Grief… 10 Things that have helped.

I read from a group on facebook called “Grieving Mothers.” Every day there is a heart wrenching story of loss, or a mother at the end of all hope declaring that she can’t go on and can’t do this anymore. But the truth is that quitting isn’t an option. You will do this, somehow in someway… that remains the only choices you now have left. Even if you decide to curl up in a ball on the floor and waste away… that is how you are doing “this.”
Sometimes I read these accounts and I feel the depths of their pain and I think about how much better off I am and how I would never want to go through that… before realizing that I know exactly the depths of their pain and I am going through that. 

This morning at dawn I had coffee with my cat on the laptop keyboard as the sun rose here in the mountains. I checked my blood sugar (high) and my blood pressure (borderline)… and then I played an episode of the Daily Show while I walked? rode? the elliptical (ellipitacalled?) for a half hour. The episode that came up was a repeat, but I didn’t want to stop ellipticalling to change the episode, so I rewatched the bits and my mind wandered back to the process of grief… to what I would write here… and what has helped. 

1. People.

Presence. Encouragement. Strength. I depend on those around me and I and grateful for it. 
The support and prayers of a few hundred people is absolutely necessary. My family… my wife, my son, Justin… how any of us got through the first few hours- I could not have done it without those two… The people that came by right away. The Twitchells and Wisdoms. Marquita’s bosses… my Lifequest family. Then the first few days and weeks…  my mother, my brother Sesshu, my sister Hannah, and her husband David. Some people I know only online Cameron and Faith who hiked with us through Yosemite and up half dome.The entire teaching staff of my school showed up… And all the people that came Ethan’s Fresno friends, bandmates, and fraternity family….

2. Books.

Kristi Morimosato gave us a book called Tear Soup. Pete Tasaka gave me small book on grief that was very good. Ethan had borrowed a book from Johnny Womack- Neil Peart’s Ghostrider… which is an amazing journey well worth the time. I am currently with Neill down in Belize. Those books were helpful. For Christmas, Marquita and Justin got me Cracked’s The De-Textbook… That was fun. There are other books that I read, that I can’t remember reading. I don’t know if they were helpful… I just wasn’t in a state receptive to literature when I sped through them… but I think reading helps. 

3. Talking.

Whether in person or on facebook… it helps to talk and talk and talk… and to listen. Sometimes it helps to talk about grief or reminisce about Ethan. Sometimes it is good just to hear about something else. Work stuff. Job searches. Money problems. Praying with people… about problems outside myself… looking at random stuff and confronting all those daily bits of life… And issues. You get into a rhythm- even in communication and tossing out ideas or having others listen or look at ideas or give ideas… finding points of commonality and understanding and connecting… I think is essential to the human soul. Connecting with Marquita. Connecting with Justin. Connecting with human after human… I would rank as very very helpful. 


4. Writing. 

I talk to myself all the time. Sometime I pray and end up talking to myself. Writing those thoughts down…arguing in writing, looking for just the right word, sometimes the process of writing is the process of self exploration- coming into contact with that part of the inner dialogue that you can process into reasonable language and the publish online for general consumption. Prose is sometimes difficult and rarely flows… and poetry is even more difficult- where sometimes it feels that if you don’t find the right word with the right sound as well as denotation and connotation, you destroy not only the rhythm of the line, but its meaning as well.  In some ways it is an excercise… to keep the brain working out….


5. Praying. 

Praying silently as I take a walk. Talking to God… listening for His quiet voice among the trees… Or screaming at God in my car… or reading a verse and then closing my eyes. Praying with purpose… and doing a bit more than just asking for stuff. Praying in a group. Praying out loud. Connection with the eternal creator… it can be a challenge, but it can also be healing and sustain. 


6. Painting. 

I never really painted before, but I love it. And I think there are a thousand more painting to do, if I had the time. It is messy and takes some level of concentration… and I am at that point on the learning curve where I can think about how these images I am creating are communicating something that I simply couldn’t put into words. 


7. Music.

Some songs bring me to tears. Hearing the Fresno band at a football game… or at Disney Hall… or his frat brothers sing their hymn or his friends sing the Alma Mater. I can’t listen to Streetlight Manifesto or a dozen other specific songs without thinking about Ethan. Some songs make me smile. Some songs beg you to sing with them. I am grateful for music… even if it is just a random song on the radio, or the list I listen to when I work out…There is almost always music playing. 


8. Travel.
Road trips and driving… or flying out for a team building event. A trip to Chico or Vegas or Fresno… Movement feels like progress. And that seems like healing to me. 


9. Excercise.

If I don’t do something everyday I feel depressed. I think of it as boring most of the time, but It really is necessary considering that I love food and I have to burn off the extra calories. I do enjoy playing softball and there was something very special in Justin’s first season with the Sleepers. I do enjoy Karate and hanging out with my fellow Karate-ka. 


10. Food. 

I love food. Chocolate. Beef. Lots of baked, fried, toasted, roasted bits of deliciousness and junk. One way people loved us in those first few days was with food. Some comfort food. Some just necessary food. But between baked goods, bags of frozen soup, and bacon cheeseburgers, we survived. (And I gained 20 pounds… see #9.)


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