Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Grief Observed

"I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process." -C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

C.S. Lewis wrote these words in a book I will soon read because those few thou
ghts resonated with me. A friend of mine uses the word "process" in conjunction with the word grieving, as in "processing through it".

Where am I in the process?

Well, yesterday I felt very alone in the process. Not only that, I felt lost. I felt as though what had happened was a blip on the screen; life went on and we had to move forward in the pursuit of other happenings. Some of you know that our first "official" gathering for the church plant is this Sunday. Needless to say, life goes on whether you are ready for it to go on or not. In this case, I don't feel ready and instead feel rushed in my grieving to scurry ahead and to shelve my grief over the loss of our baby
so that I can do all the things that I need to do on Sunday. In the past, this would include me being unnaturally cheerful and "strong" in the face of my circumstances. But, no, that is not who I am. Nor is it who I want to be. There are too many plastic people walking around out there with perky Barbie doll expressions that no one can relate to as it is. But guess what? I'm just finding out that most people don't relate to grief either. My "processing" friend observed that she had almost no one to walk with her through her own grief when a friend of their family died in a tragic accident that they witnessed. There was almost no one to talk it through with in the months afterwards and she struggled through much of it alone and feeling unheard.

Why is it that we have education up the wazoo - degrees, certificates, licenses - but when it comes to healthy communication skills, healthy conflict resolution skills, and healthy relating-to-others-and-engaging-in-their-lives-skills we are woefully unequipped??
Why are we so afraid of being present in the suffering of others? Why do we draw back when others shed tears or voice their hurts, or rage, or doubts or fears?

"Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape." That is how Lewis describes it. It is a journey in and of itself, not an event to get over. I suppose that if we have never experienced grief then we may observe it to be a process which ought to be gone through in an allotted time span. It doesn't work that way though. In some respects, life is a series of losses and our hearts never forget those losses. I was at the San Diego Zoo a couple years ago and I passed by the aviaries containing the Bird of Paradise birds. When I heard their particular bird-calls, I was flooded with sadness and a sense of loss and I literally began to cry right there in front of their cages. I had not heard their calls for over 13 years, back when I lived in Papua New Guinea where I had heard those same mournful cries from the rainforest surrounding our home in our village and our home at our regional centre. My mind could not have recalled their call if it had tried but my heart knew it instantly.

Grief is held in our hearts even though it is our minds that try to make sense of it.
I suppose that processing through another's grief with them requires that our hearts engage their hearts.

These are my preliminary observations.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Conversation in the bathroom between my four year old daughter and I regarding the loss of our baby:

HER: (perplexed look) "Why is your potty red, Mommy?
ME: "It's not red; it's blood."

She goes to bed. Later she comes back to use the toilet. I am in the bathtub.

HER: "Mommy, why do you need to get clean in the bathtub?"
ME: "I don't feel very well so it's helping me to feel better being in the nice warm water."
HER: "Why don't you feel very well?"
ME: (deep sigh, look of indecision) "Well... we were going to have a baby but now we're not because the baby died."
HER: (sighs, sounds sad) "MMM-mmm... What baby? Where was the baby?"
ME: "It was in my tummy. it was only about this big (holding up fingers to measure about an inch) but it died."
HER: (face lights up) "I have an idea, Mom! I have a mouse! It can swim! The mouse can go down the toilet and get the baby out!"
(we had been listening to the story of Stuart Little, the mouse, on CD earlier)
ME: "That's a good idea, honey, but it's too late - the baby already died."
HER: (sadly) "Oh-h!" (pausing to think) but why do babies die, Mommy?"
ME: "I don't know, honey."
HER: (contemplative) "Sometimes that's just the way it is, Mom."
ME: "Yep. That's true."
HER: (lighting up again) "But, Mom, my mouse can swim! It can swim down there - it's a girl one, not a boy one - and it can swim down there and take care of the baby!"
ME: "Okay, honey!"
HER: (scampers out of the bathroom) "Good night, Mommy!"
ME: "Good night, sweetheart. I love you!"

These are the best days of my life and the sweetest moments, regardless of the pain.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Poet Life

"Draw forth the sword of success from out of the iron of circumstance"

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it, blame yourself. Tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches. For to the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place." -Ranier Maria Rilke