There are so many moments in grief where you question yourself — “is this right?” “should I be doing it this way?” “do they know what I need more than I do??” — These thoughts surface like any other moments of self doubt. But when it’s woven within the fragile place of grief it can be even more overwhelming.
Our society and culture has a hard time with grief. We’re not taught about it or shown the weight of it growing up. Such a vital portion of what life is, just isn’t talked about. The one thing promised….life and death….becomes the unspoken. Forced into the shadows it has become untouchable, and scary. So uncomfortable for us to even look at, and in turn it suffocates the sacred season of grieving that our souls must embark on with loss.
Most of us become so comfortable with the surface level of our life that anything that drags us deeper into our emotions leaves us running for the hills. And in turn, as grievers we become ashamed to show our truth. Embarrassed by the fragile, cut-open state we arrive in. So we burrow it. We patch up the wound with anything we can possibly patch it with, so that those around us won’t be burdened by the discomfort of seeing our wounds and how sensitive the world around us is.
There are cultures around the world that have traditions and rituals when it comes to loss. In western culture, we have lost a lot of these important ways of life. I wanted to share an excerpt from one of my favorite grief books where he talks about the rituals of different cultures:
"Among the ancient Scandinavian cultures, it was a common practice for those dealing with loss to spend their days alongside the fires that were aligned down the center of a longhouse. They would occupy this physical and psychic terrain until they felt they had fully moved through the underworld where grief had taken them. ...This sacred season in the ashes was the ancient Scandinavian community's way of acknowledging that one of their people had entered a world parallel to but separate from the daily life of gathering food, feeding children and tending fields. Little was expected of them during this time, which often lasted a year or more. The individuals duty was to mourn, to live in the ashes of their loss, and to regard this time as holy. ...These cultural practices were developed over centuries to address what human beings need during grief-stricken times. There is wisdom in offering a period of time to those who mourn."
-The Wild Edge of Sorrow
I'm so grateful for the choice I made in the beginning of my grief to lean in slllloooowwwllly. To take small simple steps. Not to allow the fast paced world to rush my slow beating heart. When Sage passed I sat saturated by the pain. I didn’t move, but remained still as it all poured over me. She is my grief. That’s why I don’t mind the hurt in a way. It’s for her. I’ve never rushed into a “stage” or an emotion — but have simply allowed myself to “be”. I’ve been quick to remind myself this is MY story. I have to enter in within myself. And that has allowed me to be here, in the present — wherever that may take me. Grief isn’t something you can predict or rush. Although our culture flocks at the notion of learning the stages and getting on with our lives.
There is no roadmap or guide to your particular heart break. No one has felt the exact pains of what you lost. And that’s why patience on your journey is everything you need to grab a hold of. Patience as your heart heals. Patience as you wake up to take on a new emotion and a new day. Patience as you look ahead in fear. Patience as the reality settles in your lap. Patience to take each step and patience as you sit still, in the unknown, with yourself. Trust your process by being ok to unwrap the layers of what’s happening in your heart.
In the stillness of my grief I’ve fallen deeper and deeper into a life of meaning. I've chosen to sit with myself — my emotions — my truths — and with the world around me. There’s a distinct line in the sand within my life: before Sage died, and after she died. That line has been the unlocking, the unraveling of everything that was once ordinary. We are not meant for ordinary. We’re not meant for day after day of numbing activities, of ignoring emotions and heart aches. And as we’re swallowed by pain we can start seeing it all clearly if we allow ourselves. In the chaos of grief, life emerges before you. It presents to you the frailty of every moment. The nothing-is-promised reminder.
Sage never got to feel the feeling of fresh air on her skin — she only knew the hospital air. She never got to feel the sun, or hear the birds. These things I promise to live for her. To relish in those moments — breathe in what I’m gifted with. Tell those I love that I’m grateful to exist in this very moment with them.
My grief has been the teacher of these things.