The bright, blue sky surrounded the scene, it filled the moment with light.

I looked up to see the somber funeral men, leading each of us past the casket.

One gave me the carnation from his jacket, as I stood before the big, dark casket

where my father’s body lay hidden. I was eleven. How could I look at the sky,

when I couldn’t take my eyes off his cradle of death?

This moment held me captive for over forty years. My heart had been trapped in the Land of Loss, searching for a way out. Other details in my narrative complicated my search: the experience of abandonment after my mother’s paralyzing car accident nine years earlier, her remarrying three months after my father’s death, and her sudden death when I was twenty-five.

A lifetime of loss wrapped around my early life would shape how I viewed the world, how I viewed myself. My search became a way of life and led me here. Today, I look at the blue sky and experience its invitation of freedom. Today I soar, like the birds above me, the sunlight lifting me up and sending me forth.

The Land of Loss co-exists with the urban lands or neighborhoods or forested lands that we live on in our daily lives. When loss enters our emotional world, we may continue to breathe, go to work or even fall in love, we may do all the things that this day-to-day life requires. But part of us, our hearts or minds or living memories that call out for healing, lives alongside in a land of Yearning, wanders through a Forest of Anguish or sits before a Well of Sadness.

The Land of Loss is as real as anything we might touch on this earth, yet we find ourselves doubting its validity. We feel guilty because we are unable to “move on.”  We seek the joy of life but keep returning to the despair.

There is no easy solution, as all grievers learn. But there is hope. Beyond the Cliffs of Uncertainty, where we each practice our unique process of letting go, lies the Fountain of Hope. It’s healing droplets have cooled our pain throughout the journey of grief. Hope lives when one person actually listens to our heart’s song; when we light a candle and enter our sadness; when we pronounce our loved one’s name, out loud, here in the land of the living.

Grief teaches us to keep going, feel our feelings and trust hope’s call to healing. With time and grace, we discover our loved one is with us, still, in the Land of Hope, where the sky is bright blue and the light fills our hearts.

Lisa Irish

Lisa Irish, MEd, MA, BCC incorporates her experience in chaplaincy, spiritual direction and her own journey to guide the way in the Land of Loss. As former bereavement coordinator for Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Hospital of St Raphael, she ministered to individuals, groups and community organizations. Of her book, Grieving – the Sacred Art: Hope in the Land of the Loss, Fr. Richard Rohr says….”the roadmap is wise, but sensitive – grounded in hope – and reminds us to rest in God’s healing love.” Lisa shares her understanding of grief, healing and hope through rich retreat programs and in regular messages found at "Grieving with a Grateful Heart," Abbey Press. "Finding Healing in Times of Grief and Loss" (contributing author) Abbey Press "Grief - the Sacred Art," Skylight Paths Publishing in 2018.

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