Thursday, February 27, 2014


It was stormy here last night - lots of wind and rain. Around eight o'clock, Clark told me that he heard two ghosts talking. I believe him, even though I don't know exactly what ghosts mean to Clark. It's not the first time he's mentioned seeing or hearing ghosts. He said the ghosts were talking about trees and that they looked like owls. He's not frightened of them. He hasn't indicated that his dad is a ghost.

I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I believe that Clark does have a very real connection to the spiritual world (and I wouldn't be surprised if it's deeper/stronger than my connection). His descriptions of the ghosts, as well as their location, jibes with a handful of other experiences I've had over the past few months. But sitting here now, looking out into a very black night, the thought of seeing a ghost is a little scary. Maybe - hopefully - if I actually experienced it, it would be comforting.

I've been less sad lately, but a little more stressed about all of the studying I need to accomplish this spring. I wonder if the latter is overshadowing the former. I've been experiencing fewer grief "triggers" lately, and I haven't cried in days. I realized something about triggers the other day. They're not external events causing sadness; they're expressions of the sadness in me that's looking for a vessel. It feels obvious in retrospect, but I didn't get it before. Sometimes my sadness needs to come out at random time, so completely random things (studying coagulopathies, for instance) can feel like they trigger a wave of grief.

That's about all I've got for tonight. Here are two little feel-good things for my sign-off:
First, 10 Painfully Obvious Truths (this one has been making the rounds on Facebook)
Second, kintsukuroi. (Thanks Wendy!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


One of the things we learn how to do in med school is to ask a lot of questions in order to characterize a patient's pain. Pain comes in a lot of flavors, and understanding one person's particular pain can go a long ways toward figuring out the root cause. When did it start? Is it a sharp stab or a dull ache? Constant or intermittent? What makes it better or worse? How bad is it on a scale from 0 to 10?

I was thinking today about how many of those characteristics can be applied to my grief, how mutable it is, and just how physically tangible it can feel sometimes. There were times when it was intense, overwhelmingly painful, and times when it was just a few stinging tears. The past few weeks I've felt a little emotionally raw, sensitive to small triggers. This week it's more of a heaviness, a constant dull presence. In terms of what makes it better or worse, I've become very aware that school stress (in particular, impending exams) make it worse, and finding someone who's able to listen makes it better.

I think the thing I'm missing this week is having someone to come home to at the end of the day to receive the little stuff. Someone to ask "How was your day?" and who will listen to me effuse or gripe or reflect or laugh about the small things that happened.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Finding stability in vulnerability

I'm feeling more stable these days. Solid somehow. Enjoying school, enjoying Clark, enjoying my community. Nearly every day, I have a few tears. I got rear-ended yesterday on our way to the beach. Clark and I are fine, and the other party is taking full responsibility. Overall a very benign stressor, but I was shaken, and by the time I got home I just wanted to curl up in someone's - Scott's - arms. Instead, I had a hungry, sandy toddler to take care of. I cried while feeding Clark dinner, and then I had a nice long talk with my sister instead, which helped a lot. I had a moment last Thursday in the cafeteria where I suddenly needed to cry, and one today at the Super Bowl party. I've become adept at grabbing a friend for a bear hug at those moments. I think about Scott and the particular thing about him or our relationship that I'm missing, and I feel very present in my sadness, in my body, in the hug.

Before he died, I only ever cried alone or with Scott, or very occasionally with my therapist. Crying in public makes me feel really vulnerable - but I think having these moments in public is partly why I feel a little more stable and solid these days. When I can be in the moment, in the emotion, I feel like I'm standing on bedrock. I'm not sure what changed, why it's easier to show my tears now. Partly, I think I've learned a lot about my sadness. I can trust myself to go into it and come out of it again. I wonder if it's partly that a lot of the fear about Scott's dying is gone.

I haven't been doing a good job of articulating this, but I've also been experiencing many moments of joy. There are many mornings when my heart swells just walking into the lecture hall - I'm so glad for the opportunity to take my place among my classmates. The other day I was walking outside when a gust of wind blew a flurry of tiny white petals into a small snowstorm. The sunlight was silver coming through the clouds, and everything zoomed out for a few moments, and the scene in front of me, this world, felt like a piece of something more expansive that I'd known before. Last week I had a dream about being at some sort of summer camp for world religions. But it wasn't a place to just learn about different religions; it was an opportunity interact with their Truths in an incredibly tangible way. I don't remember more than a few glimpses from the dream but it was so cool.

Thanks for reading. Writing here is therapeutic for me, a good way to explore some nooks and crannies of my daily experience. It's funny, 95 percent of the time I feel completely normal - just focusing on school, Clark, car repairs, whatever. I don't feel like I'm grieving much at all. But it's helpful to reflect on my grief (or at least the things I choose to throw into the box labeled grief), to synthesize it, find connections within it. Thanks for reflecting things back to me.