Friday, March 11, 2011

Book I

Life is still trotting on.  Feeling a bit lighter today.  Maybe it's the blond highlights I got yesterday?  My hair is beach-ready.  Plz to send a memo to my abs.  They seem to be unawares of their impending seaside reveal.  Or surely they would be more cooperative.

[Insert appropriate segue]

So every morning, I'm still reading this book:

It's called Healing After Loss:  Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman.

I hate the cover.  Who chose those fonts?  I hate that I'm reading a book full of daily meditations about grief and that it has such a lame cover.  fml.

But, Martha Whitmore Hickman, she gets it.  Her daughter died and she knows what it is to grieve.  And to grieve some more.  There's no time limit here.  The expectation is that you will be fucking sad, probably for a year, maybe longer.  And she acknowledges that without making you feel melodramatic for being sad or cold and heartless for feeling better.  There are days when I read the entry and then forget it.  And then there are days that stick with me, entries that I want to read out loud to David, little mantras that I recall even weeks later.

Each entry is dated and contains a quotation, reflections on that quotations, and then a little meditation or prayer or whatever you want to make of it.  Here's one that especially resonated with me:

February 24

People bring us well-meant but miserable consolations when they tell us what time will do to help our grief.  We do not want to lose our grief, because our grief is bound up with our love and we could not cease to mourn without being robbed of our affections.  -- Phillips Brooks

     Of course time eases our grief, provided we let it follow its course and give it its due.  Few of us would want the intensity and desolation of early grief to stay with us forever.  That's not what we're afraid of.
     But we may be afraid that we'll lose the intensity of love we felt for the one we have lost.
     At first these two--the grief and the love--are so wedded to each other that we cannot separate them.  We may cling to the grief in desperation so we will be sure not to lose the love.
     Perhaps the grief and the love will always be wedded to each other to some degree, like two sides of a coin.  But maybe after a while, when we flip the coin, it will almost always be the love that turns up on top.

My loved one is as much a part of my life as the air and food and water that nourish my body.  Therefore I shall not fear losing someone who has been, and is, a part of me.


I've held on to that thought--the coin of grief and the lasting quality of love--ever since I read that entry on February 24. 

And it seemed quite significant that this was the entry on the day of a grief support group meeting, and it's the one that echoed in my mind today when I heard the news of the earthquake in Japan:

March 9

After the dead are buried, and the maimed have left the hospitals and started their new lives, after the physical pain of grief has become, with time, a permanent wound in the soul, a sorrow that will last as long as the body does, after the horrors become nightmares and sudden daylight memories, then comes the transcendent and common bond of human suffering, and with that comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness comes love. - Andrew Dubus

   A grieving father said, after his daughter's sudden death in an accident, "I feel as though I have joined the human family."
    This sense of solidarity with the human community, of empathy and mutual love, is a hard-won bond.  But in the face of tragedy--whatever its nature--one could wish for no finer resolution among human beings that they they should turn their grief into love and understanding of one another.
     I don't mean to be glib about the cost of this.  But let's not turn away from the great gifts of forgiveness and love that, after a long struggle, rise out of the shadows to put their arms around us, even us.

My heart lifts, in solidarity and longing, toward all who have suffered as I have.  May we find and uphold one another.

So this book is my first recommendation in the Books About Grief series that this blog is evidently now featuring.  I don't know if everyone would find it as helpful as I have, but it gives me a place to put my grief first thing in the morning and right before I go to bed.  I take a moment to remember Eliza, to offer a hopeful, skeptical prayer, and to feel for a moment, a sense of solidarity and longing, with all the people in this world who feel as I do.

Oh--and should you be miserable enough to need this kind of thing, you can buy the book here.


  1. I'm glad you're finding comfort in it. Your mention of every morning and every night reminds me of this book, Sleeping With Bread. It's about the Examen process. I like it. I miss you terribly:(

  2. I think I may just have to check out that book. I can see why the Feb 24th entry would stick with you. It will stick with me and I might even steal it for my own. It sounds like a peaceful ritual to have before bed and upon awakening. Much love to you~

  3. Thank you for suggesting this.. I hope it will continue to be a source of thought and peace for you...

  4. yes, this book is a daily comfort. A friend of a friend sent it a few days after our son died. And though I totally share your design horror -- the cover! -- she does get it, and every day I pick it up and it is true and it is helpful.

    I just brought home "The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing" and am overwhelmed by it. Moved and sad and not yet comforted but I know it is good.


  5. I can't thank you enough for recommending this book. It has been amazingly relevant and helpful.