Music and Sadness [en]

Musique, émotions, larmes.

[fr] Musique, émotions, larmes.

This is a post I wrote over a year ago, in December 2014, but never published. It’s still quite true today. Since his death, I’ve been listening to David Bowie. I was very unfamiliar with his music and wouldn’t have listed him as an artist whose work I “liked”. Now, I’m discovering that there is actually quite a lot of his stuff I do like, and that I am finding an interest in the rest, even if it’s not my favorite kind of music. It feels like a different way of appreciating music from until now.

Emotions have always been hard. As far as I remember. Especially one, which all the others seem to hang on to. Sadness. Grief.

I can have trouble connecting to these sometimes difficult emotions. We all do, to some extent. Maybe? I’m not sure. Well, I have trouble connecting.

Throughout the course of my life, I’ve realised that there are two things that I do to help me connect, to help me feel: listen to music and watch fiction. Reading sometimes does it too, but less — I suspect it’s the music connection. Movies and TV series have music, in addition to a story.

Until about 18 months ago I was singing in a local choir. Too much going on, I had to make the difficult choice to stop. Since then, I haven’t been singing much. I got a car again earlier this year, and I sing in my car, when I listen to music.

Singing while commuting is what made me realize how important music was to me. When I was a teenager I would drive to school on my motorcycle, singing at the top of my lungs under my helmet. If I’m alone in a car, I’ll sing along to whatever I’m listening to.

Over the last year, despite the car, I have been listening to less music. I’ve been listening to podcasts, or more recently, audiobooks. Or I just haven’t been listening to much. The cable to connect my iPhone to my music player in the car is shot now, so I drive in silence. And I find that I’m not even really singing.

This year has been a difficult year. There will be more — much more — to write about on that topic. I have been keeping myself busy. With work, of course, but not being too much of a workaholic, with other things too: helping people around me with their problems (a big favourite of mine it seems), consuming fiction and non-fiction in various forms, and having an active social life, online and off.

And now that I’m stuck on a plane with my headphones in, listening to music because I’m tired and don’t trust myself not to fall asleep while listening to a podcast, I am taken over by a big wave of sadness. It’s not even very specific, sadness about this or about that. Oh, about a bunch of things, but it moves around. I don’t try to catch it. It’s just there.

And music brought me back to it.

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This American Life Episode Selection [en]

[fr] Quelques épisodes de This American Life qui valent le détour.

I had my worst “forgot something on the stove” episode today. No fire, but I came back after three hours away to find my flat completely filled with smoke. I had to hold my breath to open the windows (everything was closed). My pan is dead (I’m not even going to try). Quintus was outside but Tounsi was inside, and was exposed to the smoke for all that time. One of the first things I did after opening the first window was throw him onto the balcony. He seems fine. Vet say to keep an eye on him for the next two days or so, as symptoms can be delayed.

Now my whole flat stinks of burnt smoke. Good thing it’s not January, as a friend noted.

Some podcast episodes for you. (And me, maybe one day). They are from This American Life, which I listened to a lot at the chalet. It’s really great — I should have started listening years ago.

  • #536: The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra: a chilling first-person account of the culture of complacency in the world of finance regulation.
  • #525: Call for Help: remember this story that was making the rounds, about a family that had to be rescued at sea because of a sick baby? and how a lot of the (uninformed) public opinion was up in arms about how irresponsible it was to go to sea with a baby, and then ask the coast guards to bail you out when things got rough? Well, as you can guess, there is much more to the story than that…
  • #555: The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind: so, one of the studies this episode is based on has been retracted, but it remains interesting. First, to note that people rarely change their mind, particularly on ideological matters. And then, and this is something I think about a lot, what makes people change their mind? We do have anecdotal evidence that knowing somebody who is gay (or trans, or kinky…) can turn us around on those issues. And I think that people’s theoretical stance on an issue can be somewhat disconnected from what they would think, or how they would react, faced with a real human being they have a connection with and who is concerned by the issue.
  • #556: Same Bed, Different Dreams: for the very moving story of the two kidnapped South Koreans, the actress and the director.
  • #557: Birds & Bees: how do we talk to children about race, death, and sex? Some very good questions about consent and its “fuzziness” (I personally don’t think we should have to say “is it OK if I kiss you?” and wait for an enthusiastic verbal “yes” — seriously?!), how you can’t escape the question of race, and a moving segment on a grief counselling centre for children. If I could go back in time, I would take my 10-year-old self there. Sadly, we weren’t quite there yet 30 years ago when it comes to grief and children.
    By the way, this episode brings me to Death, Sex & Money — a podcast about all these things we don’t talk about.
  • #562 and #563: The Problem We All Live With (two parts): how do we reinvent education to get poor minority kids to perform as well as white kids? An exploration of the solution that works, but that we’re not putting much energy into implementing: desegregation. I found this episode both fascinating and infuriating. Fascinating because issues of race are not on the forefront in Switzerland as they are in the US, and infuriating that such a simple elegant solution is not given the attention and resources it deserves.

 

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The Right to Grieve — And That Means Being Sad [en]

[fr] Avez-vous remarqué comme personne ne veut qu'on soit triste? La tristesse est néanmoins une émotion nécessaire, celle qui nous permet d'accepter une perte, d'en faire le deuil, et de pouvoir continuer à avancer à travers et au-delà de la peine.

Have you noticed how nobody wants you to be sad? Tell people around you that you’re sad, and immediately they’ll want to cheer you up.

Sadness is not bad. Sadness is necessary. It is through being sad that we are able to accept our losses and move on. That is what grieving is.

Our friends don’t want us to feel sad, because they don’t want us to suffer. But refusing to be sad and to grieve brings along a lot of suffering — certainly more, in the long run, than the pain of sadness.

Sadness is not depression. Unprocessed grief can lead to depression, though.

Sadness is the feeling of loss.

A person who is experiencing loss needs the courage to feel sad, and in a world which wants to shove sad under the carpet at the first opportunity, that can be far from easy.

What is valued is staying strong in the face of loss, grief, catastrophe. Not collapsing. Not showing how much pain we’re in.

But what we need when we’re sad and in pain, most of the time, is support so we can dare to feel all this. A safe place to be heard, recognised, and not judged. Love and acceptance that does not desperately want to save us from our emotions, but on the contrary, regard them as part of ourselves and our journey through life.

To grieve and to move on from all the various losses in our lives, all the nevermores, we need to be able to be sad. It is a good thing.

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Coming Out as Single and Childless [en]

[fr] Quarante ans, célibataire, sans enfants. Un deuil à faire, et une porte à ouvrir pour en parler.

I turned 40 last summer, and it hasn’t been easy.

To be honest, I kind of expected it to be rough: my mother died when she was 40, 30 years ago, and in my mind 40 has always been a kind of “cut-off” age for having children. But it’s been (and still is) much more of an upheaval than I guessed.

Simple Flower, La Tourche

If you follow me on Facebook or maybe on Twitter, you certainly noticed I shared a slew of articles about childlessness over the fall and since then. This summer plunged me into a grieving process I’ve been doing my best to avoid for years — and am still resisting. It’s not a coincidence that my blog has been so silent.

As I started researching childlessness, and talking a bit around me, I realised that this is something about myself I have never really talked about in public. Or talked about much, full stop. Same with being single. It’s not something I’m really comfortable discussing publicly. Which is kind of strange, as I’m a very public person. So what is it about the childlessness and singleness that keeps me quiet?

Some have suggested that it’s because it’s personal. But I talk about a lot of personal stuff. It’s painful, too. Maybe it’s the grief? Not either: over the winter of 2010-2011 and the months that followed, I wrote a series of extremely personal articles dealing with the death of my cat Bagha, and the grief I was going through.

And I understood: it’s shame.

Failing to have a partner or children, when it’s what you want, is shameful — particularly for a woman. The grief of childlessness and singleness is something that we have trouble dealing with, as a society. Chances are you’re thinking “wait, 40, everything is still possible, the miracles of medicine, you have plenty of time; you’ll find somebody, all hope is not lost”. Do you see the problem here? I will write more on the subject, but for the moment please just take it as given that my chances of ever being a mother are vanishingly small — and that the best I can do is grieve and get on with my life, “plan B”.

I have kept quiet about this, and shoved it under the carpet, because it’s an issue that’s loaded with shame. And as such, it stands to be pointed out that the grief of childlessness, and to some extent singleness, is a taboo subject. People do not want to face it. When bringing it up, it is automatically negated (“there is still time”, “children are overrated”, “look at the great life you have”, “you probably didn’t really want children that much or you would have them”). We don’t know what to say. We have scripts for losing a loved one. Even a pet — when Bagha died there was an overwhelming show of support and affection around me.

But childlessness is another can of fish.

Grief has a public dimension. To grieve, we need our pain to be recognized from the outside. Grieving can not be done in complete privacy. That’s where it gets stuck.

As much as I didn’t want to, I realised that I was going to have to start writing about this. Because this is how I process. I cannot do it alone: I need you too.

I’m not where I was back in July. Things are moving along, slowly. I’ve been talking to friends, and joined an online community of childless women for support. Read about dozens of stories parallel to mine. And though a part of me still rabidly refuses to accept I will continue my life without children, tiny bits of acceptance are sneaking in. I first drafted this blog post back in December, and getting it out of the door today is part of the process.

My name is Stephanie, I’m 40 years old, single and childless — and it’s not what I wanted for myself.

Here’s the post on Facebook.
Also published on Medium.

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Pourquoi j'ai attendu avant de reprendre un chat [fr]

[en] Why I waited after Bagha's death before adopting cats again.

Depuis la mort de Bagha, j’ai vu bien des gens de mon entourage perdre leur chat également. J’ai été frappée par une réaction courante mais totalement étrangère à ma façon de fonctionner: reprendre un nouveau chat sans perdre de temps.

Du coup, je me dis que ça vaut peut-être la peine d’expliquer pourquoi j’ai attendu plus d’un an avant de chercher à adopter.

Pour moi, c’est important de dire au revoir correctement pour pouvoir bien dire bonjour. En d’autres termes, faire son deuil avant de pouvoir s’attacher à nouveau. Je crois que rien ne fiche en l’air une relation aussi bien que de ne pas avoir bien bouclé celle qui la précédait. On connaît ça dans les relations de couple, dans la problématique de “l’enfant de remplacement“, et je pense que c’est une loi de la vie assez générale.

Le deuil est une question qui m’intéresse beaucoup, très certainement à cause de mon histoire et de mes croyances personnelles.

Quand Bagha est mort, et même avant qu’il meure, je savais deux choses:

  • je reprendrais des chats un jour (oui, “des”)
  • ce ne serait pas pour tout de suite.

Je voulais prendre le temps de pleurer le chat qui avait été à mes côtés depuis plus de dix ans. Je ne voulais pas adopter ce qui aurait été pour moi un “chat-sparadrap”. Je voulais prendre le temps d’être “bien dans ma vie sans chat”, et reprendre des chats parce que je voulais en avoir, et non pas parce que je souffrais d’avoir perdu le mien.

Bagha est mort en décembre. En octobre, j’ai commencé à avoir le sentiment que je serais prête à ravoir un chat. Je savais que je partais six semaines à l’étranger en hiver, donc j’ai attendu mon retour.

Même là, elle a été dure, la première semaine avec Tounsi et Safran. Mais la douleur a vite passé et je me suis bien attachée à mes deux nouveaux poilus.

A la mort de Safran deux mois plus tard, je n’avais pas non plus l’intention de reprendre un chat tout de suite. Je voulais prendre le temps d’accuser le choc sans y mêler un nouveau chat. C’était très différent de la mort de Bagha, mais dur quand même. Je n’avais eu Safran que deux mois. J’avais l’impression d’avoir échoué, de lui avoir fait faux bond.

Quintus est tombé du ciel parce qu’au moment où j’apprenais que Safran était malade, Aleika apprenait que son mari avait reçu l’invitation qu’il attendait de l’université de Kolkata, et qu’ils allaient déménager là-bas. Elle était un peu désemparée par rapport à Quintus: le prendre et lui faire subir une ville indienne ou une vie d’intérieur? Trouver quelqu’un pour l’adopter, à passé 10 ans?

J’ai dit que si elle décidait de ne pas le prendre, et qu’elle ne trouvait personne pour lui en Angleterre, je le prendrais. Un jour ou deux plus tard, après avoir vérifié que je ne regrettais pas mon offre, sa décision était prise. Un mois plus tard Quintus était dans l’avion avec moi.

Alors voilà. Dix ans avec Bagha. Quinze mois sans chat. Deux mois avec Tounsi et Safran, un peu plus d’un mois seule avec Tounsi, et à ce jour, 16 mois avec Tounsi et Quintus.

October Cats 20

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Memories of Safran [en]

[fr] Souvenirs de Safran.

Safran was put to sleep on Thursday. I’m still very sad, though I’m not end-of-the-world devastated like when Bagha died. Tounsi seems OK, but of course it’s hard to say. I’m upset, our routines have changed because Safran isn’t there. He doesn’t seem to be pining or going around looking for Safran, in any case.

New Cats 89.jpg

Safran was with me for just a little over two months, and I feel the need to put in writing the memories I have of him — the good ones, mainly — I think part of me is afraid I’m going to move on and settle down in my life with my remaining cat and forget little Safran. I won’t, of course, but memories do fade away. Prepare for some rambling and a pile of kitty photographs.

Safran perched on the tree

Continue readingMemories of Safran [en]

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Bye Safran: FIP is a Bitch [en]

[fr] Safran est malade: il a le FIP/PIF et doit être endormi -- il n'y rien à faire pour le sauver.

I got home from the vet a couple of hours ago. I’d taken Safran because he seemed under the weather (I got home from vacation yesterday evening). I thought he had a cold.

He has FIP. The wet form. My vet says he has a success rate of roughly 50% with the dry form, but has to this day never saved a single cat who had developed the wet form. I’ll let you read up more on this nasty disease.

Safran 2

I’m heartbroken. I’ll be going back to the vet’s tomorrow afternoon to put Safran to sleep. In the meantime, we’re saying good-bye. We were just starting to warm up to one another.

I like to think that although his post-shelter life will have been short (2 month), it will have been a good one.

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Bagha: One Year, Coming Up [en]

[fr] Bientôt un an sans Bagha. Retour de tristesse.

In a couple of weeks, it’ll be one whole year since Bagha died. I’m feeling sad these days. Memories of my last weeks with him. Life with my old cat, wanting to make the most of my time with him, but not knowing how short it was going to be.

I realized how close we were getting to a full year when eclau turned three early November. Eclau’s second birthday led to the first Jelly there, and the photos I took that day are some of the last ones I have of Bagha.

I did take some photos after that, actually, but hadn’t put them online. Here’s the last photo I have of Bagha, just two weeks before his death. I was actually playing about with my new camera, and imagined I had all the time in the world to shoot great photos of Bagha with it.

Bagha tucked in 1010095.jpg

You haven’t seen many “dead cat” posts here lately, because mostly, I think I’m done going through the worst of my grief. Time does heal. So do tears and pain, actually. That was a new idea for me — that feeling pain was part of the healing process. Writing about what I was going through helped, too.

This summer, I realized I was slowly starting to be ready for another cat. Or cats, actually — I want two. During my latest trip to India, I got to hang out with a couple of Indian cats (Ebony and Cookie), and remembered how much I missed feline presence. I miss having a cat. I want to have a cat or cats. The timing isn’t good though, because with six weeks in India coming up, I’m going to wait until my return (this is something I’ve had planned for a long time now: cats after India).

So anyway, not so much to write about. I’ve been settling well in my catless life.

But right now, it’s coming back. I’m leaving for LeWeb tomorrow — it was my last trip away before Bagha died. Christmas is coming up. My friends and I were cooking Christmas biscuits when Bagha had his heart attack. My last interaction with him, before the attack, was to invite him over to lap up a broken egg from under the table. Then he went back to my room to resume his nap on the bed.

I miss him more now than I have these last months.

Christmas was a blur. Bagha died on the 19th, and I was beside myself with grief during those days where I’m usually winding down for the end-of-year celebrations, preparing presents, looking forward to spending some time with my family. Christmas approaching, and my departure for India just after that — they remind me of how horribly sad I was at that time.

I wish I could go back a year and have my last weeks with Bagha again.

These days, like last year at the same time of the year, I feel I have pretty much managed to get back on my feet and regain some balance (some days better than other) after what has been a pretty difficult year. When I lift my head up these days and breathe this new air, I remember that last time I felt like this, and the air was cold and the nights were dark, Bagha was here with me.

I miss him.

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What Made Bagha Such a Special Cat For Me [en]

[fr] Un pas de plus sur le chemin du deuil, alors que je m'apprête à éparpiller les cendres de Bagha dans le jardin où il passait ses journées. Tentative un peu laborieuse d'identifier (et de trier) ce qui dans la douleur de la perte de mon chat est proprement la douleur de sa mort, et ce qui est simplement la douleur de la solitude retrouvée.

I started writing this months ago, not long after Bagha died. In India, to be precise. As a way to help me come to terms with his loss, I spent some time trying to write down what made him special for me. What is it exactly that I’m grieving, through him?

Bagha's Floppy Nap 3

I actually tried to blog this once before, and that ended up being the article “Sorting Through Grief“. Like all painful things, it’s tempting to postpone this kind of exercise — but now that I’m preparing to take Bagha’s ashes out of the back of my cupboard to scatter them in the garden he loved, I feel it is time to pick up this list again. I need to move forward. These last weeks, or maybe months, I’ve slipped into a not-too-uncomfortable limbo somewhere along the road of grief. There was a little sideroad somewhere with a bench, and I sat down.

It’s time to start walking again.

What follows is a little raw. It’s also not “perfect” — meaning that I’m aware I’m failing at sorting through some of the things I was hoping to sort through while writing this. That’s the whole point, I guess. Otherwise I would just sail “happily” through grief, if it wasn’t that difficult for me.

So, what made Bagha such a special cat for me? Quoting from my previous post, here’s what I’m trying to disentangle:

  • what it means for me to now be living completely alone (ie, “petless” => by extension, what having a pet — any pet — adds to my life)
  • what made Bagha special, as compared to other cats (his personal caracteristics, pretty objectively)
  • what made Bagha special for me, in terms of the relationship we had and what he meant to me

I’ll start by setting aside the obvious: what kind of cat Bagha was, outside of the relationship I had with him.

Physically:

  • he was big and strong
  • he was a beautiful animal
  • he had a mashed-up nose and ear tufts
  • he had a long non-twitchy tail
  • he slept on his back with his front paws crossed
  • he was long-legged and slim with very sleek fur — had the body of an Indian cat
  • he was a spotted/striped tabby with lovely eyeliner

New Year Bagha 1And also:

  • he slept on his back, front paws crossed on his chest
  • he had a very girly high-pitched meow which was kind of comical for such a big boy
  • he snored gently in his sleep and made little moaning noises when being petted

Character-wise:

  • he wasn’t fearful
  • he liked people and people liked him
  • he was smart
  • he was communicative
  • he was dignified
  • he had an attitude
  • he was cuddly without being needy
  • he was patient and tolerant but not out of fear
  • he had a strong character
  • he was very territorial and peed on all the bushes

It's MY computerThings he did (I’m aware we’re in the anecdotal department here):

  • he opened the fridge
  • he drank out of the toilet
  • he gnawed on drawer handles
  • he played with sticks and chewed them like a dog, holding them between his two front paws
  • he would creep into cupboards the second the door was opened
  • he opened drawers
  • whenever possible, he would rest his head on a pillow (proper or improvised — a laptop would do)
  • he would deftly knock over glasses of water to drink it
  • he would knock things off my bedside table if I didn’t wake up fast enough

The cat and his humanHow he was with me, bearing in mind that this is pretty standard cat-behaviour:

  • he loved having his belly rubbed
  • he liked being carried under one arm
  • he liked being cuddled curled up on my chest
  • he’d sleep with his head and paw resting on my arm

More about his behaviour and interactions with me and other humans, which is maybe a little less “cat-standard”, but not yet the stuff that made my relationship with him so special:

  • he would come back home all by himself, right into the flat, and come and say hello
  • he trained the whole building to let him in and out
  • he would patiently let me give him his meds or put his collar on before going out
  • everybody who met him liked him and saw he was not an ordinary cat

Here we are, now. The cat-companion. This is what the emptiness of his absence is made of.

  • he slept with me every night
  • he would follow me discreetly from room to room
  • he’d sit on the table while I ate
  • he’d wake me in the morning to go out with just one meow
  • he would come and lie down where I patted my hand
  • he would come and cuddle when I watched TV or worked at home

Taking some rest

Trying to rise above the mundane details of daily cohabitation (even if they’re important), here are some of the deeper roles Bagha played for me:

  • he would be waiting for me, always happy to see me
  • he kept me company every day
  • he helped me connect to people in my building and neighbourhood
  • he connected me to India and Aleika
  • he was a constant through all the changes my life went through these last ten years

Of these, I guess the fact he kept me company and was happy to see me are more pet-generic than Bagha-specific.

But the role he played in helping me find my place in my neighbourhood, the connexion to India and Aleika, and the ten years of my life that he saw me through — those are things that are uniquely linked to Bagha. No other cat will ever be able to give me that again. He was a living, breathing, purring witness to these things, no lost forever. I carry those years and that part of my life completely alone, now.

Along the same lines, here are two more things I’d like to add:

  • he made eclau a special coworking space
  • he brought me closer to some of my friends who lived in my flat to take care of him when I was away

Eclau will have other cats, and be a “special” coworking space in that respect in the future. Salem, my upstairs neighbour’s cat, has already taken quarters on the couch, and will probably soon have his own page on the eclau website. Some time next year, I’ll be ready to have cats again, and they’ll come to eclau too. It will always be a kitty-friendly coworking space — but Bagha was the first, and his constant presence in the office was soothing for those who worked there.

The fact that quite a few of my friends cat-sat at some point or another when I was travelling over the last ten years made him a connexion between me and them — connexion which is now gone, like some of those friendships. His absence makes their pastness a little more present.

On a more emotional level:

  • I loved him and cared for him
  • I gladly gave up some of my freedom because I loved him
  • I accepted some risks (like losing him to a car accident) because it gave him a better life

These are things I learned for life because he was my pet, and will treasure for ever. His legacy in me. Traces of his life that his death cannot erase, and which — I believe — make me a better person.

I believe there is no meaning in the world other than the meaning we put in it, consciously or not. Beyond the meaninglessness of life and death, we choose to make sense of our lives so that we can keep on growing.

Maybe Bagha’s biggest gift to me, beyond the ten years of precious companionship he gave me, is in his death. I got to say good-bye. Not at the moment of my choosing, of course — death rarely gives us that — but did get to say good-bye properly. I am saying good-bye.

So here’s the meaning I choose and which makes perfect sense for my life, almost as if it were provided by some intention bigger than and beyond me:

Bagha let me love him for a long time and with all my heart, so that I could learn to love and grieve properly.

Amongst all this, I wonder, what is just the pain of finding myself “alone”, or catless? What does it mean to me to have a cat? I’ve tried to break it down into “plus side” and “minus side”, because part of the grieving process is also greeting the new good things in my life brought about by this loss (I have a blog post draft sitting in WordPress titled “The Bittersweet Freedom of Catlessness” — I will write it someday).

Having a cat means:

  • having company to sleep with me at night
  • having somebody to care for
  • having somebody waiting for me to come home
  • having somebody to communicate with and keep me company
  • having cuddles and affection handy when needed
  • having an attraction for visitors and a topic of conversation to make friends amongst cat-lovers

But it also means:

  • giving up some freedom (no unplanned trips)
  • expenses (food, vet, etc)
  • having to cat-proof the home
  • having to get up to let the cat out, or change the litter
  • worrying that it didn’t come home (or might not)
  • negotiations with neighbours/concierge if it causes any trouble

The pain of losing Bagha is still very present, nearly five months after his death. There is still a terrible pit of sadness in my heart, but it doesn’t overflow with tears anymore when I don’t want it to.

I sometimes try to imagine my future cats, who are maybe not even born yet — I fear that I will not love them as much as I loved Bagha, or that they will not be quite so extraordinary, and I know that I still need to spend some time walking down that road.

Bagha arbre 1

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Tears Do Heal — But Slowly [en]

[fr] Un retour d'Angleterre un peu difficile, des vagues de chagrin qui vont et viennent depuis trois mois que Bagha m'a quittée. Mais le chagrin, c'est notre réaction à la douleur de la perte. Le sentir, c'est avancer sur le chemin de l'acceptation.

I’ve had a handful of pretty miserable days upon my return from England. Feeling very sad again about Bagha’s death, and some other losses 2010 brought along with it. But this last couple of days have been better, because tears do heal, and spring is here.

Pencil Effect Sunday 26

Three months after Bagha’s death, I’m thankfully not bursting into uncontrollable tears in socially awkward settings anymore. It comes and goes. I might spend a week or ten days with hardly a tear, and then a wave hits and I’m going through stacks of tissues every day. I’m getting used to it.

I know I need to though, so I dive into the pain and grief when it comes — and when it’s appropriate to let myself do so.

When I’m “in”, it feels like my life is over, like it hurts so much that I’ll never get over it. It feels like some part of me will forever refuse to accept that he is dead and gone, refuse to accept that there is nothing I can do about it, and refuse to accept too that nothing will bring him back. It feels like I will never manage to move on and open my heart this much again, like I will be stuck in grief forever.

Of course I know this isn’t true, and outside of these moments of intense grief, I’m living my life pretty normally these days, despite my heavy heart.

But what I’m starting to understand — and understand really because I’m experiencing it — is that these moments of pain where I am so adamantly refusing to accept that Bagha has died, and I now have to live without him, are actually the very thing that is helping me accept it.

When I was told this it made immediate and perfect sense to me. I feel pain and sadness because I am facing the fact Bagha is dead. Even if my reaction (defense mechanism) to that pain is a futile refusal to accept that which is causing the pain (clearly a flavour of denial — “I want my cat back, I don’t want him to be dead”), it remains that if I am feeling that pain it is precisely because I am realizing or accepting a little more that my life from here onwards will be without him, and I have no choice in that matter.

That is why sadness and tears heal: they are the expression of a step forward in accepting a difficult reality. And though it feels sometimes that the steps are small and the road long, I know I am making progress, and that my heart will heal again.

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