I wear the black shroud of my dead, walk through dark canyons littered with bones. Sorrowful, beautiful death lives here. Silence is my companion because you are gone.
A friend who works with the grieving loves the Latin of this phrase so much (abyssus abyssum invocate), that she had it tattooed on her arm. I understand why. We both speak Grief. Megan says it’s an “invitation and statement of purpose.”
The phrase comes from Psalm 42:7, and the image is of desperately longing for someone. Of being battered by a tempest of wind and water. Of being lost. Sinking. The believer wants to be reunited with God and wants to feel assurance during this time of distress will end. Yet there is despair, not knowing how this could ever happen. For people who are grieving, they also want to communicate with their dead. They call out and listen in their hearts for a response. Deep calls to deep.
When two people who are grieving get together, we do not have to explain ourselves to each other. We understand the land where the other one lives. We open ourselves and share the depths of our sorrow. We speak honestly, without pretense. We speak from our brokenness, from the silent place within us, as we try to help each other. Deep understands deep.
When those who work with the grieving talk to each other, there is the fertility of shared hearts. We exchange insights, and exchange words and wisdom learned from the hard experiences. In order to help others, we often return to our own experiences of grief and become vulnerable to being shattered again by our past trauma, yet we take this risk. Deep shares deep.
What this phrase says, for grievers and believers, is that when we have lost our beloved, we need the companionship of others who understand the depths of sorrow. We need to know that we are not alone in a world that has been ripped apart. We need to feel that there is still hope beyond the destruction we see.
When death comes, we retreat from the brightness of day and dwell in the darkness of night. We dwell in the shadows of our hearts, and are surrounded by emotions that surge and swirl around us. Here we wail in anguish and despair. Here we gather from the ground the pieces of hope we have left. And here, in this deep place in our souls, we discover the iron strength that has been fused to our core.
O dark Mother, lead me inward, down to the cave of my heart.