Monday, August 3, 2009

The Awful, Ugly Truth

There are moments in life that define your existence. As an artist and a thinker I know that life is captured in the fine details. It's the small, seemingly irrelevant moments that forever shape and change you. The day you choose not to stop in at a friend's house not knowing you'll never see them again, the early morning text message that you think is spam, that changes your life forever.

Some of you might not know that about 4 months ago my best friend Jane died from cancer. I haven't said much about it here. An occasional reference to grief and an initial post when the shock of it hadn't even really hit.

The truth of the matter though is that I'm not doing very well at all. Every day is a struggle and as the months pass, it's getting worse and worse, and then still worse again. I've been getting out of bed every day and going about my business. I've been planting a smile on my face and saying the right things. For the most part I've even been convincing myself that I'm OK, that what I'm feeling is a natural part of the grieving process and that, given time, it will pass and I will heal.

There's so much more to the story though. The parts I deny to myself, let alone sharing the deep dark ugliness with anyone else. The truth is that my friend's life ended with us hardly even on speaking terms. There was an awful, painful argument about a year ago that was never quite resolved. The truth is that she was careless with my feelings and my friendship, and that she never said sorry once. The truth is that when we both needed a friend more than ever she turned on me and pushed me away out of anger and confusion, and perhaps fear and pain. The truth is that this chapter of our story can never end differently now, and that blaming the dead is an exercise in futility. The truth is that the dead leave behind their mistakes and that forgiveness is hard to find, even when you know that there is nothing else to be done. The truth is that even when you do what you have to do it can come at a very expensive price. The truth is that guilt and regret go hand in hand with death. Life is excruciating sometimes.

At heart I am a truth teller. I tell what I see even when it's uncomfortable or at my own expense. It's got me in trouble plenty of times but it's how I've always been and it's what I do best. Holding this story inside me has come at a high cost. It's made both my body and my mind ill. It's tarnished every aspect of my life with it's ugly stain. I've raged against it, pushed myself to breaking point trying to focus on other things, tried so hard to move my life over, under or around this hurdle. Finally I realise I can't hide from the truth. It's the only thing that sets me free.

Happy 40th Jane.


It seems our hard drive is kaput. Apparently what's happened is sometimes referred to as the 'white screen of death'. So I may or may not be around much at the moment. It's feels like good timing in a strange way - a chance for some time out and a little restoration of the soul. Not that I'm wishing to lose 2 years worth of photos, files, music, etc (yep, if you don't back up your computer go and do something about it now - it can happen to anyone when you least expect it).

You can still purchase Tinnies and Woollies over in the shop prior to August 23rd. I'll be checking for and shipping orders, by hook or by crook.


  1. Grief is dreadful. I don't know if I should even write anything as we've met only briefly, but I think it's powerful to talk about grief, it's something so many people struggle with.Perhaps those around us struggle the most as witnesses to grief...

    Sometimes i feel I'm drowning in it. I lost my twin brother in 2007 to suicide and I still have a lot of feelings about guilt and anger and loss. I can't say I accept his death, even if people say, "well that's what he wanted". More that I accept my feelings about it and am able to feel them without grief destroying my life. To be able to feel and yet function, to me that's the best way I can move forward.

  2. Beauty and sadness together.Beauty will rise up and overcome the pain day soon.All my thoughts xLiz

  3. It is quite amazing how our bodies let us know when we're not being truthful to ourselves. By holding things in and compounding the stress you're already going through because of the grief and other negative emotions, you've made a prime opportunity for your body to manifest it in a very negative way.
    I can't tell you how sorry I am for your loss.

  4. I truly hope, that in some small but significant way, the writing of your straight-to-the-soul post has been a cathartic thing to have done. I admire your bravery and honesty. I also so hope that very soon you can begin to find some peace with what was and feel strong enough to face the what is.

  5. treat yourself kindy beautiful
    healing hugs*
    Courtney xx

  6. I hope you feel some relief by talking to us about this :)

  7. Firstly I have to say that bird print is amazing....shallow view aside, all I can say is death sux. It is so immediate and so final and even when someone is ill and maybe we know it's coming it does not make it any easier to deal with. Not for any of the parties involved. my dad died in 2005. There are so many things I wish I'd said and done. But I didn't and now I can't. So all I can do is accept the things I can't change and focus on the things I can. That's all we can do.
    My thoughts are with you miss tinnie. I'm sending you an virtual hug. xxxx

  8. Death cheats us of so much in relationships and steals the opportunity for reconciliation. Thanks for your openness and honesty. Best wishes for the journey ahead of you. x

  9. Sorry to hear you are struggling at the moment. Life deals out some hard lessons and it is how you deal with them that make you who you are.... good luck though and i hope you find peace with it :-

  10. I hope you can find some solace by writing about your friend. Let yourself grieve & be kind to yourself in the long process.

    Thinking of you xxx

  11. Love and strength to you, Cathy. You'll get through the journey. I hope that this unburdening is the beginning of the healing process.

  12. virginia Woolf once said that before we tell the truth about others we must first tell the truth about ourselves. Your open and honest post hit home for me, and is a reminder to resolve or find closure while we can. I hope that your path becomes sunnier now. Hugs to you. x

  13. It's so good that you decided to let the words out. I'd say that's a step towards healing. I lost a friend years ago. He died believing something about me that wasn't true and had stopped speaking to me. I never got the chance to tell him that he was wrong. I understand the sadness of the finality and loved the way you put the idea of things remaining unresolved. I guess we have to provide the closure for ourselves, not that I know what that means, mind you. :) My thoughts are with you.

  14. oh Cathy...

    i don't know what to say to help you feel better... i don't even know if there is anything i could say to help you...

    just know that i am thinking of you and if i wasn't on the other side of the world i'd give you a big hug and make you a nice cup of tea...


  15. The fact that your friend hurt your feelings can't be changed. The fact that you were reluctant to forgive her is also something you cannot change. However, you can, and need to forgive yourself. There will be a day when you can see this as a life lesson. The next time a friend hurts you, you might be a ble to see that it is fruitless to hold a grudge. However, it is only human to hold grudges and you are only human.
    I lost a student, a 12 year old, to suicide once. There are so many things that she said to me that should have clued me in, but it didn't. She didn't have many friends because she was so "different" and at that age "different" is not a good thing. I think many of her classmates felt guilty that they didn't try to befriend her. But, they were only being normal human beings. Her dad could not forgive himself and he also committed suicide 6 months after she did. God gives us the gift of taking our burdens from us if we will just hand them over to him. Who am I to try to comfort you?

  16. I'm so glad you published this post. Acknowledging and allowing grief is so important. May time help the happy moments of your friendship outshine the sad. {{hugs}}

  17. Hey Cathy,
    Thinking of you .....

    *big hugs*


  18. I cried with and for you and Jane reading this post Cathy. So beautifully written, straight from the heart. You did so well to let it out. Congratulations to you Cathy for taking such a significant step.
    And four months is a very, very short time. Be gentle on yourself too.

  19. Cathy, reading this really struck a chord with me. I have a very difficult relationship with my best friend, and I've felt similar to what you've expressed, only I have never been honest with her because I don't think she would be able to deal with it, and I am so full of resentment and anger about that at times that I just want to let the whole relationship go. I think it is better that you were honest with her because in doing so you have honoured yourself and were being true to who you are and while that has left some incredibly difficult feelings to deal with , guilt shouldn't be one of them. We are all struggling to be the best we can at any given time and the harshest thing here is that you don't have the chance to go back but maybe even if you did, things wouldn't change. I know myself that there is no timeline to grief and it took me years to come to terms with a loss of a very dear relationship. But it will pass...or get easier to bear and this post is a very positive step in healing I feel. It seems trivial to mention it but our girls picked you in my giveaway and I would like to send your special things if you want to get in touch with your address.

  20. Oh Tinniegirl! I am reading your blog tonight for the very first time after seeing your name around the traps, and as a perfect stranger you have touched something within me so much that I have tears in my eyes.

    Cheers to you for being brave enough to talk about it in a public space, yes time always helps and 4 months isn't long in a lifetime, and somehow you have to learn to not be so hard on yourself.

    I too always choose the 'honest' approach in life, which often isn't understood by others, but you've got to go with what you are comfortable with, and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn' everything in life.

    I hope this post is a step forward for you, and remember we all struggle from time to time, so most of us can usually relate in one way or another, and will help any way we can.

  21. I can relate to the computer glitches because I just wrote a long comment to you which has been swallowed up into cyber space! But basically what it said was that I am thinking of you and sad that you are hurting so much. I hope this heartfelt post is another small step in the healing process. Take care.

  22. I understand some of what you write, though of course every experience is unique... my brother died of cancer last December and like you, my heart continues to ache every day. It is overwhelming at times... heartbreaking beyond anything else I have ever experienced. Being still sometimes is essential before you can move forward again. Honesty is good too. Good wishes to you.

  23. Gosh, that is such a tragic story Tinnie. No wonder you've been feeling so sucked under.

    But hopefully through this talking/blogging, sharing and letting it out, you are also letting it go, moving through it rather than holding on to it all so tightly.

    Share more whenever you need to, you know we re all compassionate ears out here.

    Take care Tinnie Girl .xx.

  24. I have just found your blog via Mrytle & Eunice. What a beautiful post. I am really sorry to hear that your friend has passed and that you are struggling to find your way without her. I have never lost anyone close to me, so I can only imagine what you are going through...and I'm sure that doesn't even come close. Thanks so much for your honesty and I hope the sun shines again for you soon x

  25. ahhh Cathy your posts are always so strong and powerful and i love how you delve deep and write honesty, i hope writing this post helped you somehow and gave you a little comfort when remembering your friend....(hugs) i guess time heals everything and even though ive never grieved someone close to me I can imagine how hard it msut be. Take care my friend!

  26. Dear Cathy, (((((((many hugs)))))))

    My heart goes out to you. Grief is very personal. If I can offer anything it would be to say that in my experience, the process of grieving is multi-layered. I believe that the peeling back of layers, while excruciatingly painful and raw, is a necessary part of grief.

    When our children died, I felt like an atomic bomb had exploded, pulverizing all the parts of me into minutia. My grieving process felt (feels) like an attempt to put all those pieces of myself back together again. Some pieces I couldn't find. Some, I didn't want anymore. Some lacked lustre but I could still work with it. Bit by bit, I've put "me" back together again. But I'm not the same as I was before. Death changed me. Often people ask, how did you survive? The answer is that I didn't. Not as I was. I'm different. And that is ok. And I'm still finding pieces to examine.

    I think in our culture it is more palatable to view the grieving process as a negative and so we are reluctant to share it with others. All that anger and crying and internal agony. It must be bad right? But it isn't. Granted, it feels terrible. But somehow, when others help us carry the load, it doesn't feel as heavy anymore. And because others are helping us with our load, we are able to help them with theirs.

    In a book called Emotions Revealed, I read an excerpt that struck me to the core. It was a recounting of the time the author had spent in a remote village area of Papua New Guinea. He recalled a story about a village woman who's child died after being hospitalized in a neighbouring hospital, far away from her family. He and a colleague offered to drive her and the child back to her village. The entire trip, she sat motionless, seemingly without grief. The colleague had made the comment about how she was "Handling it well", because to us westerners, holding in our grief is considered the proper way to handle it. The entire trip, her face remained impassive, until they arrived at her village. Upon seeing her family and loved ones, her face came to life. Her familial support system released her suffering and she was finally able to grieve. The family wailed and supported her. We are your family here, Cathy.

    If you are interested, there are a couple of blogs I could sent your way that are about the grieving process, one in particular is about the creative process while grieving.

    Nature always helps me. To see continuity through nature. And to end, I think that no matter what the circumstances are surrounding a beloved's death, feelings of guilt, shame and a long journey into retrospective thinking is inevitable. We relive moments to try to make sense of them. Eventually one reaches a point where that reliving is not necessary anymore.

    I hope it is ok to just talk here. I send you my support.

  27. I'm sorry I am so late to comment. I'm thinking of you and know that grief is a big ride on the back of a wave. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down, sometimes you think you're cruising to the shore, then it dumps you all over again. I know grief. Gosh. What to say. I hope you feel the sun shining on you soon and that you can feel some peace. x