Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer

Experiencing Loss As A Process That Transforms

It is difficult to sum up grief in several paragraphs or one poem or one long saying or piece of prose. And, some of this I have said before and am reiterating it here. But, if you don’t like long statements you won’t read this anyway so you won’t remember that I said it before and if you’re not reading it now it makes no difference anyway, so there (smiling). If you have read some of what I’ve written before I apologize for the repetitiveness, but it is constantly evolving.

This was prompted by one of those posts someone sent me, which summarized grief in twenty or so lines and for some reason irked me. It said the words, some of what I am saying here, but for some reason they fell flat for me. And to preface, when a person is in acute grief, immediately after a loss, I don’t think they want to hear any of this talk. It is enough to just be able to breathe, and even that is not easy. And no one wants to hear how it will get better either…they need to feel what they are feeling without someone telling them it (their pain, their grief) will get better in time. I did not want to hear that.  A quote from the book I reference toward the end of this writing:

“Healing is a spiritual idea…Healing is an active process. It doesn’t happen to us; we must participate in the process of our healing. Healing happens FOR us. It is a gift we give to ourselves in the moment we decide to stay “open” to that which has broken us.” (pg. 20, Good Grief)

“Time does not heal. But healing does take time. Give yourself the gift of time. To become whole means that as we open to the pain, we open to the loss. We break open and, as a consequence, we get bigger and include more of life. We include what would have been “lost” to us if our hearts and minds had closed against the pain. We include what would have been lost if we had not taken the time to heal. As singer-songwriter Carly Simon tells us: ‘There’s more room in a broken heart.’ ” (pg. 21, Good Grief)

I believe that I have my wife’s love Inside Me but… I also believe that that person in my case, my wife, but in other cases  whoever  has  been lost, would not want us to selfishly hold on to that and cling to that love all for our self. To me, healing begins when that realization starts to sink in, and when I began to realize that the love I had for my wife and she for me, was the gift she left for me to actively start to heal. And to me part of my task in my life is to give that love away to other people. As much as I can.

Much like the Pebble in the pond whose ripples travel far from the center. And in giving that love away I do not diminish it or lessen it in any way shape or form. On the contrary, in words it seems paradoxical that something I give away somehow increases what I have even more but… To me it is kind of like the feeling I get when I am at Dunkin Donuts Drive-thru line or Dairy Queen and I pay for the person behind me and I feel like I am spreading goodness and that may be in doing so that person will in turn feel moved to do something similar, to make someone else’s day brighter, to share some love with other people.

So to me this is a part of grief… It is the process whereby I am changing the perspective from dealing with my own wounds to how can I take my experience and help other people with their own wounds.. whatever they may be… And how I do that or how someone else does that can take a myriad of forms and for me it has been and still is a figuring out of what special qualities I have that I can share with others. For me it is music and singing and writing and poetry… Things that were buried for a very, very long time.

Were it not for the grief cracking me open I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing at this moment. So, grief cracked me, ripped me, tore me open, wind rain water sand and time soften my wounds so the edges are less jagged but none the less still there… And then it is up to each person to decide what they’re going to be, how they’re going to be, who they are going to be and how they are going to use this experience, ultimately react to this experience, transform or not from this experience …

So I feel it’s not about overcoming grief it’s not about getting through grief it’s about absorbing grief (as this post had so flatly stated for me) or feeling it… And then do I absorb it and become less because I am wounded, or do I absorb it and become more because I have been and still am wounded… Does the pain of grief enable growth or does the pain of grief inhibit growth… Do we hold on to the pain? Or do we let go of the pain and make space for something else…letting go of the pain I think is the hardest part but I hear a voice telling me, don’t worry, “I will be back” as the pain is let go…. I don’t know the answers to these questions for anyone else but myself and I think that anyone else who tries to tell you what grief is can only be describing what it has been for them and not necessarily what it may be for you or me.

And furthermore…(I really do looooove “furthermores”)… Regarding the pain… I talked about letting it go but it doesn’t just go away… It comes back again and again and again and again… And each time I need to let it go… And sometimes I can let it go quickly and sometimes not so quickly so… I didn’t want it to sound like you let go of the pain and it’s gone forever because I realized that is not the case… It’s like thoughts during meditation you let them go but another one comes back and then another and another as you let go each of them and it’s like that with the pain. It goes away but it’s never totally gone you just let it go and it comes back to you and you let it go again and again and the process gets repeated many times as long as you don’t get stuck…much easier said than done…I think I still get stuck, but I am learning to catch and release…(smile)…catch and release.

One of the reasons why when someone asks me…”how are you doing?”….I sometimes have this blank look on my face like….hmmmm….how the HELL am I supposed to answer that?  “How are you right now”, or “How are you today?” would be an easier one to juggle. Or better yet, “It is a rough ride, isn’t it?” would probably one of the ideal phrases I could think of, or something along those lines.

I just didn’t want it to sound like I thought it was so cut-and-dry which it is not. NONE OF IT IS…it is all an ongoing process that in many ways continues for as long as I live, because it is now so much a part of me and a part of who I am, a part that will always be with me. Grief changes me, and like meditation which is a practice, so is grief a dynamic process with potential to continue, as it transforms with time. Hopefully, I can also continue to grow into my potential and transform with time.

And as if those 1038 words were not enough, I am presenting a closing page from a book entitled, Good Grief, Healing Through The Shadow Of Loss, by Deborah Morris Coryell, published by Healing Arts Press, 2007  (www.healingArtsPress.com). Her words echo with mine, and although I did not read this book yet, except for the introduction and the postscript (I bounce around sometimes), I can tell you I like this book because I like the quotes and sayings she uses, and the postscript speaks right to my heart.

A quote in the book, before the contents, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard

“The Never-Ending Story……….If you want to stop then stop. If you are seeking a time when you will be finished, you will never be done.” Tibetan Saying (pg. 129)

Excerpt from Postscript (pg. 131)

“….but then the first teaching that grief brought me was that we never “complete” our grieving. We are never finished with it. Our grief lives with us as long as we live.

It changes. It has rhythms. Sometimes it is present in its absence and sometimes it is absence that makes our grief present. Sometimes we are strong and fearless in the face of our grief, and sometimes we are frightened and vulnerable. It is all part of the tapestry of our lives and by the very act of weaving our losses into that tapestry, we ensure that our losses are part of our wholeness. And so we heal.” (pg. 131)

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your

Heart and try to love the questions themselves.

Do not now seek the answers which cannot

Be given you because you would not be able

To live them. And the point is to live everything.

(So) live the questions now…”

Rainer Maria Rilke (pg. 131)

Deborah Morris Coryell has worked in the healing arts since 1974 and is cofounder and president of the Shiva Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing education and support for those encountering loss and death. She also conceived and directed the Wellness/Education Program at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, one of the nation’s foremost and innovative health resorts. (pg. 132)

The Shiva Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is committed to developing resources and offering support in the grieving process. These programs – which are under continuing development – are extended to individuals, families, communities, and corporations. (The Shiva Foundation, www.goodgrief.org) (pg. 132)  (And, I will save you the trouble…1,736 words)

This is Neal Harvey…Good Day! (now, 1742)

Neal Klein
Life After Emilee, on the loss of my wife to pancreatic cancer. I’m not accepting comments right now but please feel free to get in touch via my Contact page (nmitchk@aol.com)

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