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Showing posts from November, 2015

Walking through Grief and Loss

I should not have been surprised that my last post touched a nerve; not only is it Black November, but grief knows no season.  That’s the thing about loss as universal: in any community, someone is grieving today.

As someone who used to do grief counseling for a living, I should have remembered that.  It is one of the things I have learned about grief; within a community, it’s never an abstract notion.

Working with death and dying, back when I was a counselor, taught me a lot about how humans grieve.  Aging and loss have taught me more.  It occurs to me that it might not be a bad idea to put some of the things I’ve learned into words;  if it is true that someone is always mourning a loss, it’s also true that any hope or comfort we can offer will always be useful to someone, too.
It turns out, for instance, that it is not futile to learn about grief.

In fact, it turns out that we get better at grief with practice.  Grief is hard work, but it is also a skill, and one that i…

Grief, Death, and the Wheel of the Year

This has been a tough fall for a lot of the people I love.

My daughter’s stepmother has died, my favorite aunt has cancer, and one of my closest Quaker friends lost his wife at the end of the summer; her memorial was on Samhain itself.  Throughout this fall, I’ve been watching as people I love feel grief and loss.

It has been a lot like watching them drown.

I know, intellectually, that grief rarely kills.  I know, intellectually, that the wrenching sobs and the painful moments in between are not the sounds of my friends and family dying too.  I know it, and they know it… intellectually.

It looks a lot like knowing, intellectually, that you’re not going to die while you’re being waterboarded.  I mean, probably.  Almost certainly… right?  And meanwhile, every cell in your body is screaming at you with the certainty that you cannot possibly go on living.

Grief is so much more terrible than we think it will be.  Grief is horrible.  Grief hurts, and just watching it leaves us…

November, and the Nurturing Dark

October’s landscape is all burning bush… and yellow aspen, orange maple, and smoldering-ember oak. October is brightness, and fire, and hurry.

November, though? Is ash.  November is the fire burned out, the hurry burned away. October takes the breath away.  But November is the world taking back that breath, pausing for rest.  November is the world scoured clean.

Perhaps it’s because I am a teacher; early fall seems like one demand after another to me, and I reach the end of October days like a marathon runner who staggers across the finish line.  By the time November rolls around, with the end of Daylight Savings Time, that extra hour of sleep feels long overdue.  I set my clock back in relief, and accustom myself to seeing the sun’s weak light in the mornings again–though I know the darkness will swallow it up again soon.

This morning, as the sun punched up over a horizon neatly cleared of leaves, I watched the slanted light sweep long shadows over fields gone bare of …