What it Took

I have learned more in the year-and-a-half since Philip died than I have learned in a lifetime.

It’s not separate, not really. It’s all of a piece of the work I’ve done because of the particular things I struggle with. Philip’s dying is my own personal Big Bang. But I also feel like the fact that he died is killing me slowly.

What I’ve come to understand is that the reason we’re here is to learn to love. Trite? I think not. A year-and-a-half ago I would’ve rolled my eyes if you said that to me. It took me nearly 55 years to get it; it took Philip dying for me to understand that the simple open heart I had with him gave me joy. I have said I never felt joy. That’s because in my unhappiness, I imagined what joy would feel like. Like if I ever felt it,  I’d rise beaming several feet off the floor. No. Joy was the open heart I had when I was with my son. It was quiet. Soft. It meant the knot that lived in my belly untwined and there wasn’t any other place I wanted to be.

I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know that the incessant searching I’ve done for decades was because I felt disconnected (read: unloved), and that the way you feel connected to others, to the world, and most of all to your-Self is through love.

Love is one of those words that gets tossed around so much we stop thinking about what it really means. For now, I’m going to keep it simple. I am at the beginning, and it’s going to take me time to go deeper. When my heart opens up to someone and I feel connected, that is love. I’m not saying it’s as intense as with my children, as intense as if someone came along who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But if my heart is open, it’s from love. My love; it’s mine because I feel it and I want to share it.

There are people I’ve “met” through this blog that I love. Zoe. Tersia. Lucia. Rose. Nancy. And if I’ve left you out, I love you anyway. And there’s my cousin Lee who I’ve not been in touch with for decades. We’ve reconnected through my blog. Any time between us collapsed and all there is is how much I love her, I’ve always loved her.

Still, it hurts. It hurts to feel anything beyond grief; like I want to stay mutilated because I don’t want to leave Philip behind. How the hell can I be happy if my son is dead? How do I sort the real grief from the drama?

It’s too soon. I don’t yet know how to live.

I’ve said that when Philip died, I’d been going through a real shift in the way I felt about life. I was developing faith. And I know that shift has given me the tools I need to cope with his death. Like that faith. Except mine turned to ashes when he did. I mean, I know what faith is: it’s when I stop assuming the worst and pay attention to what I’m doing. Actually, it’s assuming nothing and paying attention to what I’m doing. Faith doesn’t mean I expect what I consider “good” is going to happen. It means that I know right now, in this moment, I am okay. Do I even know what’s “good” for me? Back in July, when I found an apartment and then lost it because of a technicality, I flipped. I flipped. I called my cousin Carol crying and I called Ed crying and neither one of them bought the drama so by the time I hung up with them, I was done. I let it go. I didn’t think my way out of it – I simply burst from the pressure and once I did, it didn’t matter.  So what changed? I’d still lost the apartment.  But I changed. I’d have to look for another apartment. That’s the sane response.

I don’t mind what happens.

And what happened? I found an apartment that wasn’t exactly where I wanted it, but it’s in a lovely neighborhood. The rent is $200 cheaper, dogs are allowed, the apartment is bigger and nicer, and I’m a two minute drive from Ed. Turned out my loss was actually my gain. My meltdown changed nothing, which isn’t news to me. And faith is not insisting that if I lose an apartment, I have to get a better one. Faith is losing the apartment and doing the work to find another one. Period.

I am talking about faith and the need to feel connected because I want to talk about the signs I get from Philip. They’re not weird or spooky and it doesn’t require me to turn down the lights, put on mood music, light the incense and candles and sit in lotus. It’s just every day things, some profound, some just nudging me on because he knows that when I’m walking around I keep waiting for the ground to open up and swallow me. I see no other way to release this pain that I can’t carry but of course I carry. Like we all carry; like all the people we meet in a day who go about their business and we think, “Why can’t I get it together like she does?” yet we don’t know a damn thing about what it took for her to get up that morning, put on her suit and face another day.

I’m going to stop here or this post is going to turn into a novella. Next, the details.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. behindthemaskofabuse
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 23:28:04

    Love you too by the way! You know every time you blog about Philip, I get this picture in my mind. It’s one of him with a huge smile on his face, as he watches his mother begin to live and enjoy life once again. Please don’t take that to mean anything other than it’s a picture I often get and I thought I would share it with you xo


  2. Denise
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 23:32:48

    You know, he was a happy kid; I’m grateful that’s how you see him. That’s how I “feel” him around me, smiling and nudging me along.


  3. Lucia Maya
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 03:21:46

    Love this! And I love you too.


  4. afichereader
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 21:10:41

    This is so beautiful that I’m blown away, by so many choice lines. (We really don’t know a damn thing about what it took for her to get up this morning, do we?) But I am utterly moved by your thoughts about love. As I was reading it, I thought, “I love you, Denise,” and I wasn’t sure why, but then you answered it. When we find others in grief, we allow our hearts to be open. What gratitude I have for those who provide this safety and understanding. I admire you, too, and I ache for you, and I have such hope for you, I really do.



    • Denise
      Sep 10, 2013 @ 03:19:41

      You should just how much your writing moves me; I’m there with you, I see what you’re wanting me to see. And again – my heart opens and I’m grateful to have found you. It’s words that get me through. My words, your words, all of us walking through grief. And it’s been said a trillion times: I hate the way I had to find you, but thank God I did.


  5. Rose
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 16:55:06

    Denise, I’ve sent you an email yesterday as I don’t know how to express my feelings only in one line. But, I do want to say in here, that I respect, admire and love you for your braveness, for the fact that you are able to show to us your real self, your real feelings…always sending you and Phillip good thoughts, good vibrations and love!


  6. Denise
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 17:54:53

    You know, I’d love to come visit you. You’re not that far away. And guess what? I’m Freshly Pressed! I am more than excited. It’s an honor to me, to Philip.

    I’ll answer your email, I promise.


  7. amourningmom
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 14:32:20

    Sending hope and hugs! And, so glad that you are Freshly Pressed – congratulations! xo


  8. Denise
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 05:46:16

    Hugs back to you, and so sorry about the shifting name plates. No, it’s not okay; definitely, definitely not okay.

    Thinking of you, and thanks for the congrats.


  9. lensgirl53
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 19:27:05

    It is a difficult life now. There are no pretty ways of putting this. You are in the newness of it all….but that newness…not matter how old it gets…will find its way back now and again. I hope your faith grows by leaps and bounds to give you that anchor you will need throughout the rest of your life. Grief is like the tide…ebbing and flowing…God bless you.


  10. Denise
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 06:27:41

    It’s hard to keep heart sometimes. And it’s terrifying to leave that “newness” because then he’s really gone, as if he isn’t already.


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