Tag Archives: grief

Robin Williams and wanting to hide under covers

Dear Readers,

After what feels like months of crying over so many things, the news yesterday of Robin William’s death hit me hard. Like so many others, I wish I could stay home and hide under the covers. It’s hard to get up and go out and be in the world.

I wrote this last night as my Facebook status–it is all that I can manage for now.

“Can hardly even write through tears at learning of the loss of this deeply talented man. He made me laugh out loud and he made me cry and I loved him from the Mork & Mindy days, and beyond. So sad to lose a great artist who brought joy, love, and laughter to our world which is in desperate need of joy, love, and laughter. Robin Williams was truly one of a kind.

Thank goodness he shared his tremendous gifts with us for as long as he could. Carpe diem.”

I made this quick sketch this morning because I woke up with eyelashes that stuck together because I cried myself to sleep and I had to force my eyes open, and wash away dried tears, and this was all I could do.

I made this  before going out into the world, which is harsh, but also beautiful, in which no one is safe, really, no one is, from heartache and sadness. And many of us  (is it all of us?) fight that feeling, to hide under covers, to stay home, to give up.

Please don’t give up today. Please seize this day, even while crying and sad. Please be kind to your self and others. If you need help, please reach for it. There is always a need for more hugs and understanding. There is always a need for more love, joy, and laughter.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

With love,

RobinWilliams

For mothers there is no comfort: On the Newtown, CT Shooting Today

Dear Readers,

Again, in the unfolding of yet another epic tragedy this day, Friday, December 14, 2012. Reading in tiny bits, because I can’t tolerate and function as a good mother if I allow myself to read or watch or see too much and my job is to protect and take care of my son first, before everything or anything else.  Max is home sick today. Were he at school, I might have driven over there to take him home upon hearing the news. Or I’d have resisted, telling myself, but he’s safe there. But, he’s here, so I’ve got the good fortune to know he’s OK. I’m considering homeschooling at this moment. The information isn’t palatable, it isn’t acceptable, it is too awful, too heartbreaking, too senseless, beyond understanding—-the horrifying news about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, today. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this monumental tragedy today.

My current Facebook status:

“Our country must find a way to stop the gun insanity now. I feel like a broken record along with many other voices screaming into the wind about this for ages now. How many more of these insane, senseless, heartbreaking tragedies will occur before we stop this? This country is on a killing spree. Apparently, there is a green light and OK to gun down wolves and other helpless animals. It is apparently also acceptable in our country to gun down children in schools. The mentality and warped thinking behind both the reckless treatment of wildlife and abuse of the environment here and our citizens — is one and the same. Approximately 32 people die daily from gun violence. They die in places that never make the national news. We have to make it NOT BE OK ANYMORE FOR THIS TO HAPPEN ANYWHERE. It has to stop. The violent gun culture and bullying from the NRA and all those who are beholden to the money and greed and who have twisted the “Right to bear arms” into something completely insane, must be taken down and stopped. Our children deserve better than this. We all deserve better. And we can do better and we simply have to. But it will take large numbers of MORE people speaking up and protesting and writing letters and holding our leaders accountable. Please help be the change on this.”

Mothers and fathers holding their breath and waiting and finding out something that one doesn’t wish on an enemy; the loss of a child. The murder of children. Children. At school. The words, multiple victims. 100 rounds. Maybe more. The complete and utter insanity of our country’s gun laws; weapons of war with ridiculously easy access to anyone; the criminal, the insane, the hopeless, the angry, the mentally unstable, the killer, the one who fell through the cracks of the system. Anyone. The screaming into the wind of advocates and activists and mayors and teachers and doctors and nurses and citizens, parents and children –—screaming into the cold wind today, falling on knees, lost in grief today. Today, yesterday, and what will tomorrow bring? Monday? How does one go about breathing after this? My heart breaks and aches for the families, the community, the school, the friends and children. It is enough. It is more than enough. Can the lessons please be learned now? I demand answers from our government. I demand change. We must rise up and scream loudly together, please, it must change. It is the seventh night of Chanukah tonight. I want GUN CONTROL. Speaking of light, can our leaders please WAKE UP and see the LIGHT? It is 10 days before Christmas Eve. How about GUN CONTROL for Christmas?

Make no mistake. There is no safe place for our children in America today. There is no school or movie theater or mall or space anywhere that is safe as long as there are weapons and ammunition flowing like milk, every day, everywhere. There is a war in America. There is a war on our children in America. There is a failing mental health system. There is a glorified culture of violence, greed, power, and abuse. There are also wolves being hunted down, innocent, beautiful creatures, gunned down for no reason. It is the same mentality behind the gun control issue and the destruction of our environment and the killing of innocents—wildlife, children. It is the same forces behind both that are evil and power hungry and thoughtless and harmful to all living beings. This is the source of our downfall. It must change. We are all connected. We will all fall down together.

Mothers know that if a child is lost the mother will never recover even if she appears to. Even if “time passes.” Even if “she heals.” Mothers know that losing one’s child is likely the single worst thing that can possibly befall a human being and every mother lives with the fear that something could happen to her child for her entire life and every mother prays that she be the one to go first, as is the natural order of things. And every day, mothers send their children to school, even knowing this. But no one knows the pain of it until it happens to you, the specific mother, for whom life is over in ways that no one understands; each individual loss being unique and irreplaceable and impossible to know. A grief which makes one wish the sun could stop shining, and the moon not rise, or stars evaporate, because your world has become something that cannot be lived in anymore. To live in the pain of that loss is something every mother hopes she never has to face. How does one go on breathing after losing a child? And in this way? I don’t know. This was an elementary school. I don’t know anything anymore.

Every mother is feeling the pain and loss from afar, but the mothers who lost, we can’t even hold or comfort because they’ve just all entered into a different dimension and are on another planet now, even though here on earth, wishing perhaps to be swallowed up, wishing for death, because the pain of the loss is too great to bear.

Would there be a grace to come upon the families, the mothers of the children who have been murdered today. Oh, but we cannot take away what has been done. There is no comfort. There is no grace.

Mothers know that one child lost is too many. Mothers know that if a mother somewhere else is grieving, a mother across the planet will feel her pain and cry real tears of loss with her, a complete stranger, across the world, or next door. But we cannot stand in her place, imagining, heaven forbid, saying that, oh, there but for the grace of God go I, that it could be, heaven forbid, in my child’s school. Whether you believe in God or heaven or not, only imagining for a few minutes at a time, or we’d be collapsed on the floor and we have children we must care for. I don’t believe God has a hand in this. I believe guns and ammunition and gun laws that make no sense and a lack of mental health services are the hand in this. A shooter has a hand in this. The ones he got the guns from have a hand in this. The NRA has a hand in this. The government that won’t change the laws has a hand in this.

So we will reserve our cries for later, in bed, to cry into our pillows over the lives lost and the parents mourning their children. And, if only. If only. Maybe in the future, but that is too late for the people suffering today. All the lives shattered. When can it be enough? The pain is too great, today. It is too great the pain that has taken children away from their mothers and fathers today. And every single one of us must think of the lost children today and their parents’ suffering and imagine standing in their shoes. Then take action. Because we are all potential targets of madmen with guns and it is on all of us to demand change. If ever there was a national crisis, and a moment of reckoning, this is it.

There is no time to wait; this is not political for the sake of politics or party,

This is human survival time. This is the time to demand justice for our children and our wildlife because it is one and the same –behind the killing of children and helpless animals and the ruination of our planet —- allowing that to happen and not stopping it—it is all different shades of murder. Children and our wildlife are innocents. They are to be protected. Not gunned down. Not gunned down in fields or at school. Elementary school. Where is the mercy and the clarity and the wisdom we mothers (and so many fathers) know already? Why are our voices not heard? Who are the men who hate children so much that they must clutch their automatic weapons designed as killing machines for war and tell us they have the right to bear arms in this way? Who does this? Why the guns? When we will our nation say it must stop now? Now. Not next year. Not in six months. Now. Today. Can this be the last time? I’ve asked that before. Countless others have asked it. I doubt it will be the way things are going, even as flags are lowered, as candles are lit, as vigils held, prayers offered in the dark, circles of grief expanding. But I have this deeply held wish that it will change if we all just make enough noise about it. Or is time to leave? Is that the answer? I don’t know anymore. Other countries seem to have this worked out a lot better than we do.

This is the exact time (we are long overdue, but, oh, please, let it be NOW) for a radical change in our gun control laws. It can be done. It can be done. Let’s make it done.

Because a six year old says things like this:

“Drawing is like making your dreams come true. It’s like you’re making a story without words.”

And creates work like this:

Image

And believes that there are safe places.

And believes home and school and the street are safe places.

And sees the world in color.

And dreams.

And believes dreams come true.

And brings joy.

Mothers and Fathers know this.

We’re just breathing now.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION TODAY:

http://signon.org/sign/gun-control-now-1.fb23?source=s.icn.fb&r_by=242876

http://www.bradycampaign.org/

http://www.wearebetterthanthis.org

http://www.demandaplan.org/

http://www.earthjustice.org

On a day like today: Remembering 9/11/2001

Dear Readers,

It is with a deep sense of fear that I’m sending this to you. I don’t know if it is the memory of the fear from that day, or a fear of sending this because I don’t have a hero story or even a courage story. I was terrified that day, 9/11/2001. I spent it inside my apartment being very afraid. I didn’t lose a loved one, unless you count the scar on my city, which was a kind of loved entity, much bigger than me. I share this with  respect for the ones who lived through it, the ones who were lost, the ones who were injured, the ones left behind to grieve forever. And also out of a need to finally, after 11 years, to write publicly about what I can remember experiencing on that day. So, it isn’t a fancy story, or a hero story, or a survivor story. It is just what I remember. And here, a poem from the days after, which I posted last year. This is because thousands of people died in my city, in our country, and my heart aches.  I don’t know what else to do with my sadness, but write.

This is the day I wish to return to: The day before.

On Monday, September 10, 2001, I was working as the audience warm up / stand up comic for Emeril Live on Food Network for a standard week of taping. The studio was in walking distance to my apartment. We had a regular day, then I went home. I barely remember that day, it was so ordinary.

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, my husband, who was already at work, left a message on our answering machine. I didn’t have to be at the studio until around 11am, so I was still in bed. There was urgency in his voice. Something happened… Something is happening. Turn on the TV.

I jumped up and turned on the TV. My first thought, after the initial shock and utter confusion: There are people in there. And then a speeded up frenzy of memory fragments of every time I’d ever been in or near those buildings, in or near or up in the World Trade Towers.  I fell to my knees.

At some point, my boss called me or I called her. I was told the day was cancelled. Stay home. I found out later, the whole week was cancelled (we usually taped once a month). Shortly after that, it became impossible to make or receive phone calls.

From the south facing window in my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, on West 49th Street, I couldn’t see anything, being so many blocks north. But, there was that smoke cloud and smell. It lingered for a long time.  The smoke cloud. That smell.

In the evening, we ventured out confused and hungry, looking for food. I remember that it’s astonishing to feel hunger in the midst of chaos and destruction, but the fact is, people get hungry in every situation there is. People walking the streets were dazed, walking slowly, holding each other. I noticed that everyone looked directly into each others eyes. Our favorite Chinese food place was open. We brought the food home. I couldn’t taste anything. The endless images on TV which we couldn’t believe were real. Being afraid to fall asleep. The sound of sirens. Not being able to sleep. Being too afraid to sleep.

That night, and in the middle of the night when some phone lines became free again, I got calls from friends and relatives. One call from my friend in Israel sticks out, as it had usually been me being the one worried about her every time there was a terrorist attack there. Things had changed.

I was a new immigrant in Israel, around ten or 11 when I knew first hand a friend who had lost her twelve year old brother in a terrorist attack. I only remember crying and asking my parents, How does this happen? Why do people do this to each other?

I grew up in a place that knows the terrible, ongoing grief of terrorism and war. A place where it was routine to lose loved ones in the most barbaric of ways. At a pizza place, a café, a bus, in schools, and even in homes. The only thing I understood from all that is that what we do in our life while we are here must matter and be directed to working towards peace and love. Towards fixing what is broken. To loving. The only thing it taught me is that life can be taken in an instant, at any time, in any place and nothing is promised us. The next day is not promised us.

The only thing it taught me is that some people survive and recover (and recovery manifests in different ways for different people), and some do not. I learned to never judge those who cannot “recover” or “move on” or “heal” according to random standards — for no one knows the pain of losing a loved one in this manner, than those who have. I learned that the holes people leave behind are never filled, and the pain of losing a loved one stays with you for the rest of your life. I learned that some people are able to create something meaningful out of their loss and are able to honor their loved one’s memory, by doing things that help others. Others are able to express in some way what their experience has taught them, or how it has impacted their lives, and if they share it with the rest of us, then we can learn from them, and take some lessons into our own lives. Or we can simply understand, just a little bit more, what it means to be human.

I’ve learned to respect grief, and other people’s feelings more, and I learned to at least always try hard to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I learned that we’re all connected, and that our grief and loss and joys are usually the same; no matter what we look like, no matter what language we speak, or where we’re from.

The next day, Food Network kitchens mobilized to make food to bring downtown. I went to help. Like so many others, I desperately needed to do something. I felt entirely helpess, until I was put to work chopping. It was a tremendous relief. Of all the food prepared that day, I only remember the roasted acorn squash. Cut it in half, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake. I was happy someone was telling me what to do.  Do this, then this. It was comforting to be with other people. I didn’t want to leave.

Because the whole thing was epic and staggering, I needed to focus on people that I knew. Once I could, I made calls, or others called me. Where are you? Are you OK? And with each one, all but one call, the relief.

Our family’s near misses: a cousin of Andy’s who emerged from a subway station there that morning with falling debris overhead. He was knocked to the ground. A stranger helped him to safety.

I remember one of the daily papers in the days after. One image was of a woman who had escaped from a high floor of one of the towers.  I learned she was the sister of my cousin’s ex-wife.

There was my Emeril buddy, Maggie, who was a volunteer firefighter. So was her husband. I remember she told me that he drove down there right away.  I remember thinking how extraordinary these people are, but they’re not asking to be heroes. They’re doing their job. Still, I think the ones that went down there to save, to rescue, to salvage, to recover—they were remarkable. I wonder how these heroes are now, all these years later.

There was a friend on the phone, who told me that her cousin was missing and her family was searching for him. He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. His name was Michael and he was 27. Some of his remains were found eventually. I attended his memorial. I didn’t know what to say to my friend. I was helpless. Wordless.

I went to my local fire department in the days after. Engine Company 54/Ladder Company 4/Battalion 9 on 8th Avenue lost 15 brave firefighters that day. I stood, speechless at the fire station staring at a growing mountain of flowers. People brought them food. One firefighter and I hugged. I wondered if any of them had been the ones who came to my building after I called 9-1-1 one time because I saw and smelled smoke coming from my neighbors’ apartment right next to mine. They had come quickly, and they put out a fire that had just started. They told me that if I hadn’t called, the whole building could have gone up super fast. I’d thanked them way back then. I still wonder if they were the ones who were taken on 9/11. I think firefighters are amazing every day. I think what they do needs to be acknowledged and respected always.

I saw the piles of flowers, candles, the handmade missing persons fliers plastered everywhere. Everywhere in the city, there were shrines, vigils, people shaking their heads, crying in the streets. There were the people who lined the West Side Highway going downtown, cheering at the trucks and workers and rescue people and their amazing rescue dogs, bringing equipment to dig, to find, to recover. What all those people did was restore a sense that humanity had not completely been lost, but that there were good people left in the world and it was clear that the cooperation needed to get through what happened would have to go on for a very long time.

The grief was overwhelming. It was on every street. It was in the air. It was also there for a long, long time. I remember when I stopped seeing the missing person fliers and posters; when they were so battered from the elements, when they got torn and peeled off. When so many days and months and years passed and posters got covered up with new posters about things that had nothing to do with all those many people. Because the city kept going and that is how it was. All the memorials, living in people’s hearts and built from materials. Stone, rock, granite, water.

I was grateful that my husband, who up until a few months prior, had worked briefly at a company in one of the towers, but was no longer working there, and instead was safely at his new job near our apartment. Not there. Not there. Are you OK?

I remember a friend and her class who walked from downtown all the way uptown. How she got the kids to safety, walking.

Today, a day like it was 11 years ago. A day with perfect blue skies. Back then, before it happened, it was an ordinary Tuesday. Until it became one of those days we can’t hide from.

I think of 9/11, not just on 9/11, or on the days leading up to it, or after.  It comes to me when I see a perfect blue sky, or see an airplane flying low, or both. It comes to me when I think of my friend’s family and the loss which they live with every day, and they go on, but it never leaves them.  There is a 9/11 memorial not far from my home now, which has his name there along with all the other names. I have gone and touched his name, and thought of my friend. I realize that probably does absolutely nothing in the end, but maybe that is not the point. Of all the names, I remember his.  I think of her and how strong she is. How I wish this didn’t ever happen.

I wonder about people who got out and survived and how this has forever changed their lives but their experience will always be a mystery to me and how I want to understand what happened to everyone that day and in the days afterwards. And if it is so painful for me to think of, but I only watched it unfold on TV, how must it be for the families?

Today, I have an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I can’t bear to watch the news footage or even look at still images. My son doesn’t know too much about 9/11 yet. That’s fine with me. Because as he gets older, he’ll have plenty of time to learn about the horrors people inflict on each other. But yesterday when he got off the school bus, he told me, “I need to wear red, white and blue tomorrow. It’s a special day.” He told me, “You need to wear red, white and blue, too, Mommy.” I wonder what they will tell them today at Kindergarten. I hope they teach them something about kindness, as I hear some schools do that.

The birds are singing on this beautiful sad day.  My body remembers 9/11. It has to go through the anniversary with the involuntary remembering, alternating with shutting it out, and then remembering again. I am not able to not remember. Forgetting seems impossible. I was only a witness to the reality broadcast on TV that day, in my city. I watched in real time as one building came down and then another. I didn’t lose anyone in my immediate family, but thousands of others did, and my heart still breaks for them. I was just a New Yorker that day and my city was attacked when men flew planes into the tallest buildings and thousands of people were murdered. I am sad today because there is nothing that will ever bring them back. I want to go back to the day before and have this not have happened.

I think we returned to taping a month later. I felt dread as my first performance post 9/11 came close. I felt inadequate. I wasn’t a first responder, firefighter, or EMT. I questioned the validity of the work that I was doing. What does it mean to be a writer/artist/comedian in the face of death and destruction? I had no answers.

On a blue sky day, bright and sunny, with a little chill, with children going to school and people working. On a day like any another. Like today. Like tomorrow.

Last week, Max said this to me:

 “Girls aren’t better than boys. Boys aren’t better than girls.

Nobody’s better than anyone else. All people are better.

All people are the best. It’s not that one family is better

than another. That’s regular people. But cops are better

than the bad guys.”

With love and peace,

Elana