Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Zuangzi's wife, and blogging.

I just found an email Greg sent me last October. The email was just a link to a blog post about his favorite Chinese Philosopher, Zhuangzi (spelled Chuang Tzu in the blog post). I'm sure I skimmed the story at the time, but Greg was always sending me emails with links and articles, and I didn't always absorb everything he sent.

Anyway, read the story in the link, but here's the gist: Zhuangzi's wife had died, and everyone was in mourning. Zhuangzi's friend Huizi went to visit to offer his condolences.
Huizi arrived at Chuang Tzu's home. There he saw his old friend, sitting outside, banging on a drum and singing as loudly as possible. 
“I expected to find you in mourning”, said Huizi. “You loved her for decades. She raised your children, and you grew old together; but here you are, a smile on your face, banging on a drum and singing at the top of your lungs. Don't you think this is a bit much?” 
“Not at all”, said Chuang Tzu, still smiling. “I mourned for a short while, but then I realized mourning would defy my own teachings.” 
“People will think you never loved or cared for her” said Huizi, “You must grieve. People need to know how much she meant to you, how fortunate you were to have shared a life with her." 
“Yes, I was lucky” said Chaung Tzu. “I spent most of my life with someone I loved, and she loved me in return. Many men will live their entire lives and never know the joy that I had.” 
Chuang Tzu continued, “That is why I do not mourn.”

Another message from Greg from the great beyond. I'm just so in awe with how thoughtful he was, how much foresight he had, knowing that I would find comfort in his emails after he died.

Of course, I do mourn, but I also celebrate life, and I love that he's giving me permission to move on.


In other news, I've been reading some of my old blog posts. Gosh, I used to be a good blogger! Here's a post about the negativity of mainstream publishing. Here's a post about fearless and cautious kids (and oh my gosh, those kids are 9 now!). Here's a post about judging a book by the beginning (from the Blue Rose Girls blog). And, here's a post encouraging everyone to do something they've never done before. (I'm sad that I can't remember who the friend was who told me that...if it was you, let me know! I may have to do that this year.)

One of my New Year's resolutions was to write in a blog and/or journal more. We'll see if I keep it up!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

How I Mourn, How I Cope

Greg always marveled at what an amazing project manager I am--mainly because of how well I was able to manage the logistics of his illness, all while working a demanding job. Being an editor is basically being a project manager, so I've had a lot of practice! I've realized recently that I've been, in a way, project managing my own mourning. In case this might be helpful to some, here are some of the things that have helped me cope:

-Breathing. Deep breaths.

-Focusing on each and every moment. Instead of going through the motions, I try to focus on each motion, no matter how mundane.

-Keeping busy, especially on the weekends. Friends have been good about reaching out to plan outings, and I've basically been saying yes to everything, but I also don't hesitate to do my own reaching out. When I want/need to schedule my weekends, I do. And it's been great to reconnect with friends I haven't seen for a while.

-Keeping busy, but not TOO busy: leaving myself some time to be alone, to grieve, to cry. And know that it's okay to feel sad. I don't want to avoid my grief. Also, a friend told me her therapist said that intense emotions generally last for 90 seconds and then subside. I haven't actually tested this theory, but it's a good reminder that "This too shall pass."

-Going to a Meet-Up group for widows and widowers under 45. I didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be really great to connect with others who are going through the same thing.

-Reading. A few friends sent me books on loss (Healing After Loss and How to Survive the Loss of a Love--thank you Caroline and Christine!) and most nights I read a little before bed. 

-Reading blogs and listening to podcasts: I've also been reading some blogs written by widows or widowers. This one in particular. I've also been listening to the "What's Your Grief" podcast, by the women who run the website. Their post about secondary loss was particularly enlightening.

-Writing and journaling. I've always kept a journal, and I've been writing in it a little more often. Blogging a little more, too!

-Exercising. I've decided to run the NYC Marathon again this year, and going for runs in the cold winter air has been wonderful. Lots of walking, too, and I'm taking a Pilates class at work.

-Cleaning and organizing, rearranging the furniture in the apartment, getting new furniture. I've kept photos and other wall-hangings the same, but have rearranged the layout of the living room and bedroom (thank you to Rose, Jason, and Kirk!), which for me helps the apartment feel different and my own, while maintaining the familiarity. I've decluttered quite a bit. I also bought this Lumio lamp I'd been coveting ever since I saw it on Shark Tank years ago. It's a book that opens up into a lamp! It makes me happy.

-Getting massages. In general, taking care of myself.

-Brunch! Dinner! Wine! (see "taking care of myself" above.)

-Focusing on work. It was hard at first, of course--working all day in an office is exhausting! I don't know how anyone does it. But, by the end of my second week, I felt like I was really back. It was familiar, and good to focus.

-Doing small rituals. Another organization I'm in the process of joining (recommended by Gwen) called The Dinner Party sent me this article, and I realized that much of what I've done fits into this. Going through Greg's belongings. Listening to the music he loved. I found a woman who makes beautiful "bereavement quilts" out of ties, and I sent her Greg's many ties to make a wall hanging. I saw this "I have done love" bracelet on Cheryl Strayed's Instagram, and ordered one for myself. I wear it every day. It's from the quote: 
When I get to the end of my life, and I ask one final "What have I done?" Let my answer be: "I have done love." -Jennifer Pastiloff

Okay, that's all I can think of for now. 

It's starting to get light a little earlier--I can feel Spring coming! If you have other advice/techniques for coping and healing that you'd like to share, please do.