Over the past couple of weeks death has come so often into my home it seems as if as if it lives here. Among the deaths I have experienced have been that of a friend; a husband, an aunt, and an uncle of people I care deeply about; a grandchild and friends of people I know; even a family member’s pet. At one of the funerals, I held a friend in my arms as she grieved, collapsed against me from the devastation of her mourning. I tried to think of what I could say to bring comfort to this woman who had lost a lifetime love after having spent the past weeks seeing a healthy, vital man suffer needless, intense pain and finally be so weak and ravaged by cancer that he could do nothing for himself. I reached into my own belief system for some words, but somehow telling her that his death was just part of the great wheel of life, death and rebirth just did not seem like it would do the trick. Granted, I doubt that others’ words — that she should be happy that her husband was now in heaven and that he was called by God because he was a good churchgoing man — were of much help either. I finally just shut up and held her until she let go; I think that was the right thing to do.
If the Great Wheel of Life is a bust when it comes to those moments when a spiritual salve are most needed, what is it good for? It may be true, nature may work that way, but where is the comfort and sureness in the sense of deep truth that causes us to know that we are in line with the universe and that we are being who we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing? It is not only humans that grieve death, as anyone knows who has seen a dog or other animals react when a beloved companion is no longer in their lives. If we are simply participating in a completely natural process that is a common part of all existence, shouldn’t it be easier?
After some pondering, I came to see the creation of the world as being in two parts. First, the Creator made the mechanical aspect, the wheel of life, with its many layers of existence, the physical one being earth, but also those places where those who are outside of our existence, before birth or after death, dwell. Then, when it was spinning round and round quite happily she blew love into the mechanism and gave the wheel meaning. Now it was no longer simply a machine, but a universe that was the home of beings of all kinds. It had life and a purpose. But, with love comes both joy and sorrow. In fact, without love there is no joy or sorrow. Love both exists within the wheel of life, as humans are born and die, but also outside of it, as love begins before birth and endures after it. Love is like the electricity that makes the machine move and do meaningful things, but it exists outside of the machine. Just because the wheel of life is part of nature does not mean that its consequences cannot cause grief.
In fact, love is its own kind of wheel of life, death and rebirth. When I think of those people who have the deepest compassion, wisdom and understanding; who are able to bring comfort to others and make this world a better place to live, it is those who have experienced heartache who come to mind first. When we have those we love in our lives, happy and healthy, we are in life. When they die and we experience grief, an aspect of us dies, too. We will never be the same people we were before we experienced our loss. An aspect of ourselves is gone. And then, over time, we come to live again, but in a different way. We cherish each day and those who are still in our lives more. We care about unimportant things less. We see more joy and beauty where there was commonplace expectation that each day would be more or less like the last before. We are reborn.
Wheels over wheels over wheels. So many wheels of life, death, and rebirth in our lives. It is not an answer, not a remedy, but a pattern that helps us to make sense of those elements of life that are most meaningful. The next time I hold a grieving friend in my arms, I will hold her silently, not from confusion as to what to say, but knowing that I am helping to midwife her rebirth.
“The next time I hold a grieving friend in my arms, I will hold her silently, not from confusion as to what to say, but knowing that I am helping to midwife her rebirth.”
This speaks to my heart. During those times of life-altering sorrow that seems to make even breathing a monumental task, this is what we need most, I think. Someone to witness our pain, to help us be with it and in it, to hold us in our darkness, and to honor us and our pain. In silence. May it be a long while before you find yourself in this position again…until then, may warm light shine upon you to help balance the darkness.
Thank you for your kind comment and thoughts. It was challenging to experience so much grief in such a short time. I am grateful that I was able to share it and then read your comment.
Your post poignantly expresses the nuances of grieving, comfort, and the cycles of life. I felt it resonate true and deep.
I’m with you heart, mind, and soul. I too, have experienced much grief and death of those most beloved…four-leggeds and two-leggeds. It’s true, death and grief changes us irrevocably. It’s the end of an era…an era in the fabric of our lives.
People are often at a loss for words, not knowing how to comfort the griever.
Some people say DIScomforting things that exacerbate the pain…such as “it was God’s will,” “it was meant to be,” or “you can have another child,” (parents, who have have lost children, are often subjected to that one), or “you’ll get another dog/cat,” which I’ve heard personally.
The concept that “everything happens for reason” is another that many people find thoughtless, hurtful and offensive.
Compassionate silence is much more comforting than ill-chosen and “well-intended” words that run far afoul of the mark or are perhaps offensive to someone’s belief system. A hug, a cup of tea, comfort food, or just the presence of our compassionate spirit brings solace and the knowledge that we are not alone. You are not alone.
Thank you so much for this comment! I am so glad I found your blog and you found mine! You always have such wisdom to impart and I truly appreciate it. I will remember your words as I continue to accompany my friends on their journeys of grief.
Another great one Carolyn! I love the last line…”helping her to midwife her rebirth”.
It’s true that the comfort has to come from within us, our own beliefs in order for us to reset our life without our loved one. Definitely compassion and empathy from friends and family help, but in the middle of the night, when it’s just you, all alone…that’s when we have to draw on our own strength.
You would like a post Laura Stamps wrote about death…another side of it…see my links, look under “Occult Fiction”….
I’ve had deaths in my life since the new moon, but it’s been deaths of unhealthiness…and as the She wanes, I’m glad to see them dissintegrate!
Thank you for the lead, I will definitely check out the link. You are so right that it is when we are alone that we must face our true feelings and be our own comfort. It’s then that there is no hiding from death. I will be glad to see this time of loss end for me!
Yes, women are midwives on so many levels, in so many different ways.
I too cherish your summary, “The next time I hold a grieving friend in my arms, I will hold her silently, not from confusion as to what to say, but knowing that I am helping to midwife her rebirth.”
You beautifully illuminate the ways in which we can bring the Divine Feminine into every aspect and cycle of life. I’m very happy we found each other too! Bounteous blessings upon you and yours, MW (=^;^=)
Thank you! I so appreciate your comments. And I love your “smiley”!