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Archive for July, 2011

Amy Winehouse at Bowery Ballroom 18

Image via Wikipedia

Another Celebrity death hit the news this weekend, as 27 year old Amy Winehouse’s body was discovered in her home. I feel uncertain about how I should feel when high-profile names appear in the obituaries. On one hand, I have no connection whatsoever to celebs like Amy, yet for years I have connected to her through her music – the same can be said for politicians, religious leaders and movie stars. We as an audience and a public are shocked and question what happened as if it is our business. 

I wasn’t alive when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but I know that our country shut down to mourn the loss. I clearly remember waking up around 3:00 a.m. and curling up on the couch as a teenager to watch as Princess Diana’s funeral unfolded on TV in the ‘90’s. Recently, Twitter blew up as the news of “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn’s death hit the internet. Everyone seemed to have an opinion and felt the right to comment on how and why it must have happened. The emotions were real, especially the anger from both friends and fans. 

I searched Google today for information on the public grieving a celebrity loss – and let me tell you, there’s not much out there. Yet I know that we, the public, do mourn these losses. We watch movies differently when we know the star is no longer with us. We were mesmerized by Heath Ledger’s “Joker” character in The Dark Night, and I think that part of the fascination was that it was his last role. My beloved Dirty Dancing will  never be the same since I’ve seen photos of Patrick Swayze at the end of his battle with cancer, weak and gaunt. 

It seems almost unfair to me that we, the public, seem to get involved in the conversation when celebrities die. How must it feel to their families to have people weighing in who didn’t even know their loved one? I realize that being in the public eye, being scrutinized is the price one pays for fame, but it still feels a little bit voyeuristic to me. 

I wish Amy Winehouse’s family and friends comfort and strength during this terrible time. Despite what the media and the public might say – they have lost a person they love, and a young life has been cut short, celebrity or not.

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shoes

Image by zephyrbunny via Flickr

We spent our young lives raising a family. Marriage at 21, first child at 22 and off we went into the world of diapers, kid events, family vacations, and hectic holidays. There were mountains of shoes by the door, piles of laundry, and books and papers everywhere. We threw ourselves into family life never looking back and we just loved it. We even enjoyed the endless soccer and volleyball games. Ballet, concerts, trips to Universities, we could not get enough of. Were we living through the kids? I don’t think so. We just enjoyed family life so much.

The problem is that time marches on, ready not. Luckily our oldest chose UW, only an hour away from home. While a sad day, she was still very close. Four years later her brother went a little further, we adapted. Then another four years and an out of state departure. We adapted again.

They are now grown with adult lives and careers of their own. What wonderful adults they have become. We talk to them frequently, we visit often, we travel together. We even climbed a mountain together last year.

Just last month they were all home at the same time for a week. Shoes were piled high at both doors, there were lots of wet towels, music filled the house, there was a lot of laughter, plenty of good food, a little golf, some game playing, and a full house once again. It took us back, if just for a week. We looked forward to this time together for months, it was the highlight of our summer and it passed way too quickly. Just as quickly as they arrived they were gone. Ouch! We were not ready for their departure this time. We wanted to hold on a little longer to keep them close. But back to their jobs and busy lives they must go and back to work for us. We have adapted, we always do, but their presence still lingers, just a little.

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Lucky 7 sign

Image by sfgamchick via Flickr

I watched a Hallmark movie recently called Lucky 7, which highlighted that we still need to follow our own life path, despite what our parents may wish for us. In the movie, a dying mother draws a life map for her daughter where she envisions what her daughter’s life will be like. She tells her daughter she will learn French in high school, travel to France before college, become a lawyer, and then marry her 7th boyfriend. The daughter, Amy, takes this life map to heart and religiously follows each step. Problems begin to arise for her as an adult when she falls in love with her 6th boyfriend, so she devises a scheme to dump her 6th boyfriend before it gets serious, and eventually reconnect with him to make him the 7th—the one she will marry.

Through her scheme, she ends up dating a barista, whom she finds out was really wealthy in his 20’s but hated his job, so he quit to follow what makes him happy. She begins to recognize that she hates her job, isn’t following her creative passion, and is not being who she truly is.

Of course, Amy felt like she would be letting her mother down. She begins realizing that she used this life map as a replacement for the guidance she would have wanted from a mother growing up. As she grieves her mother’s loss again, she gains the freedom to be who she truly is and recognizes that her mother would ultimately want her to be happy, and there is not greater happiness than being true to oneself. It’s a life lesson worth keeping!

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Lately my own life has been pretty dull, however there are a number of people around me going through some serious changes. I’ve been worried for them, and trying to come to terms with how they are dealing with things. It’s made me wonder if loss is always bad, or negative. Here are some examples of losses which appear to be opening space in people’s lives for something positive:

  1. A good friend of mine recently got divorced and has started dating again. When her ex-husband told her that he wanted out, she was shattered. She went through a lot to figure out how to move on, how to advocate for herself and how to be independent again. She met someone who she grew to care about and recently told me that she feels more herself now than ever before. She is being loved in a way that she’d never experienced in her marriage.
  2. A business-owning friend sold her storefront a few months ago. The store had been her dream, her life, she lived and breathed it. It was her identity for many years, and when I heard the news, I wondered how this change would affect her. I stopped in during one of the weeks prior to her closing and chatted with her, and learned that she felt content, even relieved about the decision. She would no longer have the stress and responsibility for her own wellbeing along with her employees’. She glowed when she talked about resting and doing the things she’d never found time to do before.

I think in both of these situations, the all-encompassing loss that was experienced was only paving the way for a positive life change. It makes me think that when things do inevitably seem to be going down the tubes, I should remember that the challenges and hurt of losing something may open up a whole new world.

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Example of an American grocery store aisle.

Image via Wikipedia

“Whenever there is change, there is loss, and loss always brings about some degree of grief reaction” – J. Shep Jeffreys 

I stood in the middle of the grocery store this past weekend, completely overwhelmed, my head reeling with confusion. I checked my grocery list one more time, as a stranger approached asking where the bread crumbs were located. I said, “I have no idea. Everything is so mixed up here.” Two minutes later he walked past beating the can like a drum, excitedly exclaiming “I found them!” I had to smile—it was a big accomplishment, one I would have taken for granted a week ago. I moved over an aisle, stumbled upon the bread, and paused to pick up a pizza. A neighbor caught my eye and stopped. He stated “Oh, here is the bread. Can you believe this? No wonder everyone is jammed up.” I agreed stating “I can’t find anything. Hopefully this will get better soon.” He shook his head and defeatedly said “This is going to take months” as he walked away. As I was making the sixth trip back through the grocery store, I thought he might be right. 

And then it hit me. This is exactly what it feels like to be in deep grief—completely overwhelmed, moving slowly, frustrated that you have to keep covering ground you treaded (although you see new things each time you go back), exhausted even thinking about having to take one more step, and ready to give up at times. The upside was the camaraderie—the connection with strangers who I never would have met otherwise to help muddle through together and the recognition that I was not the only one struggling. 

Will it take months? Maybe. My grocery store added 1,000 new items and rearranged the whole store to accommodate them. Exciting change—although, I haven’t gotten to excitement yet, but I know I will. But right now, the whole world of grocery shopping has changed and I’m not sure I like it and I can’t control any of it. Ugh. But I do know one thing for sure after working for almost four years in the Grief Center. If I hold on to hope that it will get better and keep moving forward, I know I will see the light at the end of the tunnel and pretty soon, I won’t even think about grocery shopping. And as tempting as it is right now to completely switch grocery stores, I know that’s not the solution to my problem and will create more headaches for me in the future (since this grocery store is literally five minutes from my house). Wish me luck!

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