It's Michael's birthday: I'm celebrating him and grateful for the many ways I've learned to grieve

The Star Thief by Andrea DiNoto (author) and Arnold Lobel (illustrator)

I go to bed at 9:00. That’s usual.

I wake several times, restless during the night. That’s unusual.

The first time, it’s just after midnight.  A full moon lights the darkness and I get out of bed and quietly slip out to the porch. Thin cloud wisps play hide and seek with the moon transforming its white light into pink and yellow emanators.

I smile and think of my son Michael who continued on eight years ago. I can feel his presence.

I wake again at 2:15, 3:33 and, at about 4:30 I get out of bed. I have a thought that Michael’s trying to get me up!

I’m a solid sleeper (well, except for a keen every now and then) and wonder what’s up. And then I remember. Oh! On a walk two days ago, I ask, “Hey Michael, will you let me know you’re around?”

Well, when I wake at 4:30, I grab my phone (unusual, I sip hot coffee and then meditate before doing anything). The first message I see is one from a friend. My friend is a professional intuitive and out of the blue she writes and sends what she hears Michael saying.

It is like receiving the best gift ever.

So, I think Michael was trying to get me up to read the message.

I’ve been missing his physical presence and processed a little more grief this past week. It’s my first time in 18 years living where I raised my kids and that means that emotional hooks are here to be acknowledged. And today is Michael’s birthday.

I’m celebrating by talking about him (here) and with friends and family as we recall his lively, outrageous at times, bright-light personality. Oh my gosh, the stories!

Michael’s unexpected passing has helped me unlike anything else in my life to live with presence, lightness, and fullness. I am grateful that I believe that he is still here in spirit and that it is possible to maintain and grow a relationship with someone who has passed on.

I believe I am at a peaceful healed place because I’ve mourned and continue to honor my grief whenever it arises. I've learned how to do that from others who know about loss. Like Tom Zuba.


Talk about it.  Over and over and over.
Paint it.  Draw it.  Form it in clay.  Art is a wonderful, healing way to express that which you might not be able to express through words.
Dance it.  Move it.  Release grief though shaking your body.
Beat it out on a drum.
Write it out.  In a journal.  In a poem.  In your blog.  In a letter to yourself.  In a letter to your beloved; the one who has died.
Sing it out.  Compose your own song.
Play it out.  On an instrument.  Guitar.  Flute.  Violin.
Exercise it out.  Cross fit.  Zumba.  At your gym.  On a stationary bike.  A stairmaster.  In a pool.
Run it out; jog it out; walk it out.
Yoga it out.
Meditate it out.
Scream, shout, wail it out.

I’ve done a lot of these things, and they have helped so much.

Just after Michael passed I started running. It took a while to work up to daily three-mile runs and an occasional five miles, but I did it and continued everyday for almost four years until I was diagnosed with cancer. I stopped running.

Well, just before I wrote this, I ran a mile in the rain in honor of Michael’s birthday. And tomorrow, I’ll do it again.


6 comments:

  1. Oh Susan, there is so much heart in this post. Thank you for sharing Michael. Our tragedies certainly teach us how to live fully the most. And that you are able to feel his presence, that is something so very special. Happy Birthday Michael! Love ~ Andi

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    1. Thank you, Andi, for being here and your comment. I love sharing Michael with others. It now has become a joyful telling and sharing.

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  2. "Michael’s unexpected passing has helped me unlike anything else in my life to live with presence, lightness, and fullness". I have struggled since my Micheal's passing. I am working on living in his honour, seeking & offering light and love. I work on Random Acts Of Kindness. Something that reminds me of the gentleness of Mike. Your works and celebration of your Michael give me hope that the healing will continue....

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    1. Thank you for telling me about your Michael. I love your Random Acts of Kindness gift to celebrate Michael's gentleness. My Michael continued on 8 years ago, so time helps me. That first year after is mostly a blur. I recall my doctor saying when I went in for a physical 2 years (!) after my son's passing asking where I've been. I could not believe I missed my appointments. So the shock lasted a long time. Your sharing here means a lot to me. I believe it helps others when I talk about my grief process. When others did and do, it's a gift of encouragement and hope.

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  3. Sometimes I read something and don't know how to say anything in response. This is one of those times. I've had this post open in my browswer for days, waiting for me to know in my heart what to say. But I don't know. So that's what I want to share -- just that I'm here, reading, listening, sometimes struck silent by shared grief. Ah -- now that my fingers have been walking across the keyboard my heart knows what she wants to say: that I am grateful that you are sharing your love for Michael with the world.

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    1. Harmony, I understand not knowing what to say. I feel that way, too. But I'm glad you write anyway, because it feels like a gift that you tell me things like you're grateful I share Michael with the world.

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