To many people, the world of Grief seems like a big void, a large cavern of terror that everyone wants to flee, a place filled with utterly depressing chaos and rampaging emotions. It is. It’s also filled with amazing heart.
In the first month, well-meaning people show up in the guesthouse with flowers, chocolate, and praise for how strong we must be, and it feels like a strange kind of romance. They listen to our words as if each one was golden and we had learned of hidden truths. 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, a chair, and a desk where we journal about partially understood meanderings, grief doesn’t seem that exciting. But in the solitude we find stillness. Life stops swirling around us and we see how grief connects to love, anger to fear, and despair to hope. In solitude we feel the absence of our loved one, as well as their presence.
We begin finding others wandering around the monastery who are also grieving. We gather together and a community forms where we do not have to explain ourselves, because everyone gets grief in the Monastery of the Shadows. We are living in the sacred space that exists between the living and the dead, between our understanding of faith and the annihilation of its illusions. A door opens to wisdom that we did not understand before.
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 speak the names of our loved ones as we light the candles so that we do not forget and they are not lost to the darkness. The soft, steady beat of a bodhran accompanies the rhythm of our hearts.
As we make our way through grief, we move deeper into the Mystery that is unfolding and enfolding us. Simple joys appear throughout the day, like a wren singing at the window, or a book left outside our door with a passage marked that moves our soul.
A community of people gathers and passes compassion from heart to heart to heart.