Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Together and Apart

July 27, 2011

Given my year’s theme of working to increase consciousness in order to ameliorate fear, my take on this week’s zeitgeist is that there is much astir in the collective corridors of rage and despair—and perhaps some opportunities for compassion, growth and healing at the micro level—the level that perhaps counts most in the final and collective analysis.

A gunman in Norway, a human being, attacked what he perceived as his enemy—the human beings of the left-leaning labor party and particularly their children.

What might we make of such horror?  What keeps going so terribly and tragically wrong with us human beings?

Continue Reading


The Deep

June 17, 2010

This day always holds dread and portent for me as it marks the day in my childhood when my best friend, Jonathan, was killed; yet there is another story of attachment and loss that also clusters around this day in the watery tumult of my psyche.

It all goes back to high school—junior year honors English.  Ellen was in my class and of course I thought she was cute.  I sat one row over and one seat back, and thus my year was spent stealing glances at her as my mind drifted in and out, but mostly away, from Jude the Obscure.

The very last week of class the teacher invited us all to her house and on the way out, with summer stretched endlessly before me, I somehow found the courage to ask Ellen out on a date and was elated and shocked when she said yes.  I had asked out girls before, and had a good long history of “no” (particularly humiliating was my freshman year honors English fail with the girl who sat in front of me as my mind wandered away from the likes of Pride and Prejudice—I could simply not persuade that girl, a full head taller than me, to go on a date where we would ride our bikes).  But in 1977 I had a license to drive, and so Ellen would be picked up in a car.

Continue Reading

Looking back at Loss

June 10, 2010

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey Zaslow, “Families with a Missing Piece: A New Look at How a Parent’s Early Death Can Reverberate Decades Later,” raises important issues to consider if we are sincere about doing our best for all our collective children.

Obviously it is a terrible thing to lose a parent, and the article makes a number of important points, including increased risk for depression and suicide of the course of life for those who lost parents when still children.

If we are going to look out for our collective kids, it’s worth keeping in mind that when children lose a parent, things like staying engaged in activities with peers and having adults in their lives who are willing to talk with them about their feelings has been shown to make a big difference for kids.  A lot of survivors of early parent loss report that therapy and bereavement groups were not necessarily helpful, in contrast to these things tending to be comforting to adults. There are, however, non-profit camps for kids who have lost a parent, and being with other kids in similar boats does seem to offer meaningful assistance.  I also think that, as many a grown-up has experienced, the “right” therapist can be comforting while a poor match can feel like insult to injury.

Continue Reading

Honoring Ellie

May 28, 2010

Last year I wrote about Ellie on the anniversary of her death, but this year I choose to write about her on the anniversary of her birth, in 1926.  Parents can be difficult, but watching Andy lose both her parents has been a profound experience—one that in some way or other everyone can relate to, or will face in some variation eventually.

Ellie’s first husband was a cowboy and movie stuntman (the father of my brother and sister-in-law).  Her own dad, an army officer, died when she was only four.  Andy’s dad was an urbane New Yorker who came out to LA with Danny Kaye’s radio show.  When they met, Ellie was working at a tony telephone answering service from which she had many a colorful story about potty-mouthed celebrities and how she, always a feisty sort, set more than one or two of them straight.

More often than not, parents are a mixed bag, but when a “good mother” comes along you grab on.  Mother-in-laws are the oldest joke in the joke book, yet my mother-in-law was fantastic to me.  From the first night I met her, she and Arthur telling old Hollywood stories in a booth at Musso & Franks, Andy and I still shaking the dust of our cross-country road-trip off ourselves, she was unexpected, unconventional and a unique character.  I never called her “mom,” that word just never had the best ring to me, so I went with “Ellie,” a really pretty name for a truly beautiful woman.  When I was a kid my dad had said something to the effect of if you wanted to know what a woman was going to look like when she was older, look at her mom.  Ellie made me think of those words and conclude:  no worries in that department.

Continue Reading

miscarriage… an often overlooked or minimized loss

February 12, 2010

I had a professor who had done his doctoral project on miscarriage—after going through a miscarriage with his wife and discovering that there was very little support or acknowledgment for an event that, for he and his wife, had proven very difficult.

A recent blog post by wholeselfcoach on her own miscarriage caught my attention in being both lyrically accepting and also raw in her honesty about the sobbing feelings of loss.

My sense is that miscarriage tends to be deeply felt by expectant mothers while being minimized by our society in general—a discordance that may make healing harder for women who lose a pregnancy.

Miscarriage is a very personal, and often a highly private loss.  While there may be a tendency to trust that things are meant to be, for a woman who terribly wants a child, the loss of a pregnancy can be devastating, sometimes bringing fears that pregnancy itself is not meant to be… and sometimes this turns out to be the case.  Thus a miscarriage (and especially multiple miscarriages) can have a profound effect on a woman’s destiny, as well as her identity as a mother.

Continue Reading

Miss Havisham on the couch

December 30, 2009

Ever since I saw David Lean’s film version of Great Expectations on TV as a kid, I have been fascinated by the character of Miss Havisham who, having been jilted on the morning of her wedding, has stopped all the clocks and lives on for years in her wedding dress, one shoe on, cake rotting on the table amidst the cobwebs of her rotting mansion.

Inspiration for Norma Desmond in one of my favorite American films, Sunset Boulevard, Miss Havisham embodies not just heartbreak but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  When we think about PTSD we tend to think about violent events, particularly war experiences, but the mechanics of PTSD are that overwhelming emotional experience causes a person to mentally leave the building of their body for a time (think of that slow motion, floaty feeling just before the impact of a car accident).

As a result, the surreal self cannot fully process the trauma, and it is left to float like so many cobwebs throughout the body, never making it to be properly filed in the brain’s true memory storage area.  Since the trauma is loose in the body, it can be triggered by sounds, smells or sights and suddenly loom up as if it were happening in real time, rather like a pop-up window unexpectedly opening on a computer screen.

Continue Reading

Gimme Sheltering Sky

December 1, 2009

Being December 1st, today is World AIDS Day—a good day to dedicate some consciousness to those who have died in the past 28 years, to those who today struggle with HIV and AIDS, particularly those without access to health care (in the US this is estimated to be well over three hundred thousand people).

Part of my intention in this blog is to further the possibility that part of the answer to our modern struggles with parenting, alienation, meaning and purpose is to be found in consciousness.  It is said that right thinking leads to right action.  While I’m disinclined to dictate action, or make claims about what would be “right,” I do trust that mindfulness and compassion tend to be good for ourselves and for all of our collective children.

As parents we experience all sorts of losses, some normative and some tragic; we confront the specter of our deepest dreads—tragedy befalling a child, or tragedy befalling ourselves and thus leaving us unable to care for our child.  Such issues can range from physical illness, mental illness, general misfortune and the cruelty or indifference of others.  Yet as a society we tend to deny losses.

For a number of years I worked at a clinic with severely troubled children.  As a supervisor involved with training interns I taught a seminar about termination in therapy and I would always start the seminar by reading a passage from one of my favorite novels, The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles.  In the book the central character, Kit, has traveled from entitled 1920’s New York into the harsh North African desert with her lover, Port, who dies and leaves her abandoned and challenged to become her true Self.

Lying next to her dead lover, Bowles writes of Kit, “These were the first moments of a new existence, a strange one in which she already glimpsed the element of timelessness that would surround her.”  Bowles eloquently captures the essence of shock, numbness and emptiness as he notes several poignant and ironic moments drawn from their former life together; moments Kit is NOT now thinking about:

Continue Reading

Helping kids say farewell to pets

November 17, 2009

It’s been a sad week for pets in my circle—my neighbor’s dog ran into the road and was hit by a car and killed, while friends had to put their dog down after a long illness.  Besides being sad for us grown-ups when we lose a beloved pet, it also raises the issue of what to say to kids.

The first thing to focus on in these cases is our own feelings.  While it makes sense to be sad, sometimes we over-focus on our kids’ reactions as a way of deflecting our own grief and loss, unconsciously comforting ourselves by over-concern for our children.

Continue Reading

Yom Kippur

September 28, 2009

Chaim-Hersh WEIS-Chaim-Hersh ben Sruel-Dov[1]

I have heard it said that we need to know where we’ve been in order to know where we are going.  For the Jews, today is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar—a day where tradition holds that the lives (and deaths) for the year are sealed.  I am not particularly religious, and I am interested in all different faiths (as well as bold atheism) and in how whatever truth may exist contains such diverse perspectives.  Still, I need to know where I have been, and today’s post is partly about that—about a family history that had been like a tattered page of erased smudges and then out of the night and the fog, appeared Eva Blanket.

As the sun set over Hollywood last Friday evening,Eva stepped out of the elevator of the Mondrian hotel, having travelled from Australia, and in that moment two drops of one mutual great-grandfather’s blood were reintroduced in the flesh.  As my wife and kids, and her husband and son, wandered amongst the groovesters by the pool in a scene that was way too cool for schul, I wondered if Chaim’s spirit was more pleased or circumspect.  Just as Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas anymore once she landed in Oz, Eva was not in Oz any more now that she’d landed in La La Land… and none of us where in Hukliva… the tiny crossroads town where it had all began, and been all but erased completely. 

Continue Reading

Icarus and Daedalus—a bird’s eye view of the sun

September 10, 2009

kid flyingNow that we’re in back-to-school mode it’s time to get a little classical with our parenting perspective.  One of the great stories in the mythology canon is that of Daedalus—the brilliant inventor father who creates wings of wax and feathers so that he and his son, Icarus, can escape from Crete where they are being held prisoner.  As they prepare to take literal flight, father warns his boy to be mindful and fly right—too low and the ocean moisture will ruin the wings, too high and the sun will melt the wax; but alas, young Icarus, with nary but a learner’s permit as far as flying goes, gets over-excited about his new-found power and freedom and up he goes… until melting wax and… down he goes.  Splash! 

And although poor Icarus is a goner, because it’s a myth (and a dusty old one at that), we tend not to get too worked up about his demise.  From a kid’s point of view, the story is a morality tale meant to get kids to heed our parental warnings, and most kids probably think, “yeah-yeah, if anyone ever gives me wax and feather wings I’ll be sure to watch out for that sun.” 

Continue Reading