Who I am.

I write about the landscape of grief, nature, and the wisdom of fools. The author of four books, my essays, poems, and reviews have been published in over 50 journals, including in the Huffington Post and Colorado Review. I’ve won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award, the Chautauqua and Literal Latte’s essay prizes, and my work has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and named a notable by Best American Essays. My account of hiking in Yosemite to deal with my wife’s death, Mountains of Light, was published by the University of Nebraska Press. http://www.markliebenow.com.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Finding Strength in Grief

As we follow grief’s advice, we are discovering that we have an amazing amount of strength. In the beginning, we weren’t sure we would survive this worst thing that could ever happen.

We have a right to grieve because people we love have died. They died too soon, and they died before we were ready. They were an important part of our lives, and their absence leaves a hole. We are learning to live with this.
Grief will last longer than we expected. It brings many emotions and physical sensations as we move through the days and months—shock, sorrow, loneliness, anger, despair, rage, aches, chills, and discomforts. Pay attention to them. If we have any unresolved grief from the past, this will probably come back.

Say their name.

Death is a physical event and grief is the appropriate physical response. Gather with family and friends and share stories about the one who died. We know a great deal about the person’s life, but we do not know all their stories. Sharing with others fills in the gaps and brings new insights and understanding. Be honest in the sharing because everyone has weaknesses and flaws. This is the time to acknowledge the fullness and contradictions of our loved one's life. 

Be prepared for visitations from the departed in dreams, visions, or simply by feeling their presence. This can also be a time for us to complete unfinished business. If there is something we always wanted to say to the one who died, now is an excellent time.

Find relief in the rituals and prayers of our tradition, whatever they are.  

Many people have walked the path of grief before us. They bear witness to the reality that people patch their lives back together and find happiness again. 

We also find strength in our grief community. These are the gifts we share with each other: 

You give me freedom to be emotional and freedom to be silent. You give me permission to express my grief in any way that I need, and you will not judge. You offer me fellowship as you share your grief. Knowing that we’re in the same boat steadies me.

You create trust when you talk about your own struggles. You give me patience when you wait as I fumble around trying to describe what is rumbling inside me. You share insights into grief’s gnarly wilderness that help guide my way.

You build up my courage to go deeper into grief, knowing you will be here if I falter. Sometimes you poke me when I don’t go deep enough. I scowl, but then I try because I know you’re probably right. You share your tears with me, and they release my own. You give me your smile.

You offer me love, and anchor it in a place where it won’t wash away with grief’s next incoming tide. You hold my hand, and this says what no words can. You give me hope because this horrible thing that has happened to us, this devastation that has battered, ripped, and torn our lives apart, has not destroyed us. You give me your resolve because I can see your fierce determination to battle death’s demons.

And when you wrap me in your arms, you give me the greatest gift of all—compassion.


This post appeared in The Grief Dialogues.

1 comment: