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Category Archives: Surrender

Objects can neither give nor receive love. We can ascribe meaning, but they are, still and always, only inanimate. Unfeeling, unimportant in this grand illusion.

And yet now that these objects are all that remain as the only tangible part of Zev, they seem to have taken on qualities of life. Once they were simply toys and books and clothes; today they signify a life — the legacy of my child. Each item meant so much to her …. What happens now that she is not here to care for them?

In the first year, sitting inside the space that was her refuge amongst all the craft and art supplies, the blankets she snuggled at night, the stuffed animals and dolls she lovingly named and conversed with, I felt comforted. Over time I began to feel burdened with the weight of these many things. I began purposefully avoiding her room and her beloved objects.

While there are moments I can not bear the thought of parting with the material objects she held so dear, I also know that I would be at peace without possession of these things. For no matter how many years pass, the love we shared remains unchanged. There is no distance between us. All of the memories live on, they form a symphony inside the deepest chamber of my mothering heart. A song that will play to my ears alone for eternity.

However tenuous it may feel, the connection is always there — to the space where she now exists — in the fog of cold winter mornings, beneath sea foam at dusk, within the whispers of a gentle breeze through the woods.


While on my walk today, pondering the pleasant mood I’ve maintained these last few months, I was reminded of a post I wrote one year after Zev died. It was a poem that, to me, was so very dark and utterly without hope that I still think of it as a sort of milestone of anguish; the epitome of the cloud that followed me everywhere, and every day, for so long.

Contemplating that darkness, it astonishes me how far I have come… healing and growing through my grieving.

A large part of this is surrender and acceptance. I believe I have finally reached a place where I know deep down there can be no bargaining with the universe. No amount of longing, pleading or wishing can change my reality.

The other component is hope. Without hope for the future, are we truly living our lives?

Somehow in the tearful and anger-filled days the first couple of years after her death, I managed to make the conscious choice to return to living my life. Not simply to exist and survive, toiling through endless days of the same meaningless dribble and routine. But rather to live with purpose and hope; to give meaning to my place in this world and strive to make a positive impact.

That feels like my first step on this journey of a thousand…

through the cracks in my heart seep
others pain and suffering
acute awareness of their struggles
forces me to my knees
commiserate and tender

no longer can I harden myself, protecting
against shared sorrows
adrift on a sea of sacred tears
immense, grand emotions threaten
to swallow all that exists within
this fragile shell I inhabit

from compassion comes understanding
gentle surrender envelopes
my wounded soul
speaking the languages of comfort, timelessness
and love

A dear friend of mine posed an interesting question before our last book club meeting — what verb or adjective would you give to describe yourself, if you could only choose one?

At first this simply seemed like a fun exercise, but as I spent time pondering the endless possibilities, then paring those down to more poignant and specific words, I began to realize that for me it was a another discovery of self; a journey to the heart of who I am.

I have always loved words; they hold immense weight and meaning. I also take words seriously and believe it is important to use them properly. Therefore, the task initially seemed a bit daunting. Do I choose a word like sorrowful? That is not all I am anymore, is it? Intense? — not inclusive enough. Some words brought too much negativity to life. Nothing was giving me that ‘a-ha’ moment I was seeking. So I began with a list of words that rang true when thinking of traits I possess and adjectives I feel relate to me on a deep level.

Once I was well into the process, it became clear I needed a word that meant ‘broken open’. That is how I best describe my experience of Zev’s death, my intense grief work, and the empathy I hold in my heart for others experiencing pain and loss.

I also wanted it to speak to the journey I am on and how I continue to learn about myself all the time. There was no single word for that. So I went back to square one…

More than ever before in my life, I comprise massive amounts of:

In fact, there have been many days in the past couple of years during which I have been literally overcome by one or more of these emotions. And there was the word, right at the front of my psyche; simple and perfect in all it’s precision.

I am Caitlin Overflowing.

There exists within me a vast emptiness…

In the first year I fell into the void. Living there and almost nowhere else. Tears, anguish, sorrow, fear, doubt, rage. Longing to die. Every single day, like a song that won’t stop playing in your head.

I looked out on the world from my darkness. I could not relate to anything or anyone. Sleep was my only respite. And yet it was often both elusive and fitful.

Somewhere in this journey of grief, I made the choice to continue to live. Not just to exist, but to be a part of the world. To contribute. I was hit by an overwhelmingly intense need to ensure that Zev is never forgotten. And to bring her joyous spirit and positive attitude to everyone I meet.

Now I spend most of my days filling the hole in my heart. Mostly, I fail. But I continue to give it my all. Roller derby. Music. Movies. Books. Skating. Gardening. Charity. Friends. Family. Adventures. Projects. Writing. Alcohol. Food.

None of these will ever be a replacement. But I must continue to fill this aching empty space within me. Otherwise I will surely slip back, descending into darkness. Falling, falling, falling. With no one and nothing there to catch me.

I used to live by my own grand notion that if I tried hard enough I could make and keep everything alright. If I was patient enough, organized enough, responsible enough, kind enough. I lived and breathed control. All of the ‘things’ in my world were just so and when something was out of sorts, I did whatever I needed to do to put it right again.

My house was always tidy. My children were well mannered (mostly), clean and on a strict weekday schedule. Bedtime was not negotiable. Teeth cleaning was monitored. Homework was completed promptly, with help from Mom or Dad if necessary. Laundry and dishes didn’t have time to accumulate. My own professional work was accomplished, organized, then filed neatly in drawers and folders. Relationships were handled with care, but also with a certain regulation.

My marriage, nor any other aspect of my life was perfect. But somehow I managed to convince myself it was. That I held the power to change and mold any situation. Simply by being mature, reliable, loving, and ‘in control’. I was the glue and I was strong enough to keep all things intact.

How truly wrong I was!

Learning this lesson through traumatic loss, like a freight train of agony crushing my every belief, crippling every emotion, action and thought process, has been tremendously difficult. And yet I am grateful to have learned it at all.

Today I know that the version of reality I created is not realistic, viable or ultimately possible. I, nor anyone else, can have control over what happens in this life.

I continue to grapple with the enormity of this knowledge. And I work hard to consciously breathe in acceptance. Surrender.

~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~

“You can twist perception. Reality won’t budge!” – Rush (Show Don’t Tell)

I stand on the precipice ready to fall
Tumbling over the edge into sweetness
Sanity is simply another word for denial

Cloaked in darkness, peering into the light
Shadows playing tricks, concealing pain
Heart strings tugged continuously

Ride out the wave, for this too shall pass
As surely as the next surge will come
I surrender to the tides

Destined to wander, lost but not alone
Drowning in love with no place to go
Succumb and be free

In the end, we all fall away
Each soul, each memory
Fades into oblivion

Broken heart, shattered soul
Surrender to the pain
Open and raw
Surging emotions

Seething within
Searching without
Bold in my brokenness
Change is inevitable
Transformation unstoppable

Hope and passion continually fluctuate
A merry-go-round of confusion
Indifference ebbs and flows
Tired of breathing, living, pushing on
Am I only alive because I haven’t yet died?

Surrounded by memories
Imprisoned in this tower of solitude
I dream of breaking free from brokenness
Casting burden and sorrow to the wind

For nearly all of my adult life I have identified myself, before anything else, as ‘Mom’. So what does this childless Mother do now?

I am fragmented, lost … meandering through this maze of shattered dreams, hauntingly beautiful memories, and cold hard truths.

Inside, I am full of such intense love and pain. Often, it is all I can do to find an outlet for one, let alone both. Stripped of my armor and my illusion of control, tears flow in reaction to so many small things. I feel like a lightning rod when I hear or read of other’s tragedies. It is difficult to look at myself in the mirror … who this stranger is looking back at me?

I dream of surrender … I fight the reality… and yet I still manage find beauty in this world full of suffering. Alas, I will not give up! I will continue to put one foot in front of the other, seeking connection and light, building my own coherence of character, brick by brick.

Why do we think that because we are human we somehow are not subject to the laws of nature?

In the animal kingdom, as many as half of a ‘litter’ dies before growing old enough to survive on their own. Because of our technology we have discovered ways to prolong life, yet we are fooling ourselves to think that we can cheat death.

We can not control the weather. We cannot control time. We cannot control death, our own or other’s.

The circle of life is a reality for all living beings, for we are all connected.

This feels a bit cynical of me to be expressing, because I would save Zev’s life and or bring her back without hesitation, if I could. But I have been thinking a lot about the nature of humanity, and our obsessions with control and power. We are not immune to the laws of nature, death, and change.

‘Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’… the more things change, the more they stay the same.