This past week or so I have been feeling very melancholy.
This grief thing is a very difficult business. Will we ever get the hang of it? Will it forever be a process we can never escape? Will we always be struggling to slog our way through? The ever-changing game of it all is simply, some days, exhausting. I often feel as if death will be ever lurking; a grim reaper constantly whispering some dark, unintelligible secrets just out of my line of sight like the droning of a wily, invisible mosquito circling my head.
Even my new guy expressed concern over my ebbing melancholia. I think this most recent wave started when my uncle died a couple of weeks ago. He was 90 and had a good life, but it still seemed to represent the end of an era, on that side of the family - and the news of the failing health of a few others there left me feeling sad. Then a few days later my new guy’s aunt died. She was 94 - but the women on that side of his family share some kind of longevity gene (he knew his great-grandmother, who lived to be 99), and when I met her last summer in Wales, I was tickled by the firecracker of a personality she was, still, and I was really hoping to chat with her again this year. But she was unexpectedly taken by pneumonia.
I know I’d only met her once and my new guy and I were really still very new, but for whatever reason that news sent me reeling on top of everything else. I guess the dominoes just came tumbling down after that, and I’ve had a hard time picking myself up because too many friends and family are facing scary health issues these days. Is this just another sucky part about getting older?
I’ve talked to quite a few widowed friends this week about how our husbands’ deaths have made us so much more aware of death’s cold hand - and how that sensitivity may never go away. How our own aging and the fragility of life is such an intimate knowledge now - one we never asked for, but will forever be stuck in our psyche. The grim reaper repercussions, as a widowed friend of mine, Deb, put it so well.
Is there any way to shine a light on this bleak landscape?
Another friend of mine who has cancer is battling hard. She is a real git’erdone kinda gal and the complications in her case have been really frustrating - and terrifying. But she told me recently she finally realized that maybe she was just rushing it. That maybe, she had something to learn from what she was going through. That maybe, the experience of walking through the pain was part of her own personal transformation, and that realization was freeing her to seek out new avenues of healing and deeper investigation of her own self.
Wow. What a powerful and strong way to view it. And it really flowed into my own personal demons I seem to be facing. Can I use the nearness of sickness and death to absorb any wisdom? Could being widowed somehow lead to a deeper experience of myself and appreciation of this world while I’m here? Can I turn my scars into stars?
Can we ever really let go of the things that are weighing us down? Or - can we transform them? My widowed friend Karin recently expressed my same frustration at the question - yes but how do we actually let go?? She then said she learned one practice, which was to write the things down and then rip up the paper. Yes - I’d heard something similar, to write things down and then burn it as a symbol of letting go. It’s a helpful practice, but perhaps not a magic bullet, we decided.
Maybe this kind of transformation does have to come from within. Or maybe, from a deeper Source, if you happen to believe in that stuff at all: when we first had our school here in Kona all those years ago, Mike set up a “God Can”, where we wrote down things we asked the Universe to take care of for us so we could be freed from the stress and worry. An act of faith, so to speak, the idea being that God can do all things. I even still have that same can, with everyone’s little requests still inside. Mike used to like to say, Let Go, Let God. It seemed so easy then, with him around.
It’s something I’m going to try and be conscious of. Because as another widowed friend commented wryly a few days ago: yup, better let ‘em go, because otherwise they’re just gonna get ripped out of our freakin’ hands.