Riding the waves

Ashokan Reservoir July 2017 | In Jennie's Kitchen

Someone recently posed the question: do you ever feel like you’re living on a different planet from everyone else? All. The. Time. It occurred to me that’s what grief feels like—a solo existence, apart from the rest of the world. While the saying goes “no man is an island”, grief leaves you feeling stranded on one. Deciding to rebuild, starting from scratch within, is one of the biggest challenges.

I went to see Beatriz at Dinner the other night (a little spoiler, so sorry if you haven’t seen it yet). The movie was nothing I expected it to be. Even the trailer doesn’t allude to the fact that this is really a tome on loss. I wonder if the filmmakers even realize the impact that final scene will have on anyone who’s waded the depths of such deep loss. 

As Beatriz wandered into the ocean to end her pain and suffering, tears flowed freely down my face. I left the theater with salty, sticky cheeks, feeling blindsided. A movie selling itself as part comedy had touched on something I’ve felt at least a few times over these past almost six years. There are days I’ve just wanted it to stop— the pain, the hurt that reaches so deep down into my being, a cancer within, except there are no skilled surgeons to remove the mass. It lives within you every single day.

I looked around as the movie ended and people scattered from their seats. No one else seemed to be impacted in quite this way. Did I misinterpret something, or is it because the grief was hiding in plainclothes in front of them that they didn’t even notice it, or perhaps just wrote it off as Beatriz having suddenly snapped?

It was at that moment I realized I’ve conquered so much by just still being here. Regardless of how many mistakes I think I’ve made with two failed relationships and four moves in six years, I wake every day and continue to put one foot in front of the other. That has not been an easy feat, and every day that passes feels harder in a way, not easier, than some people will tell you.

Someone else who suffered a loss recently said, “I just want to hide most of the time. It’s not even agonizing pain and sadness. It’s just emptiness. Total emptiness. Does it pass? Will I feel again?” I told her it’s a series of waves, and never goes away. Sometimes the grief feels a little less loud, like a whisper that’s always there, but not so disruptive you can’t go about your everyday.

My emotions have been in a rigorous tug of war game the last few weeks. There have been moments of pure peace and happiness, only to find myself suddenly sitting in my car in a pool of tears, wondering WTF to myself? How? Why now?

The answer is there’s no answer. Some things just are, and that is how grief goes. Each day I wake up, surfboard in hand, hoping I’ve got enough energy left to keep riding the waves.

Podcast pairing: Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Music Pairing: Photograph by Ringo Starr

16 Comments

  • Lissa Mattson

    I’m much older than you, 68. I lost my husband, partner of 43 years to Alzheimer’s a year ago. I understand your pain and share it every day. Thank you for sharing.

  • angelitacarmelita

    Amen sister. Ride the wave(s), in whatever direction or height they may come. Enjoy the quiet lulls between them when you can and try to stay out of the undertow when it’s rough and most of all, be well and good to yourself always.

  • Kathy Budd

    “When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time — the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes — when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever — there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.”

    –John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

  • Lisa Zanardi

    All I can say is have FAITH….. Take day by day, the good and the bad… Don’t let the grief define you – Be thankful for your beautiful daughters and let the love you had for each other live in your heart forever. Imagine we will all be together again in some way…. Keep the Faith…

  • Jennie

    Day by day, exactly what I’ve been doing, Lisa. I do want to share that I can be thankful for my daughters while *also* being deeply sad (still) for the sudden loss of their father, my best friend & husband. I can move forward, while still feeling the weight of his loss. This is what I don’t think our culture truly gets about grief. We are told to “move on”, “it gets easier”—but we’re never told it’s okay to feel the way we really do. That was really my point here. We need to be allowed to feel—that’s riding the waves. I’m sorry if my words feel a little defensive, and am sure your words came from a kind place. I thank you for sharing them here, but want to make sure anyone who comes here feeling bereft understands it’s okay to feel all the feelings. -Jennie

  • Lindy

    SO TRUE! My GOD you wrote exactly how I feel! I have days I don’t want to get out of bed. I run from people. I have three adult children still at home. The youngest in college, the other two will be with me the rest of my life. One with mental issues, the other autistic. My fourth child is married and living her life. My husband and I would talk late at night, comfort one another, try to come up with plans for them. I don’t have that anymore. Yes, going into the abysess is a way to end the loss, the pain, the broken heart. I found a note my husband left me, don’t give up on them and so… One foot in front of the other, its all you can do. So many “friends” tell you this and that, until they live it, they have NO IDEA! Thank you

  • John Turner

    You are an inspiration to so many people. I stumbled across you for a recipe and your strength has made a difference in my life. Thank you so much.

  • Kim G.

    My sister died nine months before my mom four years ago. I had so many people tell me I would never know honest, real happiness again. Sorry, I have to call bs on that. We can know real happiness. The first thing to recognize is that its a choice. A choice we have to work hard at. I miss both my sister and my mom like crazy. and now my dad too. But it would so rob their memory to not enjoy this life and live it to its fullest. They didn’t get to continue on. My sister was jipped at 56. Yes, I believe in heaven and know she is there waiting for me. That doesn’t make it easier. I have peace for her. But I miss her. However, I’ve made the choice to LIVE. To ENJOY. To build my life and relationships (even though they often fail). I, too, ride waves of grief. I think the hardest thing is that people who haven’t suffered the lost of someone extremely close to them think there is a time limit on grief … its time to move on. There is no time limit. Just the decision to try our hardest and make our time count. To find peace. To live. God bless you Jenni. I hope you know what an inspiration you are. I love the stories of your kiddos and your (mis)adventures and the fun and travels you have. I cried through every post with you that first year or so. Your openness helped me heal later. I wish you happiness and peace and love.

  • Jessica Hampton

    Thank you so much for this post. I lost my only child to cancer 8 months ago. And as you said, some days I can only be proud of myself for still being here. And then some days I have a good laugh, remember how much we loved each other and I know I can do it. It’s a process for sure, wishing you the best with your own journey.

  • Tracey A

    I am sorry, Jennie, that things seem to be in an upheaval. I know that we all have our times of true unrest, even if the years have marched on before us. Losing your best friend and your children’s father will be something you will never forget, as it was so tragic and sudden. I remember your posts of true heartbreak and my tears of sadness for you. I still have times of sadness…..losing your spouse is something only a widow or widower would understand. We all try to give comfort and the respond to your posts in the only way we know how, but the true emotion we feel can not be betrayed through words. I know that our hugs are being sent to you now………………………………wishing you rainbows, hugs and sweet memories.

  • Jennie

    So nice to hear from you, Tracey. I was thinking about you just the other day. It’s all just the cycles of life, and loss, that much I know by now. xo-Jennie

  • Saundra

    thank you ..sometimes i wonder if this is not the final punishment for Eves act in paradise…to leave us alone without our soul mate.We are a whirl of widows.. some strong, some weak ,but mostly those that weathered the storm and are left behind with the detritus.

  • CA Crowe

    It’s hard, Jennie. I have used that analogy before also– it feels as if a big wave just knocks you down out of nowhere. Treasure your girls and your memories. My mother was widowed at 24 and it was so hard at times to see her sadness. Fortunately, she did find the will to date and remarry. Wishing you all the best.

  • lisa

    Did I imply it wasn’t ok for you to be still sad and to not grieve? That wasn’t my intention at all. I lost my mother 5 years ago from a surgery that was supposed to be 30 minutes…. The doctor came out and told me that her pulmonary artery was cut and she wasn’t going to make it…. I passed out completely … My parents were married over 50 years and my Dad was diagnosed with lewy body dementia shortly after and my sister and I cared for him for 5 years dealing with his hallucinations we actually rode a tidal wave. We lost him recently too and anyone that knew him knows what a loss that was. The roles became reversed and we were his parents, dealing with a parent with dementia is heart wrenching.
    I only meant to have Faith, because that is all we have. The only thing that gets me through my day is my daughter… I feel like I live on a different planet from everyone else, but in the long run we are all walking this earth each of us carrying a cross. I would never tell anyone to move on, just have Faith. Sorry if my words didn’t console you – I hope you have more better days than bad – and if you don’t that’s ok …..

  • Jennie

    “I hope you have more better days than bad – and if you don’t that’s ok …..” that is exactly what I wanted to make sure everyone dealing with a deep pain and loss understands. There are so many messages in our culture about how to move on from grief, when really the messaging needs to address how to *live* with grief because it never really goes away. Faith is obviously different for everyone, and all we can do is exercise kindness and understanding to everyone who crosses our path. We’re on the same page here, really. Many hugs to you.

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