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    Coping With Grief

    It's been a while since I have posted at Dagblog. I got in some rather nasty arguments the last time I was here and at about the same time, suddenly got authority over the website Gonzo Times, an anarchist blog in need of retooling and a new direction. Michael Maiello has been one of my steadfast supporters, however, and as I am working on a book based around my recent experiences, I figured that it would be good to post some of them here first for thoughts.

    I met Jennifer Lauren Reimer online in an SSRI support group. The two of us clicked immediately. She knew how to make money from writing online - her website Practice of Madness has over 3,000 likes on Facebook and sponsored advertising content coming in.

    Jennifer really liked me - so much so that her ex-boyfriend threatened her physically if she continued seeing me. She had a lock on me and she urged me to come to Philadelphia to see her. Suddenly, not liking it there anymore, she insisted on coming to visit me in Seattle. We had a pretty nice few months together, in which our happiness together was frequently interrupted by the horrible chronic pain she was in - the result of a dependency on painkillers, car accidents, abusive boyfriends, uteral cancer (which she had gotten a hysterectomy to stop in 2011 but I suspect was rebounding), At some point last Monday night, the two of us fell asleep and I realized the next morning that only one of us had woken up. I immediately called the police, then my mother and her father, all of which responded very well.

    Does it break my heart that Jennifer left this world? Of course it does. However, I was prepared. I have had serious health problems in the past - epileptic seizure disorder, depression and a kidney stone are all things I have faced in recent years. However, my problems were beans compared to Jennifer's. Even if she did not admit it, she had been battling hardcore anorexia for a very long time. She only weighed 100 pounds when she passed, something I weigh nearly double that of, despite being several inches shorter than her.

    Her eating habits were grounded in years of habit. I would sometimes make food for her, she would politely comment on how good my cooking was and the food would be left with about 2/3 still there in the bowl.  She would pick the cucumbers out of a salad and leave the crusts on her pizza, passing them over to me to eat instead. I had to throw alot of food out around her because it went bad after she left it out. Towards the end, her figure was very close to that of Steve Jobs in his last few days.

    Meanwhile, she smoked, used recreational drugs (nothing hardcore like coke or heroin though her friends have told me she did those in the past) and ate an ice cream and Greek Yogurt diet. A friend of mine, who also battled anorexia, told me at her memorial that this was classic anorexic behavior - the anorexic's body often seeks out high levels of sugar as the body winds down its use of other nutrients. For someone like myself, who has only ever had an eating problem in the other direction, it is very difficult to imagine what this was like. I tried my best with her but these were the sort of habits one develops as a teenager - they can't just be broken in a couple of months.

    Jennifer was so weak towards the end that she had trouble opening a keyhole, opening a window or lifting most items without my help. I did the best that I possibly could - it was hard to know how to respond when she would break in to tears after only walking a block or told me of discovering blood in her stool. Her father told me of a time, when she was studying in British Columbia, that she was able to hike on her own without experiencing any pain, outpacing even him. His niceness to me was the most valuable thing I experienced in the aftermath of her passing - to be told by her father that I had tried my best made me feel like I hadn't failed.

    Jennifer was basically treated like a criminal when looking for pain relief, as Michael Maiello has observed. There are very extreme laws regarding painkillers in Washington state and most of the professionals we experienced seemed as if they were stuck on watchdog mode from the get go, making sure that their license would not be messed up by painkiller abuse. This meant Jennifer got skepticism before they even heard her name or did a physical exam.

    Her father has been my guiding light in knowing how to deal with this. He lost Jennifer's mother when Jennifer was only very little, having to put his wife somewhere in the late 20s, early 30s range which Jennifer was only stepping in to. He has alluded in our conversations about many personal mistakes and I have been running my compilation of a book about Jennifer by him piece by piece, having easily isolated him as the most rational figure in Jennifer's life.

    Meanwhile, I look for inspiration after such an event in the subtle things. My apartment building isn't filled with the cream of society's crop. I was a bit paranoid when I had to come back for another month that I would experience something ugly. I didn't really - most people were very respectful. People who actually knew both of us were extremely respectful and some people even went out of their way to be respectful. There was some gossip but it seemed to die down very fast. I saw this coming - Jennifer L. Reimer was obviously sickly and would tell you about it if you got to know her well enough. Her body wasn't able to defend itself. One tenant who has known me since 2011 warned me that the grief counseling session I set up would be overcome with gossipers but none were present. It was just myself, friends, family and several counselors.

    Even despite some preparation, actually seeing and experiencing it was very harsh. I really want to thank the people who were caring enough to grab my shoulders and tell me I will be okay right as it happened - a more timid person would avoid getting hit by that train. When I was in the office with the apartment manager, some people would actually apologize for barging in once they saw me there. That is what respect looks like and that is what I got for the most part. It was certainly more respect than doctors gave her (or me).

    It's going to take several months to really ascertain what happened and even then, it may remain unclear. She had all sorts of factors going against her that it could have been a number of things coalesced in to a fatal brew. Her mother died of cancer in her 30s - heredity and her own habits were unfortunately working in tandem against her. A Jennifer Reimer Memorial Page has been set up on Facebook and I hope to get a book together of her written work from her website, Practice of Madness, which I urge everyone to take a peek at. Michael Maiello has been nice enough to repost material from her and has told me that there is a big story and a big audience for her experience.

    I hope so. She was the sort of person you don't forget.


    I always find it difficult to find the words to say to those going through what you must be going through.  In large part because during my times of grief I always found what people said to me to be less than comforting - my own issues assuming they were more concerned with comforting themselves rather than expressing something deeply felt. 

    Grief is, in my opinion, the most difficult experience to resolve.  I suppose this is because I am still working on grief from decades ago.  The notion of working through it and moving on is somehow alien to me. 

    In past year I have gone through a lot of introspection, and feel that no matter how much I might stabilize on the surface, everything is built on a sea of grief. 

    I wish you the best in dealing with this traumatic event.  Jennifer sounds like one of those complex and wondrous souls, and those who were able to truly know her, a blessing.

    Michael, it's great that you're able to make something out of this.  A lot of people are in pain and are not getting proper treatment.  Many of them self medicate out of necessity. A whole lot of people, and their doctors, do not even realize that people are in danger. Unfortunately we have chosen to treat pain in this country as something to be endured. This is dangerous.

    She was the sort of person you don't forget.

    And so may her memory be for a blessing.


    I feel there is much comfort to be taken in the positive action happening following such a tragic, if expected loss. Jen's memory will be living on, not only in the hearts of Michael and her family and friends, but also in the thought-provoking written works which will forever provide a small glimpse into her incredibly productive mind. Keeping this positive momentum going is the best and most fitting memorial we can give to Jen who was such a powerful creative force. Love and light x

    I'm so sorry for your loss of Jennifer, Michael. Thank your for this poignant testimonial.


    PS We've missed you around here

    Orion, first welcome back.  I'm so sorry you've lost such a special person in your life.  I'm glad you had the time together, and of course, the memories will never leave you.

    Take care and take time.

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