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 10, 2018

Stone Monastery of Grief

To many people, the world of Grief seems like a big void, a large, empty cavern of audacious terror that one wants to flee, a place filled with utterly depressing chaos and rampaging emotions. It is.

But it also has long periods of silence after the first onslaught of grief calms. To those who grieve, the journey is like living in a monastery. So much has been taken away that life feels pared back to stone walls. Except for occasional rantings in the middle of the night, it’s quiet the rest of the time. We’re always slightly cold, and the food we eat, while nutritious, is nothing to write home about.

In the first month, well-meaning people show up in the guesthouse with flowers, chocolate, and platitudes, and it feels like a strange kind of romance. They listen to our words as if each one were golden and we had tapped into some hidden wisdom. Then they leave. A glimpse into the dark depths of human existence was enough. They don’t want to live it. We have no choice.

When we’re by ourselves in our bare room with only a bed, chair, and a desk, grief doesn’t seem that exciting. Then we begin finding others wandering around the monastery who are also grieving. In the morning, at noon, and in the evening, we gather. A community forms where we do not have to explain ourselves, because everyone gets grief in the Monastery of the Shadows of Death. We are living in a sacred place, the space that exists between the living and the dead, between our understanding of faith and the annihilation of its illusions.

In the sanctuary, we read passages from those who have traveled this way before us and find strength and encouragement. We chant psalms of struggle and triumph. We honor our dead, and speak their names so that they are not forgotten. The soft, steady beat of a drum accompanies the rhythm of our hearts, and we begin to understand.

After being alone with grief for so long, we look forward to each gathering where we can share the insights we have found helpful. Simple joys begin to appear throughout the day, like a wren singing at our window, or a book left outside our door with a passage marked. As we journey through grief, we move deeper into the Mystery that is unfolding, and enfolding, us.

There is spirituality in grieving because we are dealing with matters of heart and faith. It’s following the ancient path of grief’s wisdom, and connecting us to a greater Power. We discover an oasis in the middle of death’s desert and members of the tribe that understands sorrow.

A community of people grieves together, and passes compassion from heart to heart to heart. Selah.


Besides spending time in a Trappist monastery, I often went to Yosemite to listen and watch in the cathedral of nature. 


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