I have had many teachers come into my life, especially after my first husband Bruce died. These teachers came from different countries and different life experiences. At times they were momentary lights whose gifts of wisdom lingered long after there real presence in my life had passed.
They taught me about grief and living again and the healing importance of reaching out to others in their time of loss. They told me that each time we help others deal with grief we also are talking to our own wounded spirits.
A friend Susan had lost her loved one and her sorrow was thick and tragic. I remembered what my teachers taught me and sat down and wrote her a letter about the lessons of grief that others had shared with me.
I had no idea as I wrote Susan that a few weeks later my son Robin would be shot and killed and the lessons I shared with her would be important to me once again to remember.
I brought out that letter again this week after a dear friend's son died. The lessons that were shared with me still ring true.
Dear Susan, I want to share something with you that might not make sense now or that you won’t believe right now. If so, maybe hold onto this email to read again. It is raining out and I hear the sound on my metal roof. We chose metal to cover the roof because of fire danger and being in the forest. I like the sound; it is homey and somehow makes me feel cozy even though tonight I am physically alone. The rain also is like tears . . . sad but cleansing, washing away the dust, feeding the plants, helping life to go on. I look back to the deaths I have experienced... a father and a husband.
I look back at other losses... changed jobs, a house burned down, family turmoil left over from childhood. Each time I thought I would never make it through the deepest of grief and those moments, those hours of such loss and desolation.
I did not think I would ever feel relief from the unfairness , . , how unfair my children lost their dad how unfair my husband did not have more years, more sunsets
how unfair my grandchildren-to-be would not be held by their grandpa There were times I questioned if I said all I couldhave or did all I could have or gave all I could have to Bruce while he was alive. Those "what ifs" and "if onlys" would make my mind and heart spin downward into deeper grief and desolation. Have you ever felt that way?
Fortunately that week two women wrote me. Both were almost two years out from the death of their loved one. One had lost a husband and one a child. They both told me that one day it would be a year since Bruce died and then it would be two years.
They told me I would always have loss but it would begin to come in shorter waves and further apart. They said I would find joy and peace, though I would never forget. They wrote about about the hard times but also gave me a glimpse of life "after."
I read their words, not sure if I really could survive the pain of loss. I kept their letters with me and read them many times that week when I thought I would crumble. They did live on and I could. I could. I could. A week later my son Adam sent me a book by Pema Chodron. In it was a passage on the beauty and gift of impermanency. Rather than fearing the passing seasons and the changing of life, Chodron encouraged us to see that because all things are impermanent it makes them that more precious.
I began to see that the death of Bruce had made me appreciate my grandchildren, a sunset, the time with my sons in a way that I might have taken for granted in the past. I knew, I really understood more fully how wonderful life was. The darkness of my grief had actually made the world brighter, the colors more vibrant. I felt loss deeply but I was beginning to feel joy more fully too.
It is now 18 months since Bruce died and 20 years since my father died. It is 3 years since my house burned down and decades since the losses in my childhood. Each time I have found that the days do pass and the color does return to my life as it will to yours.
You may not believe this now but a year from now you too will have glimpses of what can be good and right and peaceful in your life.
This is life and beauty in the "land of after." fondly
This page is under construction. It is part of a series of letters that eventually will be part of a book on lessons learned
Letter One: You will find peace again