Grief is a mysterious emotion, isn’t it? The companion of loss is still washing over every aspect of my life though the waves come with varying impacts. Some are gentle and others knock the wind out of me. Those enormous ones catapult me into depths of introspection and then the outburst of emotion that come from having allowed the vein to be tapped. Over the summer months, in moments of my deep reflection, during the especially “darker” ones, I found myself asking “what’s the point of living if it’s going to pass and end anyway?” On a simple, not heavy scale, the question could easily be asked why to decorate for fall holidays if they’re going to end? Why participate?
The asking was far more important than answering for me. Asking made room for my grief and its spectrum of emotion to surface. That needs to happen.
Answering was a pep talk, a positive spin, a way to tidy up my thoughts before returning to the day to day and week to week participation with “my world” and the people I do Life with. The pep talk tethered me back to the commitments I’ve made and the work I’ve agreed to. Recently, I heard Dr. Bernice King refer to the work we’ve agreed to as “our assignment”.
The inner dialog sounded something like “Well, silly, the same reason you make your bed, wash your dishes, or brush your teeth. It’s the same reason you decorate for the holidays then pack them up for the next one; participating well with the season that is currently presenting itself.” Could we ever question the seemingly small act of supporting Life by changing a diaper or feeding a child simply because they’ll be hungry again later? Life goes on and we’re still called to participate. Even the night before mom died, she brushed her teeth and tended to the Life remaining as she could.
In the darker moments, my eyes close and the struggle is real to release what was. The CHOICE to return to what IS, accepting the impermanence, change, and loss has sometimes has felt like an emotional wrestling match of sorts. Opposing emotions, sometimes reacting or pausing to assess and counter with a worthy and effective move to gain leverage in my actions and behaviors.
When I’m challenged, I try to simplify the big picture using coaching techniques on myself. I wonder and get curious. I ask questions and look for lessons to support my processing. More often than not, simple examples usually present when I’m trying to wrap my head around an experience I’m having.
Recently, I was trying to untangle my iPhone earbuds to call my sister while I drove to an appointment. The temptation was to pull and yank, forcing the cords free from the tangled mess they had become. Pulling only tightened the knots, creating more work and frustration, adding to the time it would take to resolve my little challenge. My little challenge offered insight to honoring the bigger beast I’m facing as I move and participate with the “knots” in me.
For me, a healthy shift in my processes came when I paused, looked more closely, and notice the needed moves.
I paused, noticed that what I needed in that moment was:
My sister said, “me too”.
When put together, these two words become incredibly powerful. Next to the phrase "I love you", I'm not sure what else ranks as high. I'd suggest that this is partly why support groups are so effective.
Knowing that we are not alone facilitates our processes with a safe somebody to reflect with. Engaging with our needs; identifying them and taking responsibility to meet them affects our future. As individuals and collectively as humanity, we are impacting the Life that DOES GO ON.
Like with so many other hard bends in this journey, “going through” is required to arrive on the “other side” of loss. I choose to participate well with the Life that is still IN ME, engaging well with the Life around me. This doesn’t mean that I don’t take breaks to grieve, process, reflect, renew and restore. Losing Mom was a catalyst for me to embrace impermanence. At a new level, I am allowing change instead of resisting, making room for Peace and participation that shifts the experience enough.
My processes (and the results of them) are both impermanent and imperfect. I'll change again.
A dark moment still can come and say, “what’s the point then?” Sometimes I still sit in the dark where I wrestle then submit. Ah, but Light comes because the dark moment can’t last either…and Light shines again, forcing the growth from the buried, dark space, inviting me to say “yes” again; participate well so that the reflection FROM ME to what I leave behind is good too.
What grows out of the dark moments takes time; the sad, dark, grieving moments are also impermanent. They have already changed so much. Another will return, inviting me to participate well with it too. Waves…they do retreat, they go under and out, they leave their mark, washing away a layer of what I “perceived” to reveal a Truth; a treasured knowing more deeply, that the one thing immune from impermanence is Love (aka God).
This truth reminded me of the Bookmark Prayer by St. Teresa of Avila
Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing afright you.
Everything is changing;
God alone is changeless.
Patience attains the goal.
Who has God lacks nothing;
God alone fills all her needs.
I can allow (vs. resist) the parts of Life that aren’t as I might design them; I can grow my imperfect patience, and accept the imperfect parts of myself and others. I can represent the best I can today…and not expect any more of myself (or others) than that. We’ll keep changing because that is the way this impermanent Life works.
Life does goes on. Love lives on. My mother’s love lives on IN ME and many. I know more completely in my core, in the bones and fibers of my body, that I am to Love well in my impermanent and imperfect state.