I am learning a lot about grief. More than I ever wanted, or should have to know. Since Owen died, I have been at the front of the class. I ask questions. I grasp for answers. My hand has been raised for months. My arm is aching.
The academic in me needs knowledge. Appeasement. When I cannot understand, I am frustrated. Defeated. These days, sad. Sometimes there simply are no answers; there are things in this world much bigger than our ability to grasp, beyond our ability to comprehend. This is not a lesson that I wanted to be learning at this stage in my life. At any stage in my life. I’d rather be learning about sleep schedules. About this method versus that method, this brand versus that. Scrap that. I’d rather be learning about Owen.
Grief is described as an endless spiral, with its series of plateaus, its ups, and its downs. Sometimes, in the midst of darkness, I am incapable of comprehending that there is a way out, a way up the spiral to a place where I can catch my breath. These plateaus feel more like inescapable circles. You are stuck, cycling through the same thoughts, the questions, the relentless pestering of this new friend you never wanted to know, and most definitely never invited over. Your sensible, somewhat able to function self is unable to convince your grieving self that this too shall pass.
And then it does. Somehow it passes. You cannot remember the storm you just came through, but you have survived yet another. Your questions have not been answered, but you are somehow momentarily okay with this, this self knows you have to be if you are going to be able to breathe, to catch your breath before the next system passes through.
A few months ago, we started to practice mindfulness meditation. We needed some way to bring our minds to the present moment, to somehow attempt to alleviate the pressures of uncertainty in our lives. To slow down the thoughts, the questions. To learn how to escape the circles and regroup.
One of the first meditations that we encountered spoke of a mountain and its ability to withstand the elements. How the harshest of storms can pass through and the mountain remains, perhaps slightly weathered, but still strong and beautiful nonetheless. The darkness passes. The clouds part. The mountain remains to see the brighter days.
Our little family of three, from the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, is this mountain. Sometimes the darkness threatens to shroud us permanently. To hide our beauty from the landscape of this beautiful place we live. However, the physical separation that death has caused our family has not dented our hearts or weakened our spirits. You cannot separate, nor interfere with, matters of the heart.
It may not appear so, but we are stronger than you, death. Even when it may seem impossible, we will hold on, endure and weather this storm. When the next one passes through, we will be ready. We are a family, full of heart and strong in spirit. We will live to see sunnier days, and yes – we are okay with raindrops, too. We may not see it at first, but we will find beauty in your darkness. At times, it may seem like you are winning, but alas, we somehow find our way out of your vicious cycle for a moment’s breath, a smile, before the next clouds roll in.