With your sentinel tree.
In summer sun
From the symbols
I have had grief described to me in many ways, and none of them have ever really described what it has felt like to me since losing Samuel. I’ve been searching for a metaphor that would adequately describe my experience and how varied it is from day to day.
After a lot of thought, the constant motion of waves against a rugged coast, and the actions of a blowhole are the closest I can come to describing my experience of grief.
The waves vary in size, sometimes they are a gentle swell rolling and sometimes they bring crashing waves, washing up against the rugged coast of my consciousness. Like a rugged coast my consciousness is full of cracks and crevices through which the the waves pulse and withdraw. Sometimes as they surge and pulse …. Woosh.. There it blows.. emotion erupts releasing the pressure and I feel like I simply need to collapse, like the column of water after the eruption of a blowhole.
Sometimes there is a rhythm to cycle of the emotional eruption, some days I know it’s coming, I anticipate it and I can sit and observe the rawness and feeling of loss and sadness, other times the eruption seems to come from nowhere and just like standing next to a blowhole unaware, I wind up drenched by the eruption.
As today marks two years since Samuel died, it is a day of expected emotion, and no doubt tears many times throughout the day. It is also a reflection on the passing of time. When Samuel was alive there were markers of time before and after his non-fatal drowning. We passed things like the point in time where he had been severely disabled for a quarter of the time that he had been our “normal” little man, then half the time, three quarters, equal time… and then.. well and then… it just was. Now that he is not here I find my mind watching that clock again…. two years.. almost as long as we had him “normal”.
Onwards time ticks,
its passing is stark.
Surging memories of moments sweet,
and moments ohh so dark.
Some dates are markers of time,
Defining our before, defining our after.
Through the pain we strive to remind,
ourselves of the moments of joy and of laughter.
That despite being apart,
with days sometimes flooded with tears
and the permanent cracks in our hearts
your memory will last all of our years.
There is only one way to describe it….. one of those days.
The sensation of weight, of carrying an invisible burden, the sensation of fatigue and of feeling somewhat sad, an occasional burst of what felt like a rising tide of emotion but overall difficult to describe, a sense of unease and not being able to put a finger on it… nothing but the option of going with it.
In part of an online retreat I watched recently, by Teah Strozer a Zen buddhist teacher, she perfectly described the problem with grief…
“Grief is a kind of pain when someone dies …. a person you love. When you lose somebody like that there’s a kind of a grieving that is not mental; no words are going on. The body just wells up in grief. It’s painful but it’s also very cleansing, very present, very human, comes with life”
It is not mental, there are no words going on….the body just wells up in grief!
I have talked about in how to sit with sadness. Simply watching my mind, and it is always useful to follow your own advice!. It was during this sitting and watching today that an instant recognition…. an AHA! moment occurred.. and I found the analogy for the pain of grief, or at least an analogy for how I experience it.
The similarity of a sensation that none of us want was instantly recognisable.. this may not be the most pleasant visual picture (, but please stick this out.. it will make sense)….reflect back to the last time you vomited…. .. Can you instantly recall and recognise that rising, swelling feeling.. the sudden rush of metallic taste in your mouth and the rapid flush of heat or shivering throughout your body… No matter what you do you cannot control the overwhelming sensation that blooms throughout your senses in the moments before you have no choice but to let go…
Sure you can feel sick before vomiting, but that moment always takes you by surprise..
It describes my sensation of grief when it catches me unaware… even on “one of those days” where you only describe it as feeling off.. the sensation of grief hits. It does have the physical sensations accompanying it… it has it own taste, a feel of welling up and overtaking you no matter how you try to control it, and it reaches a point where you just have to let go and let the tears flow. Where you can no longer grasp and grasp, but must simply let go. It is not an elegant way of describing this feeling, but it really is like an emotional vomit……
As crazy as it seems Teah’s words about it being painful but also cleansing and present feel so true. It is a relief to acknowledge and feel this sensation, to let go and recognise the pain for what it is … the body welling up with grief.
My recent posts have contained a poem… written by me… but not this post… One of the other things that Teah shared in that online retreat was a poem by Anita Barrows called Questo Muro..which Anita describes as being inspired by a section of Dante’s inferno, and it being a poem about finding the courage to persist… for me it was very much about leaning into the sensation.. as I suggested in how to sit with sadness…..
You will come at a turning of the trail
to a wall of flame
After the hard climb & the exhausted dreaming
you will come to a place where he
with whom you have walked this far
will stop will stand
beside you on the treacherous steep path
& stare as you shiver at the moving wall, the flame
that blocks your vision of what comes after.
And that one
who you thought would accompany you always,
who held your face
tenderly a little while in his hands—
who pressed the palms of his hands into drenched grass
& washed from your cheeks, the tear-tracks—
he is telling you now
that all that stands between you
& everything you have known since the beginning
is this: this wall. Between yourself
& the beloved, between yourself & your joy,
the riverbank swaying with wildflowers, the shaft
of sunlight on the rock, the song.
Will you pass through it now, will you let it consume
whatever solidness this is
you call your life, & send
you out, a tremor of heat,
a radiance, a changed
As I am posting this just days from Mother’s Day here in Australia, I want to acknowledge the pain and suffering of all the mothers who will be doing Mother’s day without one of their children with them. I will be thinking of you.
Today marks one year from the day that I had to perform the saddest duty of life I have spent many hours sitting, standing and watching at Samuel’s graveside, thinking about how much I miss my little man and continuing to learn about grief. The words of this poem reflect the feelings of observing his grave and my thoughts for one whole year.
The earth has settled,
grass gently grows,
while the solitary
Time worn mottled skin,
a canopy filled with birdsong
carried on an ever-changing breeze.
Embraced by shifting
big sky horizons.
A seasonal kaleidoscope
from a palette of sunshine,
rainbows, clouds and storms.
and grass parrots fly,
Your beautiful face shines
from your plaque
As it is lovingly stroked
and gently polished
Cold to the touch,
yet warming to my heart.
Sitting with you,
silence is comforting.
Words are meaningless.
as the tidal swell of emotion
ebbs and flows
© Michael Morris (themickmorris) 2015 all rights reserved.