I was really good at that – breathe, be, let go, space. What I wasn’t good at was engaging with the “dust” before it settled or getting sucked into reaction. There’s a lot that’s transpired in science, medicine, technology. psychology, personal development, neuroscience since 1995, the year my husband, David, died. Such breakthroughs in knowledge and understanding. Sometimes my mind drifts into wondering if these advances in medicine and brain surgery that we now have might have saved his life had that accident happened today.
Breathe, in, out. I didn’t know the dynamics of how the breath genuinely soothes a troubled mind in 1995. We know that now, neuroscience has seen it on brain scans. Breathing slowly and consciously actually calms the mind, releases dopamine and allows your brain to relax. Allows space to arise.
One thing I do know about myself during these 25 years of widowhood (and yes, I had another serious relationship, a chapter 2, so to speak — but more about that in another post!), I’ve learned a lot about loss. About drowning in it, about finding some flotsam to drift along, about being afloat. We’re always floating in some kind of loss, though we hardly notice that in our daily existence. Here’s what I know, loss is a product of impermanence, and, full disclosure here, impermanence is one of the principle tenants of Buddhism of which I have been a student and practitioner since 1975. I’m not sure if that gives me a different perspective on all this jumble of grief. I’ll let you be the judge of that by your comments.
Impermanence is a daily occurrence something is always changing in our lives, just going from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year we can see and understand that and it feels natural, like the seasons do. In a sense this is loss, we’re aging, losing our youth but it doesn’t hit us as hard as the loss of a partner or spouse, the person who was your person, who was supposed to be with you through all the changing seasons until you were both old and… Well, hey, it didn’t happen for me that way and for you either, eh?
Sometimes I feel so lost in this, still mourning after all these years. I used to wonder why I hadn’t let go of this feeling, this grieving imbedded in my being for so long. Is it that through these grief musings I could hold onto my love, be close to him gone for all this time, through all these changes, through our children’s birthdays and milestones? Is this its mystique, its enchantment, a spell it keeps me under? There’s that longing, that loneliness for the person who’s gone, the sadness and mourning that fills the space where love was. Two feelings, that become embedded in each other. The loss of someone dear persists, there’s always a hole in the fabric of the Universe where that person lived. Ebb and flow. Life goes on, we persist, we exist.
I recently read an article that distinguished between the process of loss and meanings behind bereavement, grief and mourning. Simply stated, bereavement is the EXPERIENCE of losing someone close. Grief is the REACTION to being bereaved. Grief is a complex emotion that involves thoughts, feelings, behaviors and bodily changes. It is many dimensions and has different stages ranging from traumatic distress to landing on a grief that becomes integrated into the griever’s existence. There isn’t a map nor are there predictable x-step programs to hand out. Grief is unpredictable, it runs its course, it progresses without any path, wandering through the acceptance of the loss and adjustment to this new life.
This grief journey, this coming to terms with the loss settles into mourning. Mourning is an assimilation of the life gone, the finality accepted. The realization that your life goes on without. It’s a coming to terms with the loss and knowing you still have the capacity for joy and a new adventure with life. It’s finding a place for the loss in our ongoing life.
Yes, I have moved on, moved through this loss, bereavement, grief, mourning, this process. I’ve had a rich life since that awful month in 1995 when his death became my new present. Not without a few more ups and downs that rocked my world. New experiences, new losses. Riding the waves of impermanence. Going through the process again, again, again.
So, breathe, just breathe. Be grounded in your breath. You’ll feel your brain, your mind relaxing and opening to possibility. Your choices lie latent in your outbreath in relaxing what you’re holding onto and opening to the undetermined space of now.