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.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

After the Funeral, There is the Quiet





Today I’m thinking about Emily Rapp whose infant son Ronan died, and because it’s April when people I’ve loved have died—my wife Evelyn twelve years ago; John’s wife Anne, thirteen; and Judy’s husband John, fifteen. I hold them in my heart as well as those I don’t know who also lost loved ones this month.

After the funeral Emily will come home to a quiet place. Friends will continue to drop by to chat and see how she is doing, but there will be fewer of them because some people are more comfortable with dying than they are with death. Many who came to support her as death drew near will withdraw. 

They will come by themselves or with one other person instead of in groups. They will invite her out for yoga, a walk, a meal, and the diversion from home will be good, although she may not feel like it today, and maybe not for a while because what she did to stay strong for Ronan now seems pointless.

They will ask questions and listen to her halting answers. By watching her, they will learn how to mourn. They will feel in their hearts anger and rage. They will bring food, wash dishes, and help each other bear the growing weight of grief. When they don’t know what else to do, and when words exhaust themselves, they will sit in silence beside her and let their presence hold a heart that is breaking. 

            *
When you come home after the funeral or memorial service of a loved one, as you begin to put away their possessions and box up their clothes, the quietness will hit you. Someone you loved is gone forever.

You knew this before, of course, in your head, but now you feel it deeper, in your heart, and it feels primal, raw, and too much to bear. But you bear it because you must, even though the despair is 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. You want to affirm the sinews of the bonds that held you to each other. You want to say that this mattered and you will not forget. And you want to feel as deeply as you can what you are feeling, and the silence creates space for this. You don’t want to put into words for others what this feels like, or what this means, because you don’t know what it means, and words seems so inadequate. You want to go into this darkness of death as deeply as you can, face it squarely, and then, when it is time, you want to never come back. This is your time to grieve.


One day you will pick your life up and start your life after death. For a long time you will carry around everything that has happened. But your path no longer heads deeper into the dark forest of death. Now it leads you toward a land of light and warmth.

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