Category Archives: grief

Cloudy and at sea

PacificCoast2007That’s kind of how things have been here for the last several weeks.

Well, my father in law’s funeral is over now, and the out-of-state relative we’ve been hosting has gone home. Time to start getting things done again. How¬† have all of you been lately?

Weekly Writing Challenge: Five Days of Haiku

Haiku number 2, for this week’s WordPress Writing Challenge. The goal is to write five between Monday, November 25, and Friday.

Since this is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., I’m probably going to focus on things to be thankful for – after a fashion.

Misery’s Company

Yes, that’s how it is,
We say. You’re not alone. Give
Thanks for friends’ shared pain.

(A number of people in my circle of friends are coping with elderly, failing parents. Nothing can make the situation painless, but it helps to know that other people are facing the same kinds of problems.)

Remembering a death

The ancient Romans took dreams seriously, but sometimes they weren’t sure what their dreams meant. For help, they went to fortune tellers. And when the fortune tellers needed help, they consulted their handbooks on dream interpretation – one or two of which have survived. So we know what kinds of things typical Romans dreamed about.

Romans had nightmares about crucifixion.

That shouldn’t be a surprise – it was carefully designed to be a slow, cruel, public way to die, a good way to show how foolish it was to defy the power of Rome. When Julius Caesar was a young man and the Roman Republic just barely defeated the rebellious slaves led by Spartacus, the Appian Way – the main road south from Rome – was lined with mile after mile of crucified rebels.

Today is Good Friday, and we Christians remember one particular crucifixion. Jesus of Nazareth, “God from God, Light from Light…was made man (and was)…crucified under (the authority of) Pontius Pilate…for our sake.” It’s a somber day, the only real day of grief in the whole church year.

Before long, it will be Easter, and we’ll remember that nobody likes a happy ending better than God does. But today, we mourn.


The current Weekly Photo Challenge theme is a tough one – Regret. I don’t usually take pictures of things that are sad or ugly, but at last I remembered this series of photos. They were taken in early 2009, in Camden, New Jersey; unfortunately, there are still many similar sights not far away. (Camden is one of the poorest cities in the U.S., and it shows.)

This is a shame and a scandal, and certainly a reason for regret. Only a few decades ago, this was a small but adequate home. But during the years that I drove past this intersection on my way to and from work, it was a ruin. This is how it looked in March, 2009; I was afraid at that time that it was going to collapse any day.

Granted, there’s room for a tiny bit of hope here. Over the following two months, someone gutted this house (and the adjoining row houses) and started to repair them. Here’s how it looked by May:

Those yellowish lines near the top of the house are huge wooden brackets to stabilize the brick wall – they extend the width of the house and hook over the firewall dividing it from the next rowhouse* up the street. (The roof was long gone.)

Unfortunately, work stalled at this point. And since I no longer work nearby, I never found out if the project got completed.

Camden. Regret.


*If you’ve never been in the Philadelphia area, rowhouses are basically block-long buildings, usually brick and two stories high, that are divided into subunits twenty or thirty feet wide by brick and plaster firewalls. Each subunit is a separate home. This is the typical form of housing in Philadelphia and most of the nearby smaller cities.

Losing hope

I feel as if I’ve been struggling to drag a huge shapeless bag – full of water maybe, so that when you try to coax it over an obstacle it just slumps into a different awkward shape – and getting nowhere at all, painfully.

Now I’ve lost hope. I can’t fix my mother. I can’t make her happy¬† or healthy or make her days full of interest and enjoyment. I can’t make her young again.

What can I do? I can visit her every week or two (mostly with my excellent husband; thank you, Paul, for patience and driving, a hundred miles out and another hundred home again) and buy groceries and take her to the bank and make sure she pays bills and pick up prescriptions and organize her pills so she knows which ones to take each day. I can phone her, three times a day, in the morning to order her to take her morning pills, in the afternoon to chat so she doesn’t go day after day with no human contact, in the evening to tell her to take her night pills right now. I can remind her when she has doctor’s appointments. In between, I can go on with my life. I can’t fix her, and knowing that, it turns out that I can give up being guilty and fretful.

I’ll let that bag of water trickle away and concentrate on picking up one stick or stone at a time and putting it where it needs to be. Losing false hope; what a relief!

Stone 10, nineteenth day

I don’t have much to say today. Just back
from driving several hours to see my mom
and coax and bully her to pay some bills
and take her pills and other odds and ends
then several hours driving back again.
The same again next week. I’m tired. I’m sad.

Grief vs. Guilt

I am grieving for my mother.

No, she hasn’t died. But she’s dealing with a significant constriction in the things she’s able to do without help, and it upsets her terribly. And understandably. (I suppose you could say she’s grieving for herself.) Unfortunately, one way she deals with the pain is by scolding herself and feeling ashamed of her loss.

I spend a good bit of time trying to soothe her, or at least distract her from being angry at herself. Anything to help her suffer less. And afterwards I feel consumed by guilt, scolding myself for not making her life All Better and feeling ashamed of myself as an inadequate daughter.

Have I learned my lessons on how to deal with problems or what?

Project for the rest of 2011: train myself to do what I can to fix things, and when I’ve done everything in my power, find some excuse to be happy. I don’t, I really don’t, want to be in my eighties and spend my time making myself and everyone within reach miserable. And, God help me, who knows if I’ll be able to avoid doing just that once I’m old and sick.

I am grieving.