I just finished reading a book an acquaintance wrote on the murder of her only son. It was gut wrenching. However, as I read her story many of her words soared right off the page and into my own heart. While not having lost a child, I did lose my spouse of almost 20 years, and it was astonishing to me that we experienced similar emotions as to our loss. At first this confused me as she had lost a child and I had lost a mate. On further introspection, the only conclusion I could deduce was that grief was in fact grief and that it arranges its icy grips into each of us very deeply when we step through that unwelcome door. While most will not experience the loss of a child, some will, some will lose a spouse, a parent, a friend, a sibling, a pet; none will be exempt from death. Having written previously about the universal law that we are all born and therefore must die, it is fairly easy to comprehend this concept from an intellectual standpoint, but it would seem that for most it is simply that, a concept.
If you are experiencing grief, or if you know someone who is going through the grieving process I would like to offer some words of assistance. First, it is a process and it never ends! Wow, say those of you who have not gone through it, it never ends. We who are left behind never get used to the idea, nor does time take the loss away, it does however soften it and allows us to once again see some light in the world. Grief is different for each and every one of us, it cannot be rushed, so don’t be surprised when someone you know many years after the loss suddenly bursts into tears. We want to be comforted when we feel our grief, not be told what to do or how to act, and one of the best gifts is to listen with your full attention. No judgment or directing, just simply listen with your complete heart.
It is also just as important for those of us grieving to check our resentment of other people when they don’t say or do what we deem to be the ‘precise thing’ for it rarely helps that person and only hurts the one grieving. Yes, that is correct, we the ones grieving have to be forgiving of others just as we want them to fully listen to us. They do not know what to say and don’t always think things through before their words oftentimes come stumbling out (don’t we all suffer from this fate from time to time?) and then it is out there and we react with anger, resentment or bitterness toward these well-meaning people. It is a cyclical process on both sides, be a good listener and do not stand in judgment of others.
Grief is a process, one cannot rush it or direct it, it comes to us all and it comes to us all in a unique way, but certain characteristics will be there for all of us, the why’s and how’s, the regrets for things left unsaid, those things will exist. C.S. Lewis eloquently pens the following from Healing After Loss:
Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened up again; the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare reality, the wallowed-in tears. For in grief nothing “stays put”. One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
This certainly sums it up for me, everything repeats and often times it is the change in seasons that brings in the rush of tides, or a birthday, a life event. I have personally walked through many with my son without his father, my husband, by our sides and it has been difficult to say the least! Together, we will face many more of these momentous life events, his graduation from college, his first meaningful job, his transitions to manhood; my moving from our family home, the list is endless. Each one of these events can trigger the circular phenomena and down we go again. I try to hold onto the thirteenth century mystic Rumi’s words every time the path takes me there, and I hope you might find some comfort from them as well.
Grief is a cleansing, a shredding, a healing that makes us more alive . . . a scouring down to the bare soul.
So be it you or a friend, try to remember it is a circular process that cannot be judged from either side, and that each time we venture into the process we are cleansed just a little bit more in order to step into our true spiritual light.