Of Grief and Love

fall leaves

As I shuffle through the fallen leaves that have blanketed my favorite running path, I tell myself I should pick up the pace and really get moving, but today, I just can’t. I walk quickly, and eventually find a gentle ease of stride. It feels good and so I decide to put my energy into noticing the way the Earth feels beneath my sneaker clad feet, lifting my face to meet the sun, peeking out from amongst the changing leaves.

This is my favorite kind of day. The sky is blue- as blue as a sky can be and the trees are showing off in brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange. I breathe in deeply.

I’m lucky, I know this.

To be here, walking, breathing in and out, heart beating in rhythm to the pulse of my Creator’s Universe. I’m lucky every day, but especially today. It’s October 25.

I stoop to pick up a perfectly yellow leaf, shaped just like a shining star- it’s as if last night’s sky left me a small morning offering of twinkling things; I only have to stop and notice.

How beautiful it can be, when we decide to let things go. I remember reading this somewhere out there in the infinite sea that is the internet. So profound, for once. Oh, to let things go.

The endless amount of leaves at my feet suggest that there is more to let go of than I have the strength to acknowledge. I practice it with the action of my fingers, releasing the stem of the perfect glowing star, and let the leaf flutter off into the breeze.

If only it could be this easy- this letting go.

It’s autumn, and as I’ve been learning the intricate art of Chinese medicine in my herbal studies, I understand that this is the season of the element of Metal or Air. Each element has an emotion associated with it, and it is so very fitting that the emotion attached to the autumnal season, is grief.

This has always resonated with me because I see myself as a carrier of great grief. We all are, some of us just haven’t recognized it yet. I’ve only recently begun to understand this enough to identify it and that has been bind blowing, transformational work that is hard, but necessary. Like learning how to walk again, this crippling thing that I have not been able to give a name to, has turned into a catalyst, giving me strength and permission, allowing me to peek inside my soul with eyes so clear and honest, I have often been too overwhelmed and have had to run away and hide. And then somehow, I find enough courage to try again.

Grief. What place does this have in our days, our lives, our inner workings? We do not give it the room that it deserves.

In our fast paced society, where we are always trying to fix things, make them better, faster, smarter, stronger, we have squeezed out the necessary space for the profoundly innate. We have evolved, yes, but not that much, because we are still born the same way we always have been, live for a period of time that we cannot control, and return to the Earth when we are called to go. We cannot escape the parameters of being human, and within that, is the necessity that we try so desperately to ignore because we just don’t have time or strength or mental bandwidth- of allowing the place for emotion- and the greatest of these that we consistently ignore, is grief.

We have forced grief into a singular and solitary experience, something confined to a two- week period of time, in which people leave us alone under the guise of understanding and support, but that is mourning, which has a beginning and a culturally accepted end. Grief is not that precise. We have mixed up the two somehow, and forgotten that grief’s role in our lives is to journey with all of us, serving as our eternal reminder that we loved something so much that when it had to leave, in whatever capacity, we were beyond blessed and lucky and all the rest of it, to have known whatever it was so intimately in the first place. The tears of grief that fill our souls and spill out through the windows of those things so deep and infinite, remind us that we are CAPABLE. We are capable of feeling and caring and knowing something, someone, some experience so deeply, that we have been forever changed- which is the red thread that weaves together the fabric and patches of this gloriously complicated experience of life. Grief shouts out into the atmosphere, or is designed to at least, that we are survivors of broken promises, disrupted lives and shattered hearts. The tears that should be allowed to fall whenever and however, are a running river of healing that mend us into something stronger, wiser and more complete. Grief leads us to pain, which leads us to the source. The source of who we are and why we are here and what it is, we are to become.

Grief is good. Grief is generous. Grace is necessary.

Things don’t happen TO us, they happen FOR us. I hold on to this hope on the days when I just don’t understand why it happened, why it had to change things, or who I am supposed to be now, in the aftermath. For a while, I was ashamed, thinking the healing was taking too long, that I didn’t have a right to it, as if there is a limited capacity and that it was someone else’s turn to hold the grief, and my time was up- like a game of hot potato. I have learned that the experience of grief is what binds us together in the human experience; loss tears us apart, but love sews us back up, double stitching it’s way right up the surface of our still beating heart. There is no limit or end to either. Where there is grief flowing, there is also love, and it does not aim to dam up the deluge, but works hard to allow grief the space to flow freely, trickling into the crevices that crave it.

Today is October 25. It’s been six years since my car was overtaken in Somalia and a gun was held to my head as they forced me out into the desert.

I lived.

Oh God, how I LIVE.

But there was something that also died that day.

My naivety, a few of my long held dreams, my belief in the simplicity of the world.

And so for that, today, I allow myself to grieve.

I picked up my kids early from school today, and did what I knew we all needed to do. Just the three of us and the trees.  When they weren’t looking, a few tears escaped from my weary eyes, grief flowing.  Caught in the arms of love, they were, when my five year old came over to the old piece of tree I was sitting on, and plunked down beside me, so sweetly, without saying a word, he rested his beautiful head on my shoulder.

We looked out at that water together, and breathed.

With infinite gratitude, I honor the grief as much as I honor my life.

For I now understand, I cannot have one, without the other.

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