Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘grief’

Leaving the Dark Forest

Just on the Edge

~~~ Part 3 ~~~

One day as you are walking you notice something is different. You are no longer fighting with the dark forest. Either you get to the other side of the forest or the forest itself lifts from around you. You gradually begin to see brightness. The heavy forest foliage is thinning…tiny beams of light are making their way to you.

Not sure if it will last you search for the source of the light. Sometimes the light and the darkness dance with each other. Sometimes they play tug-a-war with each other.

It is clear that the light is becoming stronger. The light wants to lead you to a place of even greater light. Part of you finds comfort in the dark forest. Part of you detests the dark forest. Part of you wants to hold on to the somber feelings of the forest. Part of you wants to run joyfully through the field of flowers singing at the top of your lungs.

You eventually come to that moment when you realize that the person you miss and love wants you to experience joy. They want you run through the fields of flowers. They want you to hear the birds singing again. They want you experience the joy of a butterfly in flight.

I want to leave this dark forest behind. It has been exactly one year…365 days since we lost a special person. She is beckoning me to come be with her. She is not in the dark forest. She is part of the light. She is the child running through the wild flowers with total abandonment and joy. She is in the melody line of the bird’s song. She rides on the wings of the soaring butterfly.

If I close my eyes

I can almost feel her beside me.

To leave the dark forest is honoring a loved one’s memory much more than staying there.

You cannot really live in the dark forest. That is why it is so dark; life in there barely exists.

You cannot grow amidst decaying debris.

Emerging from the forest initially feels odd. This forest of grief has become a way of existence…notice I did not say living…just existence. When you come out and begin living again…living in the light…living in the joy you feel clumsy.

But when it happens and you leave the dark forest you keep walking deeper into the light where the flowers are blowing in the breeze. I know this is where I should be…this feels right…I can feel the sun smiling and warming me heart. I can hear the bees buzzing from flower to flower. I can enjoy the freedom of the butterflies.

I can appreciate the beauty surrounding us. I can hold her with me every day. She is a part of my heart and not even the dark forest can take that away.

As St. Paul wrote so well…Love endures all things, believes all things….Love never fails. Recently while sitting quietly in church I experienced a rush of deep peace and joy entering into my body. It was so strong that it almost had a tangible effect on my body. For a moment time was suspended. I wanted to hold on to the feeling but it was gone almost as quickly as it had appeared.

I firmly believe it was my friend letting me know it was time…

If you are grieving over the loss of a loved one I urge you to trust deep in your soul. Trust that you loved one does not want you to be sad. Believe your loved one wants you out in the sunshine. The dark forest is no place to build a permanent dwelling.

I look forward to the days ahead as the dark forest gets farther and farther back in the distance. This journey has changed me forever. If nothing else I now have a much better understanding of the whole process.

We all experience deaths in our lives all the time.

Sometimes these deaths are not even people we love. You can experience death in a relationship, even a broken promise. Writing about this process carried me to the edge of the forest. Writing kept me grounded while enduring the dark forest. Writing encouraged me to keep moving on.

In Memory of my dear friend.

I will always love you.

May you dance among the angels forever!

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The Sands of Grief

In a few days it will be one year since losing my best friend. As we tend to do when looking back I have tried to process the last twelve months.

At first there was the acceptance that she really was gone. The days when I missed her physical presence…The times I wanted to pick up the phone and call her…The questions I still had to ask her…The advice I missed getting from her. And so much more; like just being able to hug her and feel her hugging back in response.

At first part of me felt so paralyzed…almost lost. I knew that life would go on with or without her. I knew we would survive even with this huge void in our lives. But I did not like it one tiny bit.

When I was a young child we would often go to the beach early in the morning. If we could not be there by eight o’clock mother was not happy.

My mother wanted us to be on the sand and in the water before it got terribly hot. I remember being fascinated with the way the water would fill up any whole you made in the sand. You would dig your fingers into the sand and just as quickly it flowed back to fill up the whole. The sand on the beach has the quality of holding water in itself.

In the early days following her death I would go about my daily routines. Thoughts of her would rush in to fill whatever space available. I could be driving and thoughts of something we did together would rush into my mind.

Just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

I could be alone in the kitchen cooking and thoughts of times we cooked together would rush into my heart. I could see us standing together chopping and sharing our dreams. Or discussing how to cut the cucumbers. Thoughts rushed in just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

I could be praying in our church filled with Sunday worshippers and thoughts of the many times we prayed together would rush into my heart. I could feel her presence as we joined together in praying to Our Father in heaven. These thoughts and feelings would rush in just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

You cannot stop these thoughts and feelings from filling the spaces in your heart, mind, and soul. You cannot control these thoughts and feelings any more than I could control the beach sand. I could not stop the sand from rushing into my little hole unless…I moved farther away from the shore line.

As time passes it seems as though you have moved farther away from the shore line. The thoughts rush in less frequently, but still present.

One of the interesting facts about sand is that it is made of remnants of the past…               So it is with grief.

Sand actually comes in different sizes. Most sand feels gritty between your fingers. But some sand, like silt, feels as soft as baking flour… So it is with grief.

Because of the chemical makeup of sand, usually containing quartz, it is weather resistant. Just as it is with grief, sand comes in several different colors depending on its physical contents.

One day grief feels like depression…one day grief feels like gratitude…one day grief feels like regret…one day grief feels like solitude…one day grief feels like overwhelming love…one day grief feels like deep peace and one day grief feels like profound joy.

We find sand in many environments from the seashore and the desert to the mountain tops. The waters of grief can flood your heart and soul when you least expect them. Grief can leave you in the desert to face and wrestle with your feelings of being alone and empty. Finally you realize it is grief that makes you appreciate the mountain top. It is the grief that guides you to seek out the mountain top. The beauty of grief is that it enriches your future.

On the mountain top…you can rejoice in what fills your heart and soul.

On the mountain top… you can let the sands blow.

On the mountain top you can be content in knowing that your heart will always hold the one you love.

If you ever want to amaze yourself about sand just go to the Wikipedia where you can learn how sand is used in things from concrete and bricks to beautiful transparent glass. You can even smooth your toes while at the beach by digging them in the sand.

Beauty lies within the wholeness

of the grief we experience…

be on the lookout for its presence.

Grief can became a treasured

piece of sculpture.

God is constantly surrounding us with his goodness.

My Soul Yearns

 Each day for hours the cat sits very still     on the windowsill. She stares outside.

I wonder. Is she yearning for her former days as a free, yet abandoned cat? Does she long for the thrill of the hunt? Does she miss the suspense of stalking her next meal? Does she still remember the wind blowing through her fur? Does she want to run free exploring with her neighborhood cat friends?

This post is mostly about my unanswered questions about yearning. Is yearning different from longing? Or are they merely two different words we use to express the same state of consciousness? Is craving for something yet another word we use to describe the same emotion?

 Does a caterpillar yearn to develop wings and fly?

Does a bud yearn to unfold its petals?

Does a fragrance yearn to be inhaled?

Does a thought yearn to be expressed?

Does a word yearn to be written?

Does a book yearn to be read?

Does a cloud yearn to release its raindrops?

Does the sunrise yearn to break the darkness?

Does a dream yearn to be remembered?

Is what you yearn for compatible with your true self? How can you know?

Does a sail yearn to be filled with wind?

Whatever you are yearning for; God will satisfy. Do you believe this? Is God really the only one who can satisfy our yearning hearts?

Does yearning keep you moving forward or is it paralyzing?

Did Jesus know what it meant to yearn?

Can yearning ever be satisfied in this life?

Does darkness yearn to see the light?

Does a spark yearn to burst into flame?

Is there ever an end to yearning?

Does one yearning give birth to a future yearning?

Does war yearn for peace?

What does your soul yearn for in the warmth of the sunlight?

What does your soul yearn for in the dark of night?

What if you yearn for something you cannot have?

What if you yearn for something that does not exist?

Little did I know; research shows that after a death of a loved one yearning is the primary emotion felt. This is contrary to previous studies which found depression to be the primary emotion. The Yale and Harvard scientists found yearning to be the most powerful negative emotion after a death. Learning about this study actually makes me feel normal. Ha!

Yearn is a great word to remember when

playing scrabble.

 If my writing does nothing but causes you to think; then I have written well at least for today.

 “…my soul yearns and pines…” Psalm 84

Sometimes I am confused by what I yearn for…

Do I actually create my own yearnings or do they just materialize?

I am yearning to learn all that I can about how to become

a better more holy person.

 

 

 

 

Raising the Cheetos

Some things you just cannot escape.

I knew it was coming. I even made plans for it. I reached out to a friend to have Mass said for her. I bought the ceremonial Cheetos. I surrounded myself with her family. I prayed for her. I talked to her. I reached out to her for the right words of comfort.

Some things you just cannot escape.

Some things you must endure as painful as they may be inside. Sometimes I wish I had some external wound. I could look at this wound and use it as a gage as to how my heart and emotions were progressing. But of course there is no such wound. And even if there were I would want it hidden, covered by my clothes maybe on my abdomen.

That seems an appropriate place since we all get gut feelings from time to time. I once saw a silly movie where the person had some kind of little creature that would emerge from their side. It was never good when this creature appeared. It was more like a spoiled child.

I do not like thinking things are fine. I have now moved on. I can deal with this loss. I know she is gone. Death is part of life…end of story.

But it is not that simple. Grief lays low waiting to ambush you.

Even when you think you are aware; you get blindsided. It comes out and bops you on the head. It punches you in the stomach…knocks the air out of your lungs.

It really sucks.

You look at the life she had and you rejoice. You try to carry on with the things she loved…family meals, games, and celebrating together. She was all about being together with her loved ones.

I went through the motions…I even tried to be happy and smile. The words of the music at Mass touched my heart in its most vulnerable area. Maybe there is a special section of your heart reserved to hold memories of loved ones forever. Forever is such a long time. I know it will get better, but that does not diminish the present pain.

Maybe I should just swallow a pill and get on with my life. That sounds like a plan. No, that is not the solution for me. I have said many times I wanted to experience this loss. I do not want to pretend the pain does not exist.

So yesterday on what would have been her seventieth birthday, I stood in my kitchen and raising a Cheetos to heaven toasted our friendship. “Here’s to the good times.” I said. Who needs alcohol to make a toast anyway? As I ate each little cheesy stick I etched even more indelibly in my heart the times of laughter we shared together.

Some things you just cannot escape!

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans

I have for you,

declares the Lord,

plans to prosper you

and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope

 and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This has been my favorite scripture verse for quite some time now. It brings me comfort and joy, but it also brings me sadness. I am humbled as I take the time to hover above my life so far. I am beginning to appreciate how his divine plan is unfolding. It is as if I am unfolding this intricate piece of origami. As I unfold each tiny piece I see another part that before I did not see. Or now I am able to see it from a different vantage point. It was there neatly tucked away inside a paper crevice.

“For I know the plans I have for you…” some may think that is predestination, but I do not believe that to be the case. I could have always changed my mind and taken a different path. I believe it is grace freely given from God that helps us realize the plans he has for our lives.

For many years now I have been trying to live my life according to the plans God had for me; at least as I saw them. There may be the catch, ‘as I saw’ his plans. Maybe there was a larger plan that was impossible for me to see. Maybe certain parts had to be completed before I was allowed to see the bigger picture. Or maybe I am still not in a position to ‘see’ the whole picture.

We can only see things from where we are until we unfold another corner of the origami and more is revealed.

Our youngest son used to occupy his time in church making origami peace cranes. What can I say; he was quiet. As you are making each fold you cannot see how it will turn out in the end. You just continue to follow the ‘plan’ i.e. the directions until you see the final creation.

Sometimes I feel physically ill; like I want to throw up and regurgitate this thing called grief out of my system. But I know that will not help it go away. Instead I cuddle it like a newborn; caressing its soft cheek. Holding it; close to my heart just as I once held her close…the frail body of my dear friend.

I saved a white rose from one of her funeral arrangements. I placed it in fresh water. I positioned the vase right near where I fix my morning coffee. Every morning for over a week now I have been gently kissing the soft petals. It has become part of my morning ritual.

Why you may ask?      I cannot give you an answer.

It’s symbolizing an expression of my love for her.

“…plans to prosper you and not harm you…”  I feel blessed to have so many friends willing to be here for me. It is difficult at times to believe that God has plans not to harm you. My ‘faith twin’ of the heart is gone. I reluctantly accepted the past year that she was not able physically to contribute as she had before. Before the ruthless pancreatic cancer took over her body, she relished in what we created together. I cannot see deep between all of the folds, but there is a delicate paper crane. I must believe this to be true.

“…plans to give you hope and a future.” Speak Lord your servant is listening. Unfold another piece and reveal to me how I can better serve you and your people. You are the way, the truth, and the life…what lies ahead in the future?

God’s plan so far has joined our two families so that we can be there for one another into the future. She was not just my friend I have a special relationship with each person in her family and so does my husband. We love each one of them as we have shared much of our lives together. They are each as much a part of our lives as our own sons. God’s plan…

Whatever the future holds it will be filled with love. Love can never be taken away. It continues to grow stronger as memories of our loved one lives on through us. She took love with her to heaven…love she had for us and the love that we had for her.

We are called to love one another tenderly.

Profound Sadness:The Loss is Great

I do not shed tears all day every day.

It seems so strange…why I do not cry.

The loss is great

The sadness deep inside

There is a kind of comfort in this place.

A space within that knows to Be Still and Know that God is God.

I feel peace and calm inside, but profound sadness.

I am not depressed. I can still laugh and have fun, just sad.

The loss is great

I know she is with me. We spoke about cherishing in our hearts the things that we shared through the years.

I thank God every day for her presence in my life.

Many days I would walk with the heavy knowledge that we were going to lose her. This week I bought a wedding gift for my niece. The box was rather large. Carrying it from gift wrap to the car was a real challenge. I could not get my arms around the box. I had to walk with my arms held out with the box precariously balanced on my forearms. My arms were aching but I could not let the box fall and break its contents. My arms were aching, but I carried this box just as I carried the knowledge of losing my friend. It was so heavy. I would try to distract myself so as not to think about how heavy the “box” was, but I could never put down the box. I could not take the contents out and leave it on the side of the road either. It is hard to see what lies ahead when you are carrying a large box in your arms.

The loss is great

Sometimes I just let people hug me and hold me. Sometimes words are insufficient. And I love words…the way they sound…the way the letters look…the way words come together to make a sentence.

Hugs to me are two hearts touching and silently communicating their care for the other. Hugs can express more than words.

In the Blessed Mother’s suffering and sadness; the soldiers took her son’s tortured body from the cross and laid him in her arms. How she must have longed to hold him close to her and hear his voice one last time. I hope the women with Mary brought her comfort with their hugs.

The loss is great

There is no time table for grief…each person processes their loss differently.

Some people touch our lives only briefly, while others leave a lasting impression and are never forgotten.

(so beautifully written on a card I recently viewed)

I don’t think you overcome the loss of a loved one I believe you absorb this sadness taking it inside of yourself.

The absorbed loss of a loved one transforms you into a more caring compassionate person. Through great sadness you learn to appreciate great love.

May your life be blessed with great love as I have been in mine.

A hug requires no words.

The loss is great

 

Inside the Bubble of Grief

As I prepare your funeral services my heart is not unlike your delicate skin… Bruised purple, black, and blue…weeping from tiny almost invisible pores. My deep sadness seeps out almost unseen by others. One droplet at a time with each beat of my heart. I have spent the week mopping up the grief within. This grief is rising; this grief swells and creeps up around my heart. Will the waves become turbulent and drown my heart? I must quickly seal these invisible wounds before they become too serious to be restored…to be whole again.

I watched your tiny frail body be ravaged by something bigger than life. The sheer power of your death, beloved, seems to be worse than we could possibly imagine. Perhaps our hearts are protected so that we cannot fully grasp the power of death until it comes and knocks you over. I was prepared to let you go, to surrender. We were blessed with so many precious moments. We could see and feel death coming like a tidal wave.

Death crashes like an angry wave around your heart. You cannot escape; you can only collapse under the power of this wave. You can only submit and let it knock you down flooding completely over you. The water will recede, but things will never be the same. What remains will be partially devastated, like a hurricane stricken town. It takes time to rebuild. I will be patient.

The days immediately following death are as if you exist, but not in the real world.

Normal things are happening, but you are in another state of mind. You are in a bubble like state of mind. You see and hear everything around you but it does not seem in focus…sounds are muffled. You frequently forget what you are trying to do.

 When I remove my glasses the world is a very fuzzy and distorted place. That is what enduring the death of a loved one feels like to me. It is as if I am inside this invisible bubble looking out. There is a thin membrane…the view of life is distorted…but I am somehow protected by this delicate fragile membrane.

Bubbles can remain intact for only as long as they can retain their surface moisture. It was always exciting when a child would discover; it is actually possible to put something inside of a bubble without causing it  to pop.

Bubbles reflect brilliant colors. These colors come from reflections of the white light that falls on their surface. Science tells us that white light, whether from the Sun or from a light bulb, contains light of all colors.

We are children of THE Light!

Reflected light separates into the colors of the rainbow. Even the tiniest bubbles show the full spectrum of colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet — just as a rainbow does.

This rainbow of color shimmers across the surface of each bubble.

Next time you have the chance to blow some bubbles I invite you to think about how you reflect the light of God to those around you.

The Holy Spirit guided, lifted and carried my bubble these last few days. The Holy Spirit created the brilliant reflected colors of so much during this time. Inside the bubble I could not see the reflected light. But I continue to be overwhelmed by so many things both big and little that have happened in this past week.

Others have come inside the bubble with me to stay for awhile. We have held each other close in shared consolation. We have lovingly exposed our grief to one another.

 

We cannot stay in our bubble of grief we must emerge renewed and restored by all that God has blessed us with.

We have been called to shine the light for all to see; not to just peer out from within our little bubble of grief.

My dear friend you could not have loved me any more than you did.

I hope and pray that I loved you back equally as well.

You will forever be in my heart. Love has power over death!