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. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What We Grieve


The Astonishing Light

We do not grieve the memories of our spouses who died. Surprised? Me, too. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with a profound loneliness that we seem to grieve everything.

What I realized today is that while the memories of our loved ones may pull us back down into sorrow, the memories themselves remain what they were — happy if they were good memories, and sad if they were unpleasant. But we don’t grieve them.
The memories I’m talking about don’t include the traumatic accounts we have of our loved ones dying, because those are different animals. What I’m talking about are the memories of everyday life, the ordinary interactions on ordinary days.

What we do grieve is our loss of vision for the future, what we imagined our lives were going to be like with the person we loved, however sketchy we were on the details, in ten, twenty, and thirty years down the road, then deep into retirement at which, at some point, one of us would probably die.

We also grieve our loss of place, because we no longer know where we belong. Our home may feel like just a house, a place where we eat and sleep.

We grieve our loss of settledness because we had much of what we wanted. We hadn’t reached all of our dreams, and there were still some bugs to work out in our relationship, but we knew what to expect each week and each month. Then all of that was ripped away.

We also grieve the people who are gone because everything that made up their personalities — their humor, strength, tenderness, physical presence, and touch — are missing from this moment, this lonely, empty moment when we desperately want them to be here, and would give anything if they could, if only for a moment.

One day we will be able to celebrate them again. But not yet.

What we can celebrate today is the beauty of the evening’s sunset.
We can celebrate friends who invite us out for dinner, who check in on us now and then to see how we’re doing.
We can celebrate people who share their compassion with others who are suffering.
We can celebrate our memories because they tether us to the earth, to each other, and to those we love.

We can also try to celebrate who we are, as best as we can, which is difficult these days because we feel so alone, defeated, inadequate, and sad that we wonder if we will have enough left to risk loving someone again.

Yet we are standing up to death and dealing with one of the hardest things we will ever have to face. This is to be celebrated. We are strong, compassionate, funny, and talented, and the one who died saw these things in us and loved us because of them.


Hafiz says this well: “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”


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