(In the early days and months, grief is a pervasive, physical reality.)
The longing of grief comes in the evening, rising from its hidden place, and stays the night.
The house I built in grief shelters me. It protects me through the long days and nights. I am grateful, yet I hunger for more than this. When grief first came, everything shut down. Window curtains were pulled closed. Doors were shut, and the world went dark. My mind could not comprehend the suddenness of death, nor my heart the dissolution of someone I loved. My senses were numb, and my heart lost its footing. Every guideline and belief, everything I thought was solid, cracked under the weight of death’s relentless pressure.
The house of longing is grief’s body.
In his book I-Thou, Martin Buber speaks of longing, of the desire for such closeness in a relationship that boundaries blur until they cease to exist, and there is unity of body, mind, and heart. He was speaking of the relationship between believer and the sacred Other, but this longing for closeness extends to our personal relationships — between spouses, parent and child, and between close friends.
The house of grief’s longing is my body.
The desire to hold hands, the embracing comfort of a hug after work, the cuddling at night as we slept, the warmth of a familiar body—without this daily closeness, the body’s loneliness for the other is almost unbearable.
In the aftermath of a death, survivors feel lost. We don’t know what to think. Every emotion is on speed dial, and our body collapses in on itself. Tears drain our resolve and energy away, leaving us feeling like an empty, cold shell. Although others cannot feel what we are experiencing, they can see grief’s turmoil in our eyes and sense its heaviness as we shuffle through the day in a fog, unsure which way to go. Grief is a hunger for what we cannot have.
The house, my body, longs with grief.
The body is often the first to recover, perhaps because it has to eat and rest in order to survive, although, for a long time, sleep is sporadic and food has little taste. As our physical senses return, we begin to feel the warmth of the sun, and taste again the oregano, garlic, and lemon in food. It takes our mind and heart longer to return. The body has its own wisdom in grief, and with the hugs of friends, guides us back.
Hot oolong tea. The taste of cranberry-orange scones on a cool morning. Day by day, we learn how to breathe in the absence of love.
The longing of grief’s body becomes my home.