Faire preuve de courage face au deuil [fr]

[en] Being brave in grief is not hiding outward displays of pain or sadness. It is, quite on the contrary, daring to face the full extent of our pain. That is way more scary than sticking a lid on things and pretending it's ok. (Inspired to write by this article).

Quand on parle de courage dans le contexte du deuil, on entend généralement ça dans le sens d’être “fort”, à savoir ne pas montrer à l’extérieur l’étendue de sa peine ou de sa détresse.

Mais le vrai courage, face à un décès ou une perte qui bouleverse notre existence, c’est d’oser sentir combien ça fait mal, combien on souffre, combien on est triste et désespéré. D’oser sentir le trou béant de l’absence, que la vie a perdu tout son goût, qu’on ne peut pas imaginer aller de l’avant ainsi. Sans.

Neige et chalet 126 2015-01-18 17h40

Notre douleur est à la mesure de notre attachement. Et c’est uniquement en prenant la mesure de celle-ci, en seaux de larmes, qu’on peut espérer accepter cette inacceptable absence.

La tristesse, c’est en fait le signe qu’on accepte un peu plus. Le refus de faire face, le couvercle qu’on met sur nos émotions, c’est ce qu’on appelle le “déni”. C’est essayer de faire semblant qu’on ne souffre pas tant que ça. Et c’est cette attitude, justement, qui risque fort de nous empêcher de retrouver goût à la vie, voire même de laisser des séquelles.

J’entends parfois des personnes en deuil me dire qu’elles n’arrivent pas à pleurer. J’ai passé par là aussi. L’antidote est plutôt simple, en fait: il s’agit de prendre conscience que la force de notre “refus” (“je ne veux pas qu’il/elle soit mort, je ne veux pas qu’il en soit ainsi, je ne veux pas vivre avec cette absence”) est le reflet de notre peine. Dans ces moments de refus ou de rejet, on peut rentrer en contact avec sa peine simplement: “si, il va falloir…”

Le courage, c’est ça. C’est oser sentir sa tristesse, oser plonger dans ce puit sans fond qui, nous le croyons, va nous anéantir, avec la conscience que c’est à travers cette tristesse que l’on va finir par accepter l’absence que l’on refuse absolument d’accepter.

Similar Posts:

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.

Similar Posts:

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.

 

Similar Posts:

I Never Lost My Hearing [en]

As the founding editor of Phonak’s community blog “Open Ears” (now part of “Hearing Like Me“) I contributed a series of articles on hearing loss between 2014 and 2015. Here they are.

Though I find myself favouring the expression “hearing loss” to talk about “hearing that’s not ‘normal'”, it always feels wrong for me.

You see, I haven’t lost my hearing: I just never had it. Well, the part that’s missing. Because there is a sizeable chunk that is there. Give me 60 dB in any frequency (down to 25 in my better ones) and I’ll happily hear.

As far as I can tell, I was born with “hearing like that”. I share my cookie-bite audiogramme with my brother and father, a typical situation of hereditary congenital “not hearing well-ness”.

Saying “hearing loss” makes it sound like at some point I lost my hearing. Like I have a “before” and an “after”, or that my hearing is deteriorating. That I have an awareness of what life with “more hearing” is like. But my “loss-less” story is very different from the stories of loss that others like Stu, Christina, Howard or Angie have been through.

I-Never-Lost-My-Hearing

I have not suffered the trauma of losing. I only have the grief of having never had, and of realising at age 40 how much more difficult my hearing impairment made my life as a child and a teen (even an adult!) during all those years where it was first undiagnosed, then underestimated to the point I just decided to cope, because it was “no big deal”.

But it was, and it’s painful to think about.

I am left with not knowing how to describe myself or my hearing, in terms that are both understandable by others and do not betray my experience of living with these somewhat wonky ears. I fall back on “hearing loss” in English, and “je n’entends pas bien” in French, but they feel like a pair of jeans that is not quite the right shape for me.

This struggle with language is, in my opinion, symptomatic of both the lack of general information about D/deaf/HoH issues in the hearing population, and (related of course) the greater social stigma (leading all the way to denial in some cases) around hearing vs. vision impairments.

Because of our unease around malfunctioning ears (yes, I dare say that), we do not speak gladly of hearing loss/impairment/problems, and the inadequacy of our language is there to remind us of this state of affairs.

We “on the spectrum” are tossing these terms and expressions around, and will continue to do so for a while before they agree to settle.

Until then, we will do the best we can with the words we have — at the risk of being misunderstood.

Similar Posts:

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.

Similar Posts:

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.

Similar Posts:

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

Similar Posts:

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]

Similar Posts:

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.

Similar Posts:

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.

Similar Posts: