, and of course; the wondering of how I ‘didn’t know’, which eventually leads to questioning of my intelligence, the darkness I must have to attract such people. The ways in which I am broken that I could be a part of such evil – even as a bystander. My grief, anger and pain I sit with everyday. Its the rest of the world and their judgements, their dismissal and lack of awareness that is so fucking impossible to be with.

By year 2 I had stopped calling people. Asking for people to sit with me (Lorien never had to be asked, but then I moved away) or be supportive. Some friends would take it upon themselves to be around in any way they could. Something I am very grateful for and applaud for dealing with my despair. It was a strange feeling to be the one who explained to the new people in my life (Shaun, classmates, etc) what the days leading up to the 4th meant to me. It was even more surreal when even after I explained that there is only ‘dark and twisty’ on that day that I found myself accepting them in my experience of it. – I will write up another post going into more detail for those interested.

I wish there was a positive spin I could put on things from the kids and Dad. But I am not really privy to their experience with this anymore. I texted the ones who have cell phones, reaching out in between the madness of driving through snow, DC traffic and flying to Alaska. To the younger kids it is probably more of ‘another day’ in the time span of not fun days that makeup this time of year. I can’t really say how they are doing other than just getting by. I like to think I have moved from the space of surviving to living, but some days I am not as convinced. Or maybe it is more of perspective, that in my own way I do live; in the moments possible, and when not, I survive.

I do know that the various places the boys and younger kids are, Mom still smiles. I watch my brothers as they mature, and even with their anger and pain and their struggles, at their core they are amazing young men. Every single one of my 8 siblings is unique, with their own talents. I hope for each one that one day they live, fully and lovingly, their own lives.

I see my Mother in every red sunrise and sunset. I spy a cardinal on a branch and think of her. A waterfall. The Mountains. Roadtrips. All these things she loved. All these things she inspired us children to love. Thinking back to one of the many gifts she bestowed upon her loved ones, I don’t think love was the biggest one. Or even hope. But maybe was inspiration. I have countless (literally, I forget the them often) stories of the people out there who were inspired to do and be more in life from knowing Mom.

Even in death my Mother somehow inspires people to live more fully. To laugh more often. To love more fully. To nurture and care for the lost children. Below: Early 90’s in Alaska, with (I believe) a baby Jeremy. She didn’t let things like having 3 young children, 9 dogs and winter keep her tied down. She had fun anywhere she was.

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

In one breath I can go back to my last day with Mom. The brightest most beautiful light. The hope. The love. The laughter. 5 years ago in the space of a moment. And in the same space, the 5 years is also an eternity of hell. Of pain. Of a deep black hole of grief that never goes away. A breath of love and an eternity of hell in just one moment. I walk in both worlds, as they are both true. It almost feels as though it should be strange, that just a breath of love can inspire someone to live through hell for eternity. But then that is the type of love my Mother inspired. Not strange at all. Beautiful.

~ J