Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

After the Rush, There is the Quiet

I’m thinking about Emily today whose infant son Ronan died two months ago. I am also thinking about friends who died in April - my wife Evelyn twelve years ago, Anne Harroun, thirteen years, and John Silaj, fifteen years. I hold them in my heart as well as those I don’t know who also lost loved ones this April.

If she hasn’t already, Emily will soon come home to a quiet place. Some friends will continue to stop by to chat and see how she is doing, but there will be fewer of them and they will come in ones and twos instead of in groups. They will invite her to go out for yoga, a walk, a meal, and the diversion from home will be good, although she may not take them up on it for a time.

After the rush, there is the quiet. The slower pace will be welcomed because the last few months have been frantic with the emotions and events leading up to Ronan’s death, the details of his funeral, updates on her blog about his illness, the publication of her book on Ronan, the publicity tour, the interviews and book readings, the excitement of flying around the country and hundreds, even thousands, of strangers and old friends wanting to talk with her for a few minutes.

At first it looked like it was hard for her to talk about Ronan’s death and to listen to condolences. I saw this on her face in her first interview on the Today Show, but as interviewers later asked the same questions, set answers had formed that saved Emily from having to dig up her heart each time looking for answers, and it became easier to talk about this tragedy. The set answers also created distance between her and her grief.


When you come home after the funeral or memorial service of a loved one, after saying “no” to someone else who wants to talk about this death, you begin to put away their possessions, box up their clothes, and then the quietness hits you. Someone you loved is gone forever. 

You knew this before, of course, both in your head and in your heart, but now you feel it deeper, something more primal, and the despair can be so great that you wonder how you will ever survive it.

As hard as it is to be alone with this, you want to be alone with this, to reaffirm the sinews of your bonds, to feel as deeply as you can what you are feeling without having to put into words for others what this feels like, what this means because you don’t know what it means. You want to go into the darkness of this death as deeply as you can, and then you never want to come back. This is your time to grieve as you need.

Then … one day … you will pick your life back up and continue on. This is the start of your life after death, and for a long time you will carry around all that has happened as you go through the day. But your path no longer heads deeper into death’s dark forest. Now it leads you out into warmth and light.

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