A few weeks ago while I was in Virginia, I got to do something I've been wanting to do ever since Drew died. There is a spiritual center in Virginia Beach called A.R.E. - full of studies and books about spirituality and just about every topic imaginable related to death and afterlife. They also have a labyrinth on the grounds outside. Which is what I was most excited about.
It's not the sort made of hedges or stone walls. It's not a maze you have to figure out. This is a flat path with only one way in and out. The intention is that winding your way into the center slowly brings your focus to the center of yourself. You walk inward, bringing with you all the distractions, insecurities, fears, etc of the outside world... slowly letting them all fall away as you make your way toward the center. Once you reach the center, you may sit there a while to be with the deepest part of yourself – without the distractions of everything else. And then you begin your return journey outward, back to the world, and bring with you the calm and any lessons you found at the center so that you may carry them back into your life.
As I walked, I couldn't help but think of just how perfectly this walk mirrored my walk through grief these past three years...
There is only one way to get to a different place with grief – and that is to walk through it. The first year for me was about walking inward... walking through all the pain and fear and agony and triggers that lie deep within myself. Walking deeper and deeper until I could find that center of calm within me. And doing this over and over and over again. It was never easy to strap on my boots and do that inner walk. Some days, the only way it happened was to cry endless tears until I exhausted myself into a heap of half-asleep calm. Or to scream at the top of my lungs until there was barely a breath left in me. As I look back, I am realizing, all of these were forms of walking within. All of them were ways of walking through the emotions to get to the calm at the center of my heart.
The second year it seems the focus shifted, and I was spending much more time at the center of myself – in that calm, mindful space. A lot of the initial shock of his death had worn off by then, and I had done a lot of very deep grieving for a year already, and so coming to the center began to be easier I think.
This year feels different still. It feels like I am walking back out again... and bringing with me all the wisdom and gifts of new perspective that the inward journey has given me. All the things I have learned about coping and healing and feeling through the grief. Lessons I know that I'm supposed to take out into the world with me as I begin to re-enter it.
In the end, I think this is the most important lesson these three long and painful and terrifying years have taught me: My reason for having to endure the death of my fiance is so that I can better understand the pain of others, and so that I can bring whatever tools I have acquired to help them. I think that may just be the point of all this – for us to learn how to help each other better. It doesn't take away the pain or the empty space in my heart for him, but it does give me something I can DO with it that matters and honors him daily... which, in a way, keeps him always alive.