Loving, Through the Blows of Grief

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

In the last few months, three people with whom I had shared my working life have died: two of them considerably younger than I.  I have mourned their passing.  Then the only child of Stuart, a dear friend over our lifetimes, died last week when her car slid on black ice into the side of a mountain.  She was 26.  We have found their loss to strike our own hearts and minds deeply.  I have drawn some comfort from the parents’ wisdom in wanting to share what they have called ‘this journey’ with friends.

Who Can Be Prepared?

Stuart and his wife have, in recent years, made a practice of acknowledging that one of them, when death strikes, will be alone.  They have decided that they can share a way of approaching that future reality together.  A book they shared with many friends, Ten Thousand Joys, Ten Thousand Sorrows, tells of a couple who are practicing Buddhists and how they journeyed together, prayerfully and with humour, through several years of one having Alzheimer’s. The book provides a model of hope, reducing fear of the unknown.

But of course, my friends – like most of us – were not prepared for the loss of a child.  Many good and wise friends stand with them at this time and I believe they will continue to build lives that bring light to others.  I pray for peace for them, and the return of their capacity for joy.  Seeing their capacity for generousity not diminished in their present grief, I have to think about what I know of their lives that I might learn from, in facing the unpredictability of our existence.

Practicing, the Foundation

In my periodic return to Henri Nouwen’s writing, I find an attitude that resembles what Buddhism demonstrates: practice as the path to deeper life.  Deeper life implies getting somewhere!  The important “somewhere” is a place where God fills more of one’s soul, arrived at through of deeper knowledge of oneself, and actions that forge natural connections to other people.  For adherents of all historical religions, and for people of a loving orientation, I posit that the relevant practices are turning toward where need becomes visible, acknowledging life-giving moments through dedicated activities with others (what Christians may term ‘sacraments’ but which may not require a religious leader), and keeping up a personal conversation with the Divine (‘prayer’, quiet time, meditation).   Getting to know the holy books is further goodness for the soul.

Discipline – Can it Be Detached from Fear of Negative Judgment?

The idea of practice is different from simply discipline.  It may take discipline to carve out the time for ‘practice’.  But I’ve found that discipline for its own sake can encourage a self-congratulatory and sterile attitude rather than the inner warmth of activity drawing me closer to God and to my neighbour.  If I do it because I should, that puts judgment in the driver’s seat, not personal volition.  For me, judgment – whether from someone else or from one of my inner bossy voices – becomes too attached to measuring up.  That’s where the self-congratulation comes in – a warning signal that I’ve been trying to please someone in my head.  Forget that, I’m inclined to say.  God loves me and if I keep listening, will lead me to a place of natural connection to her/himself, and thus to others.

I hope, in this way, I can move toward being able to continue to love others when my own heart has been broken, as I see my friends doing.

Any of your own love-enhancing practices, please share.

(And please see a response to the Comments last week, if wanting to follow the discussion of  Theocon ambitions for Christian dominance).

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2 Comments

Filed under A Bigger Circle, Rosemary's entries

2 responses to “Loving, Through the Blows of Grief

  1. Dear Rosie
    You are one of my love-enhancing practices. I have come to you on innumerable occasions snapping and snarling, weeping and fearful you have always sent me away with both life and love enhancing ideas…….even when I could not follow through. And for that I consider you my personal (as I am sure do many others) little rock. You hang onto my tail when I spin and always always practise what you believe…..and never preach.
    I have failed in the one task that you ask of people….be fair…ask yourself why they do what they do. For that and every other anger based comment that I have made both here and elsewhere I must face myself. Sometimes not a pretty sight.
    As a very small c Christian I forget that stronger believing people are being hurt by my comments as they are by the reactions both in and out of schools of non-believers and believers in different forms of Christianity.
    For this I do sincerely apologise.
    As for the loss of a child or ones husband/wife or anyone who is close to use and are our support system in life. I do understand those. I am delighted that your friends have people that they can turn to and it will (I know) help in their grief and readjustment. But they also know that these loss’s are irreplaceable. Keeping a loving heart when yours is broken is difficult. I admire those who can do it, so far not so good. Still it ain’t over til it’s over.
    Keep pitching those high balls, maybe one day I will succeed in hitting it.
    And remember thanks to you, I at least keep trying to fix myself.
    Thanks
    Love
    Diana

  2. Karen Thorpe

    Grief blows through all of our lives all the time – just turn on the news and if you have any heart for your fellow humans you can’t help but feel their grief as your own.
    One gift that I have is tears. We have been trained in the West to see tears as a sign of weakness and I have truly struggled with this. Tears definitely do make us vulnerable – but not weak! They open our hearts and wash our souls of the grief so that we can shed tears of joy and laughter.
    We run away from things that make us feel pain, and yet that is at the heart of Christ’s teaching – we must die to be born again. We must feel pain in order to grow hearts that don’t sit in judgement on the world. We need not be afraid of tears or pain, but we can’t avoid them in this lifetime. We can enter the flow of life and not resist it. When we enter the flow we move from pain to joy to sorrow to laughter and back again continually. That keeps our hearts excerised in compassion for ourselves and others. It keeps us deep in the heart of life and in touch with the heart of God.

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