First Thing in the Morning Mourning

 

 

Have you ever taken a break from FaceBook and then come back to FaceBook…

 

And then saw a friend of yours tag another friend of yours…

 

And then thought: hey what’s up with that friend, haven’t seen him in a year…

 

And then realize he had died.

 

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I cannot tell you how hard I cried this morning scrolling through all the bereft posts on his page. Howled. It’s not over. I’m still crying. I don’t even have to squint, tears are flowing from my resting neutral face and landing on my damp hair and pajamas. I have to tell you about Russell.

 

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Russell was an angel. Not like the halo-wearing kind, but the kind of angel surrounded by light at all times. He lit up every room he entered. His energy was infectious and I absolutely LOVED being in his presence. He was magical.

 

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Russell was a performer, both onstage and off, entertaining anyone lucky enough to be in proximity to him. He dated a very good friend of mine from college and I got the opportunity to take their headshots together in Red Rock Canyon.

 

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This was such a meaningful experience for me; I love to combine my strong desire to help my friends and be artistically creative. Russell made this day extraordinarily light and fun. He had this natural ability to simultaneously deliver and enhance; when I wasn’t shooting him, he was using his energy to bring all of our spirits up.

 

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That was just how Russell was…he was always working…but his work was love…and light. He was ALIVE. To be in his presence made you feel more alive, too. We laughed the whole time, my face hurt from smiling so hard and focusing the camera.

 

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When I asked my friend to join me, to dance in the One Billion Rising for V-Day Flash Mob, he said yes and made a point to tell me that Russell was so excited. I cannot tell you how that made my heart swoon—swoon? Yeah, it swooned. When I ask people to volunteer for V-Day, usually I either get a ‘not this time’ or an ‘okayyyyyy’…but Russell was excited…he was so pumped for every single aspect of this.

 

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If you knew Russell, you would know that a Flash Mob is right up his ally. He showed up like he always did, radiating light with this confidence that made you want to be around him forever.

 

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My first time Flash Mob nerves melted into laughter and excitement; Russell helped me get out of my head and into the moment.

 

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Russell showed me what it looks like to be ALIVE.

 

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Before my last Facebook hiatus, I was very closely following Russell and his dream to read every single Stephen King novel. I thought that was so cool. I have read many of those same novels and appreciated his appetite for more books!

 

This morning, when I saw my friend tag Russell on FaceBook, it reminded me that I hadn’t seen him posting about his novel reading status in a long time and it hit me—you probably didn’t add him as a friend when you rejoined FaceBook—so, I clicked on his name thinking I would add him and get all caught up on what he had been reading…which shows he would be performing in…

 

I did not expect to see so many people mourning Russell. How could I? How could this happen? I don’t understand. I began to sob instantaneously, thinking about how I was not done…I intended to hug him again…I had plans to be in his presence more…

 

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You don’t understand. Russell was an angel. It was healing to be in his presence. I am crying so hard as I type this out…oh Russell, do you see and feel my grief??? It’s not just me, it’s almost been one whole year since you’ve been gone and there are so many people aching from losing you.

 

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Many people are using this god-picking-flowers analogy for you, Russell…I had never even heard this one before and MANY people are using it to describe what has happened here. I get it. Put Russell in a crowd and he does shine the brightest.

 

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I don’t really pick flowers though, I let them grow.

 

This is what I will be doing with our relationship from now on, Russell, allowing it to grow. I feel you. I hear you. I will not resist that. It’s okay to cry because I can’t hug you or watch you perform onstage. It’s not okay to convince myself that it all ends here because that is simply not true. Relationships never die.

 

I’ll hold you in my heart forever and feel so much lighter as a result.

 

Thank you.

 

XO,

Rachel

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Bill Murray in St. Vincent

{originally posted December 10, 2014}

 

Went on a hot date over the weekend to the movies and saw Bill Murray star in St. Vincent.

 

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I love Bill Murray. I am not done considering my overall opinion of this (very) dark comedy, but I am way overdue in sharing the part that immediately resonated with me…

 

Yes, it has to do with grief.

 

Bill Murray plays a character who (spoiler alert) loses his wife. The conversation he has with the little boy he babysits is very relevant to me. It went something like this:

 

(little boy) I’m sorry for your loss.

(Bill Murray, angrily) Why do people always say that?

(little boy) Because they don’t know what else to say.

(Bill Murray) How about, what was she like?

 

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So I’m in the movie theatre and I just burst into tears, trying to tell my husband (yup, I’m talking during the movie now, too) that: IT’S NOT FAIR!

 

What’s not fair?

 

The way society forces us to shut down our grief. I’m sorry for your loss is the same thing as saying: that’s enough, shut it down, this conversation is over. That is not polite, that is cold and rude. It’s also unhealthy. What was she like? Now that’s a conversation opener. Brilliant. Much warmer. Demonstrates that you care.

 

So I have already started doing it. Asking people who are grieving: what was she like? And the result is beautiful. I recommend it. Relationships never die. Trust me. Even if the other person dies, your relationship never dies because it lives inside of you. Keep talking about your loved ones who have passed, it strengthens your relationship; makes it grow.

 

I was trying to tell my best friend about this concept and saw the 1987 version of the movie The Secret Garden in my head. Remember when that little girl finds the key and opens the Secret Garden door for the first time? What garden?! The brown overgrown piles of sticks and dead leaves were so high and thick; you would never know we finally made it to the garden but for the title of the movie. That’s where your relationships go that you think are dead. That’s where the relationships go that you wish were dead. Relationships never die. They are just waiting for you behind the wall you put up.

 

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Am I blowing your mind? Watch this video I made:

(Relationships Never Die: The Secret Garden).

Revisit your relationships—every single one of them, as they are all living inside of you. Take inventory. Roll up your sleeves and be willing to do the hard work. Gardens don’t bloom in a day.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

A Double Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet:

 

Always with Despair,

sometimes I think I can count

my friends on one hand…

hand orchids

…then I remember:

you keep your friends in your heart.

I’m never alone.

Relationships Never Die: The Secret Garden

{originally posted December 6, 2014}

 

Relationships never die.

 

This is a major epiphany for me.

 

There have been many relationships in my life that I wished would die; that I believed were already dead. It made sense to me at the time and went right along with my former erroneous belief that relationships die when one of the parties thereto passes away. That’s not true at all. I know this now.

 

I write a lot about grief. It’s kind of my thing.

 

Grieving has actually strengthened my relationships with those that have passed.

 

Believing relationships can die is what leads to neglect, the weakening of that relationship.

 

Admittedly, part of what sparked the epiphany for me stemmed from the blog I wrote about my brother and an insightful comment from a fellow INFJ that went like this:

 

“The attitudes and emotions behind this post seriously gave me goosebumps. The power of sibling relationship still baffles me today. What a journey I’ve been on in my own life trying to account for it. You’ve reminded me how precious that relationship is – like a flower you can hold in your hand for a short time, it eventually transforms into something new. It disintegrates into the soil. It joins the earth and nourishes new growth. The process is very painful. Our consumerism culture tells us to throw away withered flowers as if they are no longer Life. We have to go out and buy new flowers if we aren’t so lucky to have a garden. I’ve learned to appreciate the future of a blossomed flower. That momentary joy you experience in its beauty transforms into cycles of creation that flow through our earth, our home. A flower becomes a source of vitality for all living things. Relationships are no different. The imprint a person leaves on you resonates in the beauty and kindness you share with others, in your ability to transform yourself, in your ability to light up the world around you. Thanks so much for sharing this in all the difficulty that it presented to you. I hope it was cathartic. I hope it helped you shift into a space of receptivity so that you too could benefit from the vitality your brother shared with you.”

 

Thank you does not do justice to the gratitude in my heart for these words. Words are my favorite. I got lost in this garden The Child Philosopher created for me and just sat there for weeks… examining…taking inventory. I treasure these words. They lead me to the most beautiful and peaceful understanding: relationships never die.

 

I have been desperately trying to explain this concept to anyone who will listen to me for awhile now. So I made a YouTube video about it (click here to watch). I hope you can find peace in the message as well.

 

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Happy Holidays.

 

XO

~Rachel

PS: subscribe to The Child Philosopher!