We are grieving.

Recently, we  lost Don’s mother and father. They died sixty-five days apart and just missed celebrating their seventy-sixth-wedding anniversary. They had rich full lives. This was not a tragic loss. And yet their deaths have left holes in our hearts and lives.

Grieving is an art. Like any art it’s a skill that is attained by study, practice, and observation. We live in a death distancing culture. We have few examples of how to mourn. FDR was the last public figure to mourn openly. He wore a black armband for six months to honor his mother’s death. Six months was the prescribed amount of time in the 1940’s. We are now expected to bounce back — immediately. Armbands let others know of the loss and was a reminder to the bereaved person to be easy with themselves. We have lost rituals and ceremonies that help us navigate these times.

I have grieved: for people, for both of my parents, for places, our mountain home in Ouray and for pets, Patches our beloved Basset Hound. Each time, in different ways, I cried tears of appreciation. At times, I thought I’d never stop crying.

Loss does that.

And though grief visits us throughout our lives, in big and little ways, we are not taught much about how to embrace it. How do you sit with it? How do we let it open us? Grief can swallow you. It can render you motionless. We must find practices, places and people that can sit with us and our sadness. Meditation. Journaling. Sharing. These are all ways that can be helpful.

All of us will someday say goodbye to those we love. Knowing this makes every moment with Don ever more precious. We do not know how many days we have with each other. In early mornings, when we lay in a nest of crumpled sheets, our warm hands reach out to each other and that thought crosses my mind. Death’s inevitability has deepened the sweetness of my love for him.

Death is our teacher according the to Zen Hospice Project co-founder Frank Ostaseski. He explores this idea in The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully. He writes, “Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight. She helps us to discover what matters most.”

How do we sip the nectar of these tender times? My feelings tell me to sit and feel my sadness. They want me to slow down and acknowledge this passing. Two people I have come to love in the messy human ways families connect are gone.

I do not wish loss upon you. Loss will come. And it has likely already landed on your doorstep. What I do wish for you is that when it does come, you open your heart to its teachings.

Stay aware of the preciousness of life.

9 thoughts on “Grieving”

  1. Nancy, Condolences to you and Don, and thank you for your reflections on the inevitable losses of life. Love the expression, “death distancing culture”- sadly very accurate. In the shamanic medicine i have studied we talk about making Death the Ally- which is to say the reminder of our mortality that helps us remember what matters and what does not. Blessings to you and your family in this time of grieving. Oriah

  2. Thank you Nancy for all you share with us. I feel so lucky to be “in touch” with you however that looks. Someday I will catch up with you in person. Until then, I am with you in spirit. Feeling for your loss…….

    Laura from Vashon Island, WA. We “met” in an online art class (if I recall correctly!)


  3. Oriah, thanks this has been a heart opening time. Yes, I love your shamanic perspective. I almost included a quote by Carlos Castanada with that sentiment. Such an important teaching.

  4. Jennifer Starmann

    Grief ebbs and flows. That image, of grief coming and going like waves…often feeling like a tsunami…ironically, soothes me. I have had a discussion with the young widower of my best friend (this was after my own mother’s death) and he said, the highs of life never feel quite as high and lows feel a bit lower. Sadly, that is true in the beginning. However, I think the point of death and grief is to accomplish the opposite actually. I’m still working for that higher high and not quite so low low. But I do believe it’s out there. And I agree that grief is part of life, so we must remember to live while we grieve. It is so hard, but as it has been said, we can do hard things. I’m glad you and Don have each other to understand the grief and comfort each other. Be well. Big hugs!

  5. Jennifer, so true for me too. I find the idea of waves soothing. I want to sit by the ocean and watch waves come in and go out. So good to hear from you. You learned so early how precious and fragile life can be. Always love connecting with you and hearing such wisdom form your own process.

  6. Barbara Clevenger

    Hi Nancy, I have thought of this blog of yours many times since my father died Jan 1st. Dan and I have done as you shared. We have been very gentle with ourselves. I remembered that your in-laws passed about 2 months apart. I now see the 65 days. My 92 year old stepmother passed 64 days before my 91 year old Dad. I am amazed at the peace I feel. It was their time. Thankfully we were guided by many professionals including Hospice just when we needed them. I include you among them. Thank you!

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