The Heart of Grief
In my work as a spiritual counselor, I encounter grief and loss on a daily basis. I find it to be a grace that those who are encountering towering grief over the loss of a loved one would trust a perfect stranger enough to expose their raw feelings. It seems in the very least I can honor their suffering by simply listening with an open and receptive heart and hold the space for Silence and understanding to emerge while painful stories are told.
It can be normal for me to watch as a person breaks open, sobbing about his or her loss and the associative regrets. He or she is surprised that grief surged up so forcefully by just mentioning a significant death. Very often, when I ask when the loved one crossed, I am not shocked to hear it was many, many years ago. It seems we store this type of grief deep inside our hearts where it can hopefully be tempered by time, and sometimes we don't even know it's still alive until somebody else's kindness makes it safe and acceptable to reveal it.
My mother Pearl recently crossed over this past April at the age of 86. Given my work, my Gnostic understanding and faith, I thought I would be better prepared for this event. In my fantasy, saw myself calm as she died peacefully with me holding her hand, surrounded by family. I thought I would have it all together as I called in Archangel Michael and the Masters to support her as she crossed through the veil into the heavenly realms. I assumed we would have some time together to say good~bye before she left so that I could reinforce our love. I imagined she would simply be serene and close her eyes, that she would be unafraid and then she would gently drift off to the Other World while I held the space for us inside pillars of strength and composure.
But it didn't go this way entirely. Although I was there with her at her death and I was holding her hands, she lost consciousness suddenly, with tremendous force that caused violent aftershocks that stole my breath away and shook my bearings loose. Even though she was 86 and we had been warned about her health condition, I was not ready. And I had no idea that such a traumatic thing as watching my dearest human suffer such a final blow would so unhinge me, causing my heart to cave in upon itself.
I had no idea that months later my mind would still be so be dominated by grief, that I would be thinking so much about her every single day, that my dented heart would be missing so many things about her.
Pearl was the person I loved the longest and the most. And she was the one person who loved me back more than anyone else in my life. I used to stand behind her petite frame, wrap her in my arms, squeeze her tight, kiss her on the cheek and say, "You are irreplaceable." Since her passing, I have dreamed of this scene many times. I have also dreamed of taking her bleeding hands in mine and soothing her wounds and fear, acknowledging her sacrifice.
How do you replace such an irreplaceable person? You don't; you simply carry the memory of his or her love in your heart, where it remains vibrantly alive, beating.
At her burial, I recited part of e.e. cummings poem, "I Carry Your Heart With Me."
" ...here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart) "
We cannot plan for the Big things in life. All we can do is try to shore up faith in the meantime and also love and accept the people we love the most. We can cherish not only the people we adore, but we can also even reach out to perfect strangers and offer them fellowship.
Grief reminds us that life is precious and precarious, that in the blink of an eye the unplanned, unthinkable, and unimaginable can happen to rip what is sacred from our grasps, leaving us to regret what we did not do better, what we did not say or have time for, what we could not accomplish or master.
Grave loss leaves us to wonder where our faith is when the bottom of it falls so far out of reach that we begin to believe we may never be secure enough to stand on solid ground again. We think we will never again be happy. Loss reminds us that our hearts will never be the same instrument it was before sorrow's fateful collision.
Because of grief, we can see that the wonder of love holds a steadfast place deep inside the core of our spirits, that genuine love is of such great power that it must have been designed in such a way as to bind us together forever in intimacy. The love itself remains alive, even when the source of it is long passed away. In our sorrow, we just want the love back. We want to love someone else that much again, and we don't know if we will ever have another chance to do so.
But we must come to the realization that love itself was made to hold us in its all~expansive, Eternal Arms during times of catastrophic loss. We desperately need to sense that Divine Love promises to love us back; we need to feel proof of it during our darkest nights.
As Natalie Grant reminds us in her song, "Held,"
"This is what it means to be held,
how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive,
this is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was
when everything fell, we'd be held."
We know we must find a way to survive our worst losses. And we need to believe that from out of the womb of suffering, hope will one day be reborn. We must pause, touch the tender core of our lives and ask the Heavenly realms, The Divine and the Angels to support and shore up our shakiest conditions, to uplift us from our unbearable burdens.
I found out that certain people in my life were not so empathetic to my sorrow. I realized quite soon I had been drawn to many with brilliant minds, the witty ones who stimulated my own mind. I saw that those people were MIA when I really needed a heartfelt connection. I could only guess that they were too uncomfortable or perhaps fearful themselves of discussing death, grief and its personal associations. Some were flat out non~compassionate. Some didn't know what to say, so they said nothing. Some offered quick fix ideas of ways to intellectually look at things because they excel at this function.Some were so overwhelmed by the demands of their own lives, they had little energy to give to mine.
I don't blame them for being this way. Who wants to talk about sorrow and loss? I accept them because I realize I didn't have them in life for matters of the heart in the first place; they were in my life for different powerful reasons.
With or without them, it remains true that my heart is still hurting. Thankfully, different people came forward, the ones with great capacity of heart who genuinely wanted to listen. Just listen and not try to fix things with wise words or brilliant ideas but who wanted to hug me and understand and relate to my condition. They wanted to call me on the phone or show up personally, rather than send me a text.
They wanted to carry my heavy heart for me inside of their own. And this one beautiful thing remains one of the gifts that grief brought me.
We are all good at something, it seems. I want to be good at accepting and cherishing. I want to be fearless enough to reach far enough inside my own core to listen to someone share their personal sorrows. Sorrow is a heart thing ~ it is not a head thing. I don't want to press people to run from loss by offering intelligent words that suggest that the un~fixable can be so easily fixed by human minds. I want to be strong and compassionate enough to carry the burden of someone's heart in mine when I am needed the most.
If you are a spiritual person, it is very easy to want to buy into the sentiment that everything that transpires in life is ultimately 'good.' But this is not really the point. Mistakes, terrible accidents, sudden deaths, unthinkable crimes, nonsensical tragedies and plain old bad things happen to people across the world every single day, and they are not meant to be seen as being 'good,' so much as they are to remind us what IS good and valuable and what is NOT.
Some of these negative things are man-made and unacceptable and must be changed and healed, interiorly and in the world at large.
Grievous suffering has its place. It's not supposed to feel pleasant. Its intention is to drive us deeply and irrevocably into the innermost folds of the heart, to change us, to wake us up, to make us intensely feel, to retrieve something akin to a treasure of everlasting value. And this treasure is often unique to each person.
Everyone deals with suffering in their own fashion. Where one person's heart may retrieve resilience and strength, another person's may be shattered into a million pieces to perhaps remain open rather than sealed defensively shut. One person may flee from his own wounds and feel fear, while another may flee into the arms of The Divine to seek bravery. While some embrace their scars as evidence of survival, others may cover them up and run from them until it is time to enter more soulfully into their wounds.
If you are suffering, my hope is that you find one beautiful thing someplace in your life that reminds you why you want to survive.
I hope that you touch that tender core within you and realize its pure and original essence ~ the bud of the bud, the root of the root of the love you carry in your heart.
I hope that you heal from trauma, that its memory be tempered with mercy and grace.
I hope that you learn how life-changing it is to truly wish to carry another person in your heart.
I hope that when your bleakest dark night descends upon you, that you are granted the merciful promise of being held.
Paula Dianne Upton's mystical book, Signs of Infinity, Keys to Awaken the Soul is now available on Amazon and Createspace. www.pauladianneupton.com