Sunday, May 04, 2008

On the Other Side of Grief

I have been following a fellow blogger's arduous journey toward and through her father's last days. TICA details with such strength and compassion her bedside vigil and her dad's struggle with life and death choices. A few years ago, a close friend of mine lost someone she dearly loved. TICA's posts reminded me of this column I wrote of my friend's journey through grief.

Life on earth is at best a chancy thing. You cannot know the exact moment when you will leave the land of the living or if your dreams will die before they've been fully lived. One thing is certain—if a loved one leaves before you, whether by accident or design, you will travel to the strange land of grief and you will go alone. The winds of change will swirl about you, pick you up, transform you forever, and set you down in another place.

It is not only the departing who are changed by leaving. The living, the survivors, the ones left behind must become someone else in order to cope, to grow and finally emerge into a different life—the life without. It is a lonely walk through an unfamiliar land, this land without. Things that two did together one does now. There is nothing so empty as the other person's chair pushed up to the table, unless it's the stairwell that no longer echoes end of day greetings and eager footsteps, or the bed that suddenly seems vast and cold and too lonely on either side of the middle. There is nothing so quiet as a room with one person in it, the silence absolute after the death of conversation and shared confidences. There is nothing so solitary as a single plate on an empty table or a single towel hanging folded and desolate on its too wide bar, or a lone toothbrush standing solitary guard in its cup. There is nothing harder than being one when you have loved being two.

Someone dear to me recently lost someone dear to her. She was so happy, so loved, so alive while her loved one was with her. Now she looks and feels as though she's been struck down and in a sense, she has. Grief has her by the heart and for a time she must wrestle with it, pushing her way through the pain to unlock the reservoirs of strength and faith she accrued in happier days. I watch her struggle to come to terms with her loss, to find a place where she can lay her sorrow down long enough to eat, to sleep, to think of something other than what has befallen her.

She tells her story over and over, trying to make sense of it, to fit it in with her own picture of what her life is all about. Perhaps her peace will lie in the creation of a new picture, a new story, a tale that embraces this grief as a gift that, when opened, reveals all the words and colors she will need.

photo credit: Jean


A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss said...

Wonderful, thoughtful post, and very wise. elaine

herhimnbryn said...

Every word, P. is spot on. I too ahve been reading tica. I hope she reads your post.

Jean said...

Le décés d'un être cher , aimé , est une épreuve difficile .
Nous la vivons tous un jour ou l'autre .
C'est en ces moments qu'il faut essayer de ressentir la VIE , sa richesse , aimer , partager avec les autres .
Je vous souhaite une journée riche , intense .

Pauline said...

Thank you Elaine. After reading your own struggles with loss and grief, I appreciate your comment.

HHB - her posts touch the heart, don't they?

Jean - merci. You are so right, that when we are in the midst of the sorrow that touches us all, we should concentrate on life, and share the beauty of that with others.

Barbara said...

You have been tagged. Don't feel obligated if you hate memes, but I would look forward to seeing how you respond to this!

Barbara said...

My father was not prepared to lose his wife of 45+ years who was 6 years younger than he was. A part of him died with her, leaving a very lonely man whose void nothing could ever fill. When he finally was released to join her some 10 years later, I was saddened to my core since I had no siblings to ease my grief. Losing parents, or for that matter losing any loved one, is a life-changing event.

Mother of Invention said...

Very tenderly written. I can't even imagine what it must be like to lose someone close to you but I know that some day soon, I will and I hope I can summon any strength I have to help me pull together and continue my story.

Ruth L.~ said...

This is so insightful. Pauline, check Cup of Comfort submission guidelines. They are looking for essays on grieving.

meggie said...

A lovely post, to me, in my current grief.
I particularly like the mention of colours. I find they swirl about in my emotions, & perhaps, hold healing which is quite unseen.

Thankyou for your kind words to me.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

"Things that two did together one does now."
A simple, quiet statement about loss. You are such a good and wise writer. I'm sure these words will help anybody that needs them.
"you will travel to the strange land of grief and you will go alone."
-Reads like a poem, that does.

Unknown said...

Grief and loss is a very delicate and emotional time in our lives. We all know that on an intellectual level that this is part of the journey we all choose. Yet, our heart can only feel and not think. We have to process the loss and then we can continue on our path. When this happens we know and we feel that the person who is no longer in the body is always in our soul.
Thank you, for your well written words and heart felt post.
You are a true friend to this person bless both of you.

Flea said...

Mmmm so sad and true. I learned today about a Perth mother who lost her 3y.o, the same age as my boy and I can't stop crying for her loss.


dennis said...

Dennis thinks you put it well...Life is a chancy thing. so true.

Annie Jeffries said...

TICA's journal of approaching death and your writing here shows the universality of this experience. Only our degree of elequence differs, but the heart is always touched.