Ben Usher writes about the grief associated with the loss of animal companions. I have never been embarrassed to show my grief over their deaths. It is only those who have not shared an intense bond with animals that cannot understand the sense of loss and the associated devastation.
After facing one death of a significant other after another, and another, words stuck well below my throat. I was silenced and spent many years lying fallow. Time, adjustment, resettling and reading articles like these have helped to finally break the silence.
Most of us live in parts of the country where there is a distinct change of seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall each have their own unique qualities. Grieving is also like the seasons – there are a variety of events that we experience as we grieve, much as we experience a series of events as the seasons change.
So, as we explore these seasons of grief, let us turn our reflections to the power of these seasons of grief – pre-grief, a time to grieve, a time to heal and renewal.
Sometimes when I can’t sleep I walk through my grandparents’ old house in my head. I sit in the breakfast nook and watch as my grandmother shakes from a jar the handful of raw almonds she would eat each morning. Or I watch myself – I’m six and wearing a dress Grandma crocheted for me – pester her for the liquorice allsorts she always kept at the back of a cupboard.
Summer’s here and Canada-wide, tomatoes are in the ground, mine included.
I live alone now, and at 61 years of age, I have little need for all the food I gr ow. But I do love my own produce, my pesto made with home-grown garlic and basil, which lasts me into the following summer.
I have been thinking of my connection to the land, of closely observing the daily, seasonal and yearly changes that occur. I like that every day something is happening: Another rhododendron opening its buds, the daffodils dying back, the asparagus poking out of the ground, the hummingbird flying past to the flowering red currant, beetles mating.
There is an undeniable sadness to Ireland. The history of the country is mired in despair. Littered across landscape are the ruins of celtic Christian abbeys, Norman castles, famine houses abandoned in the 1840s and more recent homes left during times of trouble.
I spent the month of May, 2011 out in the desolate uplands that mark the border between County Kerry and County Cork. Day after day crows swept across the windswept hills, their mournful, lonely cry echoing across the wilderness. Photographing the landscape became a way for me to connect with the spirit of the place.
It is hard to describe how I felt during this time. The landscape over there has a power, a potency and an energy that speaks of ancient despair and grief but also of something far deeper –there is a sense that the land is inhabited by a spirit as old as time – a vast and essentially unknowable spirit that transcends the limitations of human life spans. The ancient goddess Sheela still lives amongst the craggy rocks and misty mountains. The plaintive cry of the crows wheeling in the wind echo her cry.
Historically Ireland is a place people leave. This exodus continues today as the global economic crisis bites deeply into the Irish economy. Young people leave for America and Australia as soon they graduate. Others wish they could go. My own daughter is among them. Her vengeful ex-husband will not sign the papers for the children to come to Australia.
I pray for Ireland and all her people.
“… the landscape that emerges through my music is rather like the misty dawn of a new day; a day not yet ripened by the sun, but one that shows the promise of a warmer future – a way through the emotional morass.”
Take the time to read the delightful new interview in the Salon du Muse at the Soul Food Cafe. Heather Blakey, web mistress of Soul Food, takes the time to interview British composer, Mike Sheppard. This interview explores spirit and soul and shines some light on the path for those suffering from bereavement.
“And now my old dog is dead, and another I had after him, and my parents are dead, and that first world, that old house, is sold and lost, and the books I gathered there lost, or sold- but more books bought, and in another place, board by board and stone by stone, like a house, a true life built, and all because I was steadfast about one or two things: loving foxes, and poems, the blank piece of paper, and my own energy- and mostly the shimmering shoulders of the world that shrug carelessly over the fate of any individual that they may, the better, keep the Niles and Amazons flowing.”
— Mary Oliver (Blue Pastures)
Old dogs lie buried in the garden here, a place where, in another lifetime, my husband, children, companion animals and I once lived, where my parents once came to share our lives and bear witness.
Dougie and I grieved for each one who departed; when we sold and left the only home he had known behind.
We moved to a sheltered place and comforted one another.
Now my old dog is dead too. I know! I held him close to my heart as he died.
Dougie is gone, joining those, so many whose hands/paws we held, watched as they went.
Soon I will be leaving this place that offered safe harbor, taking his ashes to mix with the ashes of others.
I am moving to make yet another fresh start, selling more, giving away more, but, taking memories of happy family days to weave and wrap around me.
I will go to another place where I will scatter mixed ashes and, little by little, piece by piece, rebuild.
I have been descending into a well of grief for my daugther, for both the children I raised, for the abscence of one and the betrayal of the other. I don’t know why now, why it was necessary to be overwhelmed once again by the evil intent and the lies that took my child, my freedom, my reputation, and my well-being. But down I go. Today in particular I found myself made almost helpless by the pain. Why? I didn’t call it to me. I didn’t go digging for it. It came to me.
Finally I put aside my attempts to do anything productive and went upstairs to lie on the old couch and just listen to the traffic whoosh by until I fell into an uneasy half-slumber. And then…Ah…there it was.
I am sensitive to the energies of certain people, extraorindarily so, and you can just balk at that if you wish, but I heard her voice through the window, my heart went THUD, and I knew what was stirring my wounded soul such as it is. The child returned. The child I raised. The one who accused me of terrible things that almost put me behind bars. The accusation that had my daughter taken away and kept from me until her death. The one who devastated my life. She came to visit for Father’s Day.
And so we sat together at the table making cautious small talk. Avoiding talk of what she’d done to me, to all of us, lest she get up and walk out. The idea in my mind to build back the relationship (with her fatehr, at least) to the point where she’s again old enough(17 now) to face me over what she did. *sigh*
What bullshit. I’m such a fool. Eventually I just came right out and called her on the audacity of faking an injury in order to destroy my life. Out the door she went. After she swore that she didn’t fake the injury. It’s been so many years now she’s convinced herself that her story was true.
I feel so tired I can barely move. Utterly joyless. Weeping inwardly.
You know what? I still desperately want my family back. Death precludes the return of one child. And the other? The other just stood in the kitchen and declared, “I just don’t take anyone’s shit. If you bug me, I’ll make their life a living hell. I’ll make them wish they were never born. They just won’t believe what I’ll do to their lives.”
I believe her. She was smiling when she said it. She was also smiling when she – just before that – asked her father to buy her a car.
It’s time now for the storybook ending: the protagonist (moi) shakes it off and finds something new to fill the void left by Family.
But I am sad. So sad today.
When it rains, it pours, and sometimes the accompanying winds threaten to take the roofs right off what little shelter we have in the world. And sometimes…sometimes the roof goes.
Heather Blakey, webmistress, teacher, guide, guru, Friend, is in the eye of such a storm yet again. I have not offered her any words of wisdom or comfort because, one, she is older and wiser than I, and two, could any word be true enough to comfort a daughter watching her mother die? Not from my personal experience on the matter. And so I’ve read the kind words sent from others and wondered about storms and grief, my own grief and memory of grief rising up like the floods on the Canadian Prairies.
Heather’s mother has cancer of the eosophagus, and I lost a very, very dear and important friend/guide in my life to that just a few months ago. Her absence is very keenly felt in my life today. Tears well for her near daily every time I go near my gardens, a subject we discussed often. Elizabeth loved gardening and adored all plants, but she was wise enough to assure me that “A weed is ANYTHING you don’t want in your garden, my love. If you don’t like roses, then OUT they go, and don’t you feel a whit of guilt about it. A garden is supposed to be a thing of pleasure, not a task to be tended to grudgingly. Make it what you love and to hell with what anyone else says.”
The most important women in my life, and I think the most important women on earth indeed, are those who are strong enough and smart enough to encourage the world’s daughters to tell society to “go to hell and just let me live as I was meant to live, in peace, in beauty, in pleasure.” From what I have heard, Heather’s mother is such a treasure, and so her weakening condition is a heartbreak that touches all intelligent women.
I wish Heather a continued connection with that deep down still spot inside her that withstands the ebb and flow of every flood, and the force of every emotional hurricane. I can think of nothing more to say in the face of a normal but nonetheless devastating pain of life.
Love and honour,