I Feel Most Human When My Heart Is Heavy

A columnist shares the resources she turns to when dealing with grief

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by Christie Patient |

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For all the time I’ve spent in my 31 years “sitting in the U-bend, thinking about death,” as Moaning Myrtle from the “Harry Potter” series says, facing the loss of a loved one hasn’t gotten any easier. In spite of all my pondering, reading, and writing on the subject of morbidity, I can’t greet death without my gooey humanity oozing from every crack in my broken heart.

I don’t know what happens when a person becomes a body. I’ve seen enough bodies to know that they aren’t us. And I’ve experienced enough inexplicable things in the wake of loss to be reassured that the energetic contents of our mortal vessels persist, somehow, after we die.

But when it comes to my life? My living human body and its human consciousness? All I know is that if we are composed of atoms that are more than 99.9% empty space, when I lose someone, it feels like the 0.1% of me that is solid stuff coalesces into a black hole in my chest.

No amount of previous loss or mental preparation has made it hurt less to lose another person I love.

The consolation prize is that I’m better equipped to help others through grief because of my experiences and willingness to sit with the hurt.

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In the past few months since my friend died, I’ve sought others who are willing to hurt. I hoped that the burden of my grief would be lightened by hearing from others who are courageous enough to be honest about the crappy parts of being human. I’ve found great comfort in community; my family and friends are a beautifully curated collection of people who also have big, gooey, human hearts.

But I’ve also looked outward for more resources.

Since I can’t seem to think about much else these days, I figured I might share some of those resources with the community here. Whether you’re a patient, caregiver, or friend of someone who has pulmonary fibrosis, I’m willing to bet you’re carrying some difficult feelings right now since you clicked on this column. Maybe some of the following will soothe your wounds for a time.

Terrible, Thanks for Asking” is a podcast hosted by author Nora McInerny that “lets real people get real honest about how they’re really doing.” Nora miscarried her second child, lost her dad to lymphoma, and then lost her first husband, Aaron, to brain cancer within two months. She knows a few things about dealing with grief and loss. And luckily for us, she alchemized her pain into a platform to have honest conversations with people about how we’re doing when we’re not doing well. If you sample nothing else from my offerings, please give this one a try. It’s not just stories about death, I promise.

Good Mourning is a podcast about grief hosted by Sally Douglas and Imogen Carn, two friends who met in a grief support group after losing their moms. This podcast covers a lot of ground. Most episodes are 35 to 60 minutes and chock-full of vulnerable interviews. I can’t even summarize this show because it covers so many aspects of the grief experience.

Heavyweight is a podcast hosted by Jonathan Goldstein, who’s essentially a professional interlocutor, or, as has been said, “like a therapist with a time machine.” In each episode, he strives to help people tie up loose ends, mend fences, and find connections they’ve lost. The real people in this show do a lot of emotional heavy lifting with Jonathan’s help. It’s tender, and, best of all, you can pretty much count on closure at the end of each episode.

The Year of Magical Thinking” is Joan Didion’s short autobiography about the year following the sudden death of her husband, John. I read this book in college, and it stuck with me. The day after my friend died, I felt called to read it again. It normalizes some of the strange thoughts — or magical thinking — that we have while dealing with grief.

Poetry! To me, there’s nothing better than finding a poem that resonates so deeply with whatever I’m experiencing. My love language is finding and sharing the perfect poem with someone who will appreciate it. Likewise, I find it truly meaningful when people share poems with me.

Some of my favorite poets that I turn to, especially in hard times, are Jess Janz, Mary Oliver, Joy Sullivan, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Pulmonary Hypertension News columnist Anna Lisabeth Jeter.

These poets know how to distill a feeling into its elemental parts. They know how to bear witness to loss, and pain, and fear. And when I read the poems they’ve crafted, I don’t feel so alone.


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

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