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.