How Stubborn Hope Saved Me

How stubborn hope helped me survive my partner’s tragic accident and how it could help you deal with 2020…

It’s July. How’re you doing?

I’m having a hard time…we’re still dealing with this pandemic while dismantling racism and white supremacy, and struggling with an economic crisis, plus it’s July and hot and all the swimming pools are closed. 

There’s so much grief in so many layers of life right now. But I’ve been here before, sort of, well, I know grief, we’ve become good friends by now…

In this musing, I want to speak to what got me through my partner’s accident and also speak to why I continue to do grief practice and offer online grief rituals. 

Speaking of—the next grief ritual will be online via Zoom on Saturday, July 25th, noon, mountain time. Here’s the link to join:  https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwocOuvpjMtHtDl2nfDiHkiLr6Zbtd_bwy6

There’s a suggested donation of $10-35+, all proceeds will be donated to the well project in Sobonfu Somé’s African village. She’s my main grief mentor.

So what did Michael’s accident and quadriplegia teach me about dealing with 2020? 

I’ve been seriously pondering this lately—how was I able to survive losing my partner’s able body to quadriplegia and come out the other end with a deeper sense of love and a calling for my life’s direction? 

I did it, but it wasn’t an easy transition.

It’s good for me to tell my story here every once in awhile as some of you are new. Welcome, I’m thrilled to have you join me in this grief revolution.

So…my beloved Michael crashed his mountain bike on a beautiful summer evening just about 8 years ago. The date is etched in my soul just like 2020 will be for many of us. The date was August 27th, 2012.

Life went upside down. Yet somehow I came right side up again.

What helped?

I bounced back often; I didn’t get stuck at the bottom. I kept moving my grief-my anger, my rage, my sadness, etc. I leaned on community; I learned to ask for help and rely on others to help us. I learned that we cannot do everything on our own-we need each other; we’re interdependent beings. 

Michael certainly learned this in an even harsher crueler way than I did-he can’t do physical things on his own because of his severe limitations with his body. He’s a level C4 quadriplegic, so that means below his nipples he has no movement or normal sensation. He cannot move his wrists or fingers, he cannot move his core or midsection. He’s either in a power wheelchair or his bed. He wears a stylus on his wrist to use his cell phone/computer/or iPad. He can feed himself with a fork strapped to his wrist. He has 4 shifts of caregivers in one day. He relies on everyone else to help him with all simple and complex tasks; he can’t even pick his own nose.

I love picking my nose now and I get to pick his nose. You know that statement-you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your friend’s nose? Well, that’s just not true.

Back to the point-humor has helped me deal actually, and if you know me personally, you know that to be true.

But I’d have to say that under all this was hope. I hung on to stubborn hope and used it like fuel to propel me forward.

I remember being told by my friends that Michael would most likely die from the accident and that I should prepare for it. This was said to me while Michael was adjusting and fighting for his life in the ICU during those first 45 days. 

As that was said to me, I remember feeling like a stubborn child with her heels dug in and arms crossed. I simply chose not to believe that idea nor even entertain the worst outcome. 

I wouldn’t believe it. I envisioned us living our complicated life together. I stubbornly held onto to this defiant hope within myself. Michael. Would. Survive.

And he did.

Was it hope? Was it faith? Was it love? Perhaps it was all three together plus the many medical interventions, etc. 

People thought I was nuts. And maybe I was. Many people suggested I leave so that I could live my own life and be happy. But this was my life. I loved Michael. And I was determined to make it work.

So it was my stubbornness that saved me. And as I write this I get tears in my eyes to feel so grateful for a part of me that has challenged me for so long. I have often been told how utterly stubborn I am, but in the end that became my superpower and possibly saved me.

I’m so grateful for that part of me now.

So, I’m asking myself – can we stubbornly hold onto hope for a better future? 

We’re stuck in this awful 2020 limbo with the world on fire in so many ways. People are dying and systems are crumbling. We are in the upside down state of grief and loss as we’re dealing with losing the world as we once knew it. It’s gone. 

Yet, when all else is gone, hope remains. 

So I invite you to choose one thing to hope for and dig your heels in with me. Let your hope be the fuel that propels you forward. Or can you let it be the thing with feathers? As Emily Dickinson so beautifully wrote: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. 

We must never stop. We must cling to a better future just like I clung to seeing my new complicated life with Michael. 

So continue on, choose that one thing to propel you forward. 

And join me for a grief ritual if you need to learn ways to befriend it. They keep getting better and this one will have more emphasis on an embodied creative arts practice.