Traversing the Shadowy Lands of Grief

I have spent months in a shadowy land between life and death, Here and There. Walking between worlds. I have come to believe that those who grieve are only partly in this world for a while. A part of them continually longing for their loved one on the other side. We are not sure how to live in a world without them or even if we really want to. We see eternity and the other side differently now, and going there looks so much better than before. As most of us get older we start having to say more goodbyes. As we grieve we exist only half alive, in a fog, surviving until we find the will to be fully present in this life again.

I understand grief more fully now. Nothing in life could have prepared me for losing my mother. Not my counseling degree, not the devastating loss of my sweet baby I never got to meet face-to-face, and not the ten long years of slowly saying goodbye to my mother while watching her diminish, and not the pain of the first time she didn’t know me anymore. I see clearly now why there were grief observances throughout history for those who mourned. We live in such a hurried culture that wants everything to be glossed over and things to move as quickly as possible. Grief cannot be hurried, but mourners are expected to behave as though it can. People want you to move on and return to normal as soon as possible. We, as a society, are not comfortable with grief. Back in history there was a mourning period that was taken seriously. People dressed differently and they behaved as mourners. They were treated gently and people recognized that those who grieve really do only have one foot in this world. I see the purpose and the value in this way of thinking. People were given time and space to move through their journey of grief.

It has been two years now since my mother’s death. It’s hard to believe. I feel that nearly the entire last two years I was in a deep dark pit. I couldn’t even stand up straight. My darkest time was this past winter and as we moved closer to spring I began emerging from that strange half-life as a moth drawn to the light. I can see clearly again. I can breathe again. I am able to absorb beauty that I thought was lost to me, and I can once again fall asleep with a smile on my face. I finally, at times, feel something close to that sweet wild joy of old. I am more calm. Almost as if I have faced one of my deepest fears and, having come through the other side, it has made me braver, stronger. There is peace. I am awake, and have found myself after being lost for so long. I am open, isolated no longer, and I can feel a true smile on my face coming from deep within.

The grief journey is such a strange, unworldly journey that we must navigate, desperately clinging to our Maker as we try and make it through to the other side. No one can fully understand the depths and complexities of grief until they journey through it themselves. As I’ve emerged the change in me is remarkable. For two years I have not been myself. There are newer friends in my life that I have wished could know the girl I used to be. I’ve been walking around euphoric experiencing life again … remembering what it is like to be me. I was dead, half in shadow, and my family only had scraps of me for a time.

Who’s to say what finally brought me back? It’s as if a perfect, elegant key was slipped into a lock. Some might say, ‘Well she was in physical pain and saw a chiropractor,’ or ‘Good for her, she finally started using essential oils!’ Was it the thousands of guttural prayers I breathed, so lacking in eloquence that all I could muster was ‘Help me, please, help me,’ or was it just the natural grief journey that mourners must take until they are able to stand and choose this world again? In the end, we who grieve must make a choice to be with the Living – with those we have left here.

Though I now have both my feet planted firmly and joyfully in the land of the living, the longing and loss remain. Sometimes I wear her perfume. The one that was released the year of my birth – her favorite. I wear it like a warm blanket, I spray it on and become wrapped in a soft embrace. Closing my eyes, I’m once again a little girl with my head buried in Mama’s skirt, her sweet, loving arms around me. I wear my bracelet with her handwriting etched on it, declaring the love she can no longer speak to me. I listen to the record she made long before I was born. Her beautiful voice brings her near to me, and I wait for the day our worlds unite.

7 Comments

  1. Mary
    Jul 18, 2017

    As a Counselor, I studied, grief and discovered that our culture doesn’t readily accept it. I hear people say, “how are they doing?
    Not good!”. I just think to myself, of course they are not doing well, they just lost a family member! How are they supposed to feel? We hurry through a ceremony so we can ‘move on’. We dishonor our feelings by not allowing them to happen. Then we put off what will come back later. All the old traditions are gone, even the flowers. I am so sorry for your loss but I see the honor you give to yourself and to your mother. The best news is that you will be reunited with her in Gods arms. 💙

  2. Cindi
    Jul 18, 2017

    Beautiful!

  3. Sylvia Bailey
    Jul 18, 2017

    Beautifully written! I have lived this for so many years, and I’ll never be 100% the person I was before my greatest loss of my precious son–there will always be a hole in my a heart; a hole in every family gathering; a hole in every family picture. But I choose to be in the “land of the living” because there are those who need me, and God still has work for me to do. You have come a long way in a short time. Enjoy your journey.

  4. Cynthia
    Jul 18, 2017

    Tears are rolling down my face! This is so beautifully written and comes from deep in your heart. Wonderful that you can express your feelings this way. You make us all feel your pain!

  5. Nancy Elizabeth
    Jul 20, 2017

    I loved this. Thanks for writing.

  6. Karen
    Jul 20, 2017

    Beautifully written. And so true.

  7. Waynette Harris
    Jul 20, 2017

    This is so beautifully written, Tina. I have loved your parents for a long time. She was a very special lady and I really miss her too. It’s wonderful that you are feeling better. You’re right that the world tries to hurry us through our grief. It’s mostly because they don’t know what to say and it makes them uncomfortable. It’s been almost18 years since we lost our son. None of us will ever be the same again but most of the time we are ok.

    God bless you and your family as you go through this life. Your mother was so incredibly proud of all of you. We love all of you!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *