Friday, December 5, 2014

Silence and Noise

Have you ever taken a few minutes or hours or days, to look completely outside your own life and how your loss affects it, and instead look into the world at large? If you have, like I have, you might find yourself staring into a great, big, never-ending, cavernous hole.

Being where I currently am inside this grief tsunami, (3 years and 4 months) I have pretty much felt the pain and loss and hurt on every level there is by now. Sure, there is more to be felt and processed and coped with, but I am now at the point where not much of it surprises me anymore or lasts too long. The changing and shifting emotions of grief seem to be happening more often now, generally. However, once in awhile, my heart will stay stuck on one particular thing that my brain just can't figure out how to get through. Right now, and for awhile, it has been sitting right in the center of the world around me. 

So much has happened in this country, and in this world, lately. So many questions and no answers. So many things to talk about, yet nobody I really want to talk with or who has the time or care to talk to me. So much anger and hatred and doubt and people with blinders on and racism and labeling and prejudice and fear and opinions on top of opinions on top of opinions. I don't want to hear any of them. They sound like noise.

Bill Cosby and the many sexual assault/rape allegations. The death of Joan Rivers. The death of Robin Williams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and how their lives and deaths sparked discussions about depression and suicide. Treyvon Martin. The Ferguson verdict, and now Eric Garner. President Obama, his 2nd term, and what happens next. The craziness over Ebola. Malaysia Airlines crash / disappearance. Malala Yousafzai winning Nobel Peace Prize. Derek Jeter retires from baseball after 20 years with New York Yankees. World Trade Center "Freedom Tower" re-opening, 13 years after 9/11 attack. Republicans win control of U.S. Senate in mid-term elections. The ongoing tensions between Israel and Hamas. The incredible landing of a probe onto a speeding comet. And on and on and on .......... 

I know I am forgetting some things, but these are just a few of the events that have taken place in 2014, that my husband would have been particularly interested in. Don was a very smart guy. An Air-Force vet and paramedic with a big fascination and intelligence for politics, he was someone who always knew what was going on in the world and in the country. He was always reading. He would read articles online, and newspapers, and magazines, and he would keep up on all current events and always had such a great take on things. He also loved watching The History Channel or pretty much any documentary about science or art or film or sports or the latest in technology or medical advances, or anything, really. He soaked up information like a sponge, and then passed it along to me and others, like a teacher. My brother said of Don, after he died, that he always felt like he was learning something whenever he was with him. I felt that way too. Always learning, but he never once made me feel like I was "less than" while doing so.

 Right now, with the latest decision for no indictment of NYPD officer Dan Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, there is a lot of silence and noise inside my head. Silence, in the middle of the night, when I sit with my own confusing thoughts, instead of holding hands in bed with my husband and having a peaceful and insightful discussion about these events, what they mean, and what is ahead for our country and society. Silence, in the dark space of each new world event, where I ask myself painfully - What would Don think? What would Don say? What would his take be on this situation? Up until about a year or so ago, I was able to immediately know what he would have said or felt about each individual thing, or I could hear his voice in my head talking about it, and picture how he might form the words of what he might say. But recently, this knowledge is much less there, and much more foggy. I am no longer able to automatically know his take on things, or how he might comfort me or enlighten me with some new thing I didn't know before. Now, I sit in the silence of never feeling what he would say or think, and that silence fills me with emptiness. Thinking about all the things he will continue to miss and not be aware of, not only in our private lives but in the world, still makes me feel sick to my stomach at how unfair that is.

Which brings me to the noise. Sitting alongside of the silence where my husband used to be, is the unrelenting noise. Noise, in the opinions of other people. Noise, in the knowing that others get to go to their safe place, or have a discussion on the car ride home that night with their loved one, about all these events that unfold throughout time. Noise, in the hearing of other couples talking and bantering with one another, about said events and pop culture things and important things, and knowing I have nowhere to put my own thoughts. Noise, in the aggressive and angry nature of social media posts, where people express their opinions on such topics by starting with sentences like: ANYONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME CAN DELETE THEMSELVES RIGHT NOW or ANY STUPID LIBERAL WHO VOTED FOR OBAMA SHOULD UNFRIEND ME IMMEDIATELY. Facebook is great, and being on there has literally saved me from my own isolation in the wake of my husband's death, but it is also a place filled with rage, assumptions, and over the top anger. The tone in a lot of the posts, whenever discussing anything political, religious, or slightly controversial, often begins with aggression and defensiveness, and tends to divide people more than bring them together. I try really hard not to get too wrapped up in a Facebook thread about these serious topics, because they almost never end well, and they rarely bring any sort of progress to a cause or situation.

But here's the thing - if you are on social media or even just out in the world, having a heated discussion about world events and issues of our time, a lot of you can leave that discussion whenever you want, and go home to your safe place with the person you most trust, and say to them while lying on the couch that night: "So, that conversation earlier at so-and-so's house was insane, right? Can you believe what so-and-so said about Bill Cosby? She is crazy to think that he is innocent! So honey - what do you think about all of this?' 

And then, there is that magical moment, where you get to listen to the thoughts of the person you chose to spend your life with. Do you even realize how awesome that is? How lucky you are? After 3 years and 4 months of not having my husband here on earth, this is what I miss most of all. That moment - when I get to turn off all the noise of the outside world - and just listen to the sound of my husband's voice - sharing with me and only me, all the things that matter.


  1. oh Kelley, this particular loss you speak of so brilliantly, the one that could off-set the feelings of being so weary of the world and having your Don to talk with and bounce ideas off one another - snuggled up together and solving the problems of the world - is one hell of a colossal loss. I feel that, too, that miserable noise, that deafening silence that only reverberates over and over to remind me that Hugh is gone, that there will never again be that special intimacy of sharing thoughts and feelings about world events, exchanging ideas, learning, and listening, and talking, and making some sense of that big, fat, noise. I have loved reading all the posts you have written about your Don's beautiful mind, all the many and varied interests he had, and the delight he took in sharing his knowledge with you and others - he really was the epitome of what a teacher should be - one who has knowledge and is excited to share it. i am sure that aspect of him touched many lives and inspired a lot of people who will never forget the lively and insightful conversations they had with Don. it's a wonderful legacy to have left. but i am so very sorry for you, Kelley, having to endure the silence and the noise. thank you so much for this post that speaks to a big part of the loneliness and loss and isn't often recognized unless it's from people like us who "get it"

    much love,


  2. Well written Kelley!

  3. Kelly, the love of my life died unexpectedly, like yours, in June 2011. I will have been on this grief journey 3 years and 6 months on the 21st of December. I haven't been passionately kissed, held, or felt protected in 3-1/2 years. I feel like a child left alone in the dark. I understand all your posts because they echo my own thoughts. Thank you for your incredible writing talent. Karen G

  4. Wow Kelley I so get this. You've put into words something that hasn't become a full-fledged thought yet for me - but it's there in a huge way. Mike and I shared opinions and knowledge in a way I'll never have with anyone else. It's one of the terrible things I have to learn to live with. Thank you for sharing this, hugs.

  5. I have just returned from three weeks in America, where, for the first time in my life, I refused discuss the issues of the day. My brothers are both FOX News people, as are many people in Indiana, where I am from, and I just don't have the heart for conflict at the present moment. What does it matter, really, what people think about the horrible deaths of those men at the hands of the police? Why fuel more anger and hatred? Why engage in arguments about it? This is how I was feeling, and I said so, every time someone tried to bait me with an issue, wind me up, get me going. I used to take the bait every time, and end up angry and feeling impotent. I just want to remember my husband, these days, cling to kindness, recognise that we could all be gone at the drop of a hat. Then what would our opinions mean? All these things that divide and polarise us?
    I miss my husband and his thoughts and feelings on these things. Mostly he would try to get me to see that others are speaking from their fear and pain, even when they spew hatred and bigotry. I miss his perspective on the world, so much.
    It does feel like noise, to me, too. Just noise. Meaningless noise.
    thank you for this post. I am only six months out. I may feel like engaging in these arguments one day, again. But not now. Everything is too new. Too raw. Too sad.

    1. Tricia, I feel EXACTLY the same way. Most of my own family are conservative republicans, and dont agree with me on most issues. Don and I agreed on most things, and whenever debates would come up within the family, he was SO GOOD at having discussions with people who didnt see things the way he did. I would stand there proud, watching him talk to others. Now I stay more quiet because, like you said, whats the point? Most people arent capable of having these conversations in an intelligent way, without insulting each other and name-calling and judging , so I want nothing to do with it. It truly sucks to have no safe place anymore to put all my fears and my questions about the world today.

  6. Just when I thought I was going crazy--you got it again. I am at 2 years and ten months. A news story the other night talked about the new, lighter Ford pickup, and I couldn't think how my husband, a 'Ford man' would feel about this new pickup. I cried and cried, sure I was going nuts over such a detail. I know why now. Thank you.

  7. Wow Kelley, I've been having the same sort of thoughts. The other day I heard someone (whose opinion I highly value) say "we all need a soft place to fall." I've been without that soft place now for 3 years and 7 months. It's always been a horrible loss but with this new outlook I seem to have on the world, I notice it missing even more. The chaos, the anger, the noise, it just all seems like a huge waste of time and precious energy that could be put to such better use. Thank you for putting into words what I've been trying to quantify these past few weeks. Thank you for helping us all feel a little less alone in our thoughts.

  8. Thanks. You nailed it.
    Well done :-)

  9. Yup. I can totally relate to this. Was totally feeling it the night after my show on the weekend. That really is a part that continues to be very painful and shitty even after lots of others parts begin to heal. Ugh. I feel you. Thank you for this one. LOVE YOU!

  10. This is exactly how I feel. Also I always told my husband Putin was a bad guy. Now I can't even say: I told you so..