Shared Grief, A Comrade In Arms

A note to a woman who lost her spouse to cancer within the last few months:

Ok… I started this and had a beautiful post going and then….pooooooooooof………like the thin cloud that from the heat of the sun evaporates and is no more and the blue sky that was behind it is still there and now there is nothing in front of the blue, it is blue, no white blocking the blue…..and so I will reconstruct my cloud…

Yes…we share things in common although we are different individuals…

If I did not have this amorphous internet to talk to I think I would be mad by now. Mad as in crazy, or as in a mad cow, maybe I would also be mad as in angry.

One of my poems talks of the echoes, the voices out here that sometimes comment and make me feel less alone.

And I mentioned how I talk to the four walls, but this entity is my fifth wall, and it answers back sometimes, and I look forward to that, at least initially I did, although not so dependent or hungry for that now.

I spoke of the waves and how at around or shortly after the time Emilee died, the woman, Sheryl Sandberg who is the CEO of Facebook, came out with her book, OPTION B, about losing her husband. She, too, talked of the waves, which I had been talking about myself since Emilee first died.

She talked about the waves, and about option B. Like who was going to take her son to a school function where the students brought their fathers in to school. So her best friend accompanied her son. Because he had said, “ we can go with option B, the best alternative we have”.

And I just happened to hear her being interviewed on NPR on my way to, what else, a grief support group in April of this year, about the time her book came out. Her husband died in 2015.

So I also mentioned how Emilee had signed me up and put me on Facebook about two years ago or more, and I never touched it, never even knew how to get to my page, until a few days before she died. I started to use it as a platform to speak to the many friends she had online. She had hundreds.

And I could let them know how she was doing the last few days, and that she was near the end, and then could thank them for their thoughts, wishes, condolences, expressions of love and loss and tears and sorrow and joys in celebrating her and who she was and still is.

And so this became my echo chamber, my place to shout, to express, to vent, to begin to lift my head and eventually the rest of my body, slowly from the burning ashes and the crashing waves.

You are calling it the second circle. I so far today have called it the fifth wall, and the echo chamber or maybe better the vast canyon in front of me.

And many “RE” words. Yes. Rebuild, reconstruct (never stops), resourceful, resilience, reconnect, return to roots, reinvent ourselves, hopefully not the same wheel but maybe our new version of it, rebuild, and redundancy…lol…and on and on.

I have branched out from facebook, early on to the cancer blogs, the best being BFAC (, the other was I HAD CANCER but I don’t like it as much as BFAC. I finally started my website where I could post my trials and tribulations and my life as it begins to show some early signs of growth once more.

And I am writing more, and started writing poetry because one of the dear dear people on this site suggested it very gently to me and said my writing is lyrical and so I have been doing that. And writing some songs. And started to play guitar after a hundred years or more.

I wrote a children’s song a couple of weeks ago about …”if you’re scared of something, tell someone.”

I had to get someone to replace part of my fence in the front section of the house. She was better at picking contractors. I had to plant all the plants for the annual gardens, the flower boxes, the other gardens, and I had to figure out where I was putting which plants.

I always did the planting but I never ever did the planning. She (Em) was the designer and if I did it without her stamp of approval inevitably I had to redo (another “re” word) it.

Now it was up to me, and I did it. I let the voice talk to me, the one that said, yesssssss, that looks good there, or no, try moving things around until it just looks or feels right.

I am starting to feel (between grief groups, counseling ((a whole story in itself)), more counseling, and beginning with some interactive activities such as a yoga class here, and a tai chi class there, a poetry group at the library, and a friend telling me about a jazz concert nearby, and a lot of music for healing, dancing, and crying), that I am starting to breathe again.

I have always been especially fond of breathing. No, I am not joking. A little. I have always loved to sing. So, breathing has always been more than an automatic behavior that is not thought about.

I still like to practice seeing how long I can hold my breath. Used to be able to go for two minutes. Now the longest is around a minute and a half on a good day. A minute without too much conniptions.

Enough rambling for one post, eh??? As a Canadian would say. I just felt somehow, especially touched by your terse comment this morning. It was few in words, but long in its lasting reverberation inside me. I will now take a deep breath since I was not breathing so great while writing all of this.

Such a long post….did I mention William Saroyan who wrote The Human Comedy? No I don’t think I did yet. Some people read it in English class in high school. I think I stumbled over it in my twenties or thirties. Loved it then. Love it more now. Google it. Please read it. (All of you, please check it out). And, have tissues handy.

Every small chapter is like a life lesson, of life and death, of values, of love and loss and understanding the world and the pain and the beauty. The mother is a beautiful soul, as are many of the characters. They are the kind of people you aspire to. Can you tell I just love the book?

And the author, who I see won a Pulitzer prize which I never knew. Also won an academy award for best story adapted to film. Mickey Rooney in the original one (1943), and redone a couple years ago and directed by Meg Ryan, so so reviews on that one, but I have not seen it yet…came out in march of 2016, was called ITHACA, the name of the town in the book, a fictional name based on Fresno California where Saroyan grew up I think.

Enough for one note in response to you. Yes, I do love to write. Saroyan wrote an intro to one of his works of writing which I am trying to locate, where he wrote a foreward to a book, in which he explained why he writes and loves to write. I remember loving his words.

Writing is one of the things that gives me joy. Singing does as well. It is almost like certain activities breathe life into my soul, or maybe shine the light that is in me out into the world. I will write a piece on that another day.

I am finding the things that energize or (to make YOU happy), lol, RE energize me.

Writing has turned out to be both a means of expressing what is going on inside and outside, and is a creative avenue, a therapy, and a reaching out, and a means of self-realization at times, a way of talking things out, and on occasion, discovering things for the first time, like the time I was describing a dream and as I was writing about it, had an ahaaaa moment.

I had a revelation about what the dream meant and why it had upset me so much. It was one of those “type while you cry and just keep on typing through the tears” moments.

So, I put up my hand, right or left, doesn’t matter, and put it palm and fingers to your palm and fingers, and say…….it is nice to touch hands, nice to share a moment together, put your hand against mine for a moment, and know I can sense what is coursing through your being, thru your heart, your veins, your throat and your eyes… I know…. I don’t know but I do know…I can’t know what is yours, but I know that a piece of what is yours and a piece of what is mine, is shared.

So just breathe with me for a few moments and we can feel the love of our loved ones touching us wanting us to share that love with the world around us.

Love Neal

Neal Klein
Life After Emilee, on the loss of my wife to pancreatic cancer. I’m not accepting comments right now but please feel free to get in touch via my Contact page.