Cathartic Moments

-dispatch from the grief process

85sklogweirbwWeir on the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. Fall 1985. Just before the freeze up starts. Debris is left from the previous spring thaw.

If you’ve ever seen an ice jam on a river it’s quite a spectacle when it starts to break up in the spring. Everything is at first frozen solid. Then comes noise that can sound like anything from gunfire to an earthquake. Huge chunks of ice, some as big as busses slowly rise out of the flat surface where the cracks have started to appear. It starts to move like a small version of the earth’s tectonic plates. The undercurrent strengthens and the ice weakens against the increasing force.

I grew up beside a river that often froze solid in the winter. In the spring one of the kids’ favorite things to do was to go down to the river’s edge to watch the breakup of the ice. If it was a very cold winter and the water started to run high from the mountains all kinds of debris would be swept off the upstream banks and deposited wherever shallows were encountered. This changed every year since the bed of the river also changed every year due to both the icing up and strength of currents. There was a very strong undertow in this river, particularly before an upstream power generation dam was built which started to regulate the flow a little more uniformly.

Sometimes the break up would happen all at once, in a few days. At other times it would break and re-freeze numerous times.

Today I was listening to some music on YouTube. This started to set off something of a catharsis of emotion that has been churning under all that nihilism I wrote about in the last post. I tweeted the whole episode because…why not? This is the kind of thing social media is really good at.

What started the thing was Apocalyptica Ft Nina Hagen – Seemann (Sailor). It’s in German, which I tweeted.

[Some people were concerned when I put this on Twitter. I’ll just put a section from the subsequent episode below in something like a dialogue form. My tweets are in blue, theirs in grey. Notes are in square brackets]

<start of twitter excerpt>


[Some of the words translated]

“Only night is so merciless
In the end I stay alone
Time’s standing still
And I am cold

hey…you okay?

I echo that.. Hope you’re OK. <3

so sad for your loss. the days are not much more merciful. warmth, strength your way

nothing to worry about.

Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen (HD OFFICAL MUSIC VIDEO)


don’t panic.

my nihilism and I are in the mosh pit at present :-( :-D

[some people then gave me song suggestions]

Post-Sex Pistols, perhaps my most favorite song, period: “PIL” by PIL


I love PIL.

OK I’m emotionally all over the map right now..
But I know where the edge is…
Am well back from it…

Killing Joke – Love Like Blood


“We must play our lives like soldiers in the field
The life is short, I’m running faster all the time …

…Strength and beauty destined to decay
So cut the rose in full bloom

Till the fearless come and the act is done
A love like blood”

Iggy Pop – The Passenger On The White Room


“All of this was made for you and me..”

catharsis is underrated
as a helpful psychological protocol

[Then a little bit later someone posted this]

Rammstein – Ohne Dich


[Ohne Dich means Without You in German. The person who posted it, who knew I’d see it, knows me better than any other of my Internet friends. This video is particularly poignant because of all the time me and Manoj spent in the mountains. This kind of a situation was always a hovering possibility. The imagery also has some other very heavy connections for me so I kind of addressed that. ]

ohne dich

Embedded image permalink

[Harkidoon is a place me and Manoj went a few years ago. 4 days walk from the end of the road. Crossing landslides, washouts and roughened terrain because it was right after monsoon season. It has a very particular significance in Hindu mythology particularly in the Mahabharata:

While climbing the peaks, Draupadi and four of the Pandavas fell to their deaths, dragged down by the weight of their guilt for their sins. Yudhisthira was the only one to reach the mountain peak, because he was unblemished by sin or untruth.

On reaching the top, Indra asked him to abandon the dog before entering the Heaven. But Yudhisthira refused to do so, citing the dog’s unflinching loyalty as a reason. Once again it turned out that the dog was his father, Dharma.

The way that actually plays out is he declines to ascend Indra’s chariot to heaven because he cannot take the dog that followed him all the way, with him there. The dog turns out to be his father incarnated and he is rewarded for his loyalty to the dog with a trip to heaven. Harkidoon is known as the gateway to Heaven.

It is also said that the Supin River that flows through the Harkidoon valley is called the River of Karma because it is said to collect the karma in the Mahabharata. It is alleged that to drink from the Supin is to take in that karma (in the Hindu sense of the word) and add it to your own.]

You know exactly. thanks.

Deutsch ist meine Muttersprache von meinen Großeltern. Manchmal gibt es zurück. Klar. [trans. German is my mother language from my grandparents. Sometimes it comes back to me. Clear.]

gender & cases may be wrong there. i don’t remember how to handle the dative and some of that other stuff

<end of twitter excerpt>

I spent a lot of time going through a lot of emergent feelings during this episode. I don’t think I could even attempt to catalog them all. It was like a little pressure being released though from the freeze of the nihilism. It was some kind of movement within that. It was all confusion and relief and anger. All sorts of thoughts and emotions and memory images kind of blasting out.

I was trying to trigger it somewhat by listening to what I did since I could feel some stuff coming up and I wanted to direct it somehow and not just let it have it’s way with me as I had been doing the past 4 days or so. All of that has specific meanings that are way too deep and complicated to try to explicate here any more than I have. It wouldn’t mean much to anyone else anyways.

One doesn’t just go through an emotional time like the grief process and have done with it. If only it were so simple. It tends to keep spiraling around until the unfinished emotional business is taken care of. Some people get stuck in some parts of it. Some people can grieve for years because of stuff they don’t want to acknowledge.

There is no formula for any of this no matter how many self-help books and lazy psychologists say there is. Some people have certain emotional insight into themselves and some have less. Some have one set of coping skills and other people have different ones. Some have particular knowledge of how they work through things and other people haven’t really noticed that about themselves. Some people are more familiar with introspective techniques than others. Some people have better support systems than others. Everybody’s got different levels of resilience. All this and more is in a different combination in each person. No formula or step-by-step guide is going to do it.

What we end up with if we try to follow such formulas is trying to force our emotions and thoughts into someone else’s little boxes and suppressing everything that doesn’t fit. That is a sure recipe for having all that stuff come back up and bite you in the ass. It’s also a recipe for carrying ongoing trauma and depending upon circumstances possibly setting one’s self up for PTSD type reactions in future situations. If we are dishonest with ourselves the necessary work won’t get done. If we are doing a process only to please someone else because of their “expertise” (a book author, psychologist) or their insistence (an overbearing family member who says, “Get over it.”) or some misguided individuals in one’s social group like a Buddhist sangha for example,“It’s all illusion. It’s not real. It’s all empty. etc.” as if this is any kind of useful advice, IT’S NOT USEFUL IN ANY WAY. [I’ve got something in a future post about this, though I said something about that in the last post.]

Like I said there is no one formula for dealing with anything. There are tools and stuff that we can employ in these circumstances however. We can learn that. We can learn techniques from CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), narrative therapy, music therapy, etc. We can learn how to introspect through various meditation methods or other self-reflective practices. We can get to know ourselves better so that when we encounter deeply upsetting circumstances we don’t have to be fearful of our own reactions. We can learn to relax anxiety that always accompanies emotional disruption. We can become better prepared because there is no escaping encounters with these kinds of situations. Our parents, children, beloveds will get hurt and die. We will be betrayed sometimes. Our countries will go to war. Our security can fall apart at any time. If we have developed abilities to deal with uncertainty and bad things happening we don’t have to go through life fearfully either. We can relax a bit and not panic or get trapped in whirlpools of our own confusion. [I think this latter plays a significant role in depression but that’s too long of a discussion to have right now. I’ll come back to it a few times in the future.]

Even if we can escape every bad thing in life there’s one that can’t be escaped. Our own death. That’s a thing I’d rather be somewhat prepared for. That’s a thing I hope I can look at with some modicum of equanimity. Not that I’m looking forward to it in any way, but I have no idea when my number’s going to come up so I’d rather have some insight into ways that might be a little bit helpful in handling it.

So some moments of catharsis, some moments of a certain amount of clarity. Don’t know how long they’ll last or if they will. Will just have to wait and see.

I don’t know how long this series will go on. I’ve got 2 more posts started in it. I guess it’ll take as long as it takes. I don’t feel like dealing with comments yet. Maybe on the next one.