Songs That Stab Me in the Heart: “There’s Still My Joy” by Indigo Girls

Last year someone gave me Indigo Girls’ new Christmas album.  I played it on my computer while I was wrapping presents.  This song came on, and that was the end of that.  I had never heard it before.  It’s a cover of an old Melissa Manchester tune.

I brought my tree down to the shore

The garland and the silver star

To find my peace and grieve no more

To heal this place inside my heart

I still can’t listen to it without physically transforming into a pile of tears.  I couldn’t even get through the first verse of this version.  Just reading the lyrics kills me.  Forgive me for not watching the whole video before I posted it here.  I just…couldn’t.

I keep hoping that something will fill my heart.  I do this self-torture series of sad songs because it helps me feel my feelings.  The music reaches a place inside me that is so raw and vulnerable and makes my emotions rise to the surface.  I feel a passion that makes me want to share it with you.  So, to those of you, like my mother, who wonder why I do this to myself – that’s why.  When I start posting happy songs instead, we’ll all know that I’m on my way to healing.

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Hugs For the Holidays: You Are Not Alone, Even Though It Feels Like It

In the past year, I’ve lost one of my best friends, my grandfather, and my illusion that I can keep my family safe.

It is that first loss, the one of my friend Lisa who was my best friend in Los Angeles and the woman who gave me a reason to move here from Connecticut when I was 24 years old, and who died suddenly at the age of 40 for no apparent reason, that first rocked my world and sent me into a tailspin of grief and loss and barely hanging on.  Then my Grampa, who was in his 90′s and choked on a chicken sandwich and had a heart attack and left us suddenly, even though he had had a long, prosperous life that was full of love and sacrifice for his family.

That was two too many funerals for me to attend in a few months.

Then the shootings last week in Connecticut, where many people will attend 26 funerals in the space of a week.

When Lisa died her friends and family came together and filled a huge church.  They keep her Facebook page alive with tributes.  They fund charities and pour wine in the ground near her grave.

When my grandfather died people came from all around to pay respects.  The wake was extremely long and I have no idea how my grandmother got through it with such grace and strength.

The entire world watches Newtown, CT and asks “Why?” and “What can we do to help?”

But at the end of the day, even in a crowd of people who love me, I can still feel alone in my grief.  It’s actually a depression, that sense of no matter what you do or how much wonderfulness is around you, things are still really shitty.  It feels like a giant hole has been cut out of my heart.

Over the past year I have climbed out of it, mostly, but when bad things happen, especially like Newtown, I plummet back down again.  My friend said the other day that it seems like I’m stuck.  I told her I didn’t think I need grief counseling, because it is normal to grieve.  And what is normal, anyway?  In America we really don’t have a framework for grieving.  There isn’t a time period that is set aside, like maternity leave, for me to work through my emotions and then get back to the business of living.

I credit my children the most for giving me a reason to get out of bed and function.  They need me, and I love them so much.  I don’t know what my life would be like today if I didn’t have them.

Still, sometimes I feel terribly alone.

And here it is, Christmas again.  It’s the second year I won’t be taking Kyle to Lisa’s house to bake cookies with his godmother, while I watch and drink her amazing chocolate martinis.  It’s the first year in my entire life that I won’t be checking in with Grampa and hearing his gravelly voice with the Boston accent telling me to have a Merry Christmas.

Shake it off, I tell myself.  Other people have it way, way worse.  And then:  be kind to yourself, I tell myself.  That’s what everyone advises me to do.

I have learned that in my worst moments I should turn to other people.  In fact, turning to my blog has helped a lot.  I know that I have blogged a lot about Lisa and grief overall in the past year, and that sometimes this site is one huge pity party.  But its primary purpose is to be a place for me to express myself, and that’s what’s going on right now.

The fact is that way too many people are going through similar things, and a lot of them have found solace by writing about it.  I find solace in reading their words, at the same time that I am sad that we all have to be members of this awful club.

That’s why we started #HugsForTheHolidays, this movement of remembrance and support for people who are experiencing Christmas without their friend, parent, child, sibling, lover, or spouse.

My friend Mary lost her dad 12 years ago, and she writes:

I am living proof that it gets better, and that light will shine for you one day, and the tears won’t burn a hole in your sweater when they stream down your face, and the hole in your heart will not weigh you down to your knees.

Caught in this awful moment, even though I’m pulled out of myself by my wonderful, innocent, enthusiastic children, I find it hard to believe that there will be a day in the future that I will not feel such a conflict of emotions within.  But I have more faith in Mary’s statement than I’ve had in anything else, mostly because her loss came before mine and now I know her as a vibrant force of life.  And that’s what this blog link-up exercise is all about.  If you share your story, you might help someone feel better, even for a second, and that’s a lot better than nothing.

We have multiple link-ups on the sites below, where you can comment and/or link up according to the type of loss with which you are dealing. We have also created a Pinterest board called Hugs for the Holidays and will be pinning many of your posts there as well, if you would like to follow it.

You can link up anything you would like to share about your lost loved one: a link to a Facebook photo/post, a blog post about a particular memory, a Pinterest pin sharing how you cope, whatever you would like others to read or see. The link ups will be displayed as follows:

If you have had a miscarriage, stillbirth or loss of an infant link here:

If you have lost your mom link here:

Your dad link here:

Your sibling link here:

A child link here:

A spouse here:

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Wordless Wednesday: My Grampa’s Birthday

This is his first birthday in Heaven.  Photo by Kathy Tracy.

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A Month of Reading – Day 14-16, Apology

This is an open letter of apology to the mom bloggers I normally scorn for jumping on the traffic bandwagon after a terrible event makes national news.

In the later hours of last Friday, I saw a lot of people posting things on Facebook, trying to gather their blogger colleagues together to write about the tragedy and gun control and mental illness, and I had flashbacks to the very recent aftermath of the movie theater shooting in Colorado, when it seemed like every new post on or Huffington Post Parents was about how to talk to your kids about the shooting, and every mom blogger – especially those with high traffic (at least it seemed to me) – was posting about how she felt about the shooting, and how she was going to act to make the world a better place.  The same thing happened after Hurricane Sandy.  “Look at me!” they all seemed to be saying.  “Look at me and how generous and active I am!  I am helping!”

And so when I anticipated the inevitable glut of posts about Newtown, CT I decided I had to shut the internet down because I knew that I could not stand my colleagues using this tragedy to get attention.  I voiced my opinion in a closed Facebook discussion about this, and mine was in the minority, which I expected.

Since then, I have had several phone discussions with my kindred spirit friends, during which there was lots of crying and philosophizing and fist-shaking at God, wherever He is.

“People grieve in different ways,” is the phrase that keeps coming up.  I want to believe that my colleagues have their hearts in the right places when they organize a “blog hop” about gun control, or pour out their hearts on their blogs.  I actually do believe that most of them do.  But I know that out there somewhere on the internet is that traffic whore who’s going to tailor her blog posts to the latest search terms and she’s going to milk it as hard as she can.  And that for every one of her, there are journalists, reporters, dad bloggers, makeup bloggers, entertainment bloggers, rock stars, jugglers, and sword-swallowers who are trying to get in on some of that action, too.

So what am I doing here?

It took me two full days of balls-out crying, ugly cry, in public and everything, to come to this realization.  In my anger over this meaningless topic, I divert my grief and rage.  So what if every mom blogger I’ve ever known posts something and gets all the internet traffic?  Who cares?  Out of that battle cry there may come some good, even.  Myself – I am not in any position to address that topic, or mental illness, or the culture of violence in our media, or the mass-shooters-are-always-white-privileged-men theory.  I am simply destroyed, and I need a rest.

There was a time when I was like them.  I wanted to use my blog as a platform to Raise Awareness!  After Hurricane Katrina I gathered donations for a family in New Orleans whose little girls didn’t have any clothes to wear to school.  After Hurricane Sandy I posted photos of my hometown, because I knew my blog had a wider audience than the photographer’s.  I often write about Help a Mother Out here, and I energize you, my audience, to help me get diapers to diaperless babies.

This is also about my loss of faith.  Yes, in the last year I have suffered great loss.  I’ve grown mopey on this blog, and cynical, and fatalist.  I lash out with bitterness.  I saw that where once my mom blogger community was one of comfort and shared experience, it has diverged into coupons and recipes and columns and trips to Africa and Twitter parties and marketing companies and who’s making money and we’re all competing for the same eyeballs and I’ve had it with all of that.  I am recommitting to noticing and acknowledging my fellow bloggers, both known and new to me, who do this because we love it, whether they are “internet famous” or not, or making money or not.  Sometimes the cream rises, sometimes it stays in the dark refrigerator where nobody knows it’s there.  It’s still cream.

I release my grudges. I return to loving you, and reading the blogs I’ve always loved.  I can see past the attention-grabbers, and I can sense the sincerity of kindred spirits.  I want to embrace you again, and ignore the rest, and throw off the pall of bitterness that causes me to miss well-intentioned, good-hearted, soulful writing.

Here is what I read this weekend.  Click on it only if you can promise yourself that you can either avoid, or you need, a good ugly cry.

Thinking the Unthinkable – The Anarchist Soccer Mom

A Methodical Massacre:  Horror and Heroics – The Hartford Courant

Victims’ Names – LA Times

A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope – The National Association of School Psychologists

On Guns and School Shootings – Work at Home Mom

A Note From Dawn – VDog and Little Man (Vdog is a blogger friend and colleague who lost a nephew in the shooting)

Five Things to Consider Before Talking To Your Kids About Today’s Tragedy – Rage Against the Minivan

Lastly, I quote Sharon Greenthal here, because it she who provoked my lashing out and my meditations on this topic.  She is a writer I admire, and when I saw this sentence, I knew I was angry at the wrong thing.

…as a blogger I have the opportunity – responsibility – to share the information I’ve been able to gather about how to express your opinion, donate your time and money, or send your messages of sympathy and caring.

From The Sandy Hook Massacre and Gun Control, What You Can Do To Help:  Empty House, Full Mind.