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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

Month

August 2016

Suffering and Silence

This week seems to have developed the unintentional theme of death.  Maybe it’s the death of our family friend, coupled with the anniversary of my dad’s death.  Maybe it’s just seeing so many people in bereavement.  Whatever it is, I feel compelled to continue on this roll I have stumbled upon.  One thing I know about myself is that I know what it feels like to lose, to hurt, to be counted out.  Don’t we all?  It’s always been my desire to aid others in the process.  There have been so many times where I have felt alone and broken. And while I am so thankful to be beyond those spaces, I remember when I wasn’t.  That’s one of the reasons why I share so much of myself.  I truly believe there is healing in sharing. I don’t think silence serves anyone.  As Jane Fonda says, “We are not meant to be perfect. We’re meant to be whole.” And as my father used to say, “We all have a ghetto story.”  We all have tales of how we were broken, hurt, lost, confused, etc. My story may not be your story, but in hearing yours, it may just help me get to the next chapter of my own; and vice versa.  So that’s where I’m coming from.

I said yesterday that death brings a lot of uncomfortable feelings–and not just for the bereaved.  It’s not just uncomfortable to be the one left in pain after a loss.  It can also be uncomfortable to witness someone in pain.  People tend to be action-oriented. We are all about doing. Witnessing someone’s pain motivates us to want to find the solution for them.  However, it can be so difficult that sometimes we want to find the solution for them long distance. What do I mean by this?  I mean that sometimes, we don’t actually want to help. We just want the person to feel better so that we can cease to be uncomfortable.  When death hits (and it doesn’t have to involve a physical death. It can be the death of a relationship, death of a job, etc.), the bereaved is now changed.  They are no longer who they once were prior to this death. We are ok with the initial impact.  I mean, it’s to be expected that you are different. That’s one of the reasons everyone gathers immediately after a death.  Everyone gathers the day of and leading up to the funeral. They’re calling. Sending flowers. Bringing food. Stopping by.  They show up without prompting.  It just makes sense.  But you know what happens?  The funeral comes. There may even be a repast. But it inevitably ends and everyone scatters back home to their normal lives while the bereaved are left to deal alone.  This is when the change really hits.  And let me just say something about change.  Change tends to occur successively, meaning that your change affects me.  I will have to adjust accordingly to your change; thereby creating a change in me. A lot of us are resistant to change. So we want you to do whatever you can to get through this so you can go back to being who you were before so that I can go back to being the way I was before.  But that’s not really how life works.  And deep down we know this.  So we want to help. We say we will help. But what happens a lot of time is that we don’t actually help.  And we actually put the onus on you to get our help.  What does this look like? Thanks for asking.  Allow me to paint the picture for you.  It goes something like this. “I’m so sorry.  If you need anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, don’t hesitate to call.” Do you see? That now puts the responsibility of the bereaved for supporters to actually support.

I heard this a few times when my dad passed away. I also heard it a lot at the funeral I attended over the weekend.  I have even said it myself.  But what I know today is that it’s such a callous thing to say.  You’re basically telling the bereaved that you don’t have any real plans to show up for them beyond this moment.  How do I know this? Because I’ve experienced it.  I have never felt more alone in my life than I did after my dad passed away.  All the people who were committed to being around enjoying benefits when my dad was alive were nowhere to be found for me when my father passed.  I’ve said this to a few and they actually implied that it’s my fault that they didn’t offer anything because I didn’t say anything.  As far as they are concerned, I seemed fine and if I wasn’t fine, then it was up to me to say so.  In another instance, I might actually agree. After all, closed mouths don’t get fed, do they?  But I have to disagree here because death is a different game.  You see, sometimes people are hurting so much that they don’t even know what they need.  They don’t even know to speak up to say Hey, I’m hurting.  Sometimes they hurt so much that they retreat, act out, or do their best to numb the pain.  Sometimes they don’t want to burden anyone.  Their inability to speak up regarding their pain is in no way an admission that it doesn’t exist.  It simply means they just are unable to speak up.  I think it’s actually unfair for those of us who are not in pain to blame the bereaved for being in pain.  We all have had our moment with pain. And if you haven’t, just wait. Your moment will come.  Some of us may behave in way that others of us cannot understand. It’s easy to say If it were me, I’d just speak up, when you are not in pain. The truth is, you don’t know what you would do.  You don’t know how you will feel.  And sometimes, neither does the bereaved.  Grief can be such a confusing process and we don’t really give those who are bereaved the time they need to go through it.  We expect sadness at the funeral. But we also expect them to dry their eyes and return to normal and that’s so unfair.  Stop telling people in bereavement to call you if they need anything. Stop leaving them hanging once the funeral ends.  Continue to check on them.  Continue to be there for them without prompting.  You don’t have to fix it for them because the truth is you can’t.  But you can show up. You can support.

After my father died, my cousin would randomly send me bible verses via text.  I would never know when they were coming, but they came faithfully for over a year.  He actually still sends them to this day.  I would cry as I read them.  Sometimes I still do.  After a while, I began to look forward to them.  He didn’t know it at the time, (hell neither did I!), but those text messages helped me so much.  That gesture said so much to me and I appreciated it in a way that my words didn’t allow me to say, until about a year ago.  Don’t interpret the silence of one in bereavement to mean they’re ok.  Don’t be in such a rush to be comfortable that you fail to support.  We will all need it at some point in our lives.

Just Don’t Say Nothing

I don’t like funerals.  I actually can’t stand them.  My people have been notified that there is to be no funeral in my honor when I leave this realm–lest they suffer through me haunting them all the days of their lives.  And I will too.  I just never liked the feeling they evoke.  I don’t know what your beliefs are, but I just feel like death is not sad for the departed.  It’s sad for those of us who remain.  Some have gotten the bright idea to call a funeral a home going service. Yet, that hasn’t seemed to change the feeling a funeral elicits for me.  I do my best to not attend funerals because I hate them so much. But when it calls I go.  A very close friend of my family recently passed away.  She was so close to our family that she actually felt more like family than some people I’m actually related to.  Her funeral was held over this past weekend and I did attend.  I attended to support those who remained and I was left with the same feeling I always have. I just don’t like funerals.

However, I’m not really talking about funerals today.  Today I want to talk about how many of us call ourselves comforting those who are bereaved.  I’ve been on the receiving end of it and I have to say, people you aren’t very good at consoling. And you know what? It’s ok.  There really is nothing that you can possibly say or do to ease the pain that death elicits.  So don’t try. Just offer a hug, a pat on the back. Food. Food is good.  But there are just some things that we need to stop saying to those who are bereaved.  I wrote a list and here it is.

  1. Be strong. What in the hell does this mean? What do you mean? Do you even know what you mean?  Why are you telling me this?  How exactly do you “Be strong” after a loved one dies any way?
  2. This too shall pass.  You don’t say? Isn’t that exactly why I’m sad, because my loved one passed away?
  3. Everything happens for a reason.  Is this really supposed to make me feel better?  I honestly don’t give two dead flies smashed as to what the reason is my loved one is now dead.  All I know is that they are dead and I don’t want them to be. Like Rick James with Charlie Murphy’s couch, Eff your reasons!
  4. Don’t cry.  Now this is one of the most asinine things I’ve ever heard.  I’m hurt. I’m in pain. What do you do when you’re hurting and in pain? You cry! Why are you telling me not to cry?  What do you suggest I do then?
  5. I know how you feel.  No you don’t. And it’s ok that you don’t.  You may be able to empathize with me and that is awesome.  While I’m hurting too much to grasp that right now, it is nice to know that. However, you don’t know how I feel.  You know how you felt when your loved one passed away.  That’s not the same.
  6. At least they’re not suffering anymore.  I get that this is an attempt to console and I actually understand it. But in the immediate moments after experiencing the death of a loved one, I don’t want to hear that.  At least they were STILL here to possibly get better.  Look here, death is a most rude visitor who doesn’t give two sh*ts about suffering or not. When it’s time to go, death is taking  you.  I don’t feel better right now hearing this.
  7. Think of all the good times you shared.  Yes, I have. And that’s exactly why I’m so sad right now.  There will be no more good times to share.
  8. Well think of *insert Momma, daughter, best friend, spouse,etc.*  They’re suffering more right now.  What the hell? This is by far the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.  You’re actually comparing the pain between all of us who are in bereavement?  For why?  There is no prize to be won in maxing out pain or suffering. We are all more than just the one role we fill in another’s life.  To quote R.E.M., “Everybody hurts.”
  9. They’re in a better place.  I really do understand why this would be a go-to. But at the moment, I don’t want to hear this.  All I know is that my preferred place for them would be right here and they are not here.
  10. And finally, the dreaded How are  you?    Why are you asking me this?  How in the hell do you think I am?  I’m sad, mad, stunned, numb, crazy, and a host of other emotions I can’t even put into words right now.

I don’t say any of this to be judgmental.  I do believe that people mean well when they say these things.  Death brings with it a lot of uncomfortable feelings.  And we don’t like being uncomfortable. The most logical thing to do when we feel discomfort is to find (or try to find) some way to ease the discomfort.  I get it.  But when it comes to death, there is no way around the discomfort.  You can only go through it.  Furthermore, as I’ve said earlier, there really is nothing that you can say or do to ease the pain one feels when they’re loved one has passed. They’re not looking for you to anyway.  So just offer a hug, “I’m sorry for your loss,” a prayer if they allow.  But don’t feel compelled to offer anything if you have nothing. Your presence alone is a gift.

This is just a brief list of things I remember hearing and things I witnessed being said at the funeral the other day. Can you think of anything that should be added to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Seems Like A Mighty Long Time

Today marks eight years since you left this realm. It’s difficult to put my feelings into words. That’s because at any given moment, there seems to be a simultaneous exchange of starkly opposite sensations or experiences. It feels like it was just yesterday I was at the hospital with mom when we received the worst news ever–that you were gone. Yet, it feels as if I’ve been living without you for so long–too long if you want to really know the truth. I marvel at how far I’ve come, as far as grief is concerned. And just as soon as I pat myself on the back, waves of pain will come crashing down upon me. Like I’ve said, it’s difficult to put into words. I guess it’s best for me to start at the beginning and work my way up to today.

That initial moment after your passing stays with me. Hearing mom ask the doctor as she looked sadly upon us, “He’s gone, isn’t he?” and watching her face as the realization that you were indeed gone settled was heart wrenching. I remember screaming “No! No! No!” over and over again, thinking if I said it loud enough that I could reverse it and you wouldn’t be gone. I spent the next days of my life in a haze. One minute I could be seemingly fine, and broken down beyond repair the next. I settled into a grief-riddled depression after that. The pain was too intense. There was just no way I could go on without you. There was no way I could live another day without hearing you shout “What’s gwoings?” or “Hey Daughter!” It hurt too much to know that The Fizzle wouldn’t get to grow up with you. I didn’t want to go on. At least that’s what I thought back then. Today I know I just didn’t want to FEEL. The feelings were too intense. I wanted to die. Yes. That was the answer. That was the only way to stop this disrespectful attack of grief. So I wrestled with the idea of taking my own life. I concocted a few plans, but I could never seem to go through with any of them. Was that you stopping me? I’m not sure, but I’m glad that I didn’t go through with any of my plans.

So that left me with soldiering on. I just had to get up every day and keep living. I didn’t like it. Not one bit. But I did it anyway. I didn’t feel like I had any reason to keep going, save for The Fizzle. She became my reason for living. Gradually, I was able to find another reason to keep going–to be a living demonstration of your legacy. After all, I’m your only child. I’m all that’s left of you. It was up to me to keep your name going. I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to keep your legacy going. I think I put more pressure on me than you did during my childhood. Who would think that’s possible? I stressed myself out. I heard your voice criticizing me every time I felt like I was failing. Then one day you came to me in a dream and told me to “Chillax.” You told me that I didn’t need to put this pressure on myself because you did your work and now it was up to me to do my own work. More than that, you let me know that your legacy isn’t your comedy, or your movies, or anything related to your fame. You told me that I’m your legacy. You told me that The Fizzle is your legacy and out of everything you’ve done, you were most proud to be my dad.

And that allowed me to let go. I had to let go of you. I didn’t want to because I thought letting go of you was me saying that I was forgetting about you. I thought it was disrespectful. But I realized that it wasn’t about letting go in a sense that I’m saying you are not an integral part of me. It was about letting go of the attachment that I had to the past. I couldn’t let go of the desire to hang on to what was. I wouldn’t be able to embrace anything new if I kept holding on to the past. I had to detach. After all, you had. You had transformed. You were no longer saddled with the baggage of the human costume. You were beyond it. I knew you were right. You did your work. And now it was time for me to do my own work. And I could do my work. I could do my work while walking upon the foundation that you so lovingly laid down for me. How blessed am I?

Daddy, I have been through so much since you left. There have been so many tears, so many doubts, so many regrets. But there have also been so much more. So many smiles, so many laughs, and so much love. And you have been a part of it all. It’s because of you I am. It’s because of you The Fizzle is. We talk about you at least once a day–not in an effort to not let go, but more so to make sure that we recognize that your death doesn’t negate your life. Thank you so much for all you did while you were here. And thank you so much for what you do from beyond.

I used to dread August 9th. I used to go through severe insomnia leading up to the day. I would become depressed. In an effort to combat it, I would try to do all kind of things that were in stark contrast to depression. I’ve gone skydiving. I’ve released balloons in your honor. I’ve danced. I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore. Now I feel like all of that was in a way celebrating your death. I had unknowingly created a shrine to the day. Your physical death took up so much space in my mental memory. Today, I acknowledge the day, but I don’t need to celebrate it. And therein lies the beauty of the birth, death, rebirth cycle. While it can seem like you are losing so much in death, you actually gain so much as well. Again, all I can say is thank you. Now I can’t lie. I miss you. I miss you a lot. But I can honestly admit that I love you more. As you used to say, my love for you is non-transferable and I love you from the top and the bottom of my heart.

Always,

Your Boops

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