Happy to live in the present : with a growing awareness of the past.

I just dropped Jasper off at the groomers and I took the way home that leads past where my family and I lived when all the tragedy began to befall us between 1979 and 1985 : the year when my father died.  As usual when I drive along this long street we moved to when I was about 7 I start to feel a blackness and darkness all around me.  I named my blog Emerging From the Dark Night because I guess I began to realise around 2001 about 8 years into my sobriety I had been living out that dark past unconsciously.  Now that I have done the years of therapy and grieving, the long work of coming to terms with things and seeing how it was for the young me I feel a kind of distance from it.  It is no longer affecting me as unconsciously.

I’ve made a friend over the past year who Jasper and I met first at the dog park then later on we both ended up walking our dogs in a big oval not far from where I live.  My friend was in the middle of a thesis when we first met which she has now completed, and its only really in the past few months she has been opening up to me about her own childhood which was a lot like mine.  She also became a family caretaker as her own needs were not met and she said she really struggles with the inner Persecutor too.  We have a lot in common and its good to be able to share honestly with someone who understands how it is to come out of such a stoic emotionally repressive family where issues of perfectionism and emotional overcontrol were writ large.

I know we never totally escape the influences of our past but I do believe once we become aware of the darkness we can begin to live in the light but that means making new choices that are healthier for us and more conscious than the past ones and it does take some time.

I was also thinking today after listening to a radio interview on misfits how lonely it can be if we feel on the outside of society, peers or family.  The point made on the programme was how misfits are able to see things in society that others do not see, due to the distance from involvements and their own, at times painful path, they see below the surface of things.   It was an interesting interview too as the writer interviewed Mandy Sayer was speaking of how as a writer she cannot live with her husband who is a playright. They both live separately and get together in the evenings as both need the days for work.  It struck me as a really good arrangement because one of the things I fear most about a relationship is being swallowed up and having no time to imagine, reflect, create and dream and so for those of us who are creative or introverted in this way it is important to find the right kind of relationship balance for us.

It felt a little strange to come back to my home just a short while ago.  I felt that the trip I took down memory lane a moment ago has shown me how long it took me to be able to feel I could move back to my home town, just over 7 years ago and how important it has been for me to be here for these years.  I got to have those final years with my older sister and my Mum and I feel fully reconciled to the way things were now.  It is very sad because I see how much my older sister suffered and was trapped.  I was thinking last night of how often she was denied things she wanted.  The story line was that due to her ‘mania’ she was an  who needed to be reined in.  I do not think it was really true at all I just think Jude has such creative life energy and somehow she came undone before she could fully manifest it in the world and as a woman born into a patriarchal world in the 1940s she really struggled.  She was so artistic and she didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She always forgave her husband for abandoning her following her cerebral bleed in 1980 but sadly she was over medicated for most of her life and I am sure at times in the care home she lived, sometimes she was abused and her things got stolen.

I had a long chat with my other sis yesterday.  I am glad now that a lot of the childish resentment I had towards her is healing.  I am see her also as a product of her time, born in the 1950s she had her own struggle to try and find her way and sadly she married perhaps a little too young to someone who carried shadow qualities often denied in our stoic household, were ‘doing the right thing’, keeping up appearances and struggling to become upwardly mobile materially eclipsed to a large degree more underground energies and emotions.  When he left her he was considered the bad guy and it is true he didn’t really treat her as well as he should have due to his own complex background as a adult child of an alcoholic but of course he married into our family which had its own history of addiction hidden in my Mum’s past.

It has been a battle for me to become separate, psychologically as the youngest in a far older family.  There was 17 years between my older brother and I, 16 between Jude and I and 8 between Sue and I.  With these large age gaps it was harder to relate and I often felt like an only child born to at that time (in the 1960s) far older parents whose focus was really not on raising a young daughter but more on the external focus.   In my discussion with my friend yesterday she was talking of the mixed feelings she has around forgiveness with her own parents.  On one hand she says she has empathy for them and knows they acted the way they did and treated her the way that did due to their background and past.  At the same time she said she struggles a lot with issues of anger too.  I could really relate to that.

I told her that my perspective is that in regards to the Inner Child we are still moving out of the medieval dark ages emotionally speaking.  We are also trying to break apart patriarchal values which keep both men and woman as well as boys and girls trapped in limiting roles. I was listening to a programme on this today.  I do feel for men at the moment as their behaviour towards woman is generating a lot of justified anger but I wonder too at the level of compassion that is really shown towards men who are also in many ways just victims of a repressive heroic dominance archetype of the supremacy of masculine (as opposed to male) power.  Women and men both suffer in this climate and I hate to see men being blamed without a deeper insight being given into the causes that generate problematic behaviour towards women.  In truth at a psychic level it is the inner feminine in both men and woman that suffered coming out of the patriarchal dark age.  Men don’t need to be emasculated and boys need help to come to terms with softer emotions and vulnerabilities.  My own family was dominated by excessive masculine values.  Mum always worked and was never emotionally present.  Feelings were not understood nor addressed.   And then my Dad over worked and abused his own body with smoking, one of the reasons I do believe my older sister had her stroke was that she smoke and drank too much while overworking and taking birth control.  It was a recipe for disaster really.

Anyway today I am sad for all of the past, but I am also grateful that in 1993 I finally bit the bullet and found sobriety.  Along the pathway of recovery I have had to give up many things, jobs, relationships, houses and friendships.   Lots had to go into the fire, but a lot has been transforming too.  I feel many times like a witness who stood on the outside of a family watching at a critical time of soul evolution for us all.  I feel blessed for all of the gifts given and I wont say I enjoyed all of the sadness and pain.  At times I have felt like the weight of it would break me in two.  But in the end I guess it was only my unhealthy ego defences that have dissolved or shattered along the way.   My mistaken reactions of resistance and resentment had to go into the fire too so that I could understand the heart of innocence that underlay everything and feel the love and peace and happiness my parents and ancestors missed out on in their awesome and overpowering struggle for survival.

When I first saw you

Phil

When I first saw you

I think I understood

You had the power to unravel me

And when I allowed my body to open to yours

Dizziness came with the fall

As you picked me up

And promised to keep me forever

Safe from harm

But instead our relationship

Took me towards the edge of a precipice

I could not negotiate

And my vertigo

Made you realise

I was not lion hearted enough

For one such as you

And so you let me fall

After such a long battle to hold on

And then the real unravelling began

As I tried to keep my self afloat

But slowly drowned instead

Captured by a black tide of history repeating

A whirlpool circling in upon itself

Chased toward the edge of extinction

Where I

Came undone

How could words explain the darkest of years

Instead all pain falls into emptiness

Unspoken

But through poetry

Birthed out of the deep black hole

With chaos at the centre

And yet hidden inside

Lived so many mysteries

Waiting to be penetrated

And so the labour began

To understand it all

Until eventually

Light began to dawn again

At the centre

Light within dark

Broken heart

Some light within dark

Some dark within light

Please my friend don’t fear the night

For it may be your place of salvation

Although the long shadows around you

Start to fall

There is never the less

A way through the pain of it all

Though at times in the dark

Your vision is lost

And heavy thoughts fall upon you

As you count the overwhelming cost

Of everyone that left and all that you lost

Somewhere deep inside the dark earth

New seeds are being planted

Preparing you for a rebirth

Of light within

It might be hard to feel

That light is working its magic

Inside the rot that makes everything seem so damaged

But the way of the universe is to permanently change

And although the price of a new birth

May often be pain

If we chose to submit to decay

In time the light

And new seeds

Will rise again

Watered by tears

Incubated by pain

Back to supreme source : You are the Universe

Fondly.png

For them (the great masters of Buddhism) death was not this evil, existential ending.  For them, death was not the end of everything.  For them, death was going back.  It was returning home to the Supreme Source.  I know many people may be wondering what this Supreme Source is.  It is jut another way of naming the universe.  You are going back into the universe. You are the universe, but you are also the play of the universe.  The universe is manifesting, manifesting as you, and when you die, you dissolve back into the universe.  The universe is always dancing, manifesting itself in myriad expressions.  Then all of the expressions dissolve into the universe and manifest again.  It is an eternal play.  You are part of the eternal play.  So you are the universe in the end.  You are everything from that point of view.  You are the stars in the sky.  You are the trees in the forest.  You are the Milky Way.  You are also all the things in landfill.  Of course, you are all the beautiful, exotic flowers in the garden as well.

Anam Thubten 

Embracing Each Moment : A Guide to the Awakened Life

 

Love’s searing fire

Home 2.jpg

There is nothing like the searing pain of love

Of finding and possibly losing your soul mate

The one sent from above

Who shows you darknesses you have hidden before

Leaving you washed up on an alien shore

Where the memory of their sweetness

Lingers haunting you all the rest of your days

Love is a fire

And within its flames you must willingly burn

Submitting to all that needs to be surrendered

So that only love remains

A safe calm space

As a trauma survivor also raised in a high anxiety home its important for me to find and relax into safe calm spaces where and when I can find them.  I find there is a moment of decision in which I must take the opportunity just to ‘be’, to let myself and my awareness keep a focus on sounds and then quietly on my breath.  At times my body chemicals over-ride this, particularly at the time of my two major physical traumas at others like today on my walk with Jasper this didnt happen.  We had a lovely moment sitting under the shedding acorn trees in the child’s play part where I was just in the peace of the present moment.

It’s unseasonally hot here today, but under the tree it was cool and while sitting there and enjoying the surrounds I also focused on closing my eyes and hearing the layering of sounds around us which included birds singing, a dog barking, the low hum of traffic as well as the soft sound and feel of the breeze.  I was aware of my body but for a miraculous moment there was no pain in my body and I was able to breathe a full breath which seems impossible when a trauma cascade hits me as it can up to two or three times a day.  It was so beautiful just to revel in the pleasant sounds and sensations around me, to be aware of the absence of thought apart from the soothing one. “this feels lovely” and to feel myself let go and expand in to it.

This experience of peace had come just after reading and replying to some comments on my last post about trauma, addressing where we put our focus, the experience of being in and out of it and sharing some of what I understand from trauma specialist, Peter Levine’s work on trauma about pendulation in working with traumatic events.

It also came after a period of doubt about my current therapy which is extremely affirming but at times brings up very very painful sensation when I have to re share traumatic events or experiences and reactions from the past or the past week.  For a while a while ago I was seeing a body harmony therapist who was very quick to pull me out of my thoughts about sensations especially when they were in triggering parts of my body that have undergone trauma.  Due to the numerous physical traumas there are not a lot of parts of my body that trauma has not touched but Robyn during our sessions would try to keep me entering then leaving and then shifting the focus on to something pleasant  in the room or by getting me to look into her eyes when I was in overwhelm or flashback which is what Peter Levine encourages his own clients to do.  And often an outpouring of grief would occur at these times which she would mirror and affirm.

This work is not easy because trauma can be so very magnetic and as I understand it there is also something called the trauma vortex, which I experience in my spine as a kind of spinning sensation and it can spin at times clockwise and at other times counter clockwise, hard to explain here but I sense this spin at different times of the day and when awakening at night which is accompanied by the sensation of cells in my body being fluid or silted or inundated with fluid.  (In my original near death trauma my lungs were punctured by a broken rip and the fluid poured in through the pierced pleura.) At times it is so hard to get my attention pulled away from this magentic focus which is also telling me something deeper not always accessible in words.

Today I also had the awareness of how my own reactivity contributed to the second trauma which was a bike accident triggered after doing a cranio sacral session on the original crash around the first anniversary of my husband leaving me.   I would not have had that second accident if I was not on the run from family and I would not have had it if I had not retriggered the trauma of the earlier crash in that session.  The most important insight I came away from that session with was seeing my accident from outside and how it had traumatised my father at the time who was not, like my Mum called to the scene of the crash and I think had to see me cut out of the car after a long period of being trapped.

Writing all of this today is actually retriggering me too.  My family heard about my second crash but no one bothered to come over to be with me and so I was pretty much alone and then in trouble with the family I boarded with for making their lives harder by having had it.  And so I took myself away on retreat to Glastonbury to an ashram and was not able to really get all the help and support I needed despite the fact I had made a good friend from my Dad’s home town in Holland when I was in the UK and ready to come out of hospital.   I ran from her too as I felt my trauma was really not understandable and if I think about it I also feared abandonment, so I ran back to family.  That is a hell of a lot of running.  And yet I did the best I could at the time.

All of this is behind me now, but the thought lives on when I think of connecting with my sister over Easter on the fourth anniversary of our older sister’s death.   Should I really be blaming her for a lack of empathy shown after  my ex husband left and she accused me of being a selfish little girl?  What of the fact she has undergone her own trauma since and is kinder now? What of the times she did try to help me but was not really sure how to?  How much contact to have and how come I still feel so responsible for her and long so much to connect?  Yet even as I read this back, of course I long for this sister’s love but she never treated me as kindly as my older sister did. And even that relationship had toxic elements.

I know this is a lot of questions and I dont know all the answers.  I imagine readers getting impatient with me.  But then I think of a comment from a follower last night which said to try and see the situation from outside myself and to consider how I would treat this person (me) who had been through so much?  Wouldnt I just advise her to take care of herself first, no matter how ‘selfish’ that makes me seem and keep limited contact?

What I am understanding today though is, how much that is good is really around me at the moment when I take those steps to find that safe calm space in the day in the present moment away from past trauma triggers and residues.  Trauma lies in my past, not my present and yet at times it seems to dominate my present.  I get those mixed up thoughts of love for my sister and mother while seeing things they did that also hurt me.   I think of how my sister is now very alone and isolated in her own life but I am aware too of the fact that she too is responsible for herself and maybe she finds her own quiet calm space better being on her own, than around me.  And I know a lot of the time being around my sister quiet frankly triggers me and makes me feel more anxious as memories of that horrible time at the coast where she asked my mother to choose her favourite person to be with out of her and me ended with Mum saying she would rather be with my sister who was happy not sad. Part of me feels betrayed but part of me understands, but then I was always left alone in my grief anyway just as I was left alone as a child and the end of my marriage in 2004 just opened up all of those other losses starting with my father’s death in 1985.  Those losses too are all in the past and yet they have marked me.  They have, at times, led to faulty beliefs that I didn’t deserve any better or somehow caused it all.  In the calm quiet space I can just observe these thoughts come and go.

Today I am grateful for that lovely moment I had earlier in the day.  I am grateful for the lovely lunch of quiche and home made salad I just ate while writing this, I am glad for my therapist Kat and I am glad for the ability to be able to write about all of this and to be heard, read, reached out to by others and understood.  That’s a hell of a lot to be grateful for and heading into easter, although it will always be tinged with the trauma of losing my older sister in 2014 after 34 years of witnessing her also go through trauma and abandonment I am aware that out of the crucifixion of all of our most painful experiences does come a time of entombment and then resurrection.  We go into the fire in trauma, part of us get burned up as we walk across ‘the burning ground’ but we also emerge in time, transformed in some way, deepened in some way, enriched in some way and also made more full of compassion in some way.   It’s a painful territory but one that also makes us aware of blessings as well as the depth of love which is always present in grief and in our longing and which we should pray never to fully forsake due to the pain and agony of trauma.

Stormy, stormy, stormy skies and a forest fire

If you want

Well this post has been kicking around in my drafts folder for well over a  year now.  I was unsure whether to post it.  I am having a clearing out of these old banked up post at the moment (with Saturn and Jupiter now both retrograde), this one was a reflection on sadness and anger using the metaphors of stormy skies and forest fires:

We’ve had a week of storms and it never fails to impress me how often weather mirrors my mood.  Is it that nature is echoing the deep internal space I find myself in?  Is it that my inner life is resonating with the elements and nature?  It pleases me to think so and to realise that both may be true.

I love these lovely dark afternoons after the storm has passed.  You hear the distant thunder roll and rumble as it passes on for its next destination leaving behind a deepening green that is fecund and full of positive ions leeched into the surrounding vegetation.  What a harsh summer had made so dried out, dusty and barren has been transformed into something soft and plumped out.  This can be how it feels for the soul once it breaks open to the sadnesses held inside for so long that then falls down like rain making the soul that was once parched, full and hydrated, no longer so desiccated.

There is a completeness, filling up and satisfaction that comes as you realise that truths that you hid from have been revealed in a way which would not have been possible before the onset of the tears.  It may have been years that you held the truth of these things inside your heart but with the tears they are made apparent.

Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in her myth of the Handless Maiden the tears soften the soul and keep the predator at bay.  When the Devil comes to take the daughter of a miller for his own he cannot take her due to the fact she cries.  I think of people I know who have allowed their souls to be hardened in resentment, who had put up defences against hurt and healing, who never would wish to be made vulnerable by tears.  But I also think of the times that tears for me have hidden anger within them and then the shedding of the tears bought no relief as the real revelation had not yet been made.

Deepening the metaphor of the storm and thinking how I am still witnessing the outplaying chorus of thunder around me this afternoon of the thunderous moods of my mother that would come upon her.  We knew to brace and lock down in preparation for the fury of a cleaning session which would be undertaken with a lazer beam intensity that could not be interfered with and would brook rage if it was.

I think of my own thundering around the house at times when anger that has rumbled around inside me for days and rattled the cages of my being and then burst out upon the dog.  Poor little Jasper scarpering outside to the refuge of the garage, looking at me with real pain in his deep brown spaniel eyes and my tears and regret that follow as I see an old pattern repeating.  Poor little darling is having to weather the storm that the landscape of my porous soul absorbed only to replay later.  Jasper is now me and I have become my mother and only realise it later after he fury and the storm has passed.

Anger that is channelled in a constructive direction can enliven what was once unenergised and barren but should it become a roaring forest fire that decimates everything, much is lost and its true value was obscured while old historic anger lay claim to our soul.  We may live to regret deeply words and actions that cut away good with the bad or we may awake freed from a parasitic attachment that did not serve us well if what needed to be cut away from was part of a necessary shedding.

These for me are some reflections on the metaphor of storms and feelings.

The final 3 strategies for overcoming the effects of self absorbed or emotionally unavailable parents.

This is the final installment which follows on from two earlier posts on the header subject and contains exerpts that come from Chapter 6 of Nina Brown’s book Children of the Self Absorbed : A Grown Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents.

Change of Pace

(We can) become so stuck in one or more routines that (we) limit (ourselves) from expanding (our) horizons, meeting new people or challenges, learning and developing (our) resources and talents, and limiting our choices.  Thus, (we) place restraints on (ourselves) and limit (our) personal growth and development in some ways.  An occasional change of pace can energize (us) and (our) thoughts in many ways, enrich (our) inner self, and provide for wonder and beauty in (our) life.

This is not to say that (we) should disrupt (our) life and do away with (our) routines.  Such routines are beneficial.  For example, I do my writing in the morning, shortly after I wake up.  I first read the paper and have a cup of coffee.  After that I pick up my pad and pen and begin to write. You want to maintain your constructive routines.

A change of pace is not a major disruption, it is doing something different on a trial basis to see if it is right for you, energizing in some way, or has other positive outcomes.  It can be almost anything that is different from your usual routine.

Mindfulness

Becoming mindful teaches our valuable concentration that can help you stay focused on what is truly important in your life.  This  can be very helpful to you in interactions with your self absorbed parent, where your heightened emotional state can be distracting, even disabling.  Once you get distracted or lost, you’re left with the same old feelings.

Mindfulness is done with conscious thought and intention.   You expand your awareness in the moment and notice, appreciate, and even sometimes savour what you are experiencing.  This awareness allows you to notice things you didn’t notice before, being something into clearer focus, sort through confusing stimuli and zoom in on important aspects, reduce some anxiety, and help you feel more in control.  For example, lets suppose after by becoming more mindful you notice and experience the following with your self absorbed parent :

  • Your parent is saying the usual hurtful things, but you are not confused about why he is doing this and are able to see the fear your parent has of becoming old and no longer in control.
  • The words used by your parent seem meaningless and inaccurate and, although designed to hurt you, are bouncing off you like ball bearings bouncing off a wall.
  • You are able to discern your parent’s anxiety without taking it on or even feeling that you must fix it.
  • You are becoming aware that a role shift is in process, and that your parent is fighting but is also consciously unaware of it.
  • You leave the interaction less upset and stressed than usual.

Mindfulness allows you both to expand and contract.  You expand your awareness and contract your focus.  Practice the following exercise as many times as you possibly can throughout your day.  It doesn’t take long to do it, but you can do it as long as you wish.

Developing Mindfulness

Procedure:  This excercise can be done sitting, standing, reclining, walking and so on.  However it is best to be alone in a quiet place.

  1. Empty your mind.
  2. Don’t fight intrusive thoughts.
  3. Concentrate on your breathing and how this makes you feel.  Try to slow your breath.
  4. Become aware of your body, its tense spots, and its pleasurable spots.
  5. Focus on what you are experiencing, doing and feeling.  Stay with that and expand your awareness of sensations – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting.
  6. Notice colors, shapes, forms, sounds, and how your body feels.
  7. Continue your expansion as long as you wish.

Reduce your Self Absorption

This suggestion is the basis for entire books on narcissism, but we’ll only touch on the subject in his book  The major premise for this suggestion is that sef absorbed behavior and attitudes are not constructive or helpful.  It is important to remember that, just as your self absorbed parent cannot see his (or her) undeveloped narcissism, you are unaware of behaviors and attitudes you have that are reflective of undeveloped narcissism.  Your undeveloped narcissism can do the following:

  • Prevent you from detoxifying yourself.
  • Inhibit you from developing sufficient boundary strength.
  • Keep you in a position where you can be easily wounded.
  • Interfere with developing and maintaining meaningful and satisfying relationships.
  • Get in the way of your reaching out and connecting to others.
  • Keep you in a defensive state all of the time.

Be aware that (reducing self absorption) is a life long endeavour and that you are mostly unaware of your self absorbed behaviors and attitudes, but they do have a significant effect on your self and on your relationships.

End of direct quotes

Facing the fact that we too are self aborbed is difficult.  In one way we need self absorption for a time in order to delve into what is going on inside and understand how and why we are reacting as we do.  However it is now proven by research into mental health and happiness that happiness rests upon being able to sustain healthy mutual life giving, love filled connections with others.  This ability to connect is what is primarily wounded or undeveloped in narcissism and if we were raised with emotional neglect or by self absorbed wounded parents.  Learning to reach out and connect and show empathy and understanding to and of others is a life time work.  But it has great rewards.

The poetry pharmacy

Autumn Leaf

Wow, I am loving this collection of poems assembled by William Sieghart.  I just took it out with me and was moved to tears by several of the poems.  To explain William suffered from depression himself and enduring all the usual questing and questioning that we souls go through on this journey of life most particularly as we age and inevitable losses and disappointments occur.  In the midst of that process. poetry soothed his soul and so in time he decided to post his favourite poems up in random spaces.  He then set up a space where people who were struggling could come to him with their particular issues and life woes and he would recommend one of his beloved poems.  This then morphed into the Poetry Pharmacy collection.

In the book there are chapters on subjects such as loneliness, feeling defeated, feelings of unreality and more with a page long piece of writing that contains William’s distilled wisdom of many years.  On the facing page is a poem.

To give you a sample I will include with this post one of the poems that moved me to tears and a little of William’s explanation.  I hope this touches you.

 

Condition : Stagnation

It’s easy to forget sometimes that however old we are, we still have the capacity to grow.  This poem is a reminder that it’s never too late to bud, bloom and flourish.  That winter only lasts as long as we allow it to.  Larkin expresses the wonder of that extraordinary potential for change.  It’s the feeling we recognise in the seemingly barren bush as it edges its way toward budding.  We know, intuitively and intensely, that transformation is on its way.  In a matter of weeks, that bush will be all but recognisable.  It will be fully alive again.

The Trees

Philip Larkin

The trees are coming into leaf

Like something almost being said

The recent buds relax and spread,

their greenness is a kind of grief

 

Is it that they are born again

And we grow old? No, they die too,

Their yearly trick of looking new

Is written down in rings of grain

 

Yet still the unresting castles thresh

In fullgrown thickness every May.

Last year is dead, they seem to say,

Begin afresh, afresh afresh

 

When our world falls apart

Winter to spring

I am moved to write this post after a heart rending comment I received on another in which I shared some writing from Robert Romanyshyn on grief and reverie.  Grief and loss are universal experiences but so little understood in our modern technologically driven culture which can be so devoid of soul.  One of the issues Robert addresses in his book The Soul In Grief is just this, how do we honour and fully enter a deep process in which all known supports are torn away and we are literally left either falling through space with the feeling of nothing to hold us or as if we being sunk deep in huge chasm which seems as though it will swallow us up.  When these kinds of reality changing and transforming experiences occur to us we can never be prepared.  They demand of us on some level a deep surrendering into experiences which we can experience enormous resistence towards.

Robert speaks in his book about how after the sudden and very painful death of his wife he was like a ghost.  He struggled with all the tormenting questions which accompany the loss of a loved one, had he done something to contribute to his wife’s death, had he not been emotionally present enouh? (amongst other things). In time he found ways to enter the grief by experiencing it deep in his heart and soul rather than trying to make sense of it in his head.  On one level his mind was destroyed as it could not really take him into the deep mourning place and experience his body and soul needed to embody and my experience is that none of us find this easy or even have many overt examples of this process or even affirmation and support with it.  I know how my own mother was hurried out of her grief by my brother.  She never got to sit and cry her eyes or heart out with anyone following the loss of the love of her life.  I was overseas lost in my own vacacny and wandering of the London streets.

Grieving most often goes on in silence and is not spoken of although in recent times more is being done to address and help those who are grieving to find their way. At the same time as I write this I know there is no deeper solution to grief and mourning but the experiencing of it and so much of this is a deeply lonely process but one that can on some level be mysteriously spiritually transformative.  (Although often we do not understand that until we have passed through grief’s long dark tunnel or night,)

To find our way when the path that we were travelling on previously has disappeared or been torn up, well that is another issue entirely.  In Robert’s case he learned to wait, to tune in and to listen in reverie.  In a powerful quote which I had used to head a blog I havent yet published he saids “reverie can hear, because first it has listened”.  In reverie we tune into the deep wordless spaces inside us, those vast expanses which are beyond words.  When the bottom drops out of our world our world also opens up to a vast cosmic emptiness.  In Robert’s case he experienced himself as an orphan as we all do after loss but he also found that in the cosmic emptiness he found his angel too.

I had similar experiences after my own life feel apart after my ex husband left me.  I would be lost and wandering for days.  I dreamed and wrote and then received channelled messages from angelic like beings, as well as doing battle with demonic energies that wanted me dead, trying to convince me that since my husband had left I was worthless.  Those profound expereinces are all recorded in the many journals I wrote in the intense period following his leaving from 2004 – 2007, when I met someone who tried to pull me away from that intense inner world which threatened him with his own abandonment and grief issues from the past.

I look back now after being part way through Robert’s book and think powerfully of how important and pregnant that time was.  My old world was being destroyed so that a new one could emerge in time out of the ashes of grief and my blog and many of the poems I wrote then that I shared here in the blogs early says were a big part of this process.

As I contemplate all today after reading Amy’s message of this some favourite lines of mine from the poet Rilke come to mind:

Oh how dear you will be to me then, Nights

of anguish. Inconsolable sisters,

why did I not kneel more to greet you,

lose myself more in your loosened hair?

We, squanderers of pain.

How we gaze beyond them into duration’s sadness,

to see if they have an end. Though they are nothing but

our winter-suffering foliage, our dark evergreen,

one of the seasons of our inner year – not only

season – : but place, settlement, camp, soil, dwelling.

What Rilke is speaking of in this, his tenth elegy from the Duino elegies is of the transformative power of loss and grief.  Most surely we do no want to have lost what we have lost.  There is a part of us as humans that longs for things to never change.  But what the Buddhists remind us is that suffering and loss and change are intrinsic to life and living, they are the shadow side of much darkness that we dont know how to face because we do not learn in our culture to honour or fully enter them, at least in my experience.

We are so much, particularly in the West, a culture in the midst of what Purlitzer prize winner author Ernest Becker has called The Denial of Death and yet nature and the seasons know what we seem oblivious to and forget, that for spring to come autumn and winter must occur too.   And so our losses and transformations ARE as Rilke and Romanyshyn points out just seasons in a life where all goes fallow and we find ourselves wandering the stony ground or buried down deep in dark and seemingly barren earth. And yet even here and in the midst of much loss new things can and are growing.   They will grow out of our suffering if we kneel and surrender ourselves to them fully rather than resist.

I don’t know how many of my followers also know of Amy Rose’s blog here on WordPress Petal’s Unfolding.  Amy posts stunning photos with gorgeous quotes and it was Amy who just shared with me in a comment how her own losses have inspired her art.  Art or poetry is the stuff that can help us when we are in the midst of grief, change, transformation or loss.  Art can come out of our suffering and our stumbling and our deep humanity which has been piereced open by things we were powerless over happening to us.  We can use them to mine or find soul consolation or expression on our many days and nights of suffering and to find the deeper often agonising beauty in the midst of them.   The glint of moonlight on water, the soft feeling of a summer breeze kissing our cheek or even the numbing chill of winter snow are all reminders of the deep soul that is still alive and beating even in us and in nature even in the midst of the most profound loss and sorrow.  Oh you nights of suffering let us find our courage and ability to kneel to meet you and allow ourselves just for a while to lose ourselves in your loosened hair.