Grief Spiral

dandy

Grief isn’t linear.  It’s not a straight shot.  You don’t pass through locks in a canal, never to go back, chugging along to what…?  Before?  No.  A land where there is no pain?  No.

I love the metaphor that grief is a spiral, where I circle around, sometimes close to the epicenter (deep pain) and sometimes a bit farther out (awareness of the loss) and sometimes on the outskirts of the spiral (where I can smile at the memories and celebrate the gifts from knowing that person.)  No matter how long it’s been since the death of a loved one, I can be anywhere on the spiral – although I can truthfully say once I’ve experienced the acute phase of a loss, I’ve never gone back to that excruciating grief that feels like it could swallow me up and seems unsurvivable when it’s happening.  I hope that gives people some hope to read that.

Sometimes…I can be grieving and not even realize it.  Recently, life has been feeling so tender and almost unbearable to me.  Spring is late here in Boulder and with Spring comes baby animals.  We’ve got a Mama Raccoon in our attic, right over my bedroom, and her babies make scritchy scratchy sounds and chirp all night long.  I am sleeping in another room because they are so loud!  They sound like they are in the room with us!  Andy is calling them his roomates.  I don’t ordinarily like raccoons, but I am very distressed about these babies.  What to do?  I want them to be relocated, and not euthanized.  But I’m worried they are too young to be moved.  I can barely stand the thought that they will be moved outside… and then what?

Yesterday, we noticed a very small, brand new, baby squirrel up in our tree.  The mama was trying to show it how to scramble through the branches.  Then we noticed a very fat, buff tiger cat (ours) up in the tree, getting ready to pounce on the baby squirrel!  Oh no!  Andy ran out and sprayed the hose on our cat.  This barely distracted her.  Note that it was pouring rain yesterday too.  I was paralyzed with fear that Baby (our horrible cat) was going to kill the squirrel baby, the squirrel baby that isn’t even strong enough, or old enough, to scamper away.  The cat finally came in looking like a drowned rat and she has been locked up under protest all day today.  I’m praying that baby squirrel has enough evolutionary smarts to grow – fast!

As I was unloading my animal woes (my fear of impending death to small, helpless creatures, and my participation on some level with their possible impending deaths) on a friend today, she wondered what is going on for me about death.  “Well” I answered innocently, “a year ago is the time I started working with Lance.”  Hmmm.  As I said it, I realized that is what’s been living in me without me being consciously aware of it.  Two days ago was the 11 month anniversary of Lance‘s death.

Last May, I started giving Lance reiki and spending more time with him.  It was a powerful, life changing month.  It was an  intimate experience that touched me.  I will probably write more about this time, but for now the words escape me.  I am just aware that I am more sensitive than usual and it’s a reminder to go back to the basics of self care; something we teach in the Newly Bereaved groups at hospice.  Drink more water.  Rest.  Get out in nature. Share with close friends – people who will listen and let me be right where I’m at.  Most of all, thanks to my wise friend Sally, I want to BE present with all that I am feeling right now.  I want to witness the sorrow and the tenderness and allow any and all emotions to wash over me.  I might feel things this year that I was too in shock to feel last year.  I can notice the gifts that have come to me in the past year, since knowing Lance, and give thanks for them and for his life.  Gratitude.  And, I’m going to try and help these little animal babies stay alive if I can…

Life and Death

LABuddha

I’m thinking about Life.  How I was in LA for a week – lala land – literally and figuratively, taking a break from Boulder.  Just got back on Monday night and by yesterday I was climbing the walls wishing for more ‘meaning’, missing my death work really and truly.

I shared with a few people how out-of-the loop I was feeling being away for the past week,  and soon afterwards, emails started rolling in about the newly bereaved group that starts next week that I will co-facilitate.  Then I made a deciscion to offer a grief/loss meditation group at my house for the month of March (more on that later) and not long afterward, I got a call from the volunteer coordinator at a local hospice that a vigil was starting for a woman who was dying and could I be there from 5-7 tonight?  No hesitation in my mind and heart as I said “Yes!”

So there I was last night, sitting beside a woman in transition, a woman I’ve never met but a woman I am sharing one of the most intimate times with.  All the petty b.s. I am consumed with falling away as I hold her hand.   An exercise in presence.  I can go about 5 minutes before I get distracted.  There’s a guy moaning loudly out in the hall.  My daughter’s calling my cell phone.  The woman’s roommate is shuffling her wheelchair to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  I look around.  On the hospital tray are signs of a former life, garlic salt and reading glasses sit patiently, never to be used again.  But I always come back to her, this woman who seems to be peacefully laboring.  Each breath is an effort.  An aide stops in to say goodbye “It’s time Mama.”  she says as she strokes her forehead.

In this moment, I am lost – anonymous – one tiny grain of sand.  Death is happening whether I took a shower or not.  In this moment, I am found – a spark of the divine, heart pumping, alive.  Open.  Grateful.