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Riding the Ebb and Flow

For moments, hours, days, or weeks we can move along with the flow of life – aware, always aware of our loss, but walking the path of life alongside it. When you are in a ‘flow’ cycle, living with grief becomes very similar to walking down a twilight, midsummer sidewalk holding hands with the love of your life. Your new experience of those who have passed is right there – cozy, comfortable, precious, an ever-present component – a delightful, background melody that accompanies every moment. Then something – anything – or nothing happens and in a heartbeat, the missing pushes everything else aside and sweeps you completely out of the flow and into a secluded, eddying pool.

The darkness in these isolated tidal pools is almost complete. The physical absence of the bodies, the voices, the scents, the personalities of the loved ones who have moved on feels like a void of loneliness that surrounds you.

I was gifted a snippet of wisdom from an unexpected source before Christmas last year. I was suffering within a time of ebbing and sat to watch a Christmas movie, “A Boy Called Christmas”. It was a sweet movie that added tender tears to the bereft ones already flowing. The ‘wise old soul’ character of the movie supplied these words, “Grief is the price we pay for love, and worth it a million times over.” It was as though that quirky old woman was speaking directly to me. Those words shone through the gloom of my loneliness and opened it up. The heaviness dissipated and was replaced by a still muted, languidity where I was able to recognize the ache of missing as the honor, the gem, the treasure it was.

We are all very familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief and understand that it is not a “start here – finish there” process. The grief journey is a life-long, serpentine trek, where we find ourselves shifting back and forth between the various phases in a seemingly willy-nilly fashion. But we forget that the capacity of our minds is truly stunning. What seems like random plow winds springing up as a result of something – anything – or nothing to shove us out of the flow of life to deposit us into an ebb pool actually happen for a reason. The phases of grief all serve a purpose, and our minds know what we need better than we do (and often don’t bother with the courtesy of letting us in on the secret).

That wise little quote, “Grief is the price we pay for love, and worth it a million times over”, is apparently taken from something often said by Queen Elizabeth and came from a longer quote from the book, “Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life” by Colin Murray Parkes and Holly E. Prigerson. The full quote is “The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our lives.” What an inciteful statement. For me, though, the way Aunt Ruth said it in “A Boy Named Christmas”, is a perfect little motto and has changed the way I view and respond to grief.

When something – anything or nothing blows me out of life’s flow and into the ebb of missing, I wade into the pool with reverence. I let the dimness that is no longer an oppressive darkness surround me like the welcoming embrace of a treasured sanctuary. I respect that my mind is telling me that I need to slow down for a beat, surround myself with treasured memories, review the precious old text messages, watch the video we were blessed to receive and just spend some time acknowledging the missing. In accepting the ache and in bring to mind each of the things that I miss so much – I know that I am honoring the price that I pay gladly for the privilege of experiencing such a great love for such amazing people.

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This life of mine has  given me many rewarding and challenging experiences that have led me to discover many unique perspectives that I feel compelled to share. 

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