It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift."
--Mary Oliver, The Uses of Sorrow
I just finished a Grief Group last night. We call it The Healing Place. We met for eight weeks in a circle. Slowly, ever so slowly we tentatively began to share our feelings. We showed pictures of the people we had lost. One week we brought something that symbolized the person—that when we looked at it—memories came flooding back. Someone brought a cross-stitched piece—showing that even the back was done perfectly. Another brought a picture high up in the mountains of that windy day when life was rich and fine and laughter came easy. Someone pulled out a two pictures—one of a young couple on their wedding day—years and years before. And then they showed us another picture—taken the last year before the end came. Changes, yes. Many changes. But an up-and-down-lifetime of love. Someone brought a banner they hung up at the Tailgating parties before the Football games. It showed pictures and names of some family members they had lost. Others shared simple things: a worn tee-shirt...a hammer depicting his love of his shop...a dog-eared baseball cap...the pictures they found in his billfold after he died.
We told stories—wonderful human stories. About trips. About the things they did together. We heard someone confess that they never thought they could go on without this person they loved. We heard stories of motorcycles, of someone who had worked hard all their lives. Someone told of how he liked to cook and she never had to go into the kitchen. One person told of coming home from the hospital without her new baby and looking at the freshly painted room and all the presents from all the showers never to be used.
The eighth week we talked about where we were and what we had learned. I learned, she said that I am not alone in my grief. Everyone in this group feels the way I do. Someone offered, I think I learned that every grief is different and that none of us grieve the same way—and that’s all right. Some told of learning things about their loved one they had discovered only recently. People who would sidle up and tell stories of something the person did and the way they told those jokes.
The last group meeting ended. People got up and gathered their belongings to leave. Someone wrapped up the cake we did not eat and put away the Styrofoam cups and the empty water bottle away. We picked up the knotted-up pieces of tissue that had held the tears. No one wanted to leave. We hugged one another tight and long. We looked into each other’s faces and smiled. We whispered something to one another--private and loving. We wrote down telephone numbers and email addresses. Finally the last person was gone and I began to turn off the lights. I looked around the room at where each one had sat. For just a few moments, week after week, that space had become holy as people had taken off their shoes and opened up their hearts and talked about the hard things.
Years ago Judith Guest wrote a book, Ordinary People. It was a book about loss. She wrote: “How does (anyone) deal with grief? There is no dealing; he (or she) knows that much. There is the stubborn, mindless hanging on until it is over. Until you are through it. But something has happened in the process. The old definitions, the neat, knowing pigeonholes have disappeared. Or else they no longer apply.” My group knew that well.
I think today of those who scattered last night. Back to empty houses. Back to jobs. Back to families—where little children still need what they gave to give. Back to a life where the terrain is strange and the road ahead is far from certain.
Whether we’ve been in a circle or not—we’ve all lost. Places, jobs, dogs and cats—money or success or health or status. We’ve all known failure. Kids that have broken our hearts. Disappointments when we peer into the mirror. Sometimes muttering: “If only...”
I hang on to one of my favorite hopeful verses of Scripture for them: "For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Wherever they are and whatever they are doing today—I hope they find that promised joy that right now may seem so far away.
--by Roger Lovette, firstname.lastname@example.org