The Darkness

Seeing no way out from a life heavy with a lack of light.
Begrudgingly starting every day.
Every single day I regret being silent to those who have come to this blog to read my words and have found help or comfort through them.
Wish I could laugh in the face of every person who has said it will get better one day because all I feel is the overwhelming sense of sinking deeper.
Unsure of where I fit or belong.
Not part of anything yet surrounded by all the things I should be.
No longer able to put into words how I feel.
Hate myself for the inability to function.
Living proof that it is a myth to take it one day at a time and things will get better.
The thought of breathing it all in makes me choke on the misery.
Not at all doing what I am supposed to be doing or living the life I should be living.
Unable to be there for the people who love me or be part of their lives like I once was.
Getting what needs to be done every day is a daily battle barely won.
My original goal of helping others through my words and experience with grief has failed since losing my ability to write.
My heart beats for you with miserably unattainable desire.
Constantly questioning why it was you, not me.
Everyone’s lives seem to be coming together in such a perfect loving way while I am trapped in this dismal cage.
This is the life I have been given and I wish I could return to sender.
The daily motions that must be gone through quickly grow tedious.
Nothing seems to bring joy or relief or brief moments of clarity.
Master of the mask.
Faking it has no longer become an option, just reality.
Struggling to remember the last time I was happy and woke up excited for something to happen.
I am totally unable to forget and move on even though people tell me I should.
Life without you just does not make sense and all attempts to fill the void are inadequate.
So tired of the fight and effort it requires to get through each day.
I feel like I need to acknowledge that my entire life of bad luck has won.
Bandaid solution.
Trying anything to cover the pain and make it go away.
Realizing and accepting that regardless of trying to be a good person and giving so much to others isn’t enough to avoid fate when she comes knocking to take away everything you love.
See absolutely no way out of all of this.

The only existence I know.
Tired of fighting and ready to give in to the unrelenting darkness.


A Different Kind of Post ~~ “The Fault in Our Stars” Book Review

My best friend for the last 24 years and I are obsessive readers and writers.  We have been our entire lives.  Something we started doing together last year was to write book reviews together since it was the perfect combination of our favorite things to do.  Somewhat recently we read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which flooded the market by storm and it is completely understandable why.  I have decided to include this review here because it is a tragically beautiful book about life, love, death, and grief – – all things typically discussed here.

john green

The Fault in Our Stars

Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world. Bequeathing a legacy.  Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do too. That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease. I want to leave a mark.

I had a hard time reading this book and have oddly super procrastinated writing this review.  I sat down to write it this morning and shuddered at the fact that I had made my notes while reading Fault in Our Stars on March 18th.  This book was exceptionally written and I poured through the pages in no time at all.  I felt countless emotions while reading it: humor, sadness, anger, devastation.  John Green has depicted life and death and love so honestly that his words resonated with me and you felt like you were living through the characters.  You empathized with them, you laughed with them, and you mourned with them.

But I had a hard time reading this book because of my own grief I am currently living with following the tragically sudden death of my fiancé in October 2011.  Hazel, Augustus, Isaac, the parents… all were living and breathing life and death so realistically that it hit incredibly close to home.  Hazel’s story put into words the wretched nature of grief that so many of us live with and so many aspects of the story felt like they were my own story.

The pain was always there, pulling me inside of myself, demanding to be felt. It always felt like I was waking up from the pain when something in the world outside of me suddenly required my comment or attention.

At times I felt like John Green was writing my story, writing this directly to me, and describing my grief in a way only I could understand.  That is the powerfulness of his words.  But I guarantee there are thousands of other people who felt the same thing as they read it.  The beauty of this book is that you can take it personally, see yourself within the pages, and completely understand the depths of what Hazel’s story is.  So many times I thought….. this is me!

The waves tossing me against the rocks then pulling me back out to sea so they could launch me again into the jagged face of the cliffs, leaving me floating face-up on the water, undrowned.

As Hazel describes her journey with her illness and her impressions on the futility of life, you find yourself drawn in and you almost cannot comprehend how this young girl is so wise.  Her illness, her brushes with death, and her losses have made her wise beyond her years in a way that only pain can.  Any one of us who has experienced tragic loss or lived with a disease, either personally or through a family member, understands how dramatically pain changes you.  John Green captures all of these emotions with ease and I think anyone who reads this would find it completely relatable to their lives.

What a slut time is. She screws everyone.

Even the concept of time was described in such a simple way and yet anyone who has experienced loss will understand it completely.  There is never enough time.  There are never enough tomorrow’s.  When you have lost someone you understand the obsessive desire for just one more tomorrow.  John Green captures this through his compelling words and you can’t help but be reminded how fleeting time is.  I think that was the best part of this book for me  — not how beautifully it was written, not how honest he describes the reality of life, not how intriguing the characters were, but how he tells life how it is in a no bullshit kind of way.  There is no sugar coating loss, death, suffering, and struggle.  Green is able to write this amazing story with complete honesty and makes no excuses for the reality of pain and one’s desperate need to cling onto time.

And then there is the love.  While the main focus of this book is about understanding death, tragedy, and genuine courage, there is love.  A sweet, romantic, teenage love story that can be seen as beautiful by a reader of any age.  This is no sappy childish love story.  This is one inundated with the harsh reality of their suffering and their unity over understanding the lurking sense of death.  This especially resonated with me and I understand Hazel’s anguish of loss and her unfailing love even after a harsh separation.

I want to close by saying that I fully recommend this book to absolutely everyone, but prepare yourself to be changed, to feel sorrow, and to come away from it with a new appreciation of time, life, and love.

I close with five final quotes that I cannot help but share.  I dedicate these beautiful words to my love, my sweet Zach whom I will forever love and will always wish for one more tomorrow.

I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things.

It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouln’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.

The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

I missed the future. I felt robbed.

A Thought for Fellow Grievers: A Picture Says a 1000 Words


They says a picture is worth a thousand words and as an obsessive photographer I have always agreed with that.  I have also always been a big fan of quotes in that I am constantly saving ones I see or writing them down from the books I read or posting them on my fridge or sharing them with my best friend, Lauren.  Since I lost Zach, my fiancé, I have either come across or been sent various pictures with quotes about grieving that have so strongly resonated with me that I now have an extensive collection of them saved in my phone or in my email.

I would like to share them here with you today because maybe you also have found yourself trapped in a similar journey with grief and you feel like me in that it gives you a small degree of comfort to know that other people are thinking and feeling the same way as you.  Maybe you can also look at a picture of someone who has experienced loss, recognize the raw emotion, and know exactly what they are feeling in that moment.

That’s the worst part about grief: to feel like you have lost your mind, that no one could ever feel the way you do, and that what you’re feeling isn’t normal.  Our grief stories might be different, our loss can have a completely different face, but grief is grief and we experience it together.  So maybe you have already seen some of these pictures or heard these quotes or maybe you won’t even get anything out of me sharing them, but I am doing this today because I need the same reminder that grief is shared by all….. even through the pure kindness of faceless online supporters.

These pictures depict, describe, define, and demonstrate grief whether it be through words or just a picture.  I hope you draw the same thing from them as I have.

From me to you,
















The Man and His Dog

zach and lusie

Dogs’ lives are too short.  Their only fault, really ~~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull


I feel like I am writing this on your behalf.  Either that or just to tell you what is going on.  I can’t really decide which it is, but either way it is sad.

Weekends with your family are the only sense of comfort I typically feel during my weeks of insane scheduling.  I am truly blessed to have them and they are the most wonderful in-laws one could ever ask for.  Your family is my family and I love each of them as if they were my own…… but I digress and that is not what I set out to write tonight so I’ll start over.

Weekends with your family are the only sense of comfort I typically feel, but this weekend was inundated with a profound sense of sadness.  I walked in the door on Friday after a long day at work followed by a two hour drive to start catching up with your mom after three weeks of being unable to come home when I laid eyes on two green plastic bottles on the counter.  Noticing me notice them, your mom hesitantly informed me they were Lusie’s.

I should mention that this is a really strange sensation for me right now because I feel like I am having to break the news to you knowing how upset you will be.  Obviously strange because you are not here, but I hope that anyone reading this would understand how horribly you would take this news and how hesitantly I would approach this.  No matter what has happened and how death has tragically separated us, I still feel it is my place and my responsibility to tell you.

Zach, Lusie is sick.  Your beloved little basset hound that you picked out so many years ago to surprise your mom and sister is not doing well.  Your parents noticed two weeks ago that she was breathing heavy and not eating much.  They only told me this weekend because they know how brutal my last couple weeks have been and they were waiting for me to be able to come home, but now that I know…. I am just so sad.  The vet showed your mom the x-rays and Lusie’s lungs are full of cancer which they say is common for basset hounds, but it doesn’t make our sadness any less.

I sit here contemplating how I would actually break the news to you if you were here.  I already feel such a sense of loss with knowing she is so sick, but I know you would be that much more upset.  A man and his dog.  It is a relationship that cannot truly be defined.  A dog is a man’s best friend; what more is there to say?

Lusie is like your doggie child, the same as Dakota (my husky who lives in Canada with my mom) is mine.  This is the pooch who howled in excitement anytime you came home and would do so louder than for any other family member.  This is the pup you trained, hunted with, rode with, explored with.  Man’s best friend.

This is the dog who grieved with us after we lost you.  They say dogs can grieve themselves to death if their master dies suddenly and we were so afraid this would happen to Lusie.  The first day or so that I was in Eastman, she kept sniffing me in way that made us all realize she was associating my scent with you and that she was confused why you weren’t there.  Literally any time the door would open and someone would walk in, she would limp over to the door (she had been hit by a car the week before and was quite injured at the time) and once realizing it wasn’t you, she would come over and sniff me again.  She wouldn’t eat, she didn’t sleep much, she constantly paced searching for you, and she kept coming to me to either just lay with me or to roll around on my lap asking to be pet like only you could.

I found it really strange how Lusie responded to me after we lost you.  She is such a beautiful little pup and such a sweet girl, but after you were gone she really started coming to me more and looking for some loving.  Is that because I was willing to give it or because she associated me with you?  I’m not sure, but I have adopted Lusie as my own just the same as I have adopted your whole family.

Zach, I’m so sad to tell you that she is sick.  I know you would be heartbroken.  I know you wouldn’t take the news well.  You might not be here with us anymore, but I’m still sad to tell you about her.  I am just so sad about her.  The vet has given her some medicine to make her more comfortable and we hope she won’t be hurting/struggling as much, but it doesn’t look good and I’m not sure how long she has before she is up there roaming with you….. if that is how it works.

I love you, Zach, and even if you aren’t here it still breaks my heart to tell you something that would cause you pain and sadness.  Like my opening quote says, dogs are amazing and become a part of the family, but their lives are too short.

Poor Lusie has had a hard year and five months with getting hit by the car, loosing you, and now this.  Poor little girl has been so strong, but maybe it is time for her to be with you.  Maybe she has missed you long enough.

But we aren’t ready to say goodbye yet 😦


A Lusie and Krista snuggle moment.

me and lusie

The Times When You Actually Have Too Much to Say

how grief works


There is no grief like the grief that does not speak ~~ Henry Wordsworth



I feel like this is my life right now.  Clearly my life is no longer on a straight progressive line through life, but instead it has become a clusterf**k of a disastrous rollercoaster ride.  Spinning, swirling, confusing, overwhelming, excruciating.  I have said it so many times before, but between work, teaching, and my own university classes I barely have time to think.  Every single day, from 8 AM until 2-3 AM, I alternate between working in the office, attending class, teaching, studying, doing homework, making lesson plans, grading, etc. that I barely have time to even sleep.  Since January I have not felt like I can catch a break.  And I am so tired.

The worst part about it is that I have so much I want to say.  Things I need to say, to get off my chest, to get out of my mind.  I have so much I want to say to you, to write about, to process.  I just don’t have time.  I need to make more time because there is so much more I feel like I need to do.  My every intention behind starting this blog was to one day help somebody in some way with their own grief.  To show them that they are not alone.  So many people have shared their very personal experiences with grief with me and they tell me that my words have helped, but I know there is more I could probably do.  I have ideas, I have the words…. I just don’t have the time.

And for a writer?  Not having time to do what we love, to do what is our biggest outlet, to do what helps us process so much?  Having so much to say but no time to get it written down? Zach, having no time to write is excruciating for a writer.  All of these words are just piling up in my head and I want to sit down and dedicate a whole day to writing.  But I can’t.

I don’t know if you are actually watching over all of us or if you can see how we are struggling.  But more than ever I need you to show me that I am doing the right thing, that I am on the right path.  Because right now I feel so lost that none of it seems worthwhile and I don’t know why I’m still doing it.  Especially school.  School is hard, I can never get caught up.  I am just so tired.  There are not enough hours in the day.  I don’t know if you are watching, but I need something to show me that this total lack of time is worth it.

A Brief Thought from the Ramblings of Brenner’s Mind ~~ Part Three

It has been awhile since I have posted a brief rambling of what is going through this rollercoaster brain of mine, but tonight while reading my average 300 pages a night for my four various university classes something jumped out and practically slapped me in the face for my to pay attention to it.

Believe it or not, this comes from a sociological theorist, Emile Durkheim (1858-1917).  This was a man who shared some similiar beliefs with Karl Marx, but otherwise had his own concepts of society and the relationships/structures within it.  This was a man who wrote this prior to losing his son in 1915 in the war and then died only two years later at 59 years old.  I find myself believing that when he wrote these words, he had no idea what was to come and how utterly unequipped he was to deal with grief no matter what wisdom we may get from his words.

Reading these words showed me how long the concept of grief has been around and that no matter what I am (or any of us) are struggling through, there are those who have been battling it long before us.  It is a daunting thought to think no matter how severe and overwhelming our grief is, there are those who will suffer just like we are and maybe even worse than us one day.  Grief is a never ending cycle that will continue to collect victims from now until eternity without letting up.  But maybe these words are meant to serve as a reminder that we are all unified in it together.

“When an individual dies, the family group to which he belongs feels diminished, and in order to react against this diminishment, it assembles.  A common misfortune has the same effects as the arrival of a happy event: it awakens collective feelings that impel individuals to seek each other out and come together.  We have even seen this need affirmed with special energy – people kiss, embrace, and press against one another as much as possible.

But the emotional state in which the group finds itself reflects the immediate circumstances.  Not only do the relatives most directly affected bring their personal pain to the gathering, but society exerts a moral pressure on its members to put their feelings in harmony with the situation.  To allow them to remain indifferent to the blow that strikes and diminishes them would be to proclaim that society does not hold its rightful place in their hearts, and this would be to deny itslef.

A family that tolerates a death among its members without weeping bears witness that it lacks moral unity and cohesion.  it abdicates, it reounces its being.”

~~~ Emile Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (296-297)

The Flood of Uncontrollable Tears


I used to consider myself a strong, not overly emotional person who very infrequently cried.  Not anymore.  I dissolve into a sobbing, heaving, hyperventilating disaster so many times a day even I can’t stand myself.  Sometimes these uncontrollable tears come out of nowhere and spontaneously render me useless with  no warning.  But usually, I can feel it coming.  It starts to creep up on me slowly but surely.  I can feel the tears burning in the back of my eyes, can feel my chest growing tighter, and can feel the choking sobs begin to build up in the back of my throat.  I can feel the impending meltdown.  I know it is coming whether I like it or not, no matter what I do to try and stop it.  I know I am going to cry.  It is just a matter of when.

The worst thing about uncontrollable tears is where, when, and why they happen.  It isn’t the actual tears themselves, but it is the randomness to them.  Yesterday I cried in the car driving to your grandparents, I choked back tears in the grocery store on the deodorant aisle as I passed your preferred brand, I cried cooking dinner then only choked down one bite because I hate cooking for just one, and I dissolved into a sobbing mess on the floor when I opened a drawer to find the 400 cords and plugs that go to nothing but you just had to keep.  And that’s just yesterday.  Every day has its own surprise attacks.  Today I teared up and choked back sobs when a faculty member passed me in the hallway between our offices and asked if I’m the one whose husband works at the air force base.  Zach, I cry over the small things, the big things, the things I should be happy about, the things I should be sad about, the things you should be here for, the things I have to do alone, or the things I have no one to share with.  There is no real rhyme or reason to it; I just uncontrollably cry.

So how does Dane Cook play into it?  Why did I include a funny video when talking about such a sad thing as crying?  Because he describes that sudden rush of tears perfectly.  Several years ago, when I was still living in Canada, my best friend Ashley and I went to go see Dane Cook perform which was an absolute dream of ours as we were somewhat obsessed with his hilarity.  I remember it being the greatest day; a celebration of everything “Dane”.  We got dressed up, we went for a fancy dinner, we ordered a pitcher of sangria, we saw Dane Cook live!  I remember us laughing hysterically pretty much the entire way through, but especially at this joke about crying.  I felt it fitting to include this joke today (click the link above if you haven’t watched this already…. I know its 9 minutes, but it is absolutely worth it!) because Dane says it perfectly.  I so very often feel the world tapping me on the shoulder and that sensation of “You’re gonna cry”.  I hate it.  It is uncontrollable and all-consuming.  It turns me into an utterly ridiculous person, but it happens, it is my reality, and it is uncontrollable.

Zach, it floods over me.  The grief, the sadness, the torture.  It is unbearable and becomes all-consuming.  I cannot begin to explain the amount of times I have disintegrated into a worthless teared up individual or that the tears have become the only indication that I am actually not an empty person devoid of all emotion.  People have no idea what to do with it.  I don’t have any idea what to do with it.  All I can do is wait for it to pass, try to excuse myself to a private place if I am not at home and able to freely and completely fall apart, and ride it out.  Zach, I feel like I’m talking about one of our weekends surfing in Costa Rica when I say “ride it out” or when I think of it as a merciless wave that crashes over me obliterating everything in its path.  But that is how it feels and when confronted with an uncontrollable relentless front….. all you can do is ride it out.

The question is when will the attacks of tears stop.

Zach, I know I am not the only one to experience this uncontrollable flux of tears, but I do question when it will end.  When will I be able to get through a work day without running to the bathroom in the hallway outside of our office to sob uncontrollably?  When will I be able to sit through an entire class without tearing up and having to hang my head in shame so other students won’t see?  When will I be able to get through a full period of teaching with a genuine smile, not a forced one that masks my tears?  When will I be able to hear the words “death”, “accident”, or even “love” or “husband” without wanting to succumb to the saddening torture that constantly threatens to take over me?  When will I be able to get through a full conversation with my niece and nephew without wanting to completely die inside when they mention you?

When will I be able to wake up any morning or fall asleep any night without sobbing into my pillows over the reality of being here without you?  When will every moment not be just as excruciating as the last?

Zach, they say tears are healing.  That without tears we cannot fully grieve or have a chance of healing.  But at what point do we stop excusing our tears and realize that the uncontrolled nature of them is actually controlling our lives?  At what point do we have to start to wonder if the tears are healing our pain or if they are only an expression of the utter torture felt inside? 

When do you have to accept that the tears are all you have?

The Hostility That Lurks Below the Surface

Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” ~~ Aristotle


Not angry in a “I want to talk about the 7-stages of grieving” bullshit way, but just angry.  The amount of hostility that I feel seething below the surface has a mind of its own and I feel as though I am ready to snap.  This anger is like a slowly brewing pot of water that is almost to its boiling point.  Sometimes I feel it clawing its way to the surface like its going to burst out of me.  I’m talking about a complete lack of patience, an annoyance for people, and an aggravation over the mundane.  I don’t know where it has come from or why it has gotten so bad, but I can feel it getting worse.

I’m angry at the ignorant people in my classes who have a complete lack of respect for their teachers and fellow classmates who talk throughout the entire class.  These are people who clearly aren’t paying for their own education and just because they don’t care they think everyone else must not care either.  I’m angry about getting up day after day to work towards this degree and feel like its going nowhere.

I’m impatient with people asking stupid questions like, “You seem like you’re in a bad mood.  What’s wrong?”.  I want to scream at them asking why they are so stupid and how they can ask that.  I have to hold back the words on the tip of my tongue to point out their ignorance and tell them exactly how I feel about their questions.  I’m more impatient over things that I know I shouldn’t be.  I’m annoyed with people who blabber on and on about nothingness just to fill the silence and to hear themselves talk when I’m trying to work, or read, or study, or write a paper, or just be in a quiet space.

I’m angry at people daring to ask if I’m dating yet.  I’m angry with people assuming I should be OK by now and trying to put a time limit on my grief.  I’m frustrated that because they have recovered faster than I have, they assume I should be OK too.  I’m disappointed in the people I thought would be there to support me more that seem to have forgotten.

I am hostile towards the people who think going four days without seeing their boyfriend or girlfriend is the most devastating separation and they fail to realize what separation really is or how lucky they are that their loved one is coming back in a few short days.  I am hostile towards the people who still make irresponsible decisions and don’t appreciate the reality that each and every day could be their last.  I am hostile towards undeserving people being granted one more day to live and you’re gone.

I hate myself for not doing more for other people.  I hate myself for still feeling so lost.  I hate myself every day I get out of bed and every night I go to sleep.  I hate myself for being so unfocused and non-functioning.  I hate myself for being impatient yesterday with my students while teaching when usually I control it.  I hate myself for being so angry.  I hate myself for not being able to hide it better.  I hate the emptiness I feel inside of me.  I fucking hate life without you.

I hate myself for feeling like this and for even needing to write these words which has only made me feel like a terrible, ungrateful, selfish person.

I’m angry at how my life has turned out and the nothingness that has arisen.  I’m angry at this dismal outlook on life that shows no hope of improving.

I’m angry.

The Lowest of Places


Today has been viciously hard.  I don’t know why.  Maybe its what I wrote this morning.  I’m not sure.  I can’t put a finger on it and yet I cannot pull myself together.  I have cried all damn day.  I’ve cried in the bed, on the couch, washing dishes.  I’ve sobbed myself senseless in a bubble bath.  I’ve relentlessly cried watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix.  I can’t shake it today.

But I’ve come to the realization today that hitting rock bottom is not as profound as people claim it to be.  It is not some landmark place we hit where it all gets uphill from there.


Hitting rock bottom is the place we hit before despair truly sinks in and we fall deeper.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”  ~~ Ansel Adams