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, January 4, 2017

After the Holidays

The holidays are finally over. We partied too much. Ate too much. Watched too much TV. We’re exhausted. If we’re grieving, we no longer have to pretend that we’re happy. A new and unstructured year stretches out before us like a big lump of dough. What will we do with it? More to the point, do we have the energy to cross grief's boundaries and make changes?

Rather than compile a list of things I SHOULD do to better myself (the Resolution Conundrum), I want to make a list of what I WANT to do, what will expand my heart with compassion for others. 

I want to take risks and be challenged to grow in new ways. I want to confront my fears so boldly that I will go where I’ve never gone before.

Too often I say “No” to what is new and stay comfortably settled in what is familiar.

Yet each day I will encounter new people and new opportunities. Some will excite me, and to them I need to say yes.

At home, the past is stuffed into drawers and stacked in closets. It’s packed in the pile of boxes from my last move 12 years ago. Every New Year’s I think I should do something about them.

I value simplicity. I know from living in am one-room apartment after college how little I need. I also admire the habit of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania who give away everything they haven’t used in the last year, feeling that someone else needs them more, and the world's resources are limited.

I don’t need physical things to have a happy life. I need people. Grief has taught me that.

Last year both of my parents died. Besides this being incredibly depressing and heart wrenching, the family spent weeks sorting through a lifetime accumulation of stuff in their house. It felt like we were taking their lives apart and throwing pieces out. It was hard to know which items were important enough to keep, and then figure out who had room to store them.

When I die, I don’t want to leave a house of odds and ends that someone else has to clean up. When I returned home from my parents' house, I began to take extra clothes and appliances to Goodwill, recycle what I could, toss what was worn out, and gave away books, my biggest vice. Getting rid of books was the hardest because good books are good books, and I’m sure that I will read them one day.

Relationships make our lives memorable. Our possessions won't be coming to the funeral.

I also want to adjust my habits so that they bring me life again. Last year, I began to rise an hour before the rest of the household to have a quiet time to center myself and write. I will continue to do this. But every night I still watch a talk show and then go to bed. Even though the shows are entertaining, they rarely deepen my understanding of life.

I would rather use the quiet hour at the end of the day for thinking about what has happened, giving thanks for the good, and letting go of what did not go well, so that I may start fresh in the morning.

I want to spring clean the sanctuary of my heart so there is space for the unexpected to enter. I want to reserve a place in the darkness where the light of mystery can burn.


  1. I still have my companion, but your words
    'spring clean the sanctuary of my heart so there is space for the unexpected to enter' spoke deeply.
    thank you