Wednesday, January 19, 2011

soup and cards and warm hearts and cookies

There has been an outpouring of love and sympathy from readers and friends and family since Stuart died January 3. Bryan and I are very grateful to have such wonderful support. To those who have shared their hearts, thank you.

Here's what I have learned from this event, about myself and about grief and about Stuart and family—

1. It's better to express what's in your heart than to suppress it for fear that it will sound trite or wrong or inappropriate. If it's heartfelt, it will be the perfect thing to say.

2. It's better to share grief than to grieve alone. Grief is a burden that really does lighten when you know others are aching with you. We're all in this loss together.

3. Silence divides. Ever thought it would be better not to say anything? Maybe you thought it would be too awkward? Bad timing? I know I have. Now I know it's definitely better to speak up. Somehow a room full of broken hearts mends all. Not sure why it works but it does.

4. Stuart was a bit of a star in his hood. The restaurant owners and shopkeepers in his Brooklyn neighborhood were shocked and saddened by the news as much as anyone else was.

5. Stuart's book collection was more sophisticated than mine. He had Emily Dickinson. I have, you know, Stephenie Meyer.

6. If I don't move my body, my mind will start to smoke and curl like a newspaper on fire.

7. Grief has weight and heft and you may as well honor its brawn, and have faith it will release you. In the beginning it holds you down and presses you into the bed, the sofa. It forces you to stay in your pajamas.

8. Sleep is a welcome drug but waking up equals withdrawal. Because when you awake, the fact remains. The dead stay dead.

9. Grief and depression are the same, only they come at you from different directions. One has some perspective and other has little. Grief can lead to a depressive episode if you're prone to it already. Your body and mind register the signals and slowly the neurons fire and before you know it, the anxiety and all-encompassing despair sets in and you realize that it has nothing to do with the original loss. You wake up one morning and suddenly breakfast seems insurmountable. Grief and depression become one—the dimness, the negativity, the dark.

10. You have to take care of yourself in order not to get sucked into that black and overpowering thing. You have to eat right (don't get me started), sleep, talk to good friends. Exercise. Take a shower. Put on something that makes you feel pretty (especially Bryan). Take some vitamin D. Maybe Omega 3. Magnesium. Laugh.

11. Distraction helps. Netflix has something distracting for everyone.

12. Dealing head on helps too. Looking at pictures. Talking about it. Writing poems. Processing the loss through whatever creative outlet moves you. Crying cleanses.

13. My family is there for me in times of crisis and I am there for them too. Who knew? We can be very grown up.

14. My children are capable of sitting still during long church services if they have the right drawing materials.

15. You can eat too much chocolate.

16. Good friends are true treasures.

17. You can grieve and laugh at stupid jokes in the same minute.

18. Even Stuart's parents laugh and talk about other things sometimes.

19. Even as I feel his loss and feel so much for his parents and sister, there is much to be gained from the experience. It's nothing you hope for or want, but it's there all the same.

20. Death and growth don't do manners. They come and go as they please. You think they give a shit what we think?

21. I see Stuart's mom and dad and sister as the nucleus of a storm, the pebble that got tossed in the pond. We're the ripples. Our hearts still ache for them and always will, but these durable blood-pumpers seem to be getting a little lighter every day. The ripples all disperse eventually. The pebble settles on the soft sandy floor.

22. Life is hard. It's not supposed to be breezy. Unless it is.



dicky said...

Thanks, Elise, I needed this, especially today. Love ya, Ca

Elise Abrams Miller said...

I love you too!
<3 eh

bryan said...

One other thing I learned through this experience: the right words can contain incredible power.

Thanks for sharing your words.

Elise Abrams Miller said...

honey. thank you.

Kristi said...

Love you and what an amazing and gifted writer and expresser of thoughts you are.

Main Line Yoga said...

just read your last three entries and cried into my mulligatawny. lovely. im sorry for your loss, and i hold you in my heart.

Amelia Plum said...

thank you for sharing your list and your heart and thoughts with us. i saw what your trying to get through in your reading. it's funny i bought that book about a month ago, but have yet to read it. i love you. i'll treat you to sushi at umi if i can convince you to visit pittsburgh again sometime when it's warmer. xox

Elise Abrams Miller said...

thank you guys. Kristi, your comments always brighten my outlook AND my inlook and keep me writing. MLY, My heart is warm. so good to hear from you. and you manage to be funny and tender at the same time. AP, Noonday Demon is a bitch. but so far worth it. not something you yearn to pick up first thing in the morning. or before bed. or on the can. it will take a long time to get through. and I will take you up on that umi offer! xo all.