Good Grief

“It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.”

~ John O’Donohue (Excerpt from For Grief )

Love and loss walk hand-in-hand.

Whenever we open the door to love, we open it to grief as well.

Whenever we say yes to love, we say yes to pain as well.

Whenever we open our hearts to love, our hearts will eventually be broken open by loss as well.

Right now there are people near and dear to me who, having opened their hearts to love, are now having them broken open by loss. While their losses differ, are all deeply felt, and whether it is the loss of a friend, a relationship, a career, a pet, or a dream, they are in the midst of mourning, which my friend, the poet Ann Staley, calls “that ancient form of love”.

When my mom died almost 20 years ago, the church where we held her service was overflowing. My dad had chosen to have hers be an open casket, with time for any who wanted, to pass by and wish her well. Her grandchildren were all there, and my siblings and I had talked to them about what to expect should they visit her open casket. The choice was theirs to walk up and peek in on her or not. As of the beginning of the service they hadn’t yet decided. At the end of the service, all of these young cousins gathered together in the aisle, standing close, heads together, arms around one another, tears flowing freely. Then, as one, they walked up to the coffin, and surrounded the grandmother they loved. Each one, unknown to the others, had brought something to tuck into her coffin. A tiny ceramic squirrel, in honor of those pesky creatures that robbed the bird feeders outside my parents window. Small shells collected during an annual beach trip. Small individual mementos, of the small individual moments, that had shaped the loving memory, in which they collectively held her.

No one can really teach us how to grieve, but we can learn how to do it together.

There is a cleansing that takes place when we grieve with our whole hearts. By moving through it, rather than hiding from it, we come out the other side made more whole by our willingness to be broken. It is a good grief.

And so, we mourn. That ancient form of love.

 Image and Small Vases by Kristine Van Raden

Image and Small Vases by Kristine Van Raden