Grief Pendulum

March 15, 2012

Those of you who missed the bold declaration I made around my fiftieth birthday last spring may have been wondering about the shift this blog has made from a focus on the transformational power of grief and loss to… other things. Various experiences and insights created the combined catalyst for this: a fight with a reader about my inordinate attachment to my dead daughter; a storm of deaths in our community, provoking an unrelenting crisis mode in my life; and, perhaps most importantly, a new book project that brought me into a lively emerging dialog about the interspiritual quest (God of Love, coming out next month). It felt healthy for me, ten years after losing Jenny, to take a break from death to celebrate life.

As I round the bend on the next birthday, I am finding my life—and this blog—coming back into balance. Slowly, as consciously as I can, I have allowed the sacred work of collective grieving back into my sphere. I answered the recent call to step up and lead our community grief support group on Wednesday evenings (6:00-7:30 at the TeamBuilders office, for you locals). I agreed to teach a Beautiful Wound workshop in May in Durango, where the community has been hit hard this winter by a string of tragic losses. I will be presenting again at the extraordinary MISS conference next fall in Tempe, AZ, for families of children who have died (http://www.missfoundation.org/index.html). And I still sit with the newly bereaved in the fresh fire of loss whenever I can. It’s no longer the center of everything I do and am, though. My friend Ted Wiard affirmed this by noting, “Death doesn’t lead you anymore. It’s an integrated part of your whole journey.”

I could no more easily cut grief and loss from my life than I could change my height or the color of my skin, and I wouldn’t want to. My losses are a vital part of me, and I cherish each one as the embodiment of a love that transcends all boundaries and connects me to the source of Love itself. The bereaved are still among my favorite people to hang out with. Their losses seem to strip them of much of the bullshit that characterizes the human predicament, leaving them with a fierce authenticity and a wicked sense of humor. As one of the members of the support group remarked last night, “Grieving people seem to be smarter than everyone else.”

The other night I went out with a circle of friends who are involved with Golden Willow Retreat, my friend Ted’s extraordinary grief sanctuary here in the mountains of northern Mew Mexico (http://goldenwillowretreat.org/). We were celebrating the birthday of a young woman who came to Golden Willow as a client, and ended up staying to run the place. At one point I looked around, as people were blowing party tooters into each other’s faces and squealing, eating the most amazing Dia de los Muertos-style cake I have ever seen, covered with Mexican knick-knacks, miniature bottles of nail polish and lip gloss, tiny toys and instruments, and thought, “No one in this restaurant would ever suspect that this was a table of people in the grief business–people whose own losses have so profoundly changed them that they have dedicated their lives to being of service to other grieving people.”

How could I give this up? It’s the most sacred thing I know.