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.

If you would like to be notified whenever I post something new, please enter your email here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What We Grieve

Our 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 grieve everything. Meanwhile the rest of the world goes on without noticing.

What I realized today is that while the memories of our loved ones may pull us 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. 

I’m not talking about the traumatic, visual memories we have of the day our loved ones died, because those are different animals — they torment and pummel us. What I’m talking about are the memories of everyday life, the ordinary interactions on ordinary days.

We do grieve the loss of our special personbecause everything they were — their personalities, humor, strength, tenderness, physical presence, and touch — are missing from this moment, this lonely, empty, cavernous moment when we desperately want them to be here, and would give anything if they could, if only for a moment. 

We also grieve our loss of visionfor the future, because what we imagined our lives were going to be like with this person by our side has been snatched away. Even if we were sketchy on the details of what we’d be doing in ten, twenty and thirty years down the road, not having this to look forward to takes the wind out of our sails.

We also grieve our loss of place, because we no longer know where we belong. Our home may feel like just a place where we eat, sleep, and shower before we go back to work. Our invitations to the gatherings of married friends or friends with children drop off.

We grieve our loss of settlednessbecause we had the life that 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 month. Much of that has been taken away.

One day we will celebrate our loved ones again with all of their strengths, limitations, and occasional wackiness that endeared them to us. But not yet.

What we can celebrate today is the beauty of the evening’s sunset. We can celebrate friends who invite us over for dinner, who come over to drink coffee and see how we’re doing. We can celebrate because it’s their kindness that keeps us tethered to the earth, each other, and those we love.

In this time of turmoil and uncertainty, we need to remember who we are and we need to celebrate this, even though it’s difficult because we feel so defeated, inadequate, and conspicuously sad that we wonder if we have enough left to risk loving other people again. 

Yet we are standing up and we are 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 they 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.”