Love, Loss, and Grieving: Getting Stuck, Moving Forward, and Letting Go with Expert Mark Ed

Imperfect Love | Mark Ed | Grief Management

 

LOVE is the greatest gift we are ever given. It brings us purpose, joy, connection, and life itself. Yet because we love, we also open ourselves up to the immense pain that comes with loss. Indeed, I believe that the greater our love, the more intense our pain during the loss and grieving process. And although love lives inside us and around us even when our loved ones have passed on (or moved on), grief can teach us how to love more fully while also letting go. If you are working through loss due to the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, or another painful life change, this love-filled episode may bring you gentle comfort. Join Dr. Carla and expert Mark Ed for a heartfelt exploration of love, loss, grief, and the imperfect journey of healing.

Note: The subject matter may be triggering for those who are struggling with significant loss and grief, so please listen and share with care.

 

Books by Dr. Carla Manly:

Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly

Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond

The Joy of Imperfect Love: The Art of Creating Healthy, Securely Attached Relationships

 

Connect with Dr. Carla Manly:

Website: https://www.drcarlamanly.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drcarlamanly

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/drcarlamanly

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drcarlamanly

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carla-marie-manly-8682362b

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@dr.carlamariemanly8543

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@dr_carla_manly

 

Book by Mark Ed:

When I Go Away

 

Connect with Mark Ed:

Website: https://www.markedauthor.com

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Love, Loss, and Grieving: Getting Stuck, Moving Forward, and Letting Go with Expert Mark Ed

Powerful, Precious Tips for Healing from Loss and Grief!

Love is the greatest gift we have ever given. It brings us purpose, joy, connection, and life itself. Yet because we love, we also open ourselves up to the immense pain that comes with loss. Indeed, I believe that the greater our love, the more intense our pain during the loss and grieving process. Although love lives inside us and around us, even when our loved ones have passed on or moved on, grief can teach us how to love more fully while also letting go.

We’ll focus on this listener’s real-life question. “My partner and toddler died in an auto accident. People keep giving me the message that I should be able to move on by now, but I can’t. I went back to work after three months, but I’m still going through the motions. My mom and sister are worried and try to help, but I feel dead inside. What can I do to get over the grief?” With that question as the focus of this episode, I’m Dr. Carla Marie Manly and this is Imperfect Love.

 

Imperfect Love | Mark Ed | Grief Management

 

I’m joined by a very dear and special guest, Mark Ed, who will be sharing his expertise on love, loss, and grieving. Welcome to the show, Mark. It is such a joy to have you.

Thank you so much for having me here. It’s an honor to be with you. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing your love with me and our audience. Before we launch into the show, could you tell us a little bit about what makes you you?

What makes me me is all of the experiences that I have had, things that have happened to me, and things that I’ve overcome. I am a different person than I was two years ago. It’s an ongoing process. What makes me want to keep going is love.

Who Is Mark Ed?

Isn’t that the truth of it? Love is definitely what keeps us going. I know a bit about you. You are a prolific artist, an author, an amazing musician, a husband, a father, and a son. You also have written a beautiful book which you illustrated on grief. That’s a little bit about what I know about you, yet I know you are so much more than your accomplishments.

Also, as if you need another profession, you’re a hairdresser. I can’t wait for the day when I get my hair done by you. I’ll fly back. My hope is someday. Anyway, with all of that background, the people who do our hair, whether it’s cutting our hair or giving it blow dry, or whatever it is, are such reservoirs.

Yes, indeed. I have been in that industry for 40 years and it is amazing how the time has gone. I see the styles repeat, but the stories are fascinating and interesting to all of my clients. It seems to be a place where clients have fallen asleep getting there. It feels so good and they tend to tell you everything about their whole life story, and all you’re concerned with is doing a good job on their hair. It is a very close relationship with the client because you’re making them feel good about themselves.

In that role where you are that receptacle for so many memories, thoughts, feelings, and experiences, I imagine on that level alone that you’ve listened to so many tales of loss, loss of the physical person, loss through death, loss through the ending of a relationship, ending of a friendship, ending of a marriage, and ending of a job. All of those things bring us loss and grief.

We’re All Connected

What can I say? In my heart, I say a prayer that whatever is to happen will happen, whether it’s what they want or what they don’t. It only brings me closer to these clients as actual living souls who are connected to me. I believe we’re all connected. By lifting someone up and not condemning another, I believe that you’re helping yourself.

We're all connected, and by lifting someone up and not condemning another, you're helping yourself. Click To Tweet

I believe that a lot of the components that come with joy are things like helping and helping each other. It makes you watch a sunrise or watch nature, but also that helpfulness gives you a sense of purpose. It completes a joy that a lot of times people think that it’s all about pleasure and happiness. It comes from a very deep place in your soul that you have to engage. Joy is something that is waiting to be tapped into. You have to love and make a choice.

I agree with you on joy. It’s there. It’s waiting. I see it as this flame inside of us that sometimes gets a little obscured. Sometimes it gets a little smaller because we’re in pain and we’re grieving, but it is there. When we look at this listener’s question, and let’s dive into grief now, which is the antithesis of joy. When we lose someone, we lose that relationship. Let’s talk about this listener’s question now.

Ezra

Seventeen years ago, I was blessed. I should start from the very beginning in 1989. It would be a bit more like 34 years ago, I was blessed with a beautiful son. His name was Ezra. He was one of my three boys, the youngest. He had red hair, he was a fireball. He had so many friends, he was very athletic, a snowboarder, and loved to play.

I was also blessed with a wife of 23 years who if it was snowing, would say, “Mark, I’m taking the kids out of the school, we’re going sled riding, we’re going skiing today.” I said, “That’s fine. Just write a note to the teacher.” When Ezra was fifteen years old, he was diagnosed with a very serious condition called Ewing Sarcoma.

I was in shock and our lifestyle, Deborah and mine, was more like living at the children’s hospital in Pittsburgh It was a very tough go with radiation and chemo. Even to this day, I cannot have a very hard time watching St. Jude commercials of children with cancer and the struggle that they and their parents go through because I was in denial that my son would ever die.

I never thought he would die. I always believed in God that he would be saved. Unfortunately, he died when he was seventeen years old. That was seventeen years ago. Two years after his death, my first wife died. It was a double whammy. I was not having any reason to live. My other sons, Elijah and Mantra, were old enough to be on their own.

The news was laughable. The world was laughable. There was no meaning. I thought I had no reason to live. Although I was not suicidal, I didn’t care if I lived or died. I absorbed myself into music, into the piano, and I absorbed myself into my artwork. Curiously enough, there was an art show around 2012. Debbie passed away in 2009 and Ezra in 2007.

I lived in a mansion that completely was a shell. The only thing that was there was a Saint Bernard and myself, and five fireplaces over the top filled with all of their memories. I felt that I would betray them if I gave them away or if I didn’t take care of them when actually, it was just stuff. The tolerance of living came from people checking in and meaning that they cared. The truth for me of the grieving process was the more I love them, the more I grieve. I said something like grief is the price you pay for love.

Grief Is The Price You Pay For Love

I was angry at God or the divine a little bit, but then I realized that the ability to love and be loved, I did not conjure up. It did not come from me. It came from beyond and it was given to me. I was allowed to experience that. I was allowed to have seventeen years with a son. I was allowed to love and permitted to share a relationship. That was very special and how can I be angry for something that I was allowed to do and chose to do? There were times and still today for at any given moment, anniversaries are very tricky but because you could feel them coming and you’re setting yourself up.

 

 

I believe that the celebration of that relationship or the celebration of that time spent with that loved one, the celebration of the life and what it meant to you and what you learned from that and what you still are learning was good. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said, “It is better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all?” Does correlate?

We are also, as I hope to be helping other people who might have questions about it, I feel useful in it and I am always drawn to parents that have lost children. I think it is the worst thing in the world. It is not natural. It’s not supposed to happen like that and it happens in many different ways. I am always interested because grief is an individual process. It is like a fingerprint. Everyone has different ways of grieving.

It was like when I was at my prior job that I had to leave because you start caring for yourself and say, “I need this. I don’t need that.” People would come up to me and say, “Mark, how are you? I mean, really, how are you? I mean, really, Mark. How are you?” It was like walking around with your arm cut off or you say, “How do you think I am?” “I’m not walking. I’m crawling. I’m trying to crawl. I can’t even walk.” This was seventeen years ago. I’m able to talk about it. I could probably not talk to you for more than one minute if it was a year ago. I wouldn’t know what to say.

My dear Mark, I first had no idea, so I’m on the other side of the camera crying as I’m hearing your story. It’s the picture that you paint and the soulfulness with which you paint. The Tennyson quote you were talking about, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” is a beautiful quote, but when you’re in the thick of the grief, it doesn’t ring true at all. Hearing your tale of losing your son at the beautiful age of seventeen when his adult life was just beginning, and then your wonderful partner.

It’s so sad that I paired you. It’s appropriate. I had no idea of that background story when I paired you with this question. I all the more appreciate it because we were going to talk about your book on grief which is about a mother and a child. I had no idea of the depth of the background story. I so appreciate your vulnerability and your willingness to share with us because you’re right. I’ve lost people that I care about very deeply, like my mother and my sister, but to lose a child, I can’t even imagine.

It is a thing and every single day, you think about him. If I can state the way I feel, he is no longer my son. He feels like an older brother. It’s like my mom. I happen to have my mother who is celebrating her 104th birthday, but she is not my mom anymore. She’s like a sister. Our relationship goes on and I’m blessed. I was in grief, and when that happens, nothing else matters. I don’t know. I think I slept a lot.

Hope After Grief

I know the funeral. It was two days because younger people tend to have many friends in high school. He had four high schools that he was associated with. It was two nights of viewing. They were worried about me holding on to him, not wanting to let go of the casket. It’s a very weird place to be. It’s a horror story. By the grace of God, I have made it. There’s hope after grief if you can say that. Grieving also, is it not an emotion?

There's hope after grief. Click To Tweet

Yes.

It’s one of those emotions that you’re so sad, vulnerable, helpless, and hopeless. It’s probably the opposite of an emotion like anger.

There’s so much passion to it. When it comes to grief, it’s like walking through mud. Whereas joy and love are sunshine and light, grief feels to me like walking through thick mud that’s covering you. As you say, you’re lucky if you can crawl through it.

Carla, I don’t know. It has to make you stronger. Except, at least I empathize and I have compassion for other people so much. I truly, from my soul, am able to give from whatever I have to those who were once like me and could not believe it.

I wish I could say that I agree that it makes us stronger and I understand that perspective. I almost feel as if grief in some ways, at least for me, made me weaker, more human, more fragile, more susceptible, yet also more resilient. I guess I do see the connection to strength, but I almost wonder if grief has ever made me stronger or more aware of my humanity.

Grief, in some ways, makes us weaker, more human, more fragile, and more susceptible yet also more resilient. Click To Tweet

I also wanted to bring up the point of I had the privilege of holding my son’s hand as he died. Many parents do not have that last moment. Many times children die in so many different ways, but he was in a hospital bed. I do want to share with you that it had not snowed and he loved to ski. It was January 25th when he left this earth at 03:30 in the afternoon. I held his hand and said, “Ezra, please don’t ever leave me.”

Grief Never Goes Away

His eyes were open, and he looked at me, “I’ll never leave you, Dad.” He said, “The music is so beautiful.” His hands turned cold as stone almost immediately. Cold as stone. It started snowing and it would not stop. It kept on snowing and snowing. Three days later when they had the funeral, I was outside in the snow in my backyard being alone. I think I was smoking a cigarette and I saw a Monarch butterfly right in the white snow on the rock before me. I think I want to tell you that grief never goes away and it’s always there.

Grief never goes away; it's always there. Click To Tweet

I agree with you, Mark, and I will go back to the listener’s question in a minute. It’s a perfect opportunity because when I work with people around grief, they’re always seeking closure. I don’t know who came up with that concept of closure and it doesn’t matter to me, but I don’t believe in closure especially surrounding grief. When we love someone that deeply, which is what love is, it’s a deep connection, it may get softer. The mud may become less muddy or we may start seeing again and feeling the light again and the air again.

As you said, the anniversaries, a smell in the air, a certain food, a color, a picture. Yes, it gives us pain and heartache but at the same time, if we didn’t have those occasional glimpses of pain, of heartache, of that music, stirring us and that song saying, “That person loved that song. My loved one adored that cake or whatever it is.” I think the fiction of closure around grief keeps many people thinking that they are broken or wrong. I agree with you, true love, once we’ve lost again, whether it’s a relationship or a person to death, when that sense of loss is evoked in us and that pain, that is a sign that we loved well and deeply and truly.

 

Imperfect Love | Mark Ed | Grief Management

 

Yes, and it also leaves a word for anticipation because as we grow, we naturally change, and grief changes. I think there are a million things that we don’t understand, but they happen for a reason. I simply don’t understand it all, but I can say this. If you make it through it, you’re blessed. I was talking to my wife this other time about all of the bad times that have happened, she incidentally lost her husband, who was an artist. It was two years after my first wife died. We never knew each other in this small city. When we are hoping. Wait, I know I was digressing what was I talking about?

It’s okay you were taking us into the gift of anticipation.

Yes, because always something changes and something can happen. You don’t know how your life is going to change and how that will work to help others again. This may sound very silly, but it took me two weeks to grieve the loss of my St. Bernard, my dog. Two weeks, at least. You wonder. This is a pet and stuff, but it was very real to me.

 

Imperfect Love | Mark Ed | Grief Management

 

There are times that you’ll see someone else’s pet getting old and knowing it doesn’t have that much longer to live and you’ll feel sad. I agree. Why is this feeling? Does it make the joyous times more joyous? Does it make the green greener and the red redder? I don’t know, but it’s a part of life that we have to accept and not be afraid of, but it is painful.

 

 

I agree with you. Sometimes painful is not even enough to describe it. When you’re talking, I know so many people, me included, where when you lose a pet and I think of my first Great Dane, Bentley, when I lost him. It was one of my first adult experiences. My first adult experience of deep heavy loss. It was crushing. It was immobilizing because our pets give us unconditional love, they give us companionship, they are our best friends, and they don’t judge us. Of course, when you lost your St. Bernard, especially on the heels of everything else, it would be one more crushing loss. I’d love to pivot back to our listener’s questions.

I remember Cindy’s husband died in a car accident. That was the attraction because she had lost a spouse. That was the attraction to me. That was like it’s an attraction if a parent loses a child. I want to talk to them about that. I do because I know everyone feels differently about it. Some parents don’t have the same kind of relationship with their children that I was blessed to have. This one was the baby that could do no wrong. That was the love of my life. It’s funny because I could hear his voice and I don’t know. I would not be smiling if it wasn’t like seventeen years ago. I’ve learned a lot through all those weeks and all those months of therapy and great thought.

Many people in this state do take us directly to the listener’s question about it’s been a year and people are expecting her to be over it or through it or to be on with her life.

You never get over it. You are able to talk about it without breaking down and you’re able to articulate your words and you can explain the story, but you never get over it because it was too much. Wondering why does not do any good. The things that do good for me are remembering and cherishing those times, helping other people who might be in that thing, and listening to music, and watching nature and learning it, listening to the birds, doing things that put you in a place of total surrender to that relationship that you had. That will make you able to breathe and take a deep breath. It’s those kinds of things or you have the choice. Don’t take me the wrong way, Carla, but dramatizing how bad everything was and remembering how terrible, rude, awkward, and ugly. You have the choice also to do it.

Leaning Into The Light

I hear you. I think especially if it’s a relationship that you’re closing the door on or a physical death. For some people, that works as a way of leaning into the darkness. I happen to be more of a fan of leaning into the light because that’s the kind of light and energy I like to remember. It’s the beauty.

It dispels the darkness.

It does and I’m a big fan of leaning into the light. I hear you say that helping others, when you have the bandwidth to do that, I know so many people have lost someone and they immediately want to go and be on hospice. The hospice teams say, “Wait a year if you still want to do this.” I’m a believer in everything you’re saying, diving into creativity, letting that creative muse take you to another place, and using the power of music.

Traveling to completely new places and pursuing your dreams.

Yes, all of those things are distractions. It can be a new place that’s a half hour away or a plane flight away. I remember when I lost my mom. In my morning walks, I would devote my walks to allowing myself to cry because I had to be strong during the days. I had to be there for the people in my life. On my morning walks, it might be I wanted to cry. I was all by myself out on that path. I would cry and cry until I truly had no tears.

Until there was no more. It’s funny. What I would swim, I said, “No one can see me cry when I’m swimming.” No one can see me because I have goggles on. It’s important to do that. You have to get that out.

I remember one time I saw someone in a supermarket who looked like my mom. It was over a year since she had passed. I walked up and wanted to look at her almost to see if it was my mom. I knew it wasn’t. I started crying and I said, “I’m so sorry. You reminded me of my mom.” She tapped me on the shoulder. She says, “It’s okay, dearie. I understand.” I think that we don’t necessarily want to go and go crying all over the place and scaring people because we’re now walking around in this constant state of grief.

We don’t want to be afraid. We don’t want to feel as if we have to put on a happy face. Maybe we don’t want to be crying 24/7 out in public but it’s okay for us to not put on a happy face. For those who are not in the grief with us, I think it’s so important that we allow people their time and their space, not to get over the loss, not to pretend it didn’t happen but to move through it at their pace and to support them.

We must allow people their time and their space to get over a loss, not to pretend it didn't happen but to move through it at their own pace and to support them. Click To Tweet

Instead of saying, “You should be over it, you should be dating, or you should be this,” it would be more like, “What do you need?” A gentle invitation, “Would you like to go on a walk today? Would you like to come out to dinner with me?” Just not giving up on that. They may say no for weeks and weeks on end or maybe a year or two years.

I think it’s one important way to support people. When we look at our listener who has lost a partner, lost a toddler, and coming home to this space, thank goodness her message says she has a mom and a sister who are supporting her, but to realize and not stress herself that the grieving process, her place right now of going through the motions.

Congratulations that she is able to go through the motions. That is progress. I would also think if she were able to find the bandwidth to join a grief group or individual therapy. I know so many people who have met, and not that she’s ready for a new significant other, but who have met long-term friends and even partners in grief groups.

This is why it’s so important because a lot of times, people who lose loved ones think it’s their fault. My situation was cancer and it took me completely by surprise. There are many times that in situations, it’s not that same way. It could be a gunshot. It could be a terrible fatality, a car crash, you name it. One of the things I want to say before it ends is when Ezra was getting a little bit better, but then he was administered too much chemo and it turned into ALM Leukemia and his body could not handle it. The doctor felt very badly about it but I was making a sandwich and Ezra was okay enough. He was still living at home and he was okay to make his sandwich himself.

You Can Never Do Enough

I made a nice sandwich for myself. It was way after suppertime. He goes, “Dad, make me a sandwich.” I said, “Make yourself a sandwich.” It’s the thing that sticks with me that I always wished I made him a sandwich. It’s the thing that I feel, now he’d forget about it, but I feel that I did wrong. There are little things that remind you that you can never do enough for your children. You want to give them the world, but the fact is you can never give them enough because you’re not supposed to in the first place, but you can always give them more than enough love.

 

 

Thank you so much, Mark. I think that’s a very beautiful way to end it. It is natural for us to go back into our memory banks after we’ve lost someone and say, “I wish I had, I wish I hadn’t, or I wish.” The truth is we can then channel all of those regrets into paying it forward. Instead of blaming ourselves and pointless recrimination, use that energy to say, “I’m going to pay it forward today. I’m going to smile at that stranger. I’m going to give that person a little bit of money in their cup. I can donate my time here, donate that energy there.”

Life is filled with things we wish we had done differently, hindsight is 20/20 sometimes. What we can do when it comes to grief, when it comes to loss, whatever the loss is, is to learn from it. As you say, there are times in our lives when we wish we made someone a sandwich. We wish we had given that hug. We wish we had reached out one more time. I think we can use all of that to do a little bit better today, a little bit better tomorrow and to forgive ourselves because we’re imperfect humans after all.

I love you, Carla.

I love you and thank you for sharing your time with me, and with us. It has been a true joy, a pleasure, an honor.

Thank you so much.

Thank you and our readers, Mark, they can find you. I have your website. It is MarkEdAuthor.com and they can find your music there. They can find your book on grief. They can find your beautiful presence, your beautiful energy. I thank you again. To our audience, I thank you for walking through this not-easy journey with us. This was a big one, so thank you. I hope it has blessed your life and your heart in some way. Thanks again and this is Imperfect Love.

 

Important Links

 

About Mark Ed

Imperfect Love | Mark Ed | Grief ManagementAuthor, Artist, Illustrator, and Musician: Mark Ed received a degree in fine art and illustration from the Philadelphia School of Art and is a prolific artist and musician. Many of his works are housed in private collections throughout the country as well as the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art permanent collection. His books are inspired from personal experience, some that involved family loss, and other books inspired by a desire to share with others the simplicity of the moment and the inner gratitude for all of life’s small blessings.

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