Lately, I have begun to revisit previous articles and blogs that I have authored. Perhaps as I grow older, I value nostalgia more, or perhaps it is the value I place on the past as a teacher. Regardless, I always discover new insights when I revisit previous writings.
The majority of the content of the article that follows was originally published by Hello Grief in November of 2013. I have eliminated or changed some words here because the terminology I used then to describe my path doesn’t apply to me in this moment. I believe that as we evolve after loss, how we conceptualize our experience evolves as well.
This piece alludes to my belief that we must dance with the darkness of our grief to discover the light that is a prelude to hope and transformation from loss. I also discussed the role that nature can play in facilitating this process.. When I revisited this piece again, I was struck by the role that alchemy played and has continued to play in helping me learn to live again in its aftermath of catastrophic loss.
A google search revealed this definition of alchemy: a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.
For me, darkness and light, two polar opposite phenomena or, the yin and the yang worked together to help me create a new reality without the physical presence of my daughter , allowed me to embrace a peaceful perspective, and find meaning again.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.” – Author Unknown
As a parent who has experienced the death of a child, there were many days that I found myself in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t need to leave my house to find the middle of nowhere.
My life was characterized by profound darkness in the early phase of my grief, following my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine’s death in March of 2003. I eventually discovered that if you sit with darkness long enough, some light emerges amidst that darkness. Once we begin to see light, hope for a present and future without the physical presence of our children begins to take shape.
Stittville Travels and Lessons Learned
There are still days when darkness seems to find me. I have accepted these intermittent returns to the land of nowhere as an inevitable part of our transformative paths following the death of our children. I have also given thanks to the teachings darkness has revealed to me.
Recently, I went to church services at The Stittville United Methodist Church. Stittville is a little hamlet in Upstate New York located about eight miles from my home. Our Compassionate Friends chapter meets monthly at the church .
Many people in our area believe that Stittville is located in the middle of nowhere, because it is such a small , rural town. However, I would like to think that many of our families are beginning to find themselves … in the middle of nowhere.
After church services I drove home and because of the little traffic that I encountered, I began to survey the scenery. Here is what I discovered:
- Though it was a dark, overcast day, there were definite discernible, brilliant patches of brightness. In early grief, it is a challenge to see any ray of hope amidst the profound sadness and pain that we experience. For me, it was my ability to see the light in darkness that helped me begin the process of redefining myself.
- Fall in Upstate New York, means that leaves on the trees change colors. There was a colorful array of red, orange and golden brown leaves that caught my eye. Ted Andrews, a brilliant Native American Teacher, alludes to the positive qualities of colors in his book, Animal Speaks. Here is what I discovered:
Certainly as a result of the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death, I developed and nurtured many of these qualities during my journey. The messages I received from nature that day seemed to validate the path that I have chosen to take. How we interpret what we see in nature is always a product of our unique experiences and to what is transpiring with us in the present.
In the quiet of nowhere, we learn to trust our intuition and inner voice. In the middle of nowhere, the process of transformation begins. The process of transformation is unique to the individual. I have discovered invaluable teachings by witnessing without judgment, the transformative journeys of others affected by loss.
Dealing With Darkness
In the 11th year of my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child, I still experience dark moments and days, but I have no desire to let darkness consume me like it did in early grief. I strive to discover meaning in darkness; teachings that can enrich my journey.
I also believe that I have developed more spiritual awareness in the last few years of my journey. I have felt empowered by my willingness to look for and embrace the connectivity and synchronicities in my life. I have also come to understand that there is reasons beyond the obvious that contribute to the paths our journeys take.
Acknowledging My Humanness
Spiritual awareness hasn’t made me less immune to the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death. Embracing awareness has allowed me to learn from my humanness. Acknowledging our limitations without judgment and stating our intent to address or manage them over time is a sign of spiritual growth. The absence of self-judgment translates to the presence of self-love and the hope that in the middle of nowhere, we can find ourselves.