Monday, January 26, 2015

Rushing Toward the Light



These past few weeks, I have been in a rush toward healing. I have tried to dwell in the blessed memory of my husband, and to rejoice in his character. I have tried to begin to rebuild my life in a way that would honour his spirit. I have tried to reach, to grow, and to soften, as I know he would have wanted. 
I am doing all the right things. I am eating fairly healthy foods, and I am writing, reading, and reaching out to others. I begin most mornings with yoga and meditation. I walk outside, sometimes miles, on the weekends. I am immersed in my Buddhist sangha. I even started a Zumba class on Fridays.
I have set aside the depths of my grief to put one foot in front of the other. 
Meanwhile, sorrow lurks in the shadows. 
It waits for me to meet it with my presence.
It's going nowhere until I do this. 
All these healthy habits will not make this pain disappear. 

This week,  I returned to counselling after avoiding it over the holidays. "I don't need these sessions," I told myself, on my way to the appointment. "I am fine. I am coping. I have returned to work."

Then the counsellor made the mistake of asking me how things had been, for me, and the floodgates opened. I haven't shared the depths of my sadness with someone, at length, for a long time. For the first time in months, I was able to look another human in the eye, and have her be a witness to my pain, to help me hold it. I am so tired of holding it all, on my own. 

I share my sadness, but only in snippets, with friends. I tell them that some days are better than others, that this is still a difficult, exhausting, heartbreaking, roller coaster ride and that I don't know when it will ever settle. 

But it has been over seven months, now, and I worry that most people don't want to sit in the nitty gritty of this darkness, with me. I have had my share of attention, I think, and I don't want them to grow weary of my presence.

Instead, I let my writing speak for me. I write my weekly post on Widow's Voice. Perhaps that is why I am so anxious to find that people are responding to what I post, on this blog. Because I crave a human witness to this pain of mine. Because I want to share it and be heard.

But I am too afraid to do it in person. I'm afraid my friends will avert their eyes when they see me, if I share too much, that they will feel burdened by the depth of my grief, and turn away.

So I smile and say I'm well, considering the circumstances--and walk on, before they do.
This fear has nothing to do with the people around me. I am certain there are those who would be happy to sit with me awhile, and let me speak, if only I would ask. But I don't. I try to contain it, myself. And it is too big for one person to hold. 

It is customary, in our Western culture, to rush toward wholeness. We want to show the world that we are strong. We want to be an inspiration to others. We want to rise above, dwell in possibility, climb over obstacles in our paths, get well, move on, be happy, thrive. 

But grief does not work that way. There is no linear path for us to follow. The steps in grief do not uniformly lead upward to a sunny, radiant realm. Grief has us laughing one moment and crying the next. It sends us from the heights of hope to the depths of despair in an instant. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It is baffling and powerful. And there is no way to know when we will come up for air. 

We can pretend that we are better. We can smile and stretch and say all the right things. But our sorrow still lurks in the shadows. 

This week, I decided to sit inside my grief, instead of brushing past it with a backward glance. It felt important to allow it to arise, in me, and to speak to the voice that tells me I should feel better, look to the future, be grateful for what I have, move up, move on, get over it, already. 

I wrote this piece below in answer to that voice. 
*****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****     *****

It is easy to sit on the sidelines of loss and to assume things--that there is dignity in this grief; that one can bear the scars of one's sorrow with elegance and grace, and thereby become an inspiration and an amusing companion for others. That one can rise beyond her pain, embracing the inevitable fact of death.

But today I find no dignity in grief--no elegance, no grace. There are no twinkling angel spirits around me, no chiming bells, no aromatic swirls of misty promise to accompany this loss. There are no rhythmic chants that can soften this sorrow.

There is only me, sitting here, streaming words onto a page. There is only me, eyes darkened with the shadow of his death, forehead twisted into furrows, arm muscles taut and aching for his body to embrace.

There is no light in this grey room, on this grey day, only the soft flame of fire, curling around a piece of wood, in the stove, as it slowly cools into white, dead ash--like his body, that rests inside its cardboard tube upon my dresser. Gone too soon. Finished. Snuffed out.

There is only me, back curved with the weight of this sadness, legs buckled at the knees, crawling up the stairs to step into that dark night, to our bed, without him.

There is no dignity in this death. I will not stand tall, this night, to shape a life as beautiful as the one I had with him. I will surrender to the ugliness of my sorrow.  I will sit with the darkness, and honour it. 

I will not rush ahead toward the light. 

27 comments:

  1. You have put most of what I feel in writing. My love has been gone 9 months 26 days, 20 hrs and 14 minutes. I miss him so much that it is tangible. and I don't believe I will have as beautiful of a life as the one I had with him. Just as you have discovered it is very hard for most people to deal with the level of sadness this loss brings to us. so I also see a psychologist so I can express these feelings with someone that is not going to be upset that I feel this way. I will be thinking of you.

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    1. Thank you for your response, Melody. It is important for us to express our grief, even though we can't share it with most people. So sorry for your loss.

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    2. It's amazing how similar I feel. It's been 8 months and the world expects that I'm over it. I'm sure it's me thinking that people expect it, but the grief and lonliness is still very real. Writing is a good source to release! Thanks for sharing.

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    3. Jana - The Widow's Voice blogs have moved over to the new Soaring Spirits website. Here's where you can find the current blog posts, along with all of the old ones, too. They are now tagged, so you can search by topic. Here's a link to the blog page: http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

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  2. You have expressed what this journey is like so well. I have gone through the same feelings that you have described. You can be laughing one minute and crying the next. I want to appear strong to others (who knows why) and don't want to impose my feelings of pain on others and so I appear to be okay. However, sometimes that means even hiding my true feelings even from myself. I just wanted to say that I totally understand what you have written.

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    1. You are right, Ruthie, we get so used to just carrying on, that we lose sight of what we are feeling. I hope you find someone who can accept your deep grief.

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  3. Tricia - thank you so much for this post. You have eloquently put words to many of my feelings. My husband died almost 8 months ago, and I too am doing the "right" things (most of the time), answering questions about how I'm doing in my stoic way .... it's a roller coaster, putting one foot in front of the other, ok under the circumstances ... but not really telling people how bleak my life often is. Some days are certainly better than they were, but there is an isolation ane loneliness in grief that defies description. S

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    1. Thanks for writing. Yes, sometimes it is easier just to downplay the depths of our grief. Our culture doesn't really support the expression of it beyond a certain level. 8 months is no time at all in this long journey. I wish you well in the process.

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  4. Thank you, Tricia. You put into words much of what I have been feeling lately. I have worked very hard over the last 19 months to rebuild my life without him - and for the most part, it is working. But there are also times that I need to allow myself to not be "perfect" for the world to see. The words that came to me in meditation this morning were around giving myself permission to feel what I am feeling right now - the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. I know that the good feelings will prevail - but not all the time.

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    1. Hi, Patricia. Yes you are right. It is so important for us to be kind to ourselves. Sometimes I think we need a day off when we just rest and let go.

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  5. Tricia--Honest to God you spoke what is in my head and in my heart. Everything you wrote is spot on and beautifully put. Thank you for saying what I have been unable to. I would like to share your words to my FB page in honor of your strength and to maybe allow others a peek inside our world.

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    1. Thank you Kristen, I hope you were able to share this post and that it might help others.

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  6. You say what I am feeling. My beloved died 24 days and 25 minutes ago.

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    1. Oh, 24 days is so soon, so soon. I wish you well in your journey, and hope you have others around you to wrap you in their love and support.

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  7. Thank you for expressing this part of grief. It has been almost a year since I lost my partner, and I miss him every second. I read these books where women have found hope and light on the other side of grief...but I'm just not there yet. Reading the same words that my soul has uttered was powerful. Thank you for going there in this post.

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    1. Hi Robyn I am feeling that way, this week. I am sometimes surprised by the depth of this grief and its devastation. It is hard to sit with it. But it is useless to deny it or try to submerge it. I wake up with him and think of him every minute, too. Thinking of you. xx

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  8. Rollercoaster is a good metaphor...I feel like I'll never get off of it. And I can relate to your experience with friends...after a time I, too, felt they were tired of hearing of the sadness. But we still slog through it. There is no other choice, though so many people do not understand this. I too have gravitated towards other widows (and widowers) who understand it - places where I can share our common pain. Who understand though we may go out and "do the right things" as you said, we still mourn that empty space beside us. Thank you for your beautiful words and for sharing here.

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie. I love my online groups, but we don't have many face to face support groups here in England. I think it would be so helpful to me to sit with others. I am trying to get a grief support group going at my Buddhist Centre.

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  9. "have her be a witness to my pain"…..what a significantly meaningful way to describe what we are enduring. I know there are innumerable tragic circumstances in the world but the death of the man who loved me for who I was has consumed me. I never thought such pain was possible. I am immobilized and I have learned it is better to try and deal with it by myself as no one is around enough to help me. Or they simply cannot absorb the depth of the emotion and so they back away. I have not been able to find a way through the glass shards of the broken mirror. The mirror of his eyes that reflected the love I felt. There is no silver now. No light being reflected for me to see my way clear.

    Where has he gone? How do I reconcile the loss? I am supposed to build for myself something called life when I am surrounded by the darknes of death. At two years plus I am finding it harder to do because I have convinced myself that the pain is woven into every fiber of my being just as he was woven into my being. I cannot separate/extricate/ remove those fibers. I am convinced that I cannot do it because for 35 years I breathed his essence. I felt his every nuanced vibration. I don’t know how to breathe anymore. I stopped doing my yoga. I have no desire to keep my body fit and well. I did it then because I wanted to be whole for him. Now, it is just air not breath. Now it is me, alone, waiting for the darkness to envelop me.

    The words are hard to write but I know that others who are walking this path understand. We try, we fall, we try and we fall. I am just not sure how much I want to keep trying and how many witnesses I can find to share my pain. It is, as you said, just so big.


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    1. Hello, Mrs. C. I feel for you in your pain. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a partner of 35 years. I only had my love for three and a half years before he died. My mother was married to my dad for 40 years, when he died, and I think about that, now, and how hard it must have been for her, without him, and how I didn't have a clue about it then. I know that, for me, this path is exhausting and disconcerting, at times. I am tired and I am afraid. I am afraid that I will always be devastated by this loss, as I am feeling, this week. Some days are better than others, but all carry with them the heavy burden of losing the second half of my world. I have days when I don't do yoga, too. I just don't have the energy for it. But I know that when I do it, somehow, I feel a bit better. So I keep trying to fit it in. That's all I can do, right now, is try to feel better, just a little bit. Even taking a vitamin feels like a huge commitment, sometimes. Because sometimes I don't want to do anything that is life affirming.
      I hope that you are able to find someone who can sit with you and be a witness, as you need. I know that, though I love these online supports, I am finding that I need a real human to be with me during this time. I am hoping to set up something face to face so that we can support each other. I don't know where you live, but I hope that you can find something, too. Love to you as you walk this road. It is the biggest and hardest road there is.

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  10. On this grey day, only the soft flame of fire. Beautiful image, although it also holds sadness for you. And you are strong -- you are holding back death, walking with grief, keeping the memory of your husband alive, and taking care of yourself.

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  11. Just stumbled upon this. Powerful image in my head of you in that grey room. ♡♡

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    1. The Widow's Voice blogs have moved over to the new Soaring Spirits website. Here's where you can find the current blog posts, along with all of the old ones, too. They are now tagged, so you can search by topic. Here's a link to the blog page: http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

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  12. When two become one for 17 years and do everything together, breathe as one, life is a dream. When one is ripped from the other- the pain is indescribable. I am lost--I wander around. I am 2 people. One goes to work and plays the game, the other one comes home to an empty house. Full of memories and pain. I am a lost soul.
    Thank you for sharing and putting words together to help so many express what is in our hearts.

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    1. The Widow's Voice blogs have moved over to the Soaring Spirits website. Here's a link to the blog page: http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

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  13. Yes, it is exactly so. You've expressed what I just haven't had words for. I want to shout them from the rooftops, send them in an email to every family member and friend, in the hope they would understand what this grief feels like. Three years, four months on.

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    1. The Widow's Voice blogs have moved over to the Soaring Spirits website. Here's a link to the blog page:
      http://www.soaringspirits.org/blog

      Delete