The last several weeks I felt myself falling into blackness. Grief is an unpredictable bastard and this time it surprised me by attacking me slowly and manifesting physically in my bones. I have always said that I hate what it takes from me, my comfort, my sense of certainty, my joy; but I have never considered what it gives to me. Grief is a clearing out, a creation of space, a planting of seeds, a guide, and an assurance of something new. It is the fear that grief evokes in me that knocks me off balance and threatens the delicate stability of my life, if at this point there is even such a thing. It is the resistance that promotes my suffering and robs me of the pleasures of my life. It’s like wasting all of your energy pulling and pulling on a locked door only to find out that it was not your door, and your door opens with ease.
As unsettling as grief can be it is an opportunity for healing and growth. Just as my memories of Kirk will never leave me, he will never return to me physically. I feel like I have accepted that and deep in my heart I believe I have accepted all the reasons why he had to go. A death by suicide adds another layer of tragedy over death that I am not sure if I can properly explain, but as difficult as it has been to accept and begin to heal his passing, it is all that he lost to his illness while he was here that haunts me if I allow. I know for certain there is nothing to gain but heartache from that and it takes an effort not to dwell in that dismal place.
I know that grief is a visitor and though the time between visits is always unpredictable it is my reluctance to open the door and let it in that wreaks havoc in my life. It doesn’t go anywhere until it teaches me what it came for and if I barricade the door it will lie in wait while impatience and fear build in me like a fire that has just been doused by gasoline.
Rumi likened being human to a guesthouse, and joy, meanness and depression as unexpected visitors. Rumi urges us to welcome them in and to be grateful for whatever comes as it is a guide from beyond.
The past three weeks I have been wrought with physical pain, sporadic sleep, and general heaviness in my heart and soul. It always takes me a bit to realize that my hesitancy to accept and deal with the grief when it comes knocking creates a whole other set of problems. I retreat from my life, I barely sleep or meditate, I don’t eat well, and I am unable to focus on anything or express gratitude. I lose so much of myself in fear that I am barely living. My connections with people suffer and I don’t notice the beauty of the sunrise or the wonder of the moon. I don’t hold open doors, smile at strangers or extend random kindnesses. In trying to protect myself I actually lose myself.
At a meditation the other day, our guide Mandy talked a bit about grief and how it seems to come in waves, she said the best we can do is dip our toes in the water and enjoy our ass in the sand when all is calm and brace for the fierce waves as they come but allow them to bring wisdom, grace and healing and wash away any old resentments, pain and fear that no longer serves us. It requires a great deal of trust to believe that when the aggressive waves hit that they will not leave us as they found us, in fact if we let go of the fear and the need to hold unto what is familiar the waves will take away the rubble and leave us with love, joy and compassion.
Fear keeps us small, fear hold us back, fear dims our light. Living in fear is not living. The minute I am willing to admit that fear is guiding me, I can readjust my perspective and I feel an immediate emotional release. Last week this came in the form of tears wildly flying out of my eyes at the most inopportune times but also the heaviness that had wrapped itself around my heart and settled in my bones began to subside.
I opened the door, I welcomed the discomfort, I cried, and I found the amazing grace that grief leaves behind as it backs out the door, at least for now.
I went to an Indigenous Sweat Lodge recently and immediately afterwards I felt like I had been released from thousands of year’s worth of chains. It is such a powerful feeling that you want to hold unto it as long as possible but eventually plaques of doubt rip into our lives and we allow ourselves to get tangled up in the chains that keep us from experiencing the true autonomy of life. At the Sweat Lodge ceremony you are told not to wipe away your tears, tears are sacred and cleansing. It is our need to suppress, to be strong, to hold back our honest emotions that can quickly deplete us.
There are very few certainties in life except that we all experience birth and we all experience death, but we are very much responsible for the “in between”, the living moments. We inevitably all face our share of challenges and struggles but we are also bestowed with many gifts. Sometimes we find our gifts as we emerge from the dark of night into the dawn of a new day; a beginning.
I was watching Songs and Stories with Jann Arden last night and she said “If you are not thinking of dying you are not thinking of living” It is a subject we avoid out of fear but it is going to happen for all of us, the very best we can do is to learn to live, not prepare to die. Jann is one of my favorite people and celebrities, she is not immune to struggle and is very honest about the things she has faced and how they have shaped her into the person she is today. She has been living with her mothers Alzheimer’s which she refers to as the long goodbye. The mom who raised her is gone and she is not coming back and Jann speaks of learning to be OK with that and learning to communicate and love her mother as she is and where she is. It required a huge amount of letting go and trusting that that was the right thing for right now and it has made all the difference for Jann and her mother as they navigate a terrible illness that robs you of yourself. Her words resonate with me because I too felt like with Kirk there was a long goodbye. As sudden and tragic as his death was for most, his illness had been stealing him away from us for years, robbing him of all his comfort and familiarity. I too had to learn to love him as he was and where he was and when I was able to achieve that there was a freedom for both of us in the love we shared. It was boundless.
Recently I was told the story of Kris Gautumi whose son fell ill and died at just one year of age. Kris was unimaginably distraught and refusing to accept her son’s death she carried him around, wrapped in a blanket begging neighbors and friends to help her find a way to bring her son back to life. Weeping and filled with dreadful pain, she was saddened to find that nobody was able to help her but she refused to give up. A Buddhist advised her to go see Buddha himself. She carried her dead child to Buddha and he listened to her with grace and compassion. He told Kris that there was only one way to solve the problem and sent her back to the village to obtain a few mustard seeds from any family that had never been touched by death. Filled with a renewed sense of hope Kris set off to the village but after a weary day and not finding a single home that had not been touched by death she discovered the Buddhas message, suffering is a part of life, and death comes to us all.
Only when we truly accept the inevitability of death can we truly begin to live.
As much as we all suffer and share in our challenges and our struggles, we all have the same capacity for joy and love if we allow. For me it requires the courage to focus way beyond my comfort zone and breath and trust that the universe always has my back.
Moments of darkness are imminent, essential, if we let go and trust the process we can rest in assurance that there is always light on the way. So whatever you are facing don’t brace for struggle, if you are feeling like you are being pulled down do not fight it, your joy will come in the rhythm of the dance between the darkness and the light, and if you are willing to let go you will not be dragged down or held down, you will in fact rise.
We are all given the same invitation amid struggle, the invitation to lay aside our doubts and fears and put our trust in something larger than us, even if we do not quite understand it. It is our ego that believes that we need to know everything and that we need to dissect every fine detail of our lives. There will always be a bit of a battle between our hearts and our minds but I have found that it is my mind that summons fear and judgement and my heart that summons freedom and love.
As crazy as it may sound to some of you I have always felt that my soul has lived for thousands of years. Since I was a child I have had fleeting memories that belong to me but are not mine and I believe that on my current soul journey I am here to learn about unconditional love. A wise woman recently had mentioned to me how as our soul is preparing for a new journey, we drink from the river of forgetfulness and we choose what we want to learn on earth. We are void of fear or ego at that point and I think of Helen Keller choosing to learn about kindness and love and then being handed the challenges of deafness and blindness. In all her fierce badassery she did not throw in the towel.
I believe I am here to learn about unconditional love, be it the love that a person has for themselves that makes it entirely possible for them to love in a way that feels like freedom and to put that abundant love and lightness back into the world. I have been challenged by death, loss, heartbreak and fear but I am really just beginning to learn to dance.
“You are being asked to dance rather than understand, to lay the thoughts to rest and come alive. It is the bravest, most trusting soul that dares put the mind to one side and say “Tonight we dance, my heart and I, in the great rousing music of the beloved’s beating heart- and I will not miss one step” And to awaken the next day and do it all over again-and again, and again.
~ Alana Fairchild