On Grief

on grief (3)


Losing someone you love is one of the hardest experiences you’ll have. While all the guests at the wake say what they believe are comforting platitudes, inside, you feel numb. Maybe you cried. Maybe the decision of life or death had been in your hands.

Every grieving is different. IDGAF what the psychologists say about the stages of grief because I’ve had too many rides on this merry-go-round. I offer you my take on how to grieve.

  1. Do it your way. Grief is messy and disorderly. Cry, scream, tell morbid jokes, or laugh hysterically. You don’t have to conform to what society thinks is the “proper” way to grieve.
  2. Don’t put a time limit on your grief. Expect at least three years to grieve. At first, you’ll drown in enormous waves of sorrow. Eventually, it will become bearable and then it will become a normal part of your life. “Getting over it” is not an option.
  3. Make time for self-care. The last thing your loved one would want is for you to fall ill or abandon living. Eat well, sleep deeply, and go to the doctor when needed. Treat yourself from time to time. Imagine each triumph as a gift from the person you lost.

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Experiences to Anticipate

Things will be said or done that will cause a host of chaotic feelings. Here are the top four scenarios I’ve experienced that left me bewildered.

  1. Relationships with the living will change. If the death is traumatic, this will be especially true, but it happens after every death. Some will make the death about them or about you. Some will feel guilt and ghost. Some will hang around for the beginning and disappear. Some will stick around. Sometimes you will be left alone.
  2. You’ll forget the sound of your loved one’s voice. You’ll begin to do things that don’t include your loved one. You’ll build a new life.
  3. You will learn things about the life lived by your loved one. Some will be good, and some will be unpleasant. Each revelation gives you an opportunity to rewrite the past and find closure for yourself.
  4. When a person’s illness consumes month to years of your time in caring for him, or if you wished that she would die so that her pain would end, guilt and relief are healthy responses to the stress of prolonged illness.

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Top Four Worst Kinds of Losses

I’ve experienced all four of the losses to one degree or another so I think I can rank these deaths with some authority.

  1. Death of a child: there is no title for someone who has lost a child. Think about it: widow/er, orphan, and – there is no word to describe this kind of grief. Even miscarriages take their toll.
  2. Death of a significant other: your entire life changes. Your closest relationship, outside of the one between mother-figure and child, is gone.
  3. Death of an abusive parent/partner: the guilt of feeling relief and anger is worse than the loss itself. Coming to terms with this kind of death confuses but also frees you.
  4. Suicide, homicide, and sudden deaths: there is no rhyme or reason to these deaths. They mug you in broad daylight and tell you it’s your fault that you didn’t see the signs.

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Grief is your heart’s way of telling you that a part of how you defined yourself is absent. How you experience each loss is different each time. Whether the loss of your parent or child, or the death of a role model, grief has many faces. Each face is real and valid.

Find a way to be okay with your feelings, even the icky ones, and be kind to yourself. Be kind to others, even if one of them lands on the coffin and cries hysterically, even if it is for attention. You grieve your way and allow others to do the same.

And if you haven’t lost someone to death yet, buckle up for the ride. No one is exempt.

©2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Images may be subject to copyright.

Self-Actualization and What It Means


I have no idea what I’m doing. This is my mantra because I have the luxury of adopting it. Educated, privileged, and experienced enough to manage my well-being, I can self-actualize. But I’m not sure what that means. How do I accomplish this near enlightenment?

Our currency-based, materialistic society does not prepare us for what to do after we have reached a level of comfort that frees up time and resources. Many buy more “things” to fill the void while others work more and accumulate more money.

My question is, when the inevitability of death claims these people, what do they have to show for their efforts? Things? A money market? How is this a life well-lived?

Of course, these individuals may disagree with me, but I can’t help but think there are nagging doubts that follow them throughout their lives. Which leaves me with the obvious question of “what’s next?” I’m tasked with finding my way, and I have no fucking idea?

Right now, I’m part of an intentional community. I read Tarot cards for a fee. I offer life coaching services to help others find their ways. I’m very good at giving advice, of seeing what is best for my clients to reach their goals and aspirations.

I suck at doing this for myself, yet I only trust one person on the face of this earth to help me and I don’t know if he’s real. Everyone else, all the readers and psychics, don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Maybe I’m a snob. Maybe I’m too full of myself and my own talents to bend on this.

All I know is that I have guides, ones who have been tested, and they have never steered me wrong. Some are ancestors; some are from the star nations; and some are living, breathing humans with whom I communicate telepathically. They are wise, and they are very real to me. They look out for me.

Or maybe it’s me and I’m projecting. However, I do know that when I intentionally pursue those things that may be beyond my control, synchronicity happens. The needed event or the desired outcome occur without my intervention. When I pursue the frivolous, nothing happens at all.

For now, I drift along, ensconced in an inner tube of ego on the river of existence. I do go where the river takes me. I don’t question myself unless I discover a route that will capture me in stagnant waters. I do know I must keep moving.

Self-actualization is a waterfall. This is a strange analogy for most, but to self-actualize is to do the thing you fear the most: annihilate the ego. We define ourselves with labels of mother, husband, loser, or executive. We cling to these labels, terrified of the ambiguity this state of being.

My medication has allowed me to shake free of many of these labels, but it is taking a long time. I am shedding all the stuff that I have hidden behind, both internally and externally. Still, a year and a half later, I’m not where I want to be, where I feel I need to be to self-actualize.

I want to go over the waterfall edge some days and other days, I want to anchor my inner tube right at the edge and marvel at the height of the fall and the rough waters that wait below. One day, I will take the plunge, but today is not the day because honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing.

©2018 I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.

Women seeking Men: 45-55

Woman Seeking Man

Couldn’t wink my way out of a wet paper bag. Can’t whistle either.

Mentally unstable yet medicated woman of dubious wit seeking reformed bad-boy to love until death-do-us-part. Likes warm, sunny days and cool, misty nights. Likes tattoos, interesting conversations, bonfires with friends, conspiracy theories, and people. Enjoys working out, eating healthy, and cake. Detests fakery, beer-bellies, unkempt facial hair, fuckery, and people. Goofiness is permissible. Maestro at assembling IKEA furniture. No left-over parts. Charges hourly rate. Seeking investors. Not claustrophobic; plan to live in a converted van down by the river when retired. Benefits include 401K, health insurance, and sex. Home cooked meals, passionate arguments, and make-up sex negotiable. Must be able to use Oxford commas and semi-colons properly. If interested in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, please send resume and current pictures tagged on Facebook, preferably from friend’s recent gwendolynlferi@gmail.com. Will respond within 72 hours.

(C) 2018 I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved.

Walk on Water


Walk on Water (1)


I was maybe ten or eleven. My feet, dressed in navy blue Keds, dangled over the water. I could see the soles and my dark knee-length socks reflected in the water. I sat on the edge of a pier and found that peaceful part inside myself. It was a part of me that I could only find when I was alone.

I know my family thought I was odd. Sitting on the end of a pier over the calm waters of the Magothy River, I could feel their eyes on my back. From the warm den with its picture window, they wondered about me. They worried about a girl who would choose to sit out in the chilly, overcast March day, Easter no less, than in the warmth with her family.

But I was content here. I was wrapped in my own little world of magic and probabilities. I’m not quite sure what I was dreaming at the time, but a voice interrupted.

I knew the voice wasn’t outside of me. I wasn’t sure if it was me or someone – something else, but I could hear its words very clearly.

“Walk on water.”


“Walk on water.”

I hesitated. How was I supposed to walk on water? Like Jesus. Jesus was a miracle worker. I doubted I was.

“Go on. You can do it.”

The bottom of my feet tingled, right through the soles of my shoes, and my body felt weird. Lighter. The water beckoned, and I wondered if I had finally lost my mind.

I felt like two people in that space between two moments. The breeze froze. Sound halted. Even the gleaming ripples held their place as if caught in a photograph.

I was torn between faith and terror. I knew in a very deep part of myself that this walking-on-water thing was a possibility. I understood on a visceral level that I was able to bend space and time with my thoughts. But was it probable? And what would happen?

My mind raced over the potential fallout. I could fail miserably. I’d sink into the water, floundering and freezing, and end up in the hospital. First the ER and then the sanitarium because I had clearly tried to commit suicide. And I heard voices. Tsk, tsk.

I could succeed. My family would watch me walk to shore, unharmed, dry as a bone, and serene as a perfect, summer day. I would be canonized as a saint by the Pope no less. My grandmother would be so proud. “I made her come to church every Sunday.”

And no one would leave me alone. I would be pursued, hassled, and asked to perform the miracle again and again. Scientists would study me, even want to dissect me, and I would become a ward of the United States government. Perhaps to use as a weapon against Russia.

Either way, I would die inside. I thought of my brothers, alone with the monster that consumed our father and helpless beneath the indifference of our mother. I knew I was all that stood between them and the madness of our home life.

I didn’t want any of it. And as the voice continued to cajole me, I chose to do nothing. Well, I chose to argue with the voice, and this was something I did not do to an authority.


I waited for punishment, for reprobation, and for rejection.

“Why?” was all the voice asked.

“I’m needed here. This is the path I chose.”

I could feel the voice’s silence in my head like a pressure.  Weight squeezed me into something small and insignificant. I struggled against the heaviness.

Perhaps I was a coward. Perhaps I had chosen the devil-I-know. I’m sure I did. Fear is a many-splendored prison. But I knew that any way I sliced this bread, all the pieces were stale.

The scrutiny, the concern, and the potential for imprisonment was too great if I chose to act on the voice’s demand. Though I was in a different prison, I knew that eventually, I could escape.

I also knew I had work to do. I had children to raise and words to write. I had dreams to pursue and a life to build. I had my humanity and I had plans to develop it to the highest heights I could reach.

The voice stopped cajoling as it watched the visions that unfolded in my head. I felt the pressure ease and let out a sigh of relief.

“Very well. You have made your choice.”

I blinked. The chilly breeze caressed my cheek. Sound flooded my ears with the lap of water against wood and the call of a hungry seagull. The waves threw muted flashes of light into the dark cavern beneath the pier.

I was alone again. I was sane again. Mostly.

I rose to my feet, dusted off my skirt, and shivered. I had never remembered an experience like that. I had other instances of insanity, but none had made me feel as small and frightened as this one.

I studied my grandparents’ house, which looked like one of the models that Pop Pop would place around his beloved Christmas train garden. On Easter, the garden was carefully stored away for the next Christmas.

I returned to the stifling warmth of family. I picked through the basket of candy I’d been given. I pulled Easter grass from my hair. I argued with my brothers (“Stop touching me!”) as we returned home.

I felt relief as my head hit the pillow. The status quo had been maintained for everyone but me. My brothers were as safe as I could keep them, wrapped in the bliss of ignorance.

Only I was changed forever and to this day, that moment on the pier haunts me.

© 2018. I.O. Kirkwood. All rights reserved for text. Image may be subject to copyright.