Strange Reality

October 18, 2022

Dear Brian,

Mary Francis O’Connor refers to grief as “an amputation of a part of ourselves,” and I would agree. I lost so much when I lost you — a part of who I am being a big part of that. And, while I will never regain the part that went with you when you died, I think, perhaps, that I am beginning to heal. My heart is starting to mend; the fog in my brain is beginning to lift a bit; and the quietness, often interrupted by the clanking din of loneliness, is slowly starting to feel more like an old friend than a threatening enemy. Pleasantly, much to my surprise, there are days when, for a moment, I almost feel “normal” – whatever that means now. Is it, I ask myself, a small, yet brief glimpse of feeling “Ok,” of being able to function in a manner that I am more accustomed to? I don’t know. Maybe I never will. Maybe that isn’t even important. What I do know is that when it happens, it feels like a breath of cool air on a blistering summer’s day. It’s the fresh smell of rain after a storm, or the warm sun on my face in the dead of winter. It’s fragments of moments that, when knit together, feel like hope. Hope that one day I can rejoin the world and feel at home. Hope that the sharp pain in my heart will reduce itself to a dull ache and leave room for more hope to move in. All of it carefully blending into a slow growing reassurance that even though you are physically gone from my life, you will always be with me – still cheering me on; still holding my hand; still helping me make it through each day.

One of my favorite writers about grief has come to be John Pavlovitz. In an essay entitled, “The Mourning After,” he talks about the stark realization that “. . . Grief doesn’t just visit you for a horrible, yet temporary holiday. It puts down roots – and it never leaves. Grief brings humility as a housewarming gift and doesn’t care whether you want it or not.” I think that does a great job of describing where I am right now: I know where I’ve been, and I know how I got here, but I don’t have much of an idea of where I am going, how I will get there, or even how I will know when I have arrived. Perhaps I am not supposed to know. Perhaps that is one of the functions of grief – it forces us to accept that unwanted housewarming gift of humility and learn how to live with it.

So, I am working to take the advice given by experts, like Mary Francis O’Connor, who study grief and the way it affects the mind. I am trying to live in the present moment, not in the past. I can’t live in the unreal world of where what if is true –where you are still alive and here with me. Because, if I do this, then I am missing out on what is really happening now. I must accept and push through the painful parts of now – the “you have died, and I am alone” parts – and live in the Now, or I will never be able to enjoy the things in Now that are wonderful. Accomplishing this means letting go of trying to be in control. And, as you know all too well, that is not easy for me to do. I have to heed the words from one of my meditations: “If you want real control, drop the illusion of control: let life live you. It does anyway.”

And this I know: I am the one responsible for knitting back together the frayed edges of my life; for mending the holes death has left in the fabric of my being. I am the keeper of my hopes, the artist who paints on the canvas of my life. I am. I can. I will. I am a survivor of the storm.

Much love,


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


        Hidden deep inside me

            is something most people can’t see.

        It’s a part that I’ve always kept hidden and private.

            A part known only by me.

     It comes from a place in my being,

        from the spot that makes me feel whole.

   It sings the songs of my spirit,

       plays the music of my soul.

I know that it’s always been there,

    deep  inside,  locked  safely  away,

secure from the eyes of others

   for fear of what they might say.

So, if the Me that you see now seems different,

   you’re right – life’s carved out a new path.

And those hidden parts kept me going –

  helped me live, helped me smile, helped me laugh.

You know what? I’m Ok being different.

  Meeting Death changed my life in a flash.

And the Me that crawled out of that wreckage

   is the Me that survived the crash.

@Julieanne Gentz, September. 2021

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