Saturday, February 20, 2010


It's been a long week. Too many newly bereaved families. Too many big decisions about life. Certainly, stress.

I was looking forward to a quiet evening, at home, unwinding with my beautiful family, anticipating the weekend. We thought about yoga. We contemplated a bike ride. But a movie and the chocolate colored pillows spread across the crismon carpet sounded so much better by the time I'd answered my emails from the day.

We watched a movie I'd heard about from a friend in Italy. And I embarked on a rollercoaster of emotions from confusion to rage to disgust. Then, even to a softening of my own heart. If you've watched the film, you know what I mean... and then, then I felt surprised- perhaps even consternation- directed at my self for having experienced what I felt, but knew it could not be, empathy.

My emotions were completely manageable throughout the entire duration of the film.

But, the zenith of the movie, the end bedroom scene, unhinged me. Completely, totally unhinged me, as the main character in the film spoke words that I have spoken myself, many times, outloud and reverberating through my own mind.

I turned over on the floor face down, like an ostrich, and tried to breathe through the tears, swallowing them whole and drowning myself in the process. I was quivering as if I'd been left naked in the snow. My heart was pounding. And my body aching from the tension of sorrow. Then, it came over me. "What am I doing?" I thought to myself. I knew better. "Why am I fighting it so much?" So I got up and went to the bathroom and cried. And cried. And sobbed. About 15 minutes later, I felt so much relief. I was tired and my eyes red and swollen, but I could breathe again. Nearly 16 years later, and the grief can, occasionally, return with a fury. How truly reassuring.

No really. How truly reassuring.


Because it is my grief that has brought me to life. And He visits to reassure me that I'm still alive, amidst the mundanity of chaos. More than many others I've met along my path, I feel so alive. I've never felt depressed, or bored, or mindless in the nearly 5700 days since Chey's death. I've felt many other emotions, but never emotions of complacency or apathy or death (death in the sense of anhedonism, emotionless, or bland). So, my grief revisits me, like a relative from a distant place, often without notice. I may not have time to wash the sheets for His arrival. Or prepare for the extra meals. Or even tidy up a bit. He just shows up.

Nevertheless, when He leaves (and though He always leaves morsels behind He really does leave), I'm always thankful for the visit - eventually.

I woke up this morning, remnants of my guest still visible- my eyes still swollen and stinging and my heart still heavy with grief. But I looked out the window and I noticed the overcast sky, and the birds flying from tree to tree, and how the branches of my emerald palo verde are growing long enough to shade the summer's heat soon. And I noticed the sounds of those I love around me, and the clean water coming from my faucet, and the smell of vanilla in the air, and I know that I am alive. And for all of that, I am grateful.

Resisting grief never works for me. I think because I realize, in some visceral place, that it's in the unhinging when the beauty of life becomes truly salient.

Oh, the movie- "I've loved you for so long..." -- highly recommended.

Thinking of you too and your momma, Blakey.


Tina said...

It is comforting to know that after so many years grief can still overcome you like that. I sometimes fear that I won't have those emotions at a certain point, but after reading this post, I am certain I always will. Thank you for sharing. xx

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you for reading, Tina. I believe in my heart it will last forever. I think that's one of the things that touched me so about the movie. If you can, watch it. But only when you have time to allow Him (grief) to visit...

Kara Chipoletti Jones of GriefAndCreativity dot com said...

I've picked this film up off the shelf a zillion times. Never mustered up to watch it yet though. Hmmm... just sending much love across the waves of space and time to you!

DR said...

[without words to express my appreciation for the persistent fecundity of your grief]

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Kara - you should watch it... with me.

DD. Thank you for reading. Really.

Amy said...

powerful post, thank you for sharing this. It does seem that if we let Grief in, let him ravish and take over, that once he exists (in his messy way) life does feel more alive. such an odd contradiction but true.

Have Myelin? said...

I just found your blog and I am glad I did. =)

Kim St Laurent said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. Look forward to seeing this film. <3

Unknown said...

Interesting post. It makes me want to watch the movie. Emotion can sometimes be a double edged sword, but it is what makes us human. Thanks for sharing!

Montana Programmer

Travelwahine said...

Beautiful post as always!

Lynda said...

Your raw words and emotions make me feel so normal. Thank you for the post.

Bug Family said...

Dear Joanne,

Finally watched this movie over the weekend and I completely understand the various emotions that you discussed. Towards the end, I just was hugging a pillow that I was laying down with sobbing uncontrollably, yet unable to move.
I'm glad I watched it. I don't know Kristen Scott Thomas' personal life of course but her portrayal of sadness and grief was surreal. Thanks for the recommendation and, as always, your words.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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