Grief, Fear, and Healing Time

One of the most profound poems about letting go (in the Western canon) is from Ecclesiastes – “To everything there is a season… a time for every purpose under Heaven.” Try telling that to your heart, though!

Two and even three years after my father died, at the age of 57, I would see him now and again. I’d swear it was him, driving a black pick-up through my town, walking away from me up the street, sitting on the other side of a restaurant, and yet…it couldn’t be. I’d kissed his cold forehead and I’d been to his grave.

Our hearts can play tricks on our minds, and I believe it is a sign of how intertwined lives become that we see our loved ones, sense them, or feel their shadowy presence long after reason tells us we couldn’t possibly. I know now this can be a way of assuring ourselves that we will never forget – not their bright eyes, their funny ways, their likes and dislikes.

We’re also made so that time can soften what seems so present, so much a part of our sense memory. I’ve come to believe – to learn, I should say – that this both helps us live with profound loss and reflects our deepest fear: we don’t want to ever forget. That would be another kind of death.

The truth is that many of us will forget much of what we want to hold tightly to – it’s the way our neurons are made. And we will never forget how we loved and were loved. Never. That knowing is ours forever.

Perhaps the work of bereavement is remembering well, holding our love close enough but not so hard that we forget how to live and to love. One way to assure ourselves that our memories will not tarnish is to create a place – indoors or outside – where a momento or image of the beloved can be incorporated in our everyday lives.

Our love can be honored in a variety of ways, like writing a letter or journaling, remembering special days with a candle, visiting favorite places, or in prayer. You will find a way that works for you. And the fear of holding on and the need to let go will find a balance point, in time.

Holding your journey with love,
Rev. Eliza

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Dear Ones,

Spring feels like the wrong season to be thinking about death. No one wants to go there when life is putting on a gorgeous show! If we take a moment to reflect, though, we can accept that that without death there’s little room for new life.

And let’s face it, denial can be a useful tool – it allows us to allow in the harder parts of our reality in manageable bits. In my work with those who anticipate a loss or grieve one, I have seen the darker side of denial – and its consequences.

We can wish away what is happening to a dying loved one, but to refuse to acknowledge what is happening is to rob the loved one and one’s self of two important gifts: the first is a chance to focus on the quality of the life still to be be lived; the second is to say good-bye.

By a good-bye, I mean communicating – with words, gestures, acts of lovingkindness – all that is most important, and often unspoken – our sadness, our love, and our thanks. In a good farewell we forgive or ask for forgiveness; we make a few more memories and share those we’ve made; we acknowledge our gratitude for the love we’ve received; we say out loud, “I love you. I will miss you.”

When we embrace the reality of what is, we have energy to make the most of our time together, to make meaning of the story of our shared lives, and to rest in the completeness that a complete farewell brings. Then we receive the energy that insures our loving will outlive our loss.

Sending you light and love,

Rev. Eliza

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