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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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sacred Space of Grief

Grief initiates us into sacred space. Elaine Mansfield started me thinking about this, and Christina Rasmussen, in one of her posts, wrote that “grief is God,” and described how this was so. The following are my thoughts so far. I’d love to hear your insights.


When grief comes, it taps us on the shoulder and initiates us into a club that we never wanted to join.

When we enter its dark world, we sense the presence of something deeper than sorrow, something mysterious, immense, powerful. We feel this in the glow of the candle we light in memory of someone. We feel this when we participate with others in a ritual in a cathedral or a meadow, and the chanting, incense, and music set our minds to the side and call our spirits forward.

We are always surrounded by sacred space, but often we are too busy to notice.

In grief we find ourselves living in a parallel world where everything looks and feels different. We feel set apart from the normal lives of others, and are aware of a presence around us. Some people call this presence God, others the Great Spirit, and some the Luminous. In this place we wait for directions. What is most important is that we no longer feel alone in our sorrow. Someone is sitting with us in our grief.

We also see the world in a new light, and we're surprised that others cannot see what we do. Matters of life and death are going on around us, and many people are oblivious. We see the world without filters, with clarity about what is important and what really doesn’t matter.

The curtain in Oz has been pulled back. 

The death of someone close takes us into the liminal space between the living and the dead. We are held in the tension between their old presence and their new absence. There is tension in that we do not know who we are, or how we are going to live, without them in our lives. We exist in a nether world of shadows. In this altered state of awareness, we pay attention to the fleeting images we catch in the corners of our eyes, the sudden puffs of air, the familiar scent that is here and then gone, because we know that more is going on that what we understand. Our loved ones might be trying to communicate with us.

The doors have opened and we see further into the breadth of human existence.

Grief breaks us down and allows us to accept the compassion of others. Our eyes open to the suffering of others— their sorrow, sadness, and despair. Sometimes the volume of pain becomes too much, and we have to step away. We also see people taking time to do simple acts of compassion — saying a kind word to others, giving flowers, mailing a card, smiling, asking how someone is doing and then listening when they speak of sorrow.

Why did we not see this suffering before? Why did we not realize how crucial compassion is? And now that we do, how will we live our lives differently?

What is required of those who know grief?


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