There’s a part of me that is tired of grief. Tired of feeling it, tired of reading and writing about it, tired of talking about it. It’s like there’s an internal dialogue going on: one half of me saying, “Enough already. Move on!” The other half saying, “How DARE you?!”
The truth is, on a day-to-day basis, I’m somewhere in the middle.
Of course, grief is still part of my life. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of Kaz; I have friends and family who are actively grieving, and I’m still editing essays about loss at Modern Loss. But my own grief isn’t as present as it used to be. The pain has gone deeper, like roots that other memories and experiences have grown on top of. Sometimes I feel guilty about this, but more often, I don’t (or try not to). I know this is what Kaz would want for me.
A year ago, when I stopped in Pittsburgh on my cross-country road trip, a friend gave me an eye reading (like an analysis via the eyes). We sat across from each other, and she looked intently into my eyes and face. Then she told me that she saw a man in my eyes and determined that this man was Kaz.
“It looks like he’s really present in you,” she told me, “more than just in your mind. His spirit is really in there. He’s really with you. He looks like he misses you and he’s thinking about you. He’s actually watching you. There is some spirit connection between he and you. I think we could have a conversation with him. Do you want to ask him something?”
“Is he angry or disappointed with me about anything?” I asked.
“Absolutely not. Never.”
“How is he doing?” I asked.
“It looks like he’s still in the place he was when he left. He really misses you. He still needs you. I see that you also miss him and that you also are missing the connection. You’re both still in that place together of missing each other, and the connection you’re having now isn’t satisfying enough for either one of you.”
“What can I do to feel more connected to Kaz?”
She asked me to turn my head to the left and right, then forward again. “He wants you to try to get your sense of humor connection back, and not think of him only in the way that he was the last time you saw him, which is really stuck here in your face. It really does matter how you view him because you can’t see him. You have to choose how you view him. It looks like what he’s saying is ‘remember me before then, let’s remember the connection we had when we had fun and when we were joking.’ Then you’ll feel more connected in a way that’s more beneficial to both of you.
“So, make more jokes and make them out loud,” she continued. “Talk to him. I’m seeing that he can actually hear you. He’s extremely present and alive in your face, more than I’ve seen with a lot of people. You were that person whom he completely relied on, and that’s a beautiful thing, but he doesn’t want that to be the only memory. He doesn’t want people to pity him, or feel sorry him, and see him as just a sick person with a brain tumor. He wants to be viewed as a vibrant man that he was. Be true to him. In the scope of his life, the short time that he was ill doesn’t represent who he was.”
The reading blew me away. Whatever my feelings are about the supernatural, the way my friend described Kaz was spot on. He definitely would not want me (or others) to only think of him the way he was in the end, or always be sad when we thought of him, or for his memory to only inspire tears and not laughter. But it still took me a long time to embrace. It was difficult to get certain images out of my head (even three years later). I actually couldn’t force them out… all I could do was live my life and try to remember other, more pleasant images and memories.
Ironically, the past few months have been so busy, I ended up taking an inadvertent break from writing my memoir and blogging – and I just lived. I started a part-time job, I met people and made new friends, I went to parties and dinners, I even joined a regular weekly trivia team. I also hustled for work, finished a huge freelance project, and wrote dozens of smaller pieces for work. So, my mind has been preoccupied with other things.
Whether directly related or not, when I think of Kaz these days, I don’t always feel that familiar acute pain. I miss him and wish he were here, but I can also think of him and laugh. When he was alive, he had an aversion to sad movies and sad stories. Now I share that desire to some extent (I still love a good cry). I want to embrace life and get the most out of it as possible.
I expect that my bog posts will shift with the times. What’s important to me is not only giving voice to the grieving process, but also showing how it’s possible to move forward and live a full and happy life after loss, and that this isn’t something we should feel guilty about. It’s simply grief’s trajectory.
August 31, 2015 at 12:25 pm
Thanks for honesty, Niva. I think it’s reassuring to everyone, especially those who grieve, to know we don’t get stuck. There is a pull toward life and new possibility. Sounds like you’re surrounded by that.
My new writing project builds on what came before (how could it not?), but it’s broader and less focused on losing Vic. So far, it’s not about him and marriage at all. I look forward to the creative burst that comes when I wake up in the middle of the night with the missing idea or have to carry a notebook on every walk.
After seven years, I had a surprise return of more intense grief the last month. That’s OK with me. I won’t get stuck there. It’s forcing me to look at places where I need to exert a little more attention and will in life.
September 1, 2015 at 6:09 am
Thanks, Elaine. Your new writing project sounds wonderful. All the best as you continue forward. And yes to not getting stuck.
August 31, 2015 at 1:09 pm
Love this, Niva! I can’t even begin to know what you went through/are going through but I recently found out my ex-husband, who I was married to for 10 years, died back in February. We were divorced for 10 years so it had been awhile since we last spoke. My grief was such a strange process. I was numb for 2 days (“I’m fine,” I told everyone) then felt sadder and sadder over the next few days. I cried, felt guilty for crying and cried some more. After a day of allowing myself to feel the grief and mourn all the loss I woke up the next day feeling better. It’s that 4 letter word I sometimes hate that helps….Time.
September 1, 2015 at 6:13 am
I’m so sorry to hear about your ex-husband. Grief IS a strange and very sneaky process. I think it’s great that you allowed yourself to grieve and mourn… it’s important. Have you thought about writing something about your feelings? Sounds like a possible essay… let me know if you go that route. Hugs to you.
September 1, 2015 at 7:46 am
I did write something and submitted it to Huffington Post. First time I’ve ever done that and not sure about the process. I was wondering if I should post on my blog, send to some other outlets, etc. Thanks!
September 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm
Good. Hope HuffPo takes it. If for some reason they don’t, I’d love for you to submit to Modern Loss. My email address is on my website under contact nivadorellsmith.com
There is also Manifest-Station, but I’m biased towards ML 🙂
September 1, 2015 at 12:56 pm
I reached out to Modern Loss via their site. Only enough space to give my idea. Would you mind if I emailed you, would love your feedback.
September 2, 2015 at 5:25 am
Please do email me! email@example.com
September 2, 2015 at 5:56 am
just emailed you. Thank you, Niva!
August 31, 2015 at 1:42 pm
last couple weeks been cat/house sitting for a friend… so with the house, I have as well acquired a good friend of hers who is a widow too…so have been kevetching. She is working on her thesis for her MSW…shes 28….its been 18 months for her…almost 3 yrs for me…and we’ve been talking a lot about transitioning through grief,dating, and how we move forward. Her husband died at home from a brain tumour…she was his caregiver.
And yeah…grief talking…writing… living….blah. People talk of stages of grief, but, I think it’s more like a meandering path one transverses… changing direction here, picking up stuff, dropping other stuff off that is just getting in your way. 🙂
September 1, 2015 at 6:14 am
Breaks my hear to hear of more young people dying that dreadful disease! Sending best wishes to this young lady, and to you. I love how you described grief… it sounds like lint! 🙂
September 6, 2015 at 6:03 am
it is a bit like lint….just when you thought you’ve seen the last of it…nice sunny day, and there it is…floating around the room. her story is much like your own…they had talked of getting married, and when he was diagnosed they decided to go ahead regardless…true love 🙂
August 31, 2015 at 2:27 pm
Good day for me to read this – it’s the 3rd anniversary of Rick’s death, and I feel much as you’ve described here. It’s a few steps in one direction, then another. Sometimes I think the path is leading away, but find out that I’ve returned to a place where I’ve been before – but I’m not the same person. Keep strong and keep speaking clearly. I really enjoy your posts.
September 1, 2015 at 6:15 am
Thanks Paula. Big hug.
August 31, 2015 at 3:40 pm
It’s been almost four months since my Mom has been gone. You know what I miss the most? My routine with her. I drive by her memory care unit 1x a week because my nursing route takes me right by there. So ironic.
I also feel much of what you have written here. Take care,
September 1, 2015 at 6:16 am
Thanks Jodi. Missing the routine is really tough. I relate. You take care as well…