By: Marilyn L. Davis
“The great love is gone. There are still little loves – friend to friend, brother to sister, and student to teacher. Will you deny yourself comfort at the hearth fire of a cottage because you may no longer sit by the fireplace of a palace?
Will you deny yourself to those who reach out to you in hopes of warming themselves at your hearth fire?” ― Mercedes Lackey, Magic’s Pawn
Remembering: The Hollow Ache
How is it possible that I feel hollow, yet so filled with pain? I have recently experienced an ache that comes with profound loss. I had forgotten:
- How complex grief is
- Those conflicting feelings in my everyday world
- Those choices will have a profound influence on others
I was initially hesitant, to be honest in this article. There was that momentary fear of disapproval in being candid. Why is it that we create an illusion that we have to make all of our posts uplifting, agreeable, never controversial, and in no way ever genuinely personal?
Oh, I am not talking about the passion we put into our writing. I am talking about what, for many, is a distasteful, unpleasant, and objectionable subject – addiction, relapse, and death.
In Our Grief, We Are Not Always Grateful For Support
I have worked with people and families experiencing the grief of addiction, relapse, and death for more than 28 years. For some of those family members, it was impossible to comfort them. Some family members wanted only to be alone in their grief. When trying to comfort someone who could not accept it, I sometimes felt useless or inadequate in my support.
While I could respect their needs, I could not relate to their pain.
Now I can. Grief creates empathy. I remembered that I was trying to be helpful in some small way, and I decided to find value in the caring in emails and phone calls when I was in pain. I would not reject them as trite and predictable and without meaning.
I now have a greater understanding of why no one can fix the grief, loss, or make things better.
So, I am grateful to those in my life who did not:
• Criticize me or shame me for the feelings
• Advice me to keep my grief silent; it is inconvenient
• Tell me to stop crying
• Tell me to grow up
• Tell me to get okay right away
Although I never said anything like those to a grieving parent, spouse, or child, I know that we sometimes want to “make things okay” too soon for someone grieving. We find it hard to “just be with them” in their emotions.
Grief: Lose Focus Or Myself?
I will never be able to help or see him again, the second stage of this parting. The first stage of saying goodbye with my decision to end the relationship; a painful time, yet it still held optimism. There was the possibility of change and reunification.
That hopefulness is gone, replaced with the finality of the Nevermore. In its place, I will:
• Remember the beauty of moments from the past
• Grieve in my way and my time
• Focus on lessons learned
• Respect that others have felt this and take comfort in their suggestions
• Recapture the joy of recovery
• See the ocean and not cry
The Muse Board is a Grief Board to Help Me Through
For years, I maintained a muse board with writing prompts, encouragement, and great quotes. I converted it into a working grief board.
I copied and clipped the words of people who know me through my writing with parts of the emails from friends of ours who knew us as a couple reminded me of the good when it was.
Just as those words have comforted me, I knew that there were words written through the centuries that would offer solace as well. I then remembered that it would not take the Bard, a New York Times Best Selling author, or the newest writer of the day. It would only take his words written to me years ago on parting:
“We loved while we could, we laughed when no one else found it funny, we cried at a sappy movie, we made sandcastles and mud pies, we rejoiced in our freedom in recovery. We shared our joy with others. Let those delights in life guide you, Marilyn. Share those joys with others and take them with you, even as you leave. Those memories are part of you even as we are apart.”
The Hearth Fire of Others
And so it is. I will go through the grief process, but I will take consolation in the hearth fire of others, and know that there will be a new day, a tomorrow. Each of us has a way of reaching out and touching another through our words, a gentle reminder of worth, or encouragement when things are difficult.
On this anniversary of his death, I remember, feel less pain, and find comfort that he is no longer fighting his battle with addiction. So, while I grieve the loss, I remember that his life was also an affirmation of living in the moment, using principles, and finding joy in helping others.
Those are the memories I hold today.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.