Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grief is so confusing.

Grief is so confusing.
People often say they feel like someone else - as if they have suddenly been thrust outside their own body and are observing a life they never expected to live. 

Emotions run rampant and our defenses against them seem to abandon us.  Tears flow, anger surfaces unexpectedly and sadness can seem like a permanent fog.  It isn’t uncommon for someone to experience vertigo during grief and why wouldn’t they?  The world they know and have trusted is suddenly upended.  So it makes sense that we would lose our balance.  And oddly it is comforting when we realize that much of the confusion we experience actually makes sense . . . given what we have lost.

Some people find analogies or comparisons helpful.  Some how, when we can name what this experience “is like” it helps to normalize it and get it out in the open so we can begin to understand it.  If we can describe it in some way,  then we can begin to forgive ourselves for feeling so crazy, comfort ourselves with tenderness and find more patience to take the time and rest we need to recover. 

Some say grief is like a firestorm that burns away everything that is familiar. 
Some say grief is like a tsunami that suddenly crashes in with obliterating devastation.
Some say grief is like a filter over our eyes that cannot be removed. 
Some say grief is like feeling your heart break.  

Mary Oliver uses her amazing ability to plumb the very depths of our souls with yet another image:

It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined.  The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything.  I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling.  The back of the hand to
everything.  But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop.  They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care.  And after the leaves came
blossoms.  For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Happy ?" New Year

2013 has begun. . . . whether we were ready for that or not. 

The truth is grieving can make all changes difficult . . . even good ones.  In grief the resources we need to adjust to every change that comes our way can become diminished.  The energy it takes to mourn the loss of someone we love uses all those reserves, so we stand at the threshold of a new year with mixed feelings.  Yes, it is good to start fresh.  Last year was so full of struggle and sadness that a new year triggers a glimmer of hope that we desperately need.  And yet, our loved one will not be part of this year and something inside us doesn’t want to live in a year without them.   

One thing to keep in mind as 2013 emerges is that maybe we are being given an opportunity to begin to live more simply and with a more focused intentionality on what is truly important in life.  After all, loss has a way of jerking us awake to what matters and shining a bright light on what doesn’t. We quickly grow clear about that. We see and know what is precious.

Etty Hillesum says it so beautifully:   

“We have embraced a new reality and everything has taken on new colors . . . There now flows a constant stream of tenderness, a stream in which all petty desires seem to have been extinguished. All that matters now is that we be kind to each other with all the goodness that is in us.”  
                                                                             (from The Interrupted Life)