Comforts have come unexpectedly. Sometimes at the strike of ambushed grief. Other times through subconscious yearnings and heart opening moments.
There are times I clung to my grief as it had become as integral to my being as breathing. I didn't know how to be without it. As crazy as it sounds, for me, the attachment to grief is easier than acting normal or going back to my former self. How does a person go back when that self no longer exists? With no path back and the fogginess, fear and guilt of moving forward, the clinging continued. For years.
Most grievers know how guilt plays a starring role in the life of "after". If I let myself dwell on the should-haves and what-ifs, the building blocks of guilt that create the foundation for sorrow, then, without consciously thinking about it, I can continue to suffer comfortably. Again, with the crazy talk but that's how it is in deep grief. It does not make sense despite my efforts to logic it out. And the lack of logic can drive me mad when A + B no longer equals C.
It is a risky business talking about angels and dragonflies.
It is a risky business talking about angels and dragonflies. Some folks may ridicule those who believe a life energy exists from outside this realm. Experiencing such energy isn't a belief system in a religious sense, in my thinking. It is an experience where many of us sense a connection. If the sensation soothes us, if we are curious at this mystery, and if we have hope, then let's allow it in our hearts.
The poet, John O'Donohue, wrote, "Gradually, you will learn acquaintance with the invisible form of your departed" in his poem "For Grief". I feel incredible gratitude for learning to allow my departed daughter's obscurity into my heart. Initially, her visits were an awe inspiring and unbidden type of wonder. As illogical as it is, I am not sure I could have survived without accepting the sensation of her presence.
Perfect strangers, witnessing my sorrow.
Grief would ambush me when I least wanted it. In the middle of a work day, rushing to my car in tears, little droplets of love and pain leaving a trail no one would follow. And then falling apart so completely that people coming in from the lot risked being late to a meeting so they could hold my hand or say something kind. Perfect strangers, witnessing my sorrow. Ever the damn stoic, I didn’t want anyone to see. Regardless, those visiting angels showed up as if on cue.
Some years later, I experienced surprising and quite pleasant visits of the dragonfly. One day, I was sitting alone on a sunny afternoon in our backyard, when a beauty dive-bombed my head so unexpectedly I batted it away. “I’m sorry! Please come back!", I said upon discovering it was a dragonfly. And then it happened. It lands on me lightly, right over my heart. True story! I dared not breathe. Talk about feeling touched by an angel and a dragonfly at the same time!
These experiences are subtle now. And less painful. Could the search finally be nearing its end? For so long, I went out searching when she was here all the time, waiting for me. Showing her face in my dreams now is perhaps my reward for finally working that out. Until recently, her face was turned away, eluding me, perpetuating the search.
I smile at every dragonfly that visits these days. And those visits have happened even when traveling to foreign countries. It seems silly, but there is solace in knowing wherever I go, there she is also.
It requires us to face the fear of forgetting.
There is a fair amount of responsibility with moving away from grief as comfort. It requires us to find and make space for forms of honoring and remembering our loved one alongside the pain. It requires us to get creative and to try out life in a different way. It requires us to face the fear of forgetting. It requires us to forgive ourselves for forgetting some things. It requires us to accept we are human. We can’t remember everything all the time. I have found it also requires trust. Trusting the memories will reveal themselves organically rather than upon my demand. This responsibility is hard work, so I've taken it in small steps. And it requires time and attention.
So what about those fried egg sandwiches?
We lived in a lovely 100-year-old Victorian home in a small Wisconsin town, complete with a wooden front porch and rocking chairs. Several giant oak trees shaded the yard and flowerbeds. This home was not my daughter's childhood home but where she would come during times of recuperation and college breaks. We kept a bedroom for her always so the presence of her absence, as Edna St. Vincent Millay so aptly said, had a weight and strength there in the days following her passing.
The bedrooms were at the top of a beautiful curved wooden staircase with a door at the bottom to keep the kitchen heat confined to the first floor, as is typical in early 20th century homes. The door opened onto a large kitchen with many hard surfaces; lath and plaster walls, laminate counters and creaky hardwood floors.
Sometime in her teenage years, my daughter discovered the ease and satisfaction of making fried egg sandwiches. Her health challenges didn’t always fit the traditional norms of daily eating schedules due in part to medications and in part to her love of the late night. So it was not particularly unsettling when one midnight, weeks after her passing, in that very echo-y Victorian kitchen, we heard the making of a fried egg sandwich.
We did not get up to investigate. In the morning, we cautiously said to each other, "Did you hear that last night?" We were pleased to see the kitchen was scrubbed clean.
How about you? What brings you comfort?
Any magical experiences you would like to share in the comments below?