In the summer of 2009, I began a walk with grief that was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
Yes, I had experienced the death of loved ones before and I was not immune to grief, yet those experiences were nothing like this.
My world simply went dark and I felt as if I was drowning in my own emotions. What I thought I was equipped to handle, I was in no way prepared to deal with…
At the time, I didn’t fully recognize there were things that saved me.
My family’s love, my love for them, and my desire to create beautiful moments despite my constant flow of tears. I couldn’t bear the thought of my children, who were 3, 4, and 9, seeing me so destroyed and in such a place of pain when they were such vibrant little souls.
I might have been devastated but that was not their journey.
They were babies and I did not want to impose my darkness upon them. So while I couldn’t always control my own place of despair, I desperately wanted them to have wonderful memories of a normal, healthy fun life to counter balance my grief…so, I forced myself to create that…for them…and in doing so, it forced me to join the living in as normal and healthy a way as possible given my own grief.
Then there was my relentless drive in the gym.
Spin classes, hours and hours on the elliptic, or working on weights.
I can now freely admit, at the time, it wasn’t healthy. I realize now I was punishing myself for things beyond my control and so I tried to control what I could.
I controlled my body and in doing so, I lost 85 pounds. I told myself I was getting healthy, and in a way…I was, yet not for the right reasons. I told myself a lot of things. They weren’t always true.
I would punch, kick and push myself. I would go more miles.
I did everything I could to exhaust myself, my mind, and my muscles.
I cried, silent tears streaming down my face, headphones in, music blasting, waiting for the endorphins or the pain to kick in, whichever came first.
Only…while it truly was for the wrong reasons, it forced me to join the living and…it afforded me time.
Time to be strong and time to soul search.
I tried going to my doctor, many doctors actually but once there…they seemed patronizing to me. I felt cynical of their transparent efforts.
It felt insincere and lacked depth.
I had no patience for it.
I had no patience for them.
So they gave me referrals to other doctors, therapists, or whatever the western world of medicine sees fit to do with a patient who is not actually physically sick and is not actually depressed but seeking answers they don’t have.
They gave me prescriptions for depression, anxiety, you name it…only, I threw the referrals away. I would fill the prescriptions, yet I never took a single pill and eventually those would go in the garbage too.
My mind simply couldn’t succumb to putting something foreign in my body to “fix” my grief. I didn’t want to numb or mask the pain, or temporarily fix it from a pill.
I literally needed to feel the pain of my grief.
I needed answers! To what questions, I didn’t know…but I was seeking…and in order to seek, I had to feel.
No matter how uncomfortable grief makes others, and make no mistake…one person’s grief stricken vulnerability is very often another person’s uncomfortable moment of grappling with a human condition they are unable or unwilling to relate to.
It is the rare person who can sit in silence and be comfortable and comforting, in the face of another person’s pain.
Yet, I realized, despite other’s discomfort, I had to feel every last bit of that cutting, raw pain…so I could fully understand it, dissect it, analyze it, put it all together again and then truly HEAL…
In order to heal, I had to feel.
I knew that in time, I would be healed, healthy and happy again.
I never doubted any of that for one second because I knew I still had my own hope.
My hope never wavered…and so, I trusted myself with myself.
I knew my answers were within me and were to be found in God, the Universe, science, my own personal studies, my own dialogues, my own meditations, my own seeking…and it wasn’t going to be found in some pill or in a doctor’s office or any other person’s journey or knowledge.
This was mine and mine alone.
As a result, I went on an internal journey of breaking myself down in order to build myself up.
…and then there were sunrises! Sitting on the beach I realized they held many of the answers to my questions.
Blessed, beautiful sunrises…
I noticed I saw them like I had never seen them before. Vibrant and warm, and the colors felt like shards of glass piercing my eyes through my tears and prisms of grief.
I actually welcomed feeling a pain that came from a place of beauty instead of a place of sadness.
I clung to the rays as if they were my life line dragging me back into the living. I sought solace in them and day after day, they came to me.
Without condition and without condition, I marveled at each and every one of them. Seeing them and somehow feeling as if they were sending me the healing I needed with a gentle coaxing.
Prodding me out of my foggish, dark place.
That while all I had ever know to be true had shifted madly off course…they were true and they were there…and they were as real as my children’s gleeful laughter ringing in my ears.
They were a delight to my tear stained eyes and warmed my soul.
They taught me to be still.
They taught me to be grateful and feel life all around me. They taught me to appreciate what I had, however humble it may be. They taught me to truly listen to my children and not brush them off in a hurried mother’s way.
They taught me to truly look and pay attention to all the details, from the smallest grain of sand, to the way the light moves across the horizon at different times of the year.
They showed me that God, the universe, energy, nature, science, the ebb and flow of life, philosophy, metaphysics, spirituality, all religions, mysticism, the human condition and mind…every last bit of it is truly ONE…all connected and there is no need to discredit any of it.
Sunrises answered my questions and in doing so, showed me that I couldn’t control what had happened. I couldn’t have stopped it, no matter my efforts or force of will.
Sunrises finally helped me accept what my father had been asking me to accept all along.
Sunrises taught me you can’t beat death…you may be fortunate enough to delay it, but it will come…eventually.
Sunrises also taught me – that in death, comes amazing life and in great grief comes even greater joy and the very thing I thought would be my horrible undoing, would in fact be my greatest triumph…because I realized I was healing and was becoming whole again.
Different, yet whole…and stronger too…because I was forged by these lessons and by my own hands.
Now, after many decades of living on the east coast and that grief journey, I have made peace with that grief and the sunrises are my nearly daily practice.
They are my practice, they are my pause, they are my meditation, they are my healthy journey. They are my father’s constant love shining down on me, only in a different way.
This past Christmas morning was no different. It was my gift to myself. It is still my ritual and reminder and warms my soul.
It is a reminder that I am still among the living and that life is beautiful and we are all one.
It is my reminder that my father lives on and my Hope goes unbroken.