Grief ebbs but grief never ends.
Death ends a life but death does not end a relationship.
If we allow ourselves to be still
and if we take responsibility for our grief,
the grief becomes as polished and luminous
and mysterious as death itself.
When it does,
we learn to love anew,
not only the one who has died.
We learn to love anew those who yet live.
To shirk pain, bearable pain, altogether
is not only to be less real than one might have been;
it is to isolate oneself from the common lot of pain,
from the pain of humanity and the world.
It is to blunt or cut off or withdraw one's antennae;
it is to play only such notes
as one chooses in the universal symphony,
which is a symphony of suffering as well as joy.
I hate the word closure
when connected with the loss of a loved one.
You know what I mean --
a spouse, a sibling, a friend dies.
Weeks later there are those who want to know
when the bereaved will find closure.
The dictionary defines closure as
'. . . to be imperious to . . . to choke off . . .
to constrict . . . to bolt . . . to bar . . . to end.'
For survivors, the word closure often connotes
that the bereaved are underachievers
who flunked a grief course.
Though the intention is meant to be sympathetic,
there is evoked a note of chastisement
for failing to end the mourning process.
In the eloquent words of Dr. Jimmy Holland
at New York's Sloan-Kettering Hospital:
'We create a sense of failure
as if the bereaved is not doing it fast enough.'
For grief work takes more time and effort
than most people ever anticipate.
And even after weeks, months, and years later,
grief may ebb, but never ends . . .
The Song of Songs has an insightful perspective on the death of a beloved.
Instead of a word like closure ('to end'),
are the thoughts of never forgetting, always remembering.
The final day of Passover . . . is a Service of Yizkor ('Remembrance')
for those whose memories will never die.
In the synagogue is a 'wall of remembrance'
of past members who are recalled
with lights lit by their names.
There is no closure.
The beauty of their lives never ends.
The life of the dead is now placed
in the memory of the living.
For 'love is strong as death' (8:6).
~Rabbi Dr. Earl Grollman, in "Closure and the Song of Songs,"
Bereavement Magazine , March/April 2003
While the experience of grief work
is difficult and slow and wearing,
it also is enriching and fulfilling.
The most beautiful people we have known
are those who have known defeat,
known suffering, known struggle, known loss,
and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation,
a sensitivity, and an understanding of life
that fills them with compassion, gentleness,
and a deep, loving concern.
~Roy and Jane Nichols, "Funerals: A Time for Grief and Growth"
in The Hope Line Newsletter, July 2001, Syracuse, NY
Hope for Bereaved, Inc.
it's like going through a storm
with sheets of rain flowing from your heart
and stumbling to find your way out
only to realize that to heal
you have to go through it and not around it --
There is no escaping it;
it is part of living and acceptance of your grief.
There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness,
but of power.
They speak more eloquently
than 10,000 tongues.
They are the messengers
of overwhelming grief,
of deep contrition,
and of unspeakable love.
I bow in reverence before the emotions of every melted heart.
We have a human right to our sorrow.
To blame the deep grief which bereavement awakens,
is to censure all strong human attachments.
The more intense the delight in their presence,
the more poignant the impression of their absence;
and you cannot destroy the anguish unless you forbid the joy.
A morality which rebukes sorrow rebukes love.
When the tears of bereavement have had their natural flow,
they lead us again to life
and love's generous joy.
Music I Heard with You
It is hard to sing of oneness
when our world is not complete,
when those who once brought wholeness
to our life have gone,
and naught but memory can fill
the emptiness their passing leaves behind.
But memory can tell us only what we were,
in company with those we loved;
it cannot help us find what each of us,
alone, must now become.
Yet no one is really alone;
those who live no more
echo still within our thoughts and words,
and what they did is part of what we have become.
We do best homage to our dead
when we live our lives more fully,
even in the shadow of our loss.
~Jewish Prayer for High Holydays
in A Broken Heart Still Beats: After Your Child Dies
I have two sons,
Forever in my thoughts.
And tears and love
Sadness and gladness.
To hold you when you were born
Was the most amazing thing I have ever known,
To say goodbye the most profound
Now one without the other
But we remember
So, on Mothering Sunday, I will run the gauntlet of loss once more, thinking of that other mother for whom the day is named.
~Grieving blogger, Teapot
When we travel the journey of grief,
the familiar can become unfamiliar, even unrecognizable.
Relationships can be put on hold
(though sometimes because we don't recognize the love that surrounds us),
our bodies respond differently than before
(energy levels, appetite, sleep, general health)
and our emotions often become, at best,
a wild ride through some very dark and gloomy waters.
Even God (our beliefs, values and sources of strength) is different.
For some, even the ability to believe in anyone or anything
is stretched to impossibility, for a long time, maybe even forever.
Sorrow can be a very deep hole,
deepened by our perceived loss of that sense of connection.
For many it is about despair, fear and hopelessness.
For others, a sense of sadness and futility.
It may be less severe for many, but it is still there.
For all of us still wrestle with the essential questions of life and meaning.
Why did this happen?
Why did this happen now?
What will happen to me?
How will I live now?
Do I want to go on living?
What do I need to do now?
These are the questions of life and grief,
as old as the ancient psalms
and as fresh as this morning's first cup of coffee.
What does all of this mean for you and me?
The answer (and it isn't really an answer, but a choice,
a hunch, a moving through the journeys of grief and of faith
all twisted and turned together)
is in connecting to myself, my story and my God . . .
it is faith,
our ability to believe and trust
in the outcomes or blessings of even one's suffering,
that brings us through our sorrow to a renewed sense of hope.
My beliefs help me identify where I am,
who I am, where I am going, and how I will get there.
Healthy spirituality never dodges the tough bullets of grief.
It never diminishes my worth and never dismisses my feelings.
My relationship with God
leaves me plenty of time and space
to wander and to ponder.
There is room to be angry, with the encouragement to receive anger's gift
rather than be seduced by its rage.
I can connect with my guilt,
yet welcome forgiveness that restores.
My loneliness is embraced through religious community or context,
ritual, sacrament and prayer (or whatever fits with your traditions).
Grief's anonymity ("Doesn't anyone understand?")
is embraced by a God
sometimes perceived to be distant and inaccessible,
who still knows me by name!
-- Reverend Richard Gilbert, M.Div. in "Like Connecting with an Old Friend"
Bereavement Magazine, January/February 2002