Learn to address grief on your own terms, to make true and lasting peace with your loss…
By Erik Lewin
THIS IS HOW I SPELL GRIEF, Self-Help, Jeffrey Park Press, 126 pp.
“Generous, intimate and deeply personal, even funny at times. I believe this book will help readers work with their own grief.” – NOAH BRUCE, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director, Salinas Valley Medical Clinic
“Outstanding work. Everything I felt about my father’s recent death and my best friend’s death 14 years ago was articulated in this writing. It truly is a wonderful tome on helping one to manage their grief after the death of a loved one.” – Philip Peredo
“This is the book that I wished I had many years ago when first confronting the passing of my father. The author expertly navigates all of the issues that one encounters when grieving. It’s a remarkable book in that even for those who think we have a handle on their grief, the author helps us understand new ways to engage with grief. It’s definitely not a self-help book, but I found it much more profound and valuable.” – AKF
The World Goes on But You’re Still Grieving
5.1 PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND
One of the worst aspects of grief is it can feel like nobody knows what you’re talking about. This can make you feel emotionally alienated, and therefore reluctant to share your feelings with others.
Since losing my mom and dad, I’ve tried to share with family my feelings of alienation, but I suspect they’re convinced I’m something of an alien; as if the emotional frequency I am tuned into is like dog ears—one they cannot hear at all.
Hey, I’m now alone in the universe. “Oh okay,” they reply, “want to get a hot dog?”
Or silence. They’ll just ignore the subject. It’s flabbergasting! Especially when it’s an anniversary of loss, and the person is aware of this, it hangs in the air real thick and gloomy; they treat it as no more important to discuss than the weather, something far in the distance, passing us by. The longer the absence of their acknowledgment of the loss, the gloomier and thicker the air becomes, until it’s suffocating to not say something. It’s up to me to bring it up! As if it wouldn’t exist otherwise! I’m sorry to have made them feel uncomfortable.
I understand that no one wants to talk about death. In the first place it’s depressing, and its finality is just plain hard for a human mind to comprehend. It’s baffling, overwhelming, heartbreaking, traumatizing, debilitating, anxiety-inducing, and this list goes on.
But the irony is laughable! Everybody on the planet dies, so presumably, many people have lost someone close already, and you would therefore think many could relate. The truth is somewhere in between; a lot of people still have not lost a parent, or child, or brother or spouse, someone integral to their life, and this often renders them incapable of meaningfully empathizing, or even sympathizing, with your experience. Likewise, certain people are simply incapable of dealing with the discomfort of the subject. In the end, there’s effectively not too much difference between the two, and so it just becomes too exhausting to examine the reasons why any particular individual doesn’t feel really “there for you.”
Nevertheless, as I grapple with the enormity of loss, I still do bristle at those who express scant empathy. I visited with a close relative, (whom I still love in spite of the following) shortly after my mom’s passing. I felt fragile and vulnerable, yet eager to commiserate with someone who knew my mother well. It felt like an opportunity to help with my healing process, and of course, listen to anything grief related my relative might have to share. When I arrived, to my shock, over the course of an entire day, he didn’t ask a single question, or say a single word regarding my mom’s passing.
We were outside his apartment later in the day already, and he looked at me with a certain intention. I figured this would finally be the opening salvo into the subject. He spoke.
“Hey Erik, wanna smoke some weed?”
“No man, I’m good.”
“How about a little boxing?”
“Okay.” We plugged in the video game. My head swam with confusion. When is he going to say something? Then he suggested we go out for a burger. I thought I’d give him a head start.
“So how’re things with you?” I said.
“Pretty good, but tough sometimes, y’know.”
Okay, here comes the first mention of my mom’s passing.
“This place is a lot of fun on the weekend. . .”
OMG!!! At this point I paid little attention to whatever he talked about, none of which had anything at all to do with my mother. We hung out all day without so much as one solitary word on the matter. That my mom had just died. Not one question about it, not one question about how I was holding up. Nothing. We parted ways afterward, and as I drove off, the chance of any talk of it now gone, I was pissed.
I guess he was. . . unsure, uncomfortable, weirded out about how I’d react—
He maybe thought: So. . . I guess I might as well say nothing. Yeah, ‘cuz if A, B & C options all mean saying something, and I’m not sure which one is right, then, uh, yeah, let’s go with D—say nothing. Can’t go wrong then. Besides, Erik’s here to get away, escape, have a little fun—what kind of dick would I be if I reminded him that his mom just died?
I promise you I haven’t forgotten that my mom has died! I also love when people say this sort of thing, like—I didn’t want to bring it up, I mean maybe you wouldn’t want to talk about it, and I’d be rude to put you on the spot like that, it’d be thoughtless and disrespectful of me to cause you pain like that.
Here’s a message to all humans who have said something like the above to someone in grief—THE PAIN IS NOT FROM YOU BRINGING IT UP. IT’S FROM THE FACT THAT MY LOVED ONE HAS DIED.
I say this emphatically, but with less anger and bitterness as my process of recovery deepens. In other words, it’s important to convert one’s frustration into an understanding that is cathartic. The message here is these feelings of dissatisfaction are perfectly acceptable and normal, though that doesn’t mean you have to hold them close to your heart. You can observe the reactions of people, as well as your own feelings, accept them and let go.
There are friends who have gone so far as to have questioned what was wrong with me. Why am I not the same person? How I disappointed them. And from one point of view, who can blame them? They’re not the ones suddenly crying at a bar during a night out. It’s ME. That kind of behavior doesn’t scream fun to be with. I’d go out with friends and they’d be upbeat, living their normal lives, and I’d just kind of stare at them for long silences. After a while of that, I didn’t have to worry about turning down too many invites.
I didn’t mean to be dead weight. It’s just that whether or not your friend should switch to Dial soap to better moisturize their skin rash didn’t hold quite the same sway over my attention. All these mundane parts of life that everyone is so caught up with. How serious can I take any of it?
It’s even harder when some friends and family continue to wonder why I haven’t “moved on.” It’s been so many years already, how come you still seem so burdened? How come you’re still not back to “normal”? I’d love to send a message to people everywhere who have made any bereaved person feel this way: MY FAMILY IS STILL GONE. As in, not coming back to life. How could I not continue to be deeply impacted by this irreversible fact? I am doing the best I can.
These frustrations are commonly felt by those of us who have lost a loved one. I hope other sufferers have the good fortune to benefit from support that is healthy, responsive and supportive. It is also certainly possible to make new connections and to develop friendships that can be quite nurturing. Unfortunately, if you’re bereft of such help, a certain sense of estrangement can arise.
There are mourners who may momentarily have an attitude of well one day you’ll understand, but I’m confident no one actually wishes grief on anyone. But the truth is, wished or not, everyone will be next in line at some point. The time will come when everyone will lose a loved one and be overwhelmed with grief. I think it’s an instructive question to pose: What kind of support would you hope for?
Erik Lewin is the author of three books – This is How I Spell Grief, Animal Endurance, and Son of Influence – as well as numerous essays published in Ponder Review, GNU Journal, David Magazine, Real Vegas Magazine &Literate Ape. Erik is also a stand-up comedian who performs in clubs and venues around the country. He formerly practiced law as a criminal defense attorney in New York City and Los Angeles. He is at work on a new one-man show loosely based on This is How I Spell Grief.
Erik lives in Las Vegas with his wife and their furry pets.
Visit his website at www.eriklewincomedy.com or connect with him on Facebook and Goodreads.
1 thought on “This Is How I Spell Grief Book Tour”
Good tour, liking the theme that touches on grief. Very important to have insight on how to deal with it.