If there is a particular oft-recurring theme to this year, 2015, for me, it’s grief. (** did a posting about it here a few months back) [there are also other grief musings, in the Collections posting.]
In the first part of the year I spent weeks or months feeling a literal heaviness in my chest – around my heart. On May 9th I wrote
Grief threatens to overwhelm me
it already has overtaken me
Grief about my “own” little life
huge grief for the world we share
are ravaging ruthlessly.
my heart hurts.
I mean literally
Hurts inside my chest
children’s voices / children & babies, period
(can) still make me smile
& for that
I am enormously grateful.
It seemed to me the grief was mostly about the state of the world (I do believe our species is on its last legs; funny expression, that one, isn’t it??), & it’s a painful thing to be witnessing with eyes & ears wide open (most folks seem to be asleep to it, I’d say. In denial).
But I know some of my own “personal” grief is all mixed up in there too.
In other words, it’s messy.
I tried to have a conversation about all this with someone close to me a few months back, & it didn’t seem to go very well. I sensed I wasn’t really heard.
& I wonder if it may have been that this person has his/her own big ocean of grief (possibly even rather closely related to the source of some of mine), & my expressing mine threatened to call up his/hers.
Probably none of us really wants to get overwhelmed by grief – go swimming in it, get engulfed by it – unless we’re darn good & ready … & no doubt this is a sane, sensible & self-preserving mechanism.
So then I wrote this:
Grief: an appeal
I’m not asking you to carry my grief
I’m really not!
Heck, I’m not even asking you to understand it!
(though your attempting to do so would be lovely)
I am definitively not asking you to take responsibility for it
Feel guilty about it…
Whatever would be the point of that??
I am merely asking you to acknowledge it
Permit me to articulate its existence
(‘though apparently this is very challenging for you)
Is the problem that allowing me to own – & articulate – mine
Brings unwelcome attention to your own?
Which you are trying so very very carefully
To not acknowledge, own, articulate, for fear of getting lost in?
I don’t know
I simply have no way of knowing for sure.
Please do just allow me to speak of my own
not at great length.
I believe it is somehow connected with us, as people, who we are now.
But I’m not asking you to take it on as your own
Just to acknowledge that I am allowed, permitted, my grief.
(as are we all, surely, hmmm?)
Meanwhile, all along I keep doing my “work” (anti-nuclear stuff; pretty soul-sucking even on a “good” day, hmmm? :( :)
& also listening to occasional podcasts of the Lifeboat Hour – loved these 3 especially:
& watching Francis Weller
& I order books by a couple of these really grief-savvy dudes
(both books, btw, utterly, truly awesome, I mean it :):)
[q being a CBC Radio show; CBC Radio being to many Canadians, or at least many of the people I know, the background soundtrack of our lives – it basically makes us feel like a great big extended family]
& doesn’t Ms. Strayed stray on to grief in the q interview!
Whoa! Every time I turn around, up rises the (very alive) ghost of grief!
I’m still reading The Wild Edge of Sorrow (thank you, thank you, thank you, Carolyn Baker & the Lifeboat Hour for introducing me to Francis Weller), & I want to go out & buy copies of the book for everyone (likewise, Die Wise).
Because who do I know who is not knee-deep in grief, one way or another?
Either about the state of the world, climate change, war & hatred, bombs & gun violence, religious & racial intolerance, childhood wounds, illnesses & sudden deaths, unhappy or lost relationships
&/or all of the above?
Grief is Us, pretty much, no??
Trust me, I’ve been surprised to discover the past few months that every time the conversation turns to grief (well, except for that first one that didn’t go so well), heads nod & the words start to flow, & … blessedly, some heartfelt conversation ensues.
I’ll keep reading The Wild Edge of Sorrow & feeling very, very grateful indeed that the NTE (near-term extinction) community talks about these tough topics, along with great & relevant books, speakers, writers, YouTubes, & insights about grief.
& I’ll for sure be recommending that people talk about their grief (as Francis Weller says, being “…mindful to share these vulnerable truths only with people you fully trust”)
& looking at these helpful YouTubes & listening to podcasts
& letting the tears flow...
& I’ll try to keep remembering the amazing, expansive wide open lobby of a hotel I stayed at in Malaysia once upon a time which, as it was explained to me, remained always open to the elements, 24/7/365, because it is ultimately safer to let the storms rage right on through than to shut the doors & try (but fail) to keep them “out”
& the words of Yo-Yo Ma, in yet another lovely q interview, in which, at the end, host/interviewer Shad asked him for a final word of life advice or wisdom, & YYM replied “Stay open.”
This is one glorious, wild, unpredictable, complex grief & joy-filled roller coaster of a life, dear Reader.
(& be sure to let the grief out)
‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “We are remade in times of grief, broken apart and reassembled. It is hard, painful, and unbidden work.” – Francis Weller in The Wild Edge of Sorrow
“A broken heart is an open heart.” – Gretel Ehrlich, nature writer, Shambhala Sun (Jan. 2005)
“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” – Joanna Macy
“Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.” – Golda Meir (1898 – 1978), Israeli prime minister
“It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show
“Stay open.” – Yo-Yo Ma in a lovely interview with Shad, in August 2015, on q, here http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-thursday-september-24-2015-1.3241403/yo-yo-ma-has-crafted-a-soundtrack-for-your-whole-life-1.3241423 On that page: 'At the end of the interview, Shad hit Yo-Yo Ma with this Big Question: “Having meditated on the arc of life through music in the course of making this album, what’s your biggest piece of life advice for the rest of us?” His reply? “Stay open. I think when people are afraid, we close up, we close ranks, we go into a shell, we become intolerant. Because we’re trying to be self-protective.
Having friends, trusting people, collaborating, and being empathetic can lead to ... the scaffolding to get to hope. For me, being open and being generous is huge. It actually can lead to happiness, oddly enough. Happiness, I think, is a by-product of — I didn’t say it, Freud said it —work and love … Hey, you suddenly realize, I’m happy.”'
Lifeboat Hour interviews
Weller on grief:
Articles about Grief
The Geography of Sorrow - Francis Weller on Navigating Our Losses (October 2015: lovely interview/article) Quote from the article: "Weller says, “I sometimes think my work is simply to let people feel their losses.”
2 Alan Watts short YouTubes on death I watched/heard recently are a source of great comfort to me. They put death into a very comfortable perspective, somehow, & are just very enjoyable to listen to. ‘A different way to look at death’ (4 minutes) & ‘Death and your dissolution’ (6 minutes)