We are taken into deep waters
not to be drowned,
but to be cleansed.
I recently heard those words spoken by a character in a television programme. They seemed to encapsulate so much in a few short words. The fear that if we give ourselves away to the flooding of an ocean of sadness we will die, the recognition that entering such a grief process voluntarily transforms and washes us clean in some way.
It has been my experience that they are true. When I become willing on some level to surrender to my sadness I am taken somewhere where I feel the tears that I shed wash me through on some level. A veil, filter or film over my heart may be cleared as I see what I could not see before with eyes of love, what frustration or thwarted need or anger or resentment could not allow me to see before.
Sometimes life asks of us a massive cleansing, when something precious we longed for or desired disappears, when we suffer disappointment or betrayal by someone, when the love we long for is not returned. These are the things we have no power and control over, the things that we cannot change. The ‘givens’ of life. In the wake of the ending we stand still perhaps petrified as a deep open space or chasm opens up within us.
I was thinking about this at a friend’s mother’s funeral yesterday as the precession following the coffin was led out of the church. A breeze blew past the pew I was in and some lines of a poem came to me about a wind sweeping through a billowing curtain and a massive well of emptiness and sadness opening up. I was reminded of how it felt to lose my father so suddenly when I was 23, of the shock and unreality of it all, of the schism between the world with a father and a world in which I was fatherless and of the years that followed searching in many ways for that lost stability of father in outer relationships, and of my own deeply tortured and ambivalent response to these relationships.
I remember with my boyfriend Simon in the second year after my father’s death how we were working in a pub in London and a phone call came to say that his little niece had died from cot death. I was not sure what to say or do and the resonances for me then must have been huge. I remember the huge yawning chasm that seemed to open up between us and of my awareness he was visiting a place I may not be able to reach him in grief.
There is an oceanic feeling to such griefs and losses. A tidal rhythm that delivers pain in wave upon wave that flows forward then pulls us back. We may wish to have no connection with the outside world, particularly if the world is full of people meeting us with truisms, like “she’s in a better place”. We may be longing to connect but fearing it too. “Don’t touch me!” We may need much solitude and silence to process and allow the cleansing of our tears or we may run from such solitude with a feeling of anxiety that if we truly gave ourselves away to our feelings or tears we could not cope or may come unstuck.
And it is truism that in the end we face the death of everything, except perhaps our own spirit and that too may not be truly true as our spirit may feel as if is killed by key experiences of abuse or difficulty in our life. But a living spirit and our soul, is I feel the one resource we have which will enable us to navigate the dark night process of grief, loss, betrayals, disappointments and endings. A willingness to accept on some level that they are necessary. We may fight this willingness and not go easily into this good night but rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light. But rage in helping us survive can only take us so far if the cleansing intention of the deep waters we find ourselves in is different to our ego objectives. This visitation by deep water may be asking something more of us, something that in time will wash away former illusions and ways of being and relating to the world and everything in it. It will wipe the slate clear for a new start and as memories linger we will recognise that some kind of transformation was awaiting us in and through such an experience and our entire being may then answer ‘Yes!’