I had such a great weekend at Lake LBJ. Curiously enough, we didn’t get on the lake at all. It was very hot, but bearable because it wasn’t very humid. We visited a couple of wineries for tastings and experienced some very interesting reds. The Texas Hill Country is known for its wonderful wines, both whites and reds. I’ll turn our escapades into a YouTube and post it soon.
Y’all, I’m totally into Chaga mushrooms now. Don’t worry. I’m not tripping. These are mushrooms that grow on the bark of birch trees in the circumpolar regions of the world like Siberia and Northern China. Guess what you can also find there. Really, really, really old people who drink tea made from the mushrooms. It’s anti-aging properties are very powerful. That’s because it’s got the highest antioxidant rating of anything known on this planet. For example, acai berries have an ORAC index of 800. Green tea has one around 1100. Chaga mushrooms have one of 37,000! So I take the capsules and a cup of the tea every day. It’s so freaking hot here that I make it iced tea. So far, after just a week, my sense of well-being has improved. I’m also using Chaga mushroom face and body cream. It’s early yet, but my skin already feels and looks better.
Another cool thing is that Chaga mushrooms have powerful anti-tumor properties. Some oncologists are using it on their melanoma patients. Sloan Kettering-Memorial Hospital even has it’s own page about Chaga mushrooms on its website. They also use it against psoriasis with excellent results. If you’re interested, do a search. I get all my stuff on Amazon.
By the way, I think I’ve been posting too many Erik Encounters. I’m going to limit them to the weekends and include only the ones that hold the most interest. Hope you guys agree!
Okay, enough of the commercial! Let’s talk about grief.
Me: In the years after you died, Erik, my grief was just horrible, so what can we do to help people understand how to deal with their grief?
Jamie: He’s acting very suave. He sits down, puts his arms on the chair and says,
Erik: Okay. There are a few things that we can go ahead and change. The words around grief. How do we “deal” with grief? Dealing with something. We only deal with something we don’t like. We handle it. We deal with it.
Me: Nobody likes grief! It’s horrible!
Erik: But Mom, the more you’re not accepting it, the longer it has to boil up inside of you for you to really make peace with it. So let’s not “deal” with it anymore. Let’s get into it. Let’s absorb it so that when it wafts over you—
Jamie: Is that a word?
Me: Waft? Yes.
Jamie (smiling): I don’t use that word!
Erik: When it comes over you—it could be when you’re at the grocery story. It could be the first day that you decide to leave your house after your loved one has passed, and you think you’re totally fine, but then you get out of your car and go into the grocery store and BOOM, it hits you. Don’t deal with it and kind of button it up and make your way through the day. Feel it right then and there. March your ass back to the car, get inside and have your moment with grief, collect yourself and go back in. I don’t know why our culture always has to put grief under a fucking blanket like you can never come out publically with it. “Oh, leave them alone. They’re grieving.” Fuck that! That’s the last moment you should leave someone alone.
Erik: You go to them, and it’s not like they need anything from you. So when you’re accepting your grief and someone comes up to you, what do they do? They pretty much add to your fucking grief. They use words like, (in a voice conveying pity) “I’m so sorry. Oh, I’m just so worried about you, and I’m sorry.” That shit needs to stop, people. When you see somebody grieving, you can go to them and say, “Oh my gosh. Watching you like this, I can feel it, and my heart’s breaking with yours. How can I be here for you?” And listen to the person that’s grieving because most of the time it’s, “Be around me, but don’t say anything. Stay with me, but don’t judge me. Don’t tell me that in three days it’ll get better. Don’t tell me that this will come and go for my entire life because it’s a bit of an unknown.” If you’re processing the grief as it’s coming to you, in general, you’re not going to have the same experience as other people. It’s an emotion that you add to your bucket of emotions. It is going to come and go, but it’s not going to consume your life. But the way our culture views grief right now, you’re taught to use it to allow it to consume you, that you’re damaged and you’ll never get that dead person back, that there’s no such thing as having a new relationship [with him or her.] Everything has changed. Everything. Bury it.
Me: You can come up to people and talk to them like you said, but a lot of them dismiss it with, “Oh no. I’m fine. It’ll be okay.”
I put up a brave front like that.
Erik: That’s the “dealing” part, isn’t, Mom? “I’m fine.”
Me: So what can you tell people to help them open up to those who are trying to comfort them?
Erik: If you’re the grieving one, and you’re being—
Jamie: I don’t know what he said, some “tight?”
Erik: When you’re trying to deal with it, people are asking you how you’re feeling; you tell them straight out, “I’m having a really hard time. I still super miss so and so, and I super miss my life. I miss having conversations that don’t wrap back around to that one experience.” Be able to share, and be able to identify that your friend is standing there, and they love you so much. They want to give you something. You could say, “Just you showing up is what I needed. I don’t need anything else from you. I just don’t, but I love that you’re here. Can we talk about something different?” Be able to tell the person what you need, and if you don’t know what you need, tell them. “I wish I could share with you what I need, but I just don’t know. I’ve never done this before.” And if you want to talk about the same thing over and over and over again like how you had to identify the body—that’s a big fucking shocker for anybody who’s done it.
Erik: And you have to play it out again and again and again and again. If that’s the same friend that keeps showing up [to hear your story,] you just tell them, “Listen, I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta play it until this record breaks because that’s how I process things. So you share your story again and again and again, and you thank them for being the backboard to throw the words off of. A lot of you will say, “I didn’t have that awareness when I was in grief. Everything just fell apart. Everything was ruined. I wasn’t myself. I lost three days.” In those moments of grief, you’re right, you really can’t identify who you are, and this is the processing mode. But after that [initial] period, you have those moments of grief when you can talk, but you shut your fucking mouth, and that’s when things are going to start to go wrong. As soon as you start opening up your mouth, that’s when you’re going to be responsible for this. That’s when you need to share. Grief is lifted when you allow the community to come in with you, for you—
Jamie bursts out laughing. I’m thinking, ‘Is that appropriate? It seems so out of place!’
Jamie: Is Bella in the background?
For those of you who don’t know, Bella is my tiny Yorkie.
Me: No, that’s Kristina’s dog, Gidget.
Kristina is my eldest, and we were keeping Gidget (also a Yorkie) while she and her husband went on vacation.
Jamie: Oh, it is? Oh my goodness.
Gidget is behind me in the chair, popping up and down so that her head bounced in and out of the picture.
Me: A Whack-a-mole.
We both laugh.
Erik: You can rely on animal companions. That’s perfect timing because they take and give just like people do, energetically.
Me: That’s true.
Jamie: Do you want to ask something?
Yes, and that’ll be the beginning of Part Two.