This I Believe – Grief Revisits

Mary Anne - Bronx, New York
Entered on March 10, 2008

I believe that grief revisits. After many years, I still get a visit by grief. It’s a yearly ritual. Each year, emotionless moments occur and my heart feels a stranger coming to the door. At first, sadness inhabits my heart, then hits like a wave at the ocean and I remember this is a grief revisited.

I believe that grief has many, many forms. I know when grief has arrived because the world becomes soundless. I don’t mean there is silence; I mean there is a nothingness that exists – no sounds, no movement, no vibrations. Everything and everybody around me becomes soundless. At first, it is a frightening feeling because living in New York City, I know how noisy the world can be. But the soundlessness comes as an annual surprise, never knowing what the moment will be that causes the nothingness.

For some time, I push away the grief like a fly in my ear. But the grief begins to fill my entire body, each cell becoming more morphed with an endless emptiness. I search my mind for a cause. I look for the basic needs of the season; I need more sun! There is more than sunshine needed to replenish the parts of me lost and forgotten. I dig deeper and find that I become disconnected to the necessary life cycles. I am distracted by what’s around me and not connected with who is around me. When there is deep grief, I believe there is often great loneliness. I am a sojourner on the grief path.

I understand silence as a meditation practitioner. It’s the annual visit by grief that consumes my heart and opens the void. I know allowing this to come and go freely, without judging or blaming, is the key. For me, grief reminds me of how many things I know longer remember and how I long to connect with loved ones that have crossed. I long to pick up the phone and tell my mom about my day, my new project, a class I am teaching. But, my mom passed away over seven years ago, and all I have is the belief that she will hear my voice when I tell her out loud. I see her every time I look at my five year nephew born a couple of years after her passing. He is filled with my mother and somewhere deep inside he knows it.

This year I have both a new nephew about to be born and a friend who is caring for his terminally ill parent. There is a crossover between beginnings and endings. I am overwhelmed by the notions of life and death. One is waiting to take their first exhale and one their last inhale. I wonder if the word “breath” is really just a combination of birth and death.

For over seven years, I have experienced waves of grief. I have cried with grief, kneeled at a gravesite with grief, and prayed with grief. I have even buried grief in the woods and threw grief into the ocean – and yet, grief revisits. I know grief commands my complete attention.

Grief asks me to step out and create a special ceremony in order to transform the deepest loss into the deepest love. I create little moments, snapshots of grief transformed. I call my five year old nephew just to hear the joy of his day, including eating five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My nephew gets it – that each moment can be ceremonial.

The air feels a bit warmer and I know the visit from grief is coming to a close. I hope the next time grief revisits, I can have a cup of tea ready. Until then, I hold onto the hope that the seasons change and the sun will rise in the East. I don’t have to do anything with grief; I just have to be with the grief – and perhaps a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This is believe.