Allowing for Grief
There is this thing that happens when grief visits. It may be subtle, or it may arrive through a rage of memories. Even if you find yourself controlling your emotions, you cannot avoid it. Sure, you can drink it away, gamble it, sex it, feed it, but ultimately it will sit in your heart until you address it.
A few days ago, after an excruciating emotional week dealing with my nine-year old daughter who has been emotionally struggling, I went to the supermarket. I was rolling the cart, listening to music through my earbuds. I turned right in front of the frozen section and there was an entire placement of Little Debbie products.
I froze. I don’t know why. I don’t buy them. I don’t eat them any longer. But I stood there in some kind of suspended animation. I stared at the boxes and then a part of me left.
I was younger, mothering six children basically alone. We were sitting by our pool eating the snacks. The kids all finished and jumped back into the water. I felt my body leaning forward as if I was there about to get in as well. Then I returned to the grocery aisle, tears leaking and racing, just as if I wet my face with the pool water.
I was glad there wasn’t anyone around. I mourned for my six adult children. I ached for my two little ones who were at their father’s. I felt paralyzed. I couldn’t move so I clenched the handle of the cart and began to use it as a walker.
I thought that I was dealing with the stressors of the week okayish. I wasn’t! I felt alone, isolated, and truly in a place of despair. I am great in crisis. It’s the aftermath that consumes me for a few days.
I paid and got to the car. I sat in it without turning it on for a good while allowing the heat to wake me from the sorrow. I let it out: the frustration, the shame, the worthlessness, and every single other emotion that was ready to join the pity party.
It wasn’t a pity party. I had to stop myself from labeling it. I had to pull the visor and look at myself in the mirror, cleaning the mascara with my hands.
“You are not okay, Millie.” I whispered to her. “It is okay not to be okay. What’s not okay is pretending. Go home and rest. This will pass. It always passes.”
I gathered myself, turning on the car and driving down the country road home. After I put the groceries away, I sat on my sofa watching the candles burning nearby. I began to meditate for a good hour, returning to the present moment.
That grief… that ache that catches us off guard… is the Divine calling to return to our soul’s essence. We make up stories, excuses, and retell old things with different views to suit the present moment. Nostalgia is dangerous that way. The further the distance from an event, the most likely the reality changes.
I have been a mother since I was twenty years old. I would like to say that it gets easier. I don’t know. Sometimes, yes. Other times it feels as if I am consumed by guilt for not doing enough, or shame for detaching so that the children learn on their own valuable lessons. On the other side of those emotions is forgiveness. I forgive myself for not knowing better, doing more, and/or not being enough when they needed me.
All eight of my kiddos are like Little Debbie’s. They are soft, scrumptious, and bring comfort to my heart. On this Mother’s Day may you have found yourself in the center of being honored for all that you do, who you are, and what you bring into their lives. You bring love. You bring hope. You bring life.
I love you.
Inexplicable Sorrow in Letting Go
One of my cousins transitioned two days ago. She was 43 years old. She was sick since she was born. Truth be told, she was a firecracker. Her hair was dyed bright red for decades. We all knew her as a firecracker. When I heard the news, it hit me like a cold glass of water thrown in my face. Even though we hadn’t spoken for a while, and we were expecting her departure, the awareness of it sat in me deeply.
I have always thought of death as going from one door into another. I experienced it more than once through near-death experiences. I feel and believe she’s now in a place of peace and love. This doesn’t diminish the loss and sorrow. The grief will continue to reside for however long it needs to. We exist with an expiration date that only God knows. Every second here is on borrowed time.
As I was gathering my feelings early in the morning, trying to get kids dressed for school, I read an email from a dear friend about her son being in the hospital, also ready to departure this world. He and I spoke often. We talked about the esoteric world, shared experiences, and just had massive belly laughs. Sometimes through texts we could spend hours exploring the metaphysical world. We would joke about playing on the outer realms and dancing at night. He is very magical on so many levels.
The kicker for me was that my cousin and him were born two days apart in February on the same year. I spent the morning in the ICU visiting him yesterday. I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. His answer took me aback, “Yes, but you won’t like it.”
Our thoughts merged together at that moment. We can always read each other’s thoughts. I knew he wanted me to help him find peace.
He is tired. And seeing him in that condition, his organs shutting down, I was beyond exhausted. He was in and out of consciousness. I held his hand and did energy work on him.
Letting some go is inexplicable hard shit! He can see the spirit world as clearly as I can. And he kept pointing to those in front of his bed. I smiled and told him I knew. He knows they are flight attendants there to take him.
Death is the ending of one journey and the beginning of another. It is hard for those we leave behind. The fear, for the most part, is leaving loved ones. The other hesitation is not knowing where you go afterwards.
If you are losing someone, or lost someone recently, I am holding you tightly. These times seem to be grabbing on to so many who can’t deal with the intensity of the energies. Plus, when it is your time there is no stopping it.
I spent time sharing the news about our cousin with my older children who loved her. Each conversation kept fracturing my heart. They grew up with all her mischievous pranks. I know she is finally smiling from heaven and dancing the angel’s salsa and meringue.
I love you. Prayers to you and yours.
Center of the Cosmic Universe
Every once in a while in the middle of an ordinary day there is an arrival of an extraordinary gift. Visiting with a friend’s father at the VA Hospital today allowed me to witness humility and the reasons we are on the brink of a true spiritual evolution. This sweet man, 78 years young, says that Gerton is the Center of the Cosmic Universe. He lives down the street from us in our little town of Gerton, NC. Yesterday when he shared the phrase I was intrigued to return and ask why he thought that. In the middle of getting blood work done, an IV being installed and other tests and interruptions I courageously asked the question: “Why do you think our place is the cosmic center of the universe? You had me wondering about this since yesterday.”
In his quick wit and cynicism he answered, “Well now, sweetheart, me and some buddies were drinking and playing out back and, drunk as a skunk, I said… ‘well, I be darn, this must be the cosmic center of the universe.’ I didn’t have any real spiritual awakening or none of that. I was just plain drunk! I wouldn’t read too much into anything I say…!” He began to eat his lunch. I sat back on the chair and stared into his gray-blue eyes and saw the deception and avoidance of truth. The man is pure wisdom and extremely intuitive. I know my peeps! I know the ones who hide behind the sarcasm to protect their gifts. I have that gesture and avoidance down pat. It’s been a work in progress of releasing the fears of judgment from those who fear life themselves.
“Darling, you have an amazing story to go along with this coined phrase of yours. If not here, then when you get home, you and I will sit and further investigate this profound awareness of the cosmos.” He smiled, a twinkle in his eyes, and said it was a date. I could almost see his heart skip a beat with joy.
We are connected in ways that open through a simple word or phrase. Words are powerful. Knowledge is what moves us to expand our conscious awareness. I have had many nights of profound awareness sitting on my deck and staring up at the heavens. I have witnessed mysticism and secrets while staring at the fresh mountain sky. I have experienced the universe move me inside and outside of this realm. There is no obstruction of lights or smog where we live. There is a purity that I haven’t found in many places. Gerton is indeed a place of tranquility, healing and enchantment. My sweet friend has been living here forever. He has seen and felt those things we dare not share with others for fear of judgment and criticism. There is a knowing that reflects from his soul. My heart opens up widely in his presence. He’s had a few difficult experiences in his life. Another soul would have checked out but not this man. He kicks some butt. A true veteran at that!
I hugged him, kissing his soft cheek and told him that he needed to get better so we can converse about those things that pertain to “the other side.” In a moment of curiosity before I headed out I asked when he got an electronic heart valve. He shared that it was 6 years ago. I asked if it was right after his wife died. He said it was the spring right after. “Your heart literally broke, huh? All your sorrow slipped out of from there. You couldn’t hold it in anymore. Something in you is still a bit fractured.” He smiled with sensibility and said, “You got it. It DID break! It is still broken.” As the nurses continued to come in and out I decided it was my cue to leave until we meet again.
Our stories become the core center of our cosmic universe. We hold it all in until we can no longer allow for it physically. His stomach ulcers and other minor issues remind him of a life lived with sorrow and resentments. I get that part. But, holding his hand before I left I realized that today he became the cosmic center of my universe through the gift of vulnerability and love. And, for this, I will be forever grateful on my birthday week.
Release of Sorrow
Recently I sat with a friend sharing childhood stories. As she began to retell anecdotes full of heartfelt truth she began to cry. It was such a deep mourn that my heart felt her pain in one of the deepest levels I’ve felt in a long time. I saw her eyes release not just the tears but fragments of years accumulating the agony. There was a huge shift in perception. There was a new look in her tightly held sorrow. To her surprise she admitted it had been a decade since the last time she cried over this memory. And then I wondered later after she left, “How long have I held on to my own agony and hurt from past events?” I am always surprised that another person’s release tugs at my own turmoils. It’s a beautiful reminder how connected we are to one another in ways that pain and joy link us together in humanity.
As the quote says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I believe that I release pretty quickly…now. But, there has been a lifetime of holding on to issues. It only takes a moment of sharing a story to let go of something that’s been inside. We need each other to move through this world. We can do it alone but we shouldn’t have to. It’s part of our DNA to share, be accepted and be heard in the most profound of ways. It’s our existence. We require another to hold us and love us. I am blessed to have people in my life I can reach out to when I am ready to collapse. I am fortunate! Not everyone feels they have that support group. I can’t begin to imagine what loneliness in that aspect looks like to another. I don’t want to either.
I am here to remind you that sharing is caring. Vulnerability has been instilled as an ugly monster that bites us in the butt. Society has ingrained us with shame and guilt. However, it really is a lie! God is listening. Your guides are always with you. There is more in this world than just what you see with your human eyes. And, my darlings, love is never far away. Look into the eyes of an animal or a child and you witness truth. Be truthful with yourself. Be honest with another. You are the sum of all the experiences you have had till now. I don’t regret much. Every trial and mistake has allowed me to evolve spiritually, emotionally and physically. Like it or not this is who I am. You don’t have to feel alone in this journey. You have tears that the heart is waiting to find permission to release…please, I beg, let them go once and for all.
Find the courage to trust another with your stories. Let bravery lead and teach someone else about your life. We are in this together. We are mirror reflections that light our way with lessons. You got this! We might not know each other but we do share real estate on this blue planet for now. And, that’s not the only thing we share together. Our thoughts must shift to bring healing and love to others. It’s our human duty to let go of the things that no longer serve us. I love you. I love you. I love you mucho.
In a few days it will be the one year anniversary of the passing of a friend. Her exit from this world brought shock waves to so many since, in theory, she was a spiritual student and teacher. I had spoken to her several days before her death. She had agreed to come visit the mountains and have a retreat alone in our place. When news arrived of her suicide it hit me like a thousand bricks falling from a skyscraper. I had felt her destitution and exhaustion several times in conversations. And, here a year later the event is fresh in my mind. Loss is a reminder of our humanness that we enter alone and must exit alone as well.
Two months prior to her death she sent me a meditation book by Mark Nepo. I read it every day last year. Each time I picked it up I couldn’t help but think of her. I couldn’t help but understand the silence in her for months. I couldn’t help but accept that she was ready to go regardless of anyone fighting for her to stay here. That’s the thing about desolation: you can’t see light at the end of the dark tunnel. She was ready to go. She was determined to release the pain she was feeling here.
My mother passed eleven days before my fortieth birthday. When the day arrived I waited for her call as she was always the first one to greet me on holidays. I waited all morning. Suddenly there was this sense of grief as I looked out onto the lake behind the house. I would never get to hear her voice again. The realization had escaped me for days but there, numb and paralyzed to the core of my being, I accepted it standing in a puddle of tears. My mom was gone. Loss is like that: it shows up whenever it requires healing. It is one of those vital emotions that doesn’t go away completely but lingers until you cradle it, sit with it, and accept it. Then it makes its way out until the next time that the soul requires a lesson.
The loss of someone is not necessarily due to death. It can be the ending of a relationship, the end of a career, the loss of materialism, and even the death of a dear pet. Loss is loss and there is no degree to establish the pain of the emotions. We all handle it in so many ways. Some hide it through work, drugs, alcohol, sex or food. Some dwell on the loss and can’t continue living their lives. They hang on so tightly that instead of celebrating the memories of joy they dwell on the missing part. Missing sucks! I have no other word for it that won’t upset a few folks reading this. Missing churns inside, deliberately taking the heart and squeezing it tightly. But to have loved this deeply is to have experienced vulnerability and a selfless act of spiritual growth.
You don’t “get over” the hurt. There will always be a gap in between spaces of heart and memories. Sure, people will continue to enter your life. Of course you will have other relationships, but something happens to those gaps after a while: they become immortal in our minds. I remember when mail would continue to arrive for my mother. I would shake my head and for a second feel angry that someone out there didn’t know I lost my mother. After all she was MY mother and bills should stop arriving. The world should have stopped to mourn this loss. I felt the same with my uncles, aunts, father, grandparents and lover. A few years later as I was unpacking a box in my new home I found my mother’s license, insurance cards, and small notes on her next radiation appointment. Suddenly I was back by her side trying to get her to fight for her life. Loss is there. Just like with my sweet friend…loss will always return when I open up that meditation book. We are spiritual beings living, learning and loving through this journey. Loss is part of our lessons.
The reality of our illusions is that we have no control of anything…including loss. It opens us up, dissecting the core of our memories, and taking in new stories that dramatize those souls. Rumi channeled wisdom and shared with us his splendor: “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
Give yourself the permission to miss another. Allow tears to flow. Sit with the grief when it arrives. Don’t stop entertaining the memories. But, celebrate the joy of living, the privilege of having witnessed that love in your life, and the acceptance that we are eternal. The soul never dies…it just transfers into another form. Believe me, loved ones are never far from your side. They are waiting for those small memories and they smile from Heaven for your sweet love. Mucho love!
You are not allowed….
When I was a young teenager we lived in a one bedroom apartment in South Florida. Four of us in that tiny space. I would disappear often to the one bathroom and sit on the toilet to get breathing space. There were these tiny ants that my mother would always try to kill. They would walk this one line of grout up and down from the bathroom window to the end of the door. She was relentless in her cleanliness and did everything to get rid of these little critters. They would disappear for days and then return with more friends. I would sit and watch their trail. They would travel alone in a single line but every so often stop for a second and touch another ant coming the opposite direction. I would make up stories about their conversations, their whereabouts, and their journey. No matter what came their way these ants never gave up. They would come back and travel the miles of tiles to get to and from their destination. I would sometimes notice that in their quick exchange of conversations an ant would turn around and go the opposite way alongside her new friend.
This morning I thought about those ants again as a friend of mine is battling through depression. I thought about the giant support system that those ants seemed to have in their journey. I thought about them not giving up. I thought about their community and how they stuck together relentlessly against all odds (and believe me, my mother tried everything to get rid of them). They were fiercely tenacious with admirable will power.
You are not allowed to give up. You are, however, allowed to fall, cry, break, stumble, curse, feel sorry, ask God all the why’s you want, but you are NOT ALLOWED to give up on this precious journey of life. I have seen darkness. I have been in your place of sorrow and desperation several times in life. I have also been relentless like those ants waiting and traveling and moving forward without knowing what waited for me on the other side. I don’t know your emotions but I can relate to your story. Life appears to be going one way and then some giant force takes your power away, turning your dreams upside down. It’s frustrating, exhausting and paralyzing. But I believe that those things that break us are the ones that also teach us to use our faith to mend again.
You cannot stop believing that “this too shall pass.” I can give you a thousand cliches. I can give you a hundred examples of true life stories. It doesn’t matter when you are in that place of darkness. It doesn’t matter how many folks stop along the way to give you a word of hope. But, you are not alone. I’m here. You have a giant support system even when you can’t name a single person. You are not allowed to quit on life. You are not allow to stop and check out. You are allowed to do many screwed up things in life, but quitting on your existence is not one of them!
I have a plaque on my wall with a quote from Marilyn Monroe. It says, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” What if the path you were on only looked good but it was not what your higher self has intended for you? What if, in letting go and releasing, something magical will appear? What if everything you thought was the best for you really was just a journey up and down a pink bathroom taking you and molding you into something better? You just don’t know. SO, my dear beautiful friend, you are not allowed to give up. You can sit and cry. You can stay in bed for a little longer and cover your head with the blankets pretending the world doesn’t need you. I don’t care how you move pass this point, but you are not allowed to give up on life. Life determines when you give up…when you have no breath in you. And, today is not that day.
Give your life purpose in present of this moment. Notice those small things around you: the bees sucking on the plants, the naked trees dancing to the cold wind, the birds flying over you, a freaking snow storm arriving and how the sky is so purely white. Whatever it takes to get yourself out of this darkness is a step in the right direction. But, only YOU KNOW how to do this. I love you. I am here. Let’s go find some ants together…!
Reading a wonderful book today I recalled a memory that seemed to come out of left field. It had nothing to do with what I was reading, yet I sat looking at the sun melt the snow on the deck while returning to 2008. I had just remodeled my kitchen in Orlando and was making homemade French onion soup, carefully sautéing the onions while my children waited impatiently for dinner. The phone rang and my sister shared that my mother had cancer and that it had spread to her lungs. She had just returned from the doctor and the prognosis was not good. She would die in a few months. I didn’t understand what she was saying. My mother had already been cleared of cancer for several months. I stood there moving the onions in the pan, the smell infusing with thoughts and the misunderstanding of what I was hearing from her. I kept saying with each addition of detail, “I’m not understanding what you are saying! (As she continued to repeat the same message) I will call you back later.” I hung up the landline and my ex asked what happened. In my state of denial and rejection for bad news I answered, “Something about Mom having cancer again. I don’t think that’s right. God only knows what is really happening. ” I kept on cooking, stirring the broth, seasoning the pot. I stood there in my beautiful new kitchen wondering what else I needed to make before setting the table. Grief becomes a game between highs and lows, denial and acceptance. The sorrow didn’t hit me for days, weeks perhaps, and the affirmation that my 82 year old mother was not immortal. Since that day I’ve never cooked French onion soup again.
Why did this memory visit today? I don’t know. I believe it has to do with letting go, the admission and gaining of spiritual truth as I continue to clean the imbalance and metaphysical stagnation in me. This is happening lately with thoughts coming and going; memories visiting and leaving without emotions; and the honoring of what is and isn’t working in my life. But grief…well, that’s one of those that arrives with beautiful messages lately. In the face of grief we become helpless, often tittering on hopeless wonder. Death is not the only catalyst for grief: the ending of relationships, careers, finances, spiritual growth, and an array of life changes. In all senses grieving is a must. Where there is exhilaration there is the opposite of sorrow. Duality exists. We are made of it.
As I allowed the scene to unfold I caught the clarity of light on the pond, dancing with the wind while creating little diamonds on the water. I smiled wiping away the soft tears in fallen reflections. Grieving parts make a whole because you are never at a complete loss of those things or people. They live through memories so vibrantly. You can choose to relive the sorrowful parts and then move on to the joyful ones. The more aware you become of thoughts, memories, moments and being present the easier it is to allow the visit of each emotion. Honor them. Sit with them in grace. Allow them to enter those rooms that you have shut tightly. Nothing lasts forever, even those fears that paralyze the spirit momentarily. They shape us into depth, softening edges, and growing closer into Divinity. Discarding those parts of life create stagnation. Don’t let them end up in a land field of regrets!
~ The Sky is Everywhere~ (by Jandy Nelson)
“grief is a house
where the chairs
have forgotten how to hold us
the mirrors how to reflect us
the walls how to contain us
grief is a house that disappears
each time someone knocks at the door
or rings the bell
a house that blows into the air
at the slightest gust
that buries itself deep in the ground
while everyone is sleeping….”
The Mystery of Sorrow
Our dear friend, Jef, lost his mother to cancer today. Even though he has helped others with grief and loss, Jef personally had not lost a close family member. I cannot imagine what he must be feeling right now. I sent him a message this morning and his gentle words returned, “Oh Millie, deepest thank you for your love. Please write something today about how the mystery of sorrow is mixed together with the secrets of surrounding joy. I will need to read it from your pondering sweet heart. Love in big ways. Your Jef”
After I composed my tears I felt a sense of gratitude for his mother finally letting go. She hung tightly to this world. Her body deteriorating, her pain evident, and I believe she just wanted permission to finally be set free. The agony of what’s to come for the dying is one I will never comprehend. It is a personal one. I have spoken to people who work for Hospice and have been told that the dying usually wait for when they are alone to pass on. Their souls need this privacy.
I have no wisdom when it comes to loss. No matter what I write or say the loss of those we love is inexplicable. We can be prepared for it but when the moment arrives it is as if the logical mind and the heart go separate ways. I felt it with my mother five years ago. I saw her tiny body embraced in a bed, peacefully lying as if she was asleep. I was comforted with the knowing that she was finally free of the pain and discomfort and mostly of the fears. She feared death. Days before she died she asked me what I thought would happen to her. I held her hand and told her that she would finally be at peace. I assured her that she would feel so much love. I expressed my beliefs about the afterlife. The entire time of our conversation she looked at me with her glossy eyes and smiled. My dear mother wanted permission to die. In those moments of my assurance she received the message that we would be okay without her here. It is always hard to comprehend what the dying think of their legacy. They fear so much in so many levels. It isn’t just the worrying of what can happen after the spirit leaves the body but for some the closure of the loved ones left behind. “How will they make it without me?”
Grief does not change you. It reveals the innermost part of your spirit. To watch a loved one diminish and suffer is hell here on earth. There is no relief in that. The comfort is finally breathing and understanding that we are not immortal. We came here momentarily to love, learn and experience life. In the sadness of loss comes the joy of celebrating a life fully lived. So often we mourn the death instead of rejoicing the life and what that soul offered us in our journey.
I have never stopped having a mother, a father, grandparents and so many who have passed. They are still with me in memories, stories, and choices I make. We don’t stop having these loved ones because their bodies aren’t here. They evolve into another plane of existence which lives in our hearts. But, no matter what way we prepare for loss it is still a lonely heart ache. No two people will feel the same. My sisters miss their mother in different ways. I miss her for her strength and tenacity. I miss friends who have passed for their love and laughter. The hardest part of grieving is the finality. I still miss my mother’s phone calls on my birthday, holidays and special events. She was always the first to call me. And so on days like that I light a candle in front of her picture that’s sits on my desk. I say a prayer of gratitude and allow the light of divinity to guide me during those sad moments.
I have no words for Jef that can mend this moment. I have little wisdom when it comes to the grieving heart. What I do have is the “knowing” that those who pass leave a little part of themselves behind. They begin to show us that they are at peace through a favorite song, a lovely poem, a sign from the universe, and in the comforting realm of dreams. Celebrate the life lived. Explore the mystery of sorrow and allow those moments to pass. Honor the legacy with grace, compassion and faith. Rejoice in the stories of the past. And, in the moments of solitude and despair reach into your heart and know you are never alone.
“ You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott