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Seeking the Silver Lining in Grief

Seeking the Silver Lining in Grief

“Understanding why they're suffering can help, as can talking to others and trying to resolve issues that cause significant emotional pain, such as feeling guilty for a loved one's death.”
Support and Bereavement Groups/Mayo Clinic

Is it Fear of Abandonment? Is it Depression? Or, is it just another day? Professionals have told me that I have suffered from fears of abandonment since I was eight years old, resulting in chronic depression. Putting a label on your problems may be necessary, but as a psychologist and social worker Claudia Black explained, the causes of your pain must be understood and guilt for loss and injury beyond your control must be relieved before you can heal.

Abandonment experiences and boundary violations are in no way indictments of a child's innate goodness and value. Instead, they reveal the flawed thinking, false beliefs, and impaired behaviors of those who hurt them. Still, the wounds are struck deep in their young hearts and minds, and the very real pain can still be felt today. The causes of emotional injury need to be understood and accepted so they can heal. Until that occurs, the pain will stay with them, becoming a driving force in their adult live.

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-many-faces- addiction/201006/understanding-the-pain-abandonment)

Too often I find myself standing on a slippery slope. Trying not to slide down the slope into the quagmire of my memories. Why don't I just think good thoughts? Dr. Costas asked me that very question when I started therapy. “Why don't you just think about happy thoughts?” Frustrated, I blurted out, “I can't!”

The Doctor looked at me and smiled, “Of course you can't... there is a chemical imbalance.” Doctor Costas has helped me through so many other difficulties before...” Why shouldn't I listen to him?” Several years have gone by and I am still on medication? I’m still sliding down this slope. People around me who know I am on medication tell me it helps. My question is, “Does it help me, or does it help them?” The truth lies somewhere in both camps. The medication lessens my outbursts of frustration. It helps maintain my blood pressure, making me more tolerable to be with. The medication is the mask I wear to protect me. It allows me the opportunity to search within my deepest core to find balance and purpose.

“You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”
Marianne Williamson, an American spiritual teacher, author and lecturer.

It is a lifelong goal that I have been working through. For years, depression has been my way of thinking. The depression manifests itself in feelings of abandonment, insecurity, scared, inadequate, and anxiousness. The “depression” can hit me like a tsunami. It's as if the Greek god Poseidon had risen up from the sea and ordered the tides to turn against me leaving me decimated by my thoughts. How is any one expected to deal with wave, after wave of ugliness, abandonment, physical abuse, death and hopelessness?

I hear my voice saying the opening lines from the old Simon and Garfunkel song:
“Hello, darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk to you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sounds of silence.”

We can make excuses for ourselves. We can blame others for our failures. The lies we believe are the lies we tell ourselves. Is one of those lies the notion that my depression is the nobler experience of a crisis of faith? It is the absence of faith where the emptiness lets your thoughts echo throughout your being with no refrain to answer your despair? If it's that I'm in fine company.

Mother Teresa wrote a letter to her spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet. “Jesus has a very special love for you,” she assured Van der Peet. “[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, __ Listen and do not hear ___ the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak … I want you to pray for me __ that I let Him have [a] free hand.”

Mother Teresa experienced her “Crisis of Faith” for over fifty years of her life.

Depression and the Dark Night of the Soul often co-exist entwined. The veiled memories that feed depression can be vanquished only when one's spirituality accepts the presence of God or some glimmer of hope on the horizon. As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

Marcel Proust, who spent years ruminating in bed, wrote: “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” “We don't receive wisdom: we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us, or spare us.” “Happiness is beautiful for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

This is my journey! I take ownership of this quest! Whether it is me struggling with depression, a chemical imbalance, or a crisis of faith, it will bring me to a new and better place.

The questions of “Abandonment, Depression or a Dark Night of the Soul?” They are not issues that I seek a definitive answer to.

Exposing a few snapshots of my life, will give you a glimpse into the clouds that threaten to obscure the many good things in my current life.

Fans are oscillating; the air heavy with wetness suffocates every breath you take. Someone's sandals stuck in the melting asphalt where they tried to cross the street. Steam rises from the concrete sidewalks where a panhandler begs for money to get a drink. No relief in sight. “Hotter than Hell” as they used to say.

It is not always the weather that brings the rain, or the afternoon sun that beats down on your brow, causing you to sweat and wonder whether are not you will make it through the day.

Peering out my apartment window I anticipate what tomorrow will bring. At the corner market a huge sail fish flying through the sky above the entrance to the store. What incredible bright colors, midnight cobalt blue, the coral reefs aqua marine, the roaring sea foam green and the shimmering lights of the city.

I could almost feel the refreshing waters on my face as the sail fish re-entered the pristine blue waters, soaking my face on a humid summer day in Chicago. I could hear the roar of the underground train beneath the sidewalks. I leaned out the window to capture a breeze from the train as it “swooshed” by our building. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears! The sun was shining bright, humidity that could be cut with a knife, lightning flashes and thunder like the sound of “kettle drums” fills the sky, but it isn't raining on my side of the street, it's raining across the street! A waterfall of rain, like a skyscraper of refreshing water for the other side of the street? My Mother walked by to see what I was doing.

Mom, look at this! She saw the amazement on my face and smiled, “It’s just The Devil beating his wife”.

When my Father called out to me: You better get a good night's sleep you are going to work with me early in the morning. I had no idea why I was going with him to work, but it was a new adventure for me. Something my Father had never done before, taking me with him, just the two of us.

Morning arrives. Mom makes sure my face is clean and the part in my hair is straight. Dad yells out “It’s time to go”.

As we entered the American Medical Association where my Father worked, he is a paper-cutter in the bindery. The marble floors are cold as ice-cubes, but quickly the coldness is swept away by the warm smiles that strangers are giving to me, but they're not strangers to my Father. I got a feeling of pride. My Father is known and liked by all these nice people. They'll probably like me too!

We entered a crowded elevator. I had never been in an elevator. Everyone facing forward I don't know why, but I turned and faced the door. Some looking straight forward others gazing upward. I don't know what they were looking for, but maybe that's because I'm distracted by the feeling of falling.

Suddenly, a gentleman dressed in a three piece suit looked down at me and then at my Father and said, “George, you can't dis-own that one he is the spit-ten image of you!”

The door abruptly opened and everyone exited the elevator, except for me and my Father. As soon as the door closes again my Father grabbed me by the shirt collar, bending over toward me as he lifted me up against the wall, his face “red with anger”, mine “white with fear”. He shouts in low tones that rang loud and clear to me, “You are no blood to me, you are not my Kin!”

I want to disappear. I want to curl up and die. What's wrong with me? Sure, he's spanked me. That's what parents do! Every time he has spanked me, he told me, “This hurts me more than it does you.”
But this hurt more than any spanking. This was a complete and final rejection. It mattered not what my day was like, for I was no Kin to him.

Going back to Dr. Claudia Black's insights in the Psychology Today, “When a child is not protected from physical and emotional abuse the child is also told overtly or by implication: It is not okay to show feelings. The way you feel is not true. You have nothing to cry about and if you don't stop crying I will really give you something to cry about. That really didn't hurt. You have nothing to be angry about. This condition, the child is repetitively being exposed to becomes toxic and cancerous to him/her and future relationships.” I was exposed to this toxic combination of abuse and the strict order not to show my feelings over the pain.

*******************************************************
Through the timeworn window frame... a summer night in 1966, in a Chicago neighborhood called, Logan Square. Two friends were out wandering the streets, seeking any kind of entertainment, a little self-indulgence, a distraction, an excuse not to go home. Home? That wasn't somewhere... either of us wanted to be.

Lost, but not alone, two friends wandering the streets, in the comfort and solace of knowing, that we had each other. Thrown together by happen stance, Larry lives in the “Polish Penthouse,” a third floor walk-up and me in a basement again. (I often wondered what it would be like not to have bars on the windows and hot water pipes overhead.)

Running and jumping! Shooting imaginary basketballs! Leaping upward to touch the signs, an activity we have shared many a night. The signs hang extended from the exterior walls of the drug store, the corner store and the record shop, dangling over the sidewalks...to simply touch them gives us such a feeling of “glee.” This is our way to measure how much we have grown and devour the hours of time.

And Crazy Jeanie singing. “I left my heart in San Francisco,” __“Because he had high hopes, he had high hopes, and he had high apple pie, in the sky hopes “and “Tut, Tut, Tut It's Butter-nut.” Jeanie, to us she seems old__ must be thirty something. She walks the streets of our neighborhood, dressed like a Polish Busha right off the boat. She will entertain anyone and everyone by singing songs she heard on the radio, or jingles from the T.V. commercials. No matter what the weather... bitter cold, or smoldering hot, she is wearing her dirty old raggedy overcoat, several sweaters, a pair of white tennies and bold colored wool babushka. Your heart weeps for her, but your face wears a smile, because of her songs and carefree attitude.

Through my aging eyes: Larry and I continue down the street, cloaked by the darkness of the starless sky.

An ominous cloud now covers the eyes of the Man in the Moon. There were to be no witnesses to my demise.

I've been in precarious situations... too many times before. Recognize danger? “Yes indeed!” Whether like a disease or a cancerous tumor I could sniff out danger even at sixteen It, has a rank aroma of rottenness. This hoard that approached had a smell of its own, it was forging toward us, and it could not be ignored. You could hear the snorting, snarling, guttural growls, the sniffing about, and the hideous laughter, as they wreaked havoc on the cars, the stores and the homes.

The pack of two legged dogs was getting closer. There were at least five, maybe six, or more? I didn't want to bring attention to us; therefore, I kept them in my sight out of the corner of my eye.

Larry and I stood drooling over a sleek black 1966 Ford Thunderbird with a fiery red interior that was parked at the curb just outside the parking lot of the National Tea grocery store. Larry, still oblivious to the perils that approached was startled by the crashing sound of a broken bottle. Without any thought of his friend, fear took hold... Larry, or should I call him, The Hawk, was off and in flight. He was gone like the wind!

One of the dogs peeled off from the pack, the chase was on, nipping at Larry's heels, looking for the opportunity to pounce on his back.

I positioned myself in front of the Thunderbird to minimize the onslaught of my foes. I stepped forward, standing tall, not to cower and show my fear. There was nothing left to do, but feign an aura of self-confidence. Sizing up my predicament, I quickly decided which of my foes presented the most danger and went to war.

Blow, after blow, I strike him repetitively! A left jab to his nose, a right cross to his left eye, I step in close and administer several rabbit punches to his abdomen and kidneys, pulling away with a right upper-cut to his chin! I step back to catch my breath and look in the eyes of my opponent. Blood is streaming down the left-side of his face from the right-cross I landed to his eye. He begins to smirk and all of a sudden, he bursts out in a low crescendo of laughter.

Oh Shit! What have I got myself into? I must have hit him with twenty sledge hammer blows to the head. And he laughs!

This sawed-off son of a bitch hauls off and kicks me square in the groin, lifting me high onto my tip-toes. Oddly enough I don't feel any pain. It must have been all of the adrenalin flowing. A reflex response finds my hand around his throat, pulling him toward me across my body smashing his face into torpedo shaped hood ornament just above the headlight of the Thunderbird. The hood ornament breaks off falling onto the sidewalk followed by this Fool bleeding like a stuck pig shouting directions, “Hit him Vick!”

Suddenly, through the grocery store doors the butcher with cleaver in hand, followed by stock boys and cashiers, like the cavalry to the rescue, scatter the dogs.

My left eye is swollen shut. I want to say, “Thanks.” But a fat lip gets in my way of talking. Blood is flowing from my nose, but all I can think of is how much trouble I'll be in, if I go home. If I came home crying, it would be another beating waiting for me. I'll be sent back out to make sure those guys who messed with me, think twice, before they screw with me again.

I decide to go to my girlfriend's house. It is only a few blocks away. I knock on the front door and Mr. Kamien opens the door. “Can I help you?” He doesn't recognize me. I look like Quasimodo minus the hunchback. When I try to speak... Mr. Kamien startled says, “My God, son! What happened to you?” He puts his arms around my shoulders and helps me inside to tend to my wounds. I started to feel relief, because I am finally with someone who cares about me. His voice is soothing; his kind face displays genuine concern. He gives me some fatherly advice: “Think about those you keep company, especially, those you call a friend! When friends get into difficulty, they don't leave their friends in the lurch.”

Through this timeworn window frame... those words of advice that Mr. Kamien gave me that night, ring loud and clear, and here I sit, wondering... “Whatever happened to Larry?”

I can remember the guttural laugh of my attacker when I hit him with everything I had, but the most vivid memory is, watching Larry. as he ran away.

It was a couple years later in an English class when I came across the Aesop Fable: The Travelers and the Bear; I remembered what Mr. Kamien said to me that night. I had no idea he was referencing Aesop's Fables.

The Travelers and the Bear; Two friends were traveling on the same road together when they met with a bear. The one in great fear, without a thought of his companion, climbed up into a tree and hid himself. The other friend, seeing that he had no chance, single-handed, against the bear, had nothing left but to throw himself on the ground and feign to be dead, for he had heard that the bear will never touch a dead body.

As he thus laid, the bear came up to his head, nuzzling and snuffing at his nose, and ears, and heart, but the man immovably held his breath, and the beast supposing him to be dead, walked away.

When the bear was fairly out of sight, his companion came down out of the tree, and asked what it was that the Bear whispered to him; "for," says he, "I observed he put his mouth very close to your ear."

"Why," replied the other. "it was no great secret. He only bade me have a care how I kept company with those who, when they get into a difficulty, leave their friends in the lurch."

*******************************************************

Black asphalt serpentines between the knolls of tobacco farms, camouflaging what waits just beyond. Anticipation is running rapid! Thoughts of a new beginning fills the interior of the car, as the wind blows against our faces, as it swishes through one window and out another. The smile, and the laughter that resonates from Britain, my daughter, is contagious as the wind blows back her hair. Her happiness and pleasure from the simplest innocent acts, puffs up my chest with fatherly pride. God! I'm lucky to have the family I have.

Linda my lovely wife caresses our fourteen-month-old daughter in her lap, as we talk about... “What if?” We recently found a house with an option to buy. I have gotten an appointment to teach at a small college in Kansas. “What if?”

The black top county road continues to meander through the picturesque surroundings, abruptly coming upon a straight-away into section lined with an umbrella of trees. The brightest of days.

Darkness Shadows...Silence! The silence is deafening. Flashes of light burst! Repetitive explosions amongst blackness, propelling me into a spiraling abyss.

Into a void of nothingness!

“Mr. Stolz...Mr. Stolz can you hear me? Lay still. You're okay. Be careful of all the tubes, you were in an accident.”

Where am I?

“KU Medical Center. You were medic-vac-ed by helicopter.”

Where's my family? They're alright? Aren't they! They are okay? I want to see my family!

“Mr. Stolz, calm down. You'll pull out your tubes.”

I want to see my family!

“Mr. Stolz your entire family was killed.”

When I was told that my entire family was killed... the doctors and nurses weren't aware, that I had two other daughters that were in school.

Art, my spiritual guide at St. Francis Hospital, Geila, my incredibly loving sister who saw to it that I never hit bottom, and Pauline, my now wife of thirty-four years have been my navigators back to wholeness.

Pauline is the huge reason for my survival. She has listened and empathized with me when needed, held me in her arms, and given me the encouragement to go forward.

Pauline helped me raise my daughters, and her daughters, as one family. She gave the love and guidance that only a mother can. “Thank you for your amazing grace. Thank you... for all those things, words just can't say! I love you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Stolz, is a graduate of the Masters of Written Communication Program at National Louis University. He is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, and a member of SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society. Terry’s folktale: “The Bear and The Hare” and his poem, “Blindman” were published in the Mosaic 2015 literary anthology. Terry’s memoir “A Son No More” was chosen for the 2016 Mosaic. Four of Terry's poems have been published in the Cowboy Chronicle Magazine. Terry’s poem “He Walks with Me” was published in The Write City Magazine. “Desert Goddess” and “Need for Another” were published in the Rockford Writes 2015 anthology. Mr. Stolz’s essay “Good Morning World” was included in the 2016 RWG’s Rockford Review. August 23,2017 his poem, “Stranger in Church” was published in Z Publishing’s book: Illinois’ Best Emerging Poets.

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Work Cited:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-many-faces- addiction/201006/understanding-the-pain-abandonment
http://www.darknightofthesoul.net , Prescott, Gregg, M.S., Author, Founder and editor of In5D and BodyMindSoulSpirit
http://aesopsfables.org/ mayoclinic.org Jung, Carl – College of Rochelle. The Jungian Approach to Symbolic Interpretation, 29 January 2013
Rogers, Carl- Theory of Personality
Time Magazine, Fall 2007, Mother Teresa
The Bear and the Travelers is a fable attributed to Aesop
John Tenniel's page design for the fable from the 1848 edition of Aesop
John Tenniel - http://books.google.com/books?id=rUbRa8jtSz8C&pg=PA51&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false
A page from the Thomas James edition of 1848, illustrated by John Tenniel, Public Domain
File:Tenniel travellers.JPG, Uploaded by Mzilikazi1939, Created: December 31, 1847

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