It's been 17 weeks since my beloved Dad left his physical body. Very early days still and a tender heart beats on, with no end date in sight for this untamed tirade of feelings, sensations, emotions. Thus far I can say, grief is a bitch. But a wise bitch at that.
Grief and loss tears through mundane life begging one to open up in ever more expansive ways to mystery and the unknown.
To not shut down. This experience may be way bigger than the word 'grief' allows or promises. Except no-one tells you that grief can also be an invitation.
As the days passed, invisible processing occurring behind a forced smile alongside the fiercest of tears spilt in hiding, the word 'grief' felt too limiting, too self imposing, too defined to me. The vocabulary of grief and loss in many of the books and articles I'd read didn't touch me. Whilst they provided useful insights and some understanding of the common processes that bereft folks feel, they left me feeling cold and 'diagnosed'. There are too many generalisations and we can get stuck in them as deeply as we get stuck in to stereotyping the local Indian Corner Shop. They didn't speak to my heart, my soul, to the mystery of passing. Of holding your dying father's hand as his soul leapt forth in to The Big Sky.
Some kind folks seem surprised when I still talk about my Dad and that I continue to struggle with his loss every day. Yet Dad is as much here as he ever was. Why would I stop talking about him? Other people I have spoken to about their losses seem to have 'just got on with it' but I detect that's just surface coping, a stiff upper lip. Maybe I too look as if I'm just getting on with it because I am not going round wearing a t-shirt saying 'hey, my Dad just died, let's chat!'. But look deep in to my eyes and you'll see.
The loss of someone you deeply love is not something you just 'get on with' and hide with a smile. It sticks inside you, in your bones, in your cells, in your DNA. In the tiniest crevices of your being. When you hear specific words that remind you of them, the trigger is hit and you're back there in that moment with your loved one. For many of us the conversation is just too raw for everyday life and we do not have the vocabulary to express such a massive experience. Yet, death is EVERYDAY LIFE.
We are all going to get on that Sacred Sofa to the Sky one day.
I've struggled to find my own personal vocabulary to describe this journey but it is slowly emerging. Words that match my unique thumbprint of loss, that'll start unlocking something inside. Sometimes, often times, there are no words. Just bodily sensations. Just the salty water. And ripped up dreamtime. The secret un-said words of silence. The larger vocabulary of loss encompasses dreams, intuitions, imagery, metaphor, story, nature, alchemy, philosophy, ancestry, poetry, physical contact. The journey requires a dogged commitment to BE and to ALLOW.
This 'third space' as poet Claireylove described it, is breathtakingly alchemical. Having the right words or way of expression for this time matters. Like a soothing soul balm. Like a dot to dot picture. It's about meaning making, story making, hope making. Or realising that in fact it makes no sense at all. Maybe it never will. It's something to be lived and experienced though not necessarily understood. This needs spaciousness and aloneness. To traverse the vast landscape of your soul. That takes time. Lots of time.