Change Your Mind, Change the World

On March 31st, in NYC, I was honored to be chosen to give a TEDx Talk, at Adelphi University. My talk was about how we, as a society, need to change the conversation about grief and loss and death, and change the way we treat both the people we love who have died, AND those that are left behind to miss and grieve them. The talk was performed live in front of an audience of about 400, and also was live-streamed on the internet all over the world. The response was insanely amazing and instant, to the live talk. For the past month and a half, I have been patiently (impatiently) waiting for the green light from the TED corporate people, to release my talk into the internet, and be able to finally share it all over social media. Well, my release date was Wednesday, and so it is now out there for the world to see, online, where it will remain forever.

In just under 2 days, the YouTube video of my talk already has 10,000 views and counting. Over one thousand people have shared it on Facebook, and the numbers are growing larger and wider. People are telling me their stories. Stories of loss and hope and frustration and grief and pain. People are sharing with me, in private messages and emails, because I shared with them. People are proving that what I said in my talk is true – Love Grows Love.

My husband’s death almost 6 years ago now, has been something that continues to change me and make my life different, every single day. I wish it didnt happen. I wish he was here. I will always, always wish that. I will always miss him and want him here with me. But he isnt here. And no matter how much I wish for that, it wont ever happen. So, I choose to make his life a legacy, and to remember him and love him, by living life forward, and by using my own life to do my part in changing the world however I can. I want for people such as myself, who lose their very world in a split second, to not have to put up with people telling them to move on or to get over it. I want that language to change, and Im going to do whatever I can to help make that happen. Even if it takes years. Or decades. Or forever. Because I believe it is THAT important, and I believe that the people we love who have died, deserve better. And so do we.

Here is my TEDx Talk. Please share the link like wildfire, until we learn to tell each other’s stories, forever. Thank you.

Collecting the Hurt

I figured something out this morning, about grief.

It is this …

Things that happen to you, after the loss of your person, that are painful,

hurt way more.

They hurt more than they did in the previous life.

The “before” life.

In this “after” life,

the one where my person is dead forever,

things that hurt,

hurt more.

They hurt deeper.

They feel more personal.

More tender.

Its like poking an open wound,

again and again,

and again.

So each time you open it,

and poke at it,

and let others poke at it,

inviting them in to see your wound,

and then jab at it,

the pain is worse,

and bigger,

and more intense,

than the last time.

And your insides,

become raw,

and broken,

and scarred,

and it hurts like hell,

and it burns like fire,

and it bleeds

from your skin,

and your heart.

By now, I have learned that grief changes. It changes and shifts and moves. It is always moving. All the time. Even when you are perfectly still and you don’t want to live life or breathe air, your grief is still moving within the stillness. Even when you are stagnant, your grief is plotting. Silently waiting and ready.

And here is what I discovered ……

At first, and for a very long time, after losing your person to death, it is all about the missing of them. It is about missing them intensely, and everything that comes with that. You just miss them like mad, and you want them back, and you cant ever understand why you cant have that. You fight against it, you rage, you whine, you barter, you beg, you question, you surrender, but never fully. You accept, but not really. For how can you accept something so inconceivable, so vicious? How can you accept your life and your heart and your universe, just vanishing into thin air?

You can’t. I can’t. I won’t.

There is a difference between knowing that its real, being forced to live inside the new reality – and accepting it. I live in this reality everyday. I know its real. But it will never be acceptable to me. It will never be okay with me, that my husband is dead forever. It just won’t.

So you come to a place where you make a decision to either open your heart up again, or not. For me, this happened about 2 years ago, when I let my very first “new person that isnt my husband” inside my heart. Formed a friendship. And since that time, in the past couple of years but especially this last year, I have been hurt again and again and again. Because I let that person into my heart. And then I let another person into my heart, and also into my bed. And then another. And all of those people that I had let in, turned into dust. Eventually. And in different ways. But the result was the same each time. Me being left behind. Me being left alone. Me being abandoned, and blindsided, and losing people that I thought cared about me. And having no say in the matter. No conversation about it. Much like my husband, they just disappeared into thin air. And that eats away at your insides. It hurts from a place deep within, where you begin to wonder if something is truly wrong with you, because all these people keep leaving. And all these people keep seeming to say some version of: “Youre not good enough.” Or, “I like you, but Im choosing this other person.” Or “you don’t deserve an explanation as to why I’m taking our connection away. You’ll just have to live with it.”

And so each time this happens, it feels like another death. It feels like someone has died, because they have taken away access to their life. They still exist in the world, but I am not allowed to speak words with them or laugh with them or be near them in any way. When someone you care about deeply, ignores you or cuts you off or shuts you out from their world like it’s nothing, it hurts with a pain so fierce. And when it happens a couple times in a row, it feels like your insides are on fire.

So, now, because you have opened your heart to new people, the grief starts to shift again. Now, after all of these people have hurt you, you begin to collect all of the hurt, and it piles up into heaviness. So now, Im not just missing my husband who is dead forever. Now, Im missing my husband who is dead forever, and Im also missing that person who I thought I would be friends with for life, and who I thought cared about me in a special way and would protect me and be my friend and look out for me. And I am also missing that other person, who I started to fall in love with, within a short but intense period of time, and who I felt such happiness with, and who felt like a new beginning. So now, when Im grieving and missing, I have all of these things and people to miss. And I miss them deeply. And it hurts. All of the collected hurt that sits inside of my skin – it aches and it dulls and it stabs.

So again, Im faced with a choice. Do I keep putting my heart out there, so I can collect more hurt and more pain and more people who will leave me behind or blindside me or not want my love for them or choose someone else that isnt me? Or do I close off my heart, and stop giving access to anyone in the future, so that I wont get hurt anymore.

This is why people shut off their hearts. This is why people decide to just exist and not really live. This is why people are terrified to love.

I dont want to be one of those people, who shuts off the world. I don’t want to be one of those people, who remains stuck on bitter and angry and alone. I don’t want to be lonely anymore. I don’t want to be alone anymore.

BUT ….

I don’t want to keep going all in, only to get my soul shattered. I don’t want to keep falsely believing that THIS might be the one, the person who actually does choose me, the person who looks at me and says “Yes. It’s you. It’s always been you.” I don’t want to keep telling my story to male suitors, hoping and praying they wont run away. Hoping that my life and my trauma and my grief and my pain, is not too much for them. I dont want to keep thinking that something is happening between me and this person, only for them to shut me out and turn me away with no thought. I just don’t want that anymore.

I have another first date on Sunday. And on past first dates, I was excited or at least anxious and nervous, in a good way, to go out and meet and discover somebody new. But now – after all the games and all the lies and all the things that I thought were one thing and turned out to be another – I can almost feel my heart shutting down. I can feel it happening.

I can feel myself not caring.

I can feel myself growing bitter and angry.

I can feel myself not being able to trust anyone.

I can feel all the walls going back up again.

I have collected too much hurt.

My collection is too large.

There are too many people I miss now,

whenever I start missing Don.

I miss the days when I just missed Don.

Now, I miss Don,

and then I miss that beautiful friend,

and I miss that new beginning,

and I miss the innocence of a first kiss,

or butterflies in your stomach,

before I knew,

that those butterflies,

would end in nothing.

Do I open or close my heart?

I want to open it.

I want to keep it open.

I want love to find me.

But how many times,

can a person be let down?

How many times,

can a person be blindsided?

How many times,

can a person,

not be the one,

for someone else?

How many times?

My hurt collection keeps growing,

there are too many people to miss.

Too many people that chose to walk away.

How do I not take that personally?

It hurts.

It aches and it stabs,

and it hurts.

And yet,

I keep choosing,

to collect more tries,

at love.

Just one more try.

Or maybe two.

Because just a chance,

at love,

is Everything.

I just want it to be my turn.

When is it going to be me?

Im tired of collecting hurt.

And really,

Im just tired.

So very tired.

Come find me, love.

Please don’t take too long.