orange peels & how it feels: coping with grief liam neeson-style

I’m trying to sort through so many layers.

Layers that peel back not like an onion. No. More like a large orange. There is the peel that surrounds the whole. Then there are segments inside, all of them juicy though some might have more seeds and pith than one would want to take in. Maybe one section of my orange is sweeter than all the others, to be savored and to represent the best of the whole thing. That’s what it feels like for me now. Today. In this moment.

orange

I watched famed actor Liam Neeson speaking on 60 Minutes about grief. His actress wife Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident very unexpectedly five years ago. He said that the grief was like a wave. I saw the dull ache of grieving is still visible in his eyes despite his smile and humor and the fact that five years have passed since his beloved’s death. Their home in upstate New York still has her presence, her things, her clothing in the closets. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Liam mentioned how well she took care of him and their sons. In that moment I caught a glimpse of Scott and how he always said that about me. I miss taking care of him. Life is different now. I am learning how to take care of myself.

There are stages to the process of grieving. Anger is certainly one of the segments of my orange. I try to make sense of death; of Scott’s death in particular and of the way he orchestrated his exit. Scott brought the chaotic atmosphere of a 3-ring circus to his exit from the moment he learned he was dying. My decision to support him in that journey meant putting my own feelings aside a large part of the time. As with all life partners there were things that he said and did that I was very angry about, situations that frightened the hell out of me in India, and even a few insensitive people without boundaries that piled oodles of unnecessary extra stress onto the experience for both of us. (After all, what kind of circus would it be without the freaky characters and clowns?)…
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It was impossible—and tacitly forbidden–to express my anger, my fear, or my stress to Scott. The illusion of peace needed to be kept vigilantly in order that Scott could have confidence in my ability to be his caregiver and not be exposed to any extra fear and distress that would most certainly exacerbate his physical pain (and hasten his death). That’s called Patient Burden by physicians. One of the many hats Scott gave me to wear was to try to keep anyone from adding to his Patient Burden. My feelings were all over the place as you might imagine. He needed a rock to hold onto and I became rock-like for him. Like Liam Neeson’s heroic-stoic characters in the Non-stop action movies he has starred in repeatedly since his wife died.
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People who have experienced profound loss know that eventually the rock cracks and the anger must come out. These feelings can’t be ssshushed any longer. Maybe I finally have enough distance from the experience to let myself feel the angry feelings.The initial numbness that cushioned me for months has worn off and I am more stable. Which is why the feelings are coming up for release now. I am ready for this phase of grieving today; ready for the next set of waves to roll in and the next orange to unpeel. Luckily I have strong compassionate people in my life who understand and mirror back to me positive perspective and loving thoughts. Just like Liam Neeson, I’m getting good at surfing that wave along with all the other human beings who have had someone they love “Taken” from them. I’m calling on my Inner Action Hero to propel me forward.

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22 thoughts on “orange peels & how it feels: coping with grief liam neeson-style

  1. So well written Katy…you are already a Super Hero!
    Your friends will be with you as you surf the waves-everyone of them.
    Hugs

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  2. My Dear Cousin Katy,  You have me in tears as I read your loving comments, the pain that you are going through, I can only imagine for I have had my wonderful husband by my side for almost 48 married years, and three before that, and, one of us will have to leave the other some day, who knows when, I cannot imagine how I would handle the situation if he were to pass on before me, but, I pray that I am the one who goes first. It is so brave of you to write this letter. You don’t know but you give many people strength in the words you say. I love you dearly, I am so sorry our lives have been separated and we have been apart all these years, but, I am here and always will be for you when and if you ever need me. Always a friend, cousin, I love you.  Kathie

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    • Hi Cousin,
      Thank you for posting a comment. My intention with this post is to convey solidarity and hope to those experiencing loss. Grief is a process and one that deserves to have the taboo lifted so that we can learn from one another and help each other heal. I’m feeling my strength returning–which is why the feelings are coming up now to be acknowledged and released. Each day is one I meet with gratitude and hopefully kindness.
      Love to you,
      Katy

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  3. PS: The highly accomplished and beautiful Natasha Richardson with so much earned success…but even so most cherished for how she cared for her man, her children. This resonates on so many levels. We are not what we do, what we look like. We are only as good as how we LOVE and are loved in return.

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  4. Well put anger is a part of ithappily only a part of it somebody wonderful memories of love as well Paula

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

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    • Hi Paula,
      Thank you for sharing your insights. I think for me the anger stage is a big step in healing and awakening from the coping mechanism of numbness/denial. Thankful for all the happiness and love that Scott gave me.
      Hugs,
      K

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  5. From another great article:
    Here’s what you should know:

    • Grief isn’t something to be gotten rid of so that we can get back to life. It IS life.

    • Grief is not a problem, it’s a reality: a natural experience of love and pain.

    • Our friends, our families, our books, our cultural responses, are most useful, most loving and kind, when they help those in grief to carry their reality, and least helpful when they try to solve what can’t be fixed.
    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-devine/death-and-dying_b_4606150.html

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  6. What a beautiful, insightful and validating post – it moved me so much. There must be some alignment in the universe as I also wrote about grief a day or so before you did (prompted by other posts I had read). Your perspective is so fresh and raw. Thank you, and I send gentle healing hugs from one who “gets it”. My post was: http://feistybluegeckofightsback.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/waves/

    Love to you from Yangon and thank you again for sharing so generously.
    Philippa

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    • Phillipa-
      I read your post “Waves” and am inspired by your insights and beautiful writing style. Thank you for continuing to follow this journey and for contributing compassionate comments from Yangon.
      Namaste,
      Katy

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  7. Katy,

    So authentically expressed and you have a healthy appreciation for the vast array of emotions we feel in this grieving process. As caretakers the loss is on many levels. When my Mom died a friend of mine gave me the same Healing after loss meditation book. I have found healing in the passages and strength in the depth of the love and words. As the author experienced the most painful losses, a child it goes beyond what I feel as as a child who has lost parents.
    As Liam said it is learning to ride the waves and my daughter who has been by my side these past 6 mo. As I lost both my parents just 6 weeks apart Aug. and Oct. has said ” we are learning how to surf ”
    Celebrating all the first holidays w/o them, the numbness we feel with the profound loss and empty seats at our table. Days when my heart is so heavy and I just need to honor it. Navigating our own grief is a process. What I can identify most with is how consumed we are with being that caretaker and our own lives are secondary. I am adjusting to the new, being able to take care of myself first, an adjustment we both seem to be adjusting to.
    Thanks for sharing from your heart.

    Much Love &
    (((((Hugs))))))
    To you my friend

    Vicki

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    • Vicki,
      Thank you for sharing your heartfelt comments with me and with my readers, dear friend. A relative said something similar to me recently about being so immersed in that role as caregiver and then suddenly that identity –and huge responsibility–is no longer there. This is another loss and leaves a hole to fill. The hole is a space where I am meant to regain my wholeness without the role of caregiver. I know you know how that feels.
      Sending huge hugs and love back your way.
      Love,
      Katy

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