It’s been a difficult year.
I may be a woman that works with death all the time, but let me tell you: all the practice in the world doesn’t make it easy when it’s your friends that are dying, when the people that you are asking to let go are ‘your people.’ As a hospice nurse, I have a different perspective and a plethora of practice – both help — but nothing makes it easy.
Sitting inside this experience, I’d rather it be easy — but easy would mean that these people weren’t special and my love wasn’t deep. Do I want that? What I want — what I’ve chosen to take — is time. Time to honor them, time to grieve, time to step back from the crazy day-to-day and take note of all that has changed, all that is the same, all that is hard, all that is beautiful beyond comprehension, time to feel the blessings magnified by the pain.
Right now, I’m emerging from the cocoon that I built in order to do all that. My isolation was a tiny pocket of self-preservation where I had to go hide and melt into goo so I could re-emerge as something else, something beautiful and fresh and mature. I have been honoring their impacts on me and my life, honoring them. I’m not sure that I’m ready to come out, but then, does anyone ever feel ready?
In my slow and tentative re-emergence to the world I offer you this contemplation on grief:
When you sit with grief, when you’re willing to look at it inside and out, feel it, let it sink into your bones, you begin to slowly understand, it is just your love for what has left, still flowing out into the world. With time, if you are blessed, you come to understand that grief is no more than breathing your love and their spirit back into the world. It is you, breathing for them. Each exhalation offers a bit of their spirit and memory back into the world their human body has departed.
In early days and unpredictable moments your breath comes in sputtering and gasps, you find yourself just trying to hold it in or spit it out, sometimes both, often you’re unsure which. Each breath comes labored, painful and sometimes you’re unsure of your ability to survive, but you do. The worst times will give way to moments of laughter, peace and even joy and it all resonates together in a beautiful chord, singing your grief-love into the world in their name. Eventually more days come when you breathe easy, when breathing grief-love is just a constant part of your being, subconscious but vital.
I inhale deeply and exhale slowly, and a mighty chorus roars up from my heart and out through my throat when I let it, the grief-love turned to breath of all those whom I have had the privilege of loving and letting go. I forget, too often, the power of all of them behind me and the beauty of that legacy of love I am honored to carry and share with the world. I forget it when I need it the most, when I want to let the pain of grief pull me down into the depths of that ocean where there is no breath. When I finally do remember, inhale, exhale, their wings lift me back up.
They are not gone when I breathe their love back into the world, when I grieve-love with each breath. Their form is different, but they are never gone, not while those that love them keep breathing.