Moving through Grief
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source
from which we drink the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for
~ David Whyte
We have incessant rain predicted in Bangalore the next few days, a cyclone that’s forming over parts of south-west India. Outside, the clouds form slowly, darkening by the hour and by the afternoon, like yesterday, the day will turn shadowy and wet, the wind whistling through the trees as the heavens crack open and rain pours out of the sky. While thunder drowns out Netflix, streaks of lightning will paint the evening sky and we will check with loved ones, as the electricity blows out, is it raining there too? It’s pouring everywhere in this country, as we witness growing numbers dying of Covid every day. Social media posts, news feeds and WhatsApp messages tell us of shattering loss and a numb grief that has nowhere to go, deprived even of collective mourning rituals as we continue to be in lockdown, unable to reach out to feel the touch of another. We mourn on Zoom, sharing stories and trying hard to feel each other across time and space. Grief takes the time it needs to take, and at the end of it all, we are left alone with it. An empty ache in an empty heart. To move through grief is to move through the spacious interior of our very human lives, touching the love that is in every cell, waiting to be expressed. Francis Weller in The Wild Edge of Sorrow tells us “The work…is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and to be stretched large by them.” For love and loss go hand in hand, and both are so hard to let go.
Grief is a rocky emotional terrain. I joined a grief circle last year where we explored the stages and gates of grief for weeks, both deeply wise and compassionate methods that helped to work through it. In sharing stories of overwhelm and loss, at the beginning of this strange Covid cycle that has wrought havoc in the lives that we once knew, the circle left me complete and empty at the same time. Our little group was held by the knowledge that we are not alone, that grief is a shared human experience, beautiful in its hollowness. In finding our way back to hope, love, forgiveness and peace, we are shaped forever by the mystery and experience of death. The way of grief is traversing our inner experience. Messy emotions need space…for tears to flow, words to form and the heart to fill. Reach for solitude or company, both will offer you solace as you work through a timeless ritual towards recovery. There is a simple solace in knowing that grief stays with us, as memories and stories, reshaped by our tears into a soft core that feels forever, someone or something you lost. And that is the profound gift we receive.
From the other lens, bereavement can be hard to sit with, impossibly complex to offer words of consolation, and missed most of all as we hesitate to touch that wound. Every time we insist the other stay strong it is ourselves we are comforting. Grief needs time, care, softness and silence. A murmur of your presence, holding space, is enough. The touch of a hand, voice on the phone, message to say somehow, I see you, I feel you is enough. Caring, through food, gatherings, rituals, is enough. Trust that we know what to say and what to do, when the time comes. Love and grief and being human are intertwined. In that space, we all are too, in this mystery of life.