Monday, September 21, 2009

Letting Go

To live in this world
You must be able
To do three things:
To love what is mortal,
To hold it
Against your bones knowing
Your own life depends on it,
And when the time comes to let it go
To let it go.
From "In Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver

Soon after my husband’s death I took the first steps toward letting go. At the suggestion of a friend, I joined a grief group. In fact, I joined two.

The first was a disaster. I took an instant dislike to the facilitator, who began by informing us in a rather smug voice that she’d never experienced a loss. She appeared to be in her late forties. Wow, I thought, haven’t you ever lost a pet? A favorite teacher? A best friend? Was there ever a relationship in your life that failed? Losing a spouse or close family member is the greatest grief, but come on, lady. No grief at all? My annoyance increased when she answered the one question I asked with a shrug. I wanted to march out the door, but I stuck it out until the end of the session. Needless to say, I never went back.

The second group, led by a hospital chaplain, was completely different. Members of the group had suffered varied losses—a runaway son who was found dead, a beloved parent, a life partner. Several of us had lost spouses.

As we talked about our losses and the ways we were coping, the group leader surprised me by saying, “How lucky all of you were to have loved someone enough to grieve their loss.” That statement turned grief on its head for me. Yes, I was sad, but Ralph and I had loved one another deeply, had shared so much, had made memories for me to cherish. Those words became my comfort during the darkest days. I hope you find them helpful, too.

Have you attended grief groups? Were they helpful? Let's talk about them.

See you in seven.



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