grief support for me
"A Letter to Those Newly Grieving"
by permission of the author Luna Jaffe
3 minute read
No one would wish to be where you are right now and it totally, completely, unequivocally sucks. At this moment, when shock armors you in a protective coat of numb, I want you to know that I'm here, shining a light in the coal-black darkness for you. It's likely that many people in your life will not know how to show up during these next excruciating weeks and months.
There is nothing wrong with you.
No matter how grief enters your body, turns your insides into mush, your feelings into volcanos, your eyes into bloodshot rivers, no matter if you can't find words for the absence that is so palpable, so unbelievable, so fucking real, no matter if you need to curl into a ball and cover your body with a heavy blanket-- no matter how you express your sorrow, please know that you are doing it perfectly, as only you know how.
Nothing about this journey is linear.
It's more like walking a labyrinth-- have you ever seen or walked one of these? When you enter it's easy to think "Ah, I must get to the center" and as you walk and circle back and twist and turn it seems impossibly circuitous and silly-- why not just walk over the lines and get to the middle?
Something nudges you -- slow down. Slow Down.
This is a meditation not a race. There's nothing to fix or achieve. Your breathing quiets, you feel your feet for the first time, you notice there are others walking the path and occasionally you pass them, nod in recognition, tears streaming down both of your faces, and you realize you are not really alone.... though the journey is yours to take.
You finally get to the center-- how long did it take? An hour? Months? Years?
You sit on one of the benches provided and wonder-- "Is this it? Really? I'm confused." Then another weary mourner enters the circle, looks around puzzled, and with her eyes asks if she can sit next to you, though there are several other empty benches. You notice a small smile creeping up your face and you motion her over. She begins to sob and you move over so your thighs and shoulders touch. You breathe with her in silence.
Another woman enters the circle. She walks and stops, walks and stops, unsure what to do, hands flexing and curling, her breathing short and airy. You catch her eye and offer the place next to you. With great relief she sits and slowly the tears form and flood her eyes, dropping rhythmically onto her blouse. As more arrive in the center, they are welcomed in silent holding.
Then after minutes, hours... or is it days, weeks? You feel yourself stand up. It is time to move once again. You take the hands of each person in the circle, thanking them with liquid eyes, and then step back onto the path, one step, then another, barefoot now so you can feel the earth. You are alone and you are not alone. Grief continues to massage your heart open, open, even here, where there is scar tissue-- even here where the ache is most painful.
There is no rush, nowhere to go. You look up more, greet those just entering the labyrinth, your face soft, welcoming, unafraid of their pain and fear and exhaustion. You know it well by now, and you know a bit about the journey. You are evidence that the small lights each person carries when they first step on the path gradually brighten and, like fireflies on a hot summer night, light the way.
All of this to say, the journey of grief is yours and you have permission to do it any way you wish.
Here's what I know: your tribe will change, your life will never be the same, and you will discover parts of yourself that you lost long ago or never met before. The awareness that the people you love can be here one minute and gone the next will bring you to the intersection of courage and fear-- when you know that everyone you love will die or leave you are forced to decide: withhold love in an attempt to not hurt so much when death knocks or give it everything you've got BECAUSE you know that tomorrow or next year death might be standing right in front of you.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. How can you possibly think about losing other people after just losing your child, wife, mother? But that's what we do. I was afraid to let my wife out of my sight after my son died. I obsessed. I panicked. I did not believe I would survive if I lost her too. This is a normal reaction and it has eased with time.
One last thing: while the majority of people in our culture don't understand how to be with someone in profound grief, there are some that not only get the value and importance of soul tending, but they are deeply skilled at walking with you on the path when you need the support.
And, if a friend or therapist or colleague makes you feel unsafe, for ANY reason, it's completely ok to take a break or end the relationship. You are a different person now, you are more sensitive, more acutely aware of when you feel welcomed in whatever state you are in and when you feel exiled, shunned or shamed.
Honor yourself above all else. You're worth it.
With great love and companionship,