The senior apartments I visited yesterday morning were full of little goblins ages 2, 3, 4, wandering from one elder to the next who sat in the entry and had bowls of candy pieces they would drop into each bucket. Then up the children went to the apartments and walked the halls popping in as cats, princesses, spiderman, to bring laughter, hoots, and smiles. I arrived early and was able to sit and take it all in. When the time was right, I went up the elevator and found the woman I was visiting, having recently lost her husband of 60 years, in her apartment looking deeply sad, feeling lost in her loss.
As we talked and she shared with me the story of her life with her husband a smile arose on her lips as she was there in her memory of him when they were young. Her face lit with contented love and then she returned to the feeling of sadness and weariness. So many emotions riding the waves of grief that it can be exhausting yet that is the sign of hope and resilience, we are not sunk in one emotion. We are complex beings and as the building was full of laughter and fun while behind a closed door a woman sat in sadness we also have access to an array of emotion at any time throughout our day.
Sadness, loss, feeling out of step, are feelings that will need to be navigated as she makes this journey and yet there will be a child, an animal, a memory that will call for attention, surprise her in a moment and her heart will respond, a smile may form, a memory of her love will show, a feeling of herself being a child again might delight. These moments are what bring us further and further to the surface so we might catch a breath before we again descend. Each day, month, year, we stay on the surface a bit longer as we attend to each feeling as it arises.
Our natural instinct is to flee from the pain. That is how we are wired. When the pain is so great, we might seek to numb ourselves, deny the pain, anything to avoid. If we can act contrary to our instinct and allow the feelings to move through us, allow the memories to arise, allow for help in the process when it is too great to be left alone, we find that out of the muck, the mud, the rocky soil of our soul the flower of our life rises. There is no time line on how this all moves. It is unique to each individual, to each loss, to each story. The loss is part of our life journey. No more no less. It is what we look back to at the end of our days as we start to name what is of value, what we have accomplished, what we have brought to the world, what we grieve and what we celebrate.
Some choose to make the journey, others do not. Some talk it through others create or write or build. There is no way. There is no judgment. There is no promise. There is only hope for the journey and the renewal of life as we heal. As we daily attend to all the losses that come our way and increase our emotional vocabulary and intelligence we build resilience for the tougher times, the losses that seek for transformation of a soul. Those losses that turn life on its head.
A flower on the Camino rising in the drought and rocky soil