The feel, the taste, the sensation of grief.

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There is only one way to describe it….. one of those days.

The sensation of weight, of carrying an invisible burden, the sensation of fatigue and of feeling somewhat sad, an occasional burst of what felt like a rising tide of emotion but  overall difficult to describe,  a sense of unease and not being able to put a finger on it… nothing but the option of going with it.

In part of an online retreat I watched recently,  by Teah Strozer a Zen buddhist teacher, she perfectly described the problem with grief…

“Grief is a kind of pain when someone dies …. a person you love. When you lose somebody like that there’s a kind of a grieving that is not mental; no words are going on. The body just wells up in grief. It’s painful but it’s also very cleansing, very present, very human, comes with life”

It is not mental, there are no words going on….the body just wells up in grief!

I have talked about in how to sit with sadness. Simply watching my mind, and it is always useful to follow your own advice!. It was during this sitting and watching today that an  instant recognition…. an AHA! moment  occurred.. and I found the analogy for the pain of grief, or at least an analogy for how I experience it.

The similarity of a sensation that none of us want was instantly recognisable..  this may not be the most pleasant visual picture (, but please stick this out.. it will make sense)….reflect back to the last time you vomited…. .. Can you instantly recall and recognise that rising, swelling feeling.. the sudden rush of metallic taste in your mouth and the rapid flush of heat or shivering throughout your body… No matter what you do you cannot control the overwhelming sensation that blooms throughout your senses in the moments before you have no choice but to let go…

Sure you can feel sick before vomiting, but that moment always takes you by surprise..

It describes my sensation of grief when it catches me unaware… even on “one of those days” where you only describe it as feeling off.. the sensation of grief hits. It does have the physical sensations accompanying it… it has it own taste, a feel of welling up and overtaking you no matter how you try to control it, and it reaches a point where you just have to let go and let the tears flow. Where you can no longer grasp and grasp, but must simply let go. It is not an elegant way of describing this feeling, but it really is like an emotional vomit……

As crazy as it seems Teah’s words about it being painful but also cleansing and present feel so true. It is a relief to acknowledge and feel this sensation, to let go and recognise the pain for what it is … the body welling up with grief.

My recent posts have contained a poem… written by me… but not this post… One of the other things that Teah shared in that online retreat was a poem by Anita Barrows called Questo Muro..which Anita describes as being inspired by a section of Dante’s inferno, and it being a poem about finding the courage to persist… for me it was very much about leaning into the sensation.. as I suggested in how to sit with sadness…..

Questo Muro

You will come at a turning of the trail
to a wall of flame
After the hard climb & the exhausted dreaming
you will come to a place where he
with whom you have walked this far
will stop will stand
beside you on the treacherous steep path
& stare as you shiver at the moving wall, the flame
that blocks your vision of what comes after.
And that one
who you thought would accompany you always,
who held your face
tenderly a little while in his hands—
who pressed the palms of his hands into drenched grass
& washed from your cheeks, the tear-tracks—
he is telling you now
that all that stands between you
& everything you have known since the beginning
is this: this wall. Between yourself
& the beloved, between yourself & your joy,
the riverbank swaying with wildflowers, the shaft
of sunlight on the rock, the song.
Will you pass through it now, will you let it consume
whatever solidness this is
you call your life, & send
you out, a tremor of heat,
a radiance, a changed
flickering thing?

As I am posting this just days from Mother’s Day here in Australia, I want to acknowledge the pain and suffering of all the mothers who will be doing Mother’s day without one of their children with them. I will be thinking of you.

Happy bloody birthday!

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Just one of three hundred and sixty-five,
another day, just like any other
except this one marks the end of forty-five.

A day to celebrate my birth,
the fact that I’m breathing
and walking the earth.

To mark the passing of another year
but what it all really means,
to me, is never quite clear.

A day celebrated with cake,
with gifts, and well wishes
that friends and family make.

So today I’ll be another year older,
hopefully slightly wiser,
but definitely so much balder.

I’ll pass it with cake, and maybe a drink,
I’ll spend it with family,
and try not to think,

it’s another day further from birth,
a bit longer in the tooth,
and that much closer to death.

 

Copyright Mick Morris 2014

Truth behind the mask

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You see me with a smile and a joke, you see me making the most of tough circumstances, and you see me propping up others. In fact you often compliment me on how I have handled the circumstances that got me here and the saddest duty in life. You congratulate me on the work that I do professionally and as a volunteer and the influence it has. You tell me what a difference that makes, you tell me of the lives it has probably saved. You tell me you admire me. You see a dogged and determined person, you see me as a success.

Sometimes you see me wearing a mask.

Picking a mask

You don’t see me picking my mask…. slipping it on to present to the world. Picking a mask to protect, to hide, to conceal.

You don’t see the feeling of abject failure, you don’t see the pain that racks every joint of my body. You don’t see the weight sitting in my shoulders. You don’t see the fear that rests in my gut. You don’t see me struggling to enjoy little things in life. You don’t see my frustration and the effort it takes to do almost anything.

You don’t see the tears the well in private, the tears that wet my pillow as I drift off to sleep, or the hours of tear filled eyes watching the ceiling in the middle of the night. You don’t see the tears that accompany my solo drives.

Behind the Mask

All those things are currently lurking behind that mask that I choose to show you and the world.

The truth is that lurking behind the mask you see is the deep and dark shadow of depression. A shadow that is currently cast over everything.

It doesn’t matter how successful you may appear to be, depression does not discriminate.

Knowing it…..

I’m fortunate, my training and my history means I recognise depression for what it is…. I’m fortunate to have a wife and children that love me unconditionally. I’m fortunate that I know where to go for help. I’m fortunate that to some extent I know how to sit with my sadness.

I’m fortunate that I know that seeking help is important (as hard as it is to acknowledge that depression has a grip on you and to take that step).. I’m fortunate for a wife that guides in that direction. I’m fortunate that medication has a good effect on my depression. I’m fortunate for a lot of things.

Don’t assume

You just never know what the person in front of you is dealing with behind the mask that they have chosen to wear for you that day. You don’t know what battle they might be facing in private. Be kind, be aware.

Know where to send people…..

LifelineBeyond BlueBlack Dog Institute, SANE

Image Credit for this post Richard Jonkman

Searching for the meaning of life

In Douglas Adams “Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy” we learn that the answer to the ultimate question on life the universe and everything is 42. It’s just a shame that we never did get to find out what the ultimate question was.

It is even funnier that “life the universe and everything” and the number “42” have taken on cult status across the internet, particularly when Adams says he chose the number randomly and as a joke…..

But there are some things in life for which the number 42 does have some significance.

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A Marathon?

 

Emil Zatopek, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist (one of which is a Marathon medal, after he decided to run in the event at the last-minute) said

“If you want to win something run a hundred metres, if you want to experience something run a marathon”

 

Winning or running a marathon?

Our experience with Samuel has been an ongoing mix of sprints and marathons, somethings we have won along the way.. but the marathon of his experience is continuing….

Picking Milestones…

Last year I picked myself up and ran a half marathon.. (13.6 miles or 21.1 km) or what some people want to call a “PIKERMI” (pronounced pee-KER-mee). The name comes from the town that is halfway between Athens and Marathon. The philosophy behind choosing this name, and not calling it a half marathon, is that running  13.6 miles or 21.1 km should not be considered to be a half of anything……

I’m not one to do things by halves….

Doing my first Pikermi was an interesting experiment, but not being one to do things by half I have decided that it is time to really experience something and to run a full marathon….

While running the marathon is not going to teach me the meaning to life the universe and everything…. after all there is a slight miscalculation with the Marathon being 42.195 Km’s (26 Miles), I am sure that true to Emil Zatopek’s advice I am really about to experience something (including a lot of pain as I crank up my training).

100 Days (ish)

When I decided to do my Pikermi I had 60 days until my chosen event…. some called me crazy.. but I got there.

This year I have chosen and event that gives me a 100 day lead in time.

Where and when?

I have chosen the Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon which happens on Sunday 22nd September (a little earlier than originally planned.. but other plans have ruled out those events 🙁  )

I’ll keep things up to date with my training with an occasional post on here, and some regular updates on my facebook and twitter accounts….

 

When things don’t go as expected

As always Samuel glows

As always Samuel glows

I previously talked about the degree of difficulty we are facing with Samuel, about being in Limbo, about things being slow and steady and about dealing with ambiquity.

Several times along Samuel’s journey things have happened with a sense of urgency, but then……..

Things don’t go as expected…

Right at the start the sense of urgency was about being ready for Samuel to die in intensive care, then when the respirator was disconnected things did not go as expected and he did all the work on his own, setting off what has been a seven-year long journey of discovery.

Then as things progressed a number of problems emerged and lots of discussion occurred around what was to be expected… and things never went as expected. Samuel always decided to things better or worse than expected. If there was a rule book, Samuel was prepared to break the rules and work outside all expectations.

Samuel’s lungs deteriorated, due to the Scoliosis and repeated pneumonia’s and there was a lot of discussion about his capacity to get through the corrective surgery to rod and fuse his spine. There was a very clear expectation that Samuel might not make it through the surgery and/or post surgical period … but he did.

We have had significant periods of deterioration in Samuel’s health and sincerely expected that he would not see his seventh birthday… then his eighth and then his ninth…. but again Samuel has not done what has been expected.

Recent expectations

Samuel clearly deteriorated over the past months with repeated hospitalisation for pneumonia, changes to the bugs, not responding to treatment. I posted about looking for the fire in his eyes, and waiting for the spark.

Samuel was moved to Bear Cottage with an expectation that things would progress rather quickly….

What has happened?

A lot.. but not a lot is the fair summary. As mentioned in earlier posts there are little signs of progress with Samuel. He is looking extremely pale on and off, he is working hard with his breathing on and off, his secretions are getting thicker, he is clearly in more pain more often, he is having increased seizure activity here and there and he is gagging and needing suctioning more often.

We have ceased Samuel’s pressure support, with an expectation that things would move quicker.. but you guessed it, Samuel decided that without pressure support he would keep up the oxygen levels in his blood overnight just fine thank you very much! (They are not as high as they should be all the time, but they are certainly better than what they were in hospital when he was on continuous pressure support.)

It is clear that things are progressing with Samuel but just nowhere near as fast as anyone expected.

Should we expect anything?

After seven years of experience with Samuel (and six weeks here at Bear Cottage) I guess the one thing to expect is that Samuel will not do as expected, never has and probably never will!

It sounds like another cliché, but the only thing we can expect is to expect the unexpected!

We will simply get on with continuing to deal with the fundamental ambiguity of being human, and watching Samuel decide what will happen and when.

Thanks to everyone who is keeping up to date with Samuel’s progress and asking about what is happening. We appreciate all of your care and support.