Managing the Early Days of Grief

I have been asked since starting my blog of how I managed to get through the early days of grief.

In-the-tunnel

During the first 12 months, I depended greatly on a poem by the late Irish poet, John O’Donohue, entitled “On Grief” from To Bless the Space Between Us, which I have included below.  A colleague sent me this poem perhaps three days following Roy’s death.  I read it at Roy’s memorial service.  I knew the minute I received it that it would be a critical part of my learning to understand what had happened to me and what was to come.  I referenced it frequently during the first year – attempting to understand exactly where I was intrapsychically – within myself, not necessarily in the world.  What I know from my journey is critical for those of us left behind to get reoriented to a very different world.  It begins by going inward and then outward, in a slow and uncomfortable oscillating dance.  Poetry took me inward and participating in a widows’ group took me outward.  I also logged my dreams on a regular basis.  I no longer see the gap in the air that O’Donohue references at the end of his poem.  Roy is a fully embodied presence within my intrapsychic world.  Yes I visit his grave and leave flowers.  But most of all I dialogue with him regularly by having dedicated a permanent seat for him at the table of my inner life.  We feast together and celebrate our love – he from afar and me right here on Mother Earth.  Meanwhile I also stay busy with becoming my own person – a woman with a life of her own.

“On Grief “– John O’Donohue  from To Bless the Space Between Us

When you lose someone you love, your life becomes strange.  The ground beneath you becomes fragile.  Your thoughts make your eyes unsure; and some dead echo drags your voice down where words have no confidence.  Your heart has grown heavy with loss; and though this loss has wounded others too, no one knows what has been taken from you when the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret for all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy; again inside the fullness of life.  Until the moment breaks and you are thrown back onto the black tide of loss.  Days when you have your heart back, you are able to function well, until in the middle of work or encounter, suddenly with no warning, you are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.  All you can depend on now is that sorrow will remain faithful to itself.  More than you, it knows its way and will find the right time to pull and pull the rope of grief until that coiled hill of tears has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance with the invisible form of your departed; and when the work of grief is done, the wound of loss will heal and you will have learned to wean your eyes from that gap in the air and be able to enter the hearth in your soul where your loved one has awaited your return.   All the time.