Some days are sunshine and some days are full of rain, the sky is overcast and grey and due to the weather being this way you are drawn in and being drawn in you are reminded of the things that went by and that you lost, the secret searing heartache. This isn’t a place that is really comfortable to live in and I most certainly don’t live in it all the time. But it is a place that I re-visit from time to time and in visiting dive deeply down into swimming my way through a pool of tears. When spent the tears clear, just as the rain and clouds pass on revealing again the Sun’s warm and shining face bestowing light in the dark. The light of this re-emerging Sun brings me back into the present which has times of peace and a calmer happiness, all the more so for having shed the tears, and yet, still in the shadows old grief lurks. Does it ever really go away?
Its a hard truth to swallow that you were not loved for the person that you were and that someone you loved found someone new to love who suited him better with qualities that it was not possible for you to express. In the relationship you tried to give love but in the end it wasn’t enough, the love you gave and it didn’t take him very long to find someone new and move on. I’ve just been having a conversation about this with a friend who knew us both and he said that neither of us did anything wrong, it just didn’t work out, that I needed to remember the good times that I had and not dwell too much on the pain. “I’m trying”, I said while crying. Why is it so hard just to meet people where they are? After all I am in my own process and I live in the pain so much less than before, but some days old ghosts are with me and it is the anniversary of our first month together.
Its over three years now since the breakup and its a relief not to live with the depth of pain that was there before, the wound that ached and bled for quite a number of years. Now a scar remains but it still amps up and throbs from time to time. I have finally accepted that it is over and things I did played a part. Even then I was grieving and that grief prevented new love from growing, that is the painful truth.
It wasn’t until my marriage ended that I came to know that grief was not just a feeling, it was a full on body process. It has its tearing aspect, there is also a swelling inside like the ocean raising up, threatening to obliterate the landscape. There is the early morning awakening to a dark night and empty bed, the yawning silence and emptiness of a cold room in the house by the ocean where no one visits. Why I chose to remain there, so alone following the end was a mystery on one level but if I explore the truth now, that was the place I sought authenticity and refuge when grief was not allowed expression in all the other places I tried. Where else could I go when there was no where else to go but inward and alone. The ending of the next relationship brought me to this beautiful home I have, and a less isolated place. But the depths of aloneness I have known have been very deep.
In the process of grieving you carry the silent pain onward and find ways in the new life that you are building to step beyond the pain and reach for new experiences. That is when you know the lifting is taking place, when the pain is not with you every day and you have brighter moments. With time grief no longer consumes every waking moment and in time you learn ways to find comfort within the loneliness and with others who see you and hear you. The grey days seem harder but on one level they offer some comfort too, on the grey days you have permission to seek solace in the quiet sanctuary of your own home and explore the worlds of others navigating their own dark nights and silent pains, finding a way to shine a light into the darkness. In time brighter days dawn follow the clearing out of the dark, wet, grey ones and the ending and passing away of what no longer worked or had reached its use by date.
I’m sensing that today the Moon is very close to Pluto. We are having one of those dark days. I remember the astrologer LIz Greene saying of Plutonians that they live with the realisation of the inherent fragility and impermanence of life. Having gone through encounters where what they have loved is stripped away or ends they live forever with understanding of how temporary it all is and how painful it can be. It is a truth they need to give expression to in some way, but one that when expressed may not sit so comfortably with others. Its a particular painful legacy that they must find a way to incorporate into their lives and come to terms with in order to find peace.
I recently came across the writing of Ann Hood who lost her daughter suddenly at the age of 5. Ann wrote a book called Comfort from which I have taken the following quote. It is her own eloquent attempt to articulate the experience of her devastating loss:
“Grief is not linear. People kept telling me that once this happened or that passed, everything would be better. Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with a beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. One day you are acting almost like a normal person. You maybe even manage to take a shower. Your clothes match. You think the autumn leaves look pretty, or enjoy the sound of snow crunching under your feet. Then a song, a glimpse of something, or maybe even nothing sends you back into the hole of grief. It is not one step forward, two steps back. It is a jumble. It is hours that are all right, and weeks that aren’t. Or it is good days and bad days. Or it is the weight of sadness making you look different to others and nothing helps.”
“I have read that when someone loses an arm or leg, for months afterward they still feel pain in their missing limb. A phantom limb, it is called, as if the outline or shadow of that limb is still there. That is what my arms became. Phantom limbs, aching for Grace. At night I would wake up in pain, my arms actually hurting with longing for her. It is hard to imagine that emptiness can cause pain, but my empty arms ached.”
“Some statistics say that fifty percent of couples who lose a child get divorced. Some statistics are even higher. It is easy to understand why. When your life is ripped apart, all the rules no longer apply. There is no order anymore: in your family, in your life, in the world. …The life I had struggled so hard to create didn’t exist anymore.”
“In the gumbo of spirituality, of church and religion and God and beliefs and faith, it is hard to separate one from the other. It has been three years since Grace died. My husband has turned fifty since then. He is a handsome man, but sorrow has taken some of the twinkle from his eyes. He is a man who believes in the power of church and religion. He wants a simple thing: for his wife and his son to stand beside him and lift their voices in a song of gratitude for what we have and for having had Grace at all. I try to give him this. It isn’t easy, but I am trying.”
“(he) recited the Twenty-third Psalm…The psalm tells us we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Not around it or over it or beside it. Through it. Time passes and I am still not through it. Grief isn’t something you get over. You live with it. You go on with it lodged in you. Sometimes I feel like I have swallowed a pile of stones. Grief makes me heavy. It makes me slow. Even on days when I laugh a lot, or dance, or finish a project, or meet a deadline, or celebrate, or make love, it is there. Lodged deep inside of me. Time has passed and I am living a life again, back in the world.”
“I have been there. At the brink of losing my mind. Unable to sleep for more than an hour or two. Unable to think of anything except what happened: how it happened, how it could have happened, why it happened. I ask my friends over and over how I could have stopped it, changed it, seen it coming.”
“I cannot say how I got from there to here. I cannot even say where ‘here’ is. But do not be fooled. I am not fooled. Even though I am here, I know that the smallest thing—a song, a sound, a smell—can send me back there. I do not live here. I only visit. Even as I stand here, charming, confident, smiling, I glimpse that other place. I stand always perched at the edge. I live in fear of the times when, without warning, I life one foot, step from here, and go there, again.”
Those of us who have loved and had what we loved taken away, remain forever changed by that experience of loss. The loss is a reminder of other losses too for the losses in one life may be too numerous to mention, in my own life that has been the case, so each new ending has within it the buried or hidden memory, no matter how distance of earlier endings and losses. To expect that we would not be changed would be a failure to accept and love ourselves through the experience, even though it can be impossible for others to do so too.
I will end this post with the following quote from Legacy of the Heart by Wayne Muller.
When we are able to honestly name our fear, our sadness, and confusion and when we can meet ourselves as we are, with acceptance, and compassion – then we cultivate the possibility of an authentic loving kindness to ourselves. Self acceptance is not possible if we cannot speak truthfully about ourselves.
The Plutonian individual is the one who has had a glimpse into the heart of loss and suffering, who sees and bears witness to darker truths. Though others may shun them, they must find the courage to never be deterred and speak deeply from the authentic truth of their emotional experience in a world, which at times, would rather painful emotions did not exist. Their call is to be a light in the darkness for others who are walking there too, who share a similar same experience, so that together in some small way they can find comfort and help others know they do not suffer alone.