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, October 13, 2015

Breadcrumbs of Grief

Whidbey Island 4

As you start to walk on the way, the way appears. Rumi

In grief we have to let go. Of everything. At some point, we have to let go of the one we loved who died. This is tremendously hard to do because we don’t want to lose whatever we have left. It tears us apart. We have to let go of life and embrace death. But if we want to feel the warmth of life again, then we also have to let go of death, of what has gone silent and cold. So where does that leave us?

When death hits, a list starts in our heads of everything we’ve lost. For me, gone was everything connected to my wife — what we did together, the places we went, all of our plans for the future, our dreams, our hopes — and I let them go. I even had to let go of our love.

Letting go in grief is like Inanna’s descent into the Underworld in Mesopotamian mythology to find her sister. In order to pass through each gate on her way down, Inanna has to give up something valuable that she possesses. At the end, even her clothes are taken away and she is naked, with no power or prestige left. There she finds the strength within herself to continue.

Besides letting go of someone I loved, I also had to let go of who I was when she was around, and who I was trying to be. I let go of everything I valued until my life lay scattered on the ground around me. I felt as cold as one of death’s shadows. Without my beloved, it seemed I had no reason left to live.

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When we have given up everything, when light has faded and darkness has replaced its last glimmer with loneliness and despair, we notice a trail of breadcrumbs that was left by those who traveled this way before us. We could not see this trail until we left home, until we left what we knew, until we stopped clinging to what was gone and we let go to trust the unknown. The breadcrumbs lead us through the forest to a place we have never been.

What are these breadcrumbs? They are the words of others who have suffered and written of their grief journeys. They are the kind voices of those who stop to talk with us on the street. They are the open hands and hugs, the words shared over a pot of hot tea. They are the arms of people who welcome us with compassion.


In their eyes we see acceptance, understanding, and love.

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