One of my best friends lost her husband eight months ago, and last night hosted a cast party for 100 after her daughter starred in her high school's fall musical. We were the only of her close friends not there; 100 people is a lot for us right now. I have watched my friend go back to work and pick up activites that enable her to "keep busy" -- her MO for the 21 years I have known her. If you want your kitchen repainted or your yard's fall clean up finished off, she's your girl.
I have turned to my interior life, which has probably become apparent to many of my friends for the first time as they try to take me out to meals, for coffee, to the movies. Oh, on occasion in the past a few people have responded with surprise to the discovery that I spend an hour or so in prayer most days -- it's not publicly visible time and I am otherwise actively engaged in all kinds of pursuits in my various communities. I just tell them that that's the hour that makes the acitivity and intensity of the other 16-18 possible each day. This fall, I usually find that I need a lot more than an hour.
I'm finding crowds (meaning three or more) of people to be something for which I have a little more capacity, just as my friend is finding time alone a bit more manageable. I've volunteered some time to a college student retreat program in the coming week -- I can't teach a class or field questions from a group yet, but I think that I can spend an hour or two a day listening to others describe their time in the silence.
I mentioned some of this to another friend today, along the lines of "we grieve as we live," there being no textbook with universal applicability. "I think that we are all coming to see that," she said. These sudden losses, of a husband in his 50s, of a child in his 20s, differ considerably from the exruciating but anticipated losses of parents in their 70s and 80s and older. It does seem that the authentic core of being emerges in stark relief from the desolate landscape into which we have been deposited, and that there is no solace to be found in trying to meet the expectations or timetables of other people.