“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
– Kahlil Gibran, On Joy and Sorrow
Many of the people in my life are grieving lost loved ones. We’re so afraid of saying the wrong thing often we don’t call, visit, or write. But by not saying anything we’ve said the worst possible thing.
We all want to know we’re not alone. So I do my best to show up even from a distance. I send poems. I send notes of love. I call and listen deeply. I let sorrow rest between us without trying to cheer them up. Once we feel connected holding space in silence often says more than words. Silence says I’m comfortable soaking up some of your pain. Silence says I’m here for you – now and always. Silence says your vulnerability is beautiful – thank you for trusting me enough to show it.
Grief can’t be tamed or controlled. It’s a guest in our homes for as long as it chooses to stay. There’s no rushing grief, no ignoring it, or pushing it down, although we try. There’s no letting go of grief. Rather grief slowly let’s go of us.
I never cried when my sister died. I was thirteen at the time and thought I needed to be brave for my mother’s sake, so I went numb instead. Many years later, when I was brave enough to invite grief into my home, I fell into grief’s arms and shed the tears I held in for too long. Being numb blocked the pain, but it also blocked the joy. When grief left from that visit I felt alive again. There was no returning to “normal” because grief deepened my awareness of impermanence and brought me into the present moment where, raw and vulnerable, I could risk loving again.
Now when grief visits my home I let the softness of my heart ease over the sharp edges of the pain. I meet my guest with tenderness on the banks of the river of change. I don’t try to be brave for myself, or anyone else. I don’t apologize for my tears, because they’re the drops of gold contained in the vessel of love.