Saturday, November 08, 2008

We Grieve as We Live

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.


Sarah S-D said...


(i value every post even when all i leave are stones. and thank you for the comment my way today... yes... joy is coming, may that propel me through the stress..)

Kathryn J said...

An acquaintance, bordering on a friend but she tends to be a straight-arm kind of gal, who I have known for a decade just buried her husband this week. She has been grieving, alternating with denial, for two years from when they found out he had a horrible kind of cancer.

There are no easy ways to say good-bye. There isn't a process, from what I can tell, that universally helps one to process a loss. It is all so sad and personal and sad and beyond understanding to those of us outside of it. I know you don't like it when people say "I can't imagine" but no matter how hard I try, I'm sure I cannot grasp the reality - perhaps close but I'm not there.

Stratoz said...

GG--- I hope that the day comes that you once again can be in groups. I have hidden from them most of my life. with that said, off to the weekly group exposure--- church

Ellyn said...

In your grief, you are touching so many people. Aiding others down a path that they never wish (or chose) to take.
You are evoking prayers for you, your family and for legions that have lost a beloved one.
Thank you for your courage and boldness in sharing.
I continue to have only prayers to offer.

Cynthia said...

You have no idea how much you inspire me.

RevDrKate said...

Thank you so much for this today. I am walking this grief journey with someone who has just lost her mom to cancer and she is doing just this....grieving as she I have a framework and I think I can be present for her in a more helpful way.

Also just read the post about the abbey...hope is good, prayers continue.

carol said...

You are forging your own path through and into this new life, GG. There is no prescribed course for everyone. The gift you bring to others is your ability to write and share your experience so eloquently. You are teaching each of us about your path and your experiences. My prayer is that these lessons will help me should I or a loved one ever embark down a similar road. You continue in my thoughts. And you have my gratitude as well.