Walking alongside T through his cancer treatment and finally his death was the most deeply devastating, heart shattering and painful experience of my life and the boys. And, it was the most precious, meaningful, experience as well. Life was simple in the sense that nothing else mattered but time with him. Moments of simply being. Soaking up each touch, breathe and sound with him. Death sat with us each day at our family table. Sitting in the reality of the fine line between life and death. It was oddly nourishing. Nourishing in the sense that it was real. Life was painfully beautifully real. Every other part of life was mundane and frivolous. Life had been simplified to the most precious truth-deep heart love connection, pure presence with each other and the breath of life.
The long journey through grief has brought me to depths of understanding I never knew possible. I honestly wonder if I would have ever experienced those depths of understanding if T were still here today. That is a painful contemplation that often lingers in my thoughts. Here is the irony-the deep carving away of myself that has happened with this journey through grief is also revealing some of the most profound truths of myself. I am no longer who I was. I couldn’t be AND survive to this point. I am stronger than I ever imagined. I have to be. I choose to be.
Picking Up The Pieces of Grief
Having been shattered to pieces, it is a daily practice to pick up those pieces and learn which ones still fit and which ones no longer belong. One of those pieces I’ve decided to pick up and add is a recent trip to Belize with my two boys. You see, we’ve walked through our own fire of hell together. It’s been three years since T died. Not that time is any indicator of our grief journey but somehow we wear it as a badge of survival.
We decided to take an adventure with my oldest son’s school to Belize on a service mission trip with a local company here in Boise, Global Service Partnerships. Despite the little voice of fear, a deep longing for adventure drove us to remain committed to the trip. Something within us was waiting to wake up...
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.”
There is something unique that happens when we travel. All of our senses are re-calibrated to a previously unknown frequency. Reality is shifted. The mind and heart have opportunities to expand. We travel to another country, town, or culture- so obviously very different than our day to day routine. For us, the day to day routine filled with the painful patterns of life without T.
Stuck in the Waiting Room
Not until we spent the week in Belize did I realize that we were stuck in the “between” world…..the “waiting room”. We were waiting for life to happen. It really is too frightening to think of living a “good” life without him. I was scared. If I lived a good life…did that mean I was forgetting him? If I laughed and my children blossomed, did that mean our hearts were okay with him not being here? What would it mean if we flourished and created goodness in our lives…without him?
It seems every day, we are walking the same steps over and over again to try and “remake” the life we lost. I started to make me feel like I was going crazy. We kept trying to make sense of how to live without him here. It is so painful to wake up each day and try over and over again. The harsh reality of death is that part of our life is no longer real. For us- a very big part of our life was missing. The life we left behind with him will never be. The thought of living a beautiful life without him...nope...not happening. It was too painful to think that way.
Grief is the queen, king, prince and princess of losing our passion for life. We can become isolated in grief. We can become stuck in a rut of despair and hopelessness.
Grief and loss had taken over our entire existence. We had lost our spark for life. We had forgotten that we can still ADD to our lives. Despite the deep loss, now more than ever we had the capacity to expand our awareness of life and open our hearts to the FULL human experience...again.
Belize opened the door to another possibility.
As we stepped off the plane, our skin soaked the humidity. Our eyes devoured the new landscape and the adventure into a foreign world began. We were now experiencing life by living our own adventure with a new sense of curiosity. We were making a new story. A new story with the three of us. We were excited and nothing could wipe the grins off our faces. It had been a long time.
Traveling to Belize completely cracked all three of us open. Our hearts touched by the beauty and our minds were able to imagine new pathways. Pathways that did not involve trying to “remake” a life that no longer was. Pathways that lit up with new potential...new dreams. We found ourselves snorkeling with nurse sharks, making new friends at St. Matthews school, exploring Mayan ruins, climbing through caves, picking oranges from the trees, eating fresh local seafood, holding iguanas and swimming in the stunning Caribbean Ocean! It was so exciting.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” — Marcel Proust
This trip gave us fresh eyes to see beyond what we previously thought to be our ONLY reality. It gave us the chance to see with fresh eyes, a sense of wonder and exploring minds. This was our launch pad into creating new life.
Amazing, spark igniting, childlike excitement and passion for life was waking up within each of our hearts. We were experiencing and seeing life through different lenses. Lenses that feasted upon the sweet simplicity of life; heart to heart human connection, playing on and around our precious earth, and being present in the moment. Most importantly, I began to answer all my questions of what had become fear driven grief:
I can laugh again and still miss him,
The boys can do exciting things and will NEVER forget their father,
We can flourish and continue to speak his name while living a life without him,
We can take risks, grow, love and fall down again and again and again AND build our amazing resilience muscle-we have been through our worst fear and our courage to stand up is strong,
We will begin to dream again…AND we will never stop loving him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR-----------
As a Licensed Health Educator WHE® and Life Reentry Practitioner®, Marni facilitates the overall health–mind, body, spirit–of her clients as they navigate their own health conditions or beginning to pick up the pieces after losing a loved one. Since the death of her husband, she has navigated the world of grief riding the wave of highs and lows, eventually choosing to bring forward all the wisdom and recreate herself in a life with renewed, joyful purpose. Writing has been one of the many tools she has used to explore her journey through grief. Find out more about her coaching and “life after loss” retreats at www.coalescediscovery.com.
Marni Henderson 2018