This post is not a planned post, not one that I was thinking about writing. The post was a sudden surprise; waking up in the morning and just starting to write.
I had been contemplating the Stations of the Cross by Giotto from the 14th Century in preparation for Inner Easter. Giotto is known for being the first to paint emotional portraiture and his “Lamentation” is heartbreaking. I was also wondering what I might offer as a Holy Imagination of the Annunciation (March 25). And recently I have had conversations and emails with two mothers who have lost an adult child and grieve deeply.
In this message, my heart resonates with these mothers, Giotto’s Lamentation, and the imagination of the Annunciation and the Blessed Womb.
Whether or not you know the mother’s sorrow for yourself, I know you will know someone who lives with this feeling. Share this post with her.
Here are the thoughts on the grief of mothers that came to me…
To suffer means to “bear sorrow.”
To grieve means to “bear the grave sorrow of the death of another or the death of something that meant life and purpose to you.” When you lose your child, you also lose the the part of you whose purpose was to be that child’s mother in life and in so many active ways. How do you mother a dead child?
Imagine the grieving womb, designed to bear life now flooded with the destiny of death. My thoughts here are for all the mother’s who have lost a child of any age. I was conceived in a grieving womb as two years earlier my mother had given birth to a baby girl who only lived for 20 minutes and who she never held in her arms. I have counseled mothers bearing the grief of miscarriage, the grief of not being able to conceive, the grief of stillbirth, and the grief of abortion; those mothers who do not have the comfort of memories and stories about their child.
What are the 4 Ways We Grieve?
There is the grief of the senses: to only perceive via memories the voice, the touch, the way of walking, etc. To keep painting and repainting the portrait of remembered sense impressions, to see them with inner eyes, to hear them with inner ears, to touch them with inner fingers. Wondering do they still see us from wherever they are?
There is the grief of the soul: to not experience the new thoughts, feelings and deeds of the developing and who engaged and influenced your thoughts, feelings and deeds. How can one live without their questions, observations, experiences. And the working with the challenge of the grieving soul’s questions of destiny, fulfillment, karma, and incompletion. Can a life be too short?
There is the grief of rebalancing the sense of self and the sense of future…of finding an upright center that responds to the addition of the weight of sorrow and the sudden absence of the weight of the child’s presence. Rebalancing now that there are only memories and past; the future does not promise new memories.
There is the grief of learning how to include the “self as grieving mother” in your self-awareness. How to wear the veil of sorrow in such a way that the sun can still shine on you for here-and-there moments. It is learning how to stay afloat as waves of shocking, bitter, and sweet emotions sweep over you, sometimes coming straight on, other times swelling up from behind.
What are the 8 Comforts?
There is the comfort of all the stories of your child’s life. Let them warm your heart when grief brings a chill. The ascent from feeling the freeze in your bones, in your whole body, to feeling a weeping thaw, and all the subtle stages leading up to a surprising warmth in your heart. An extra beating in your heart that tells you your child is alive in you. And there is the stages from not smiling at the memories to that first gentle smile, the twinkling in your eyes, a sudden little giggle and then the laugh and delight that the memories have come alive with a new power and suffering can step aside for joy’s appearance.
There is the comfort of nature with the profound cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth. At first, just let the sun, its light and its warmth, remind you of the gift of the light and warmth of of your child. But also let the sun remind you that you will rise from the darkness of grief and peek out from behind the clouds of sorrow.
There is the comfort of prayer and meditation.
There is the comfort of journaling & artistic expression: drawing, painting, collaging to express your grieving emotions.
There is the comfort of movement from the simple rhythm of walking to full expressive dance…let your whole body express your grief.
There is the comfort of sacred conversation with yourself, with your family and friends, with a spiritual mentor. When you choose to have a conversation, choose wisely. You want someone who can witness grief without trying to fix it or make it go away because they are in a right relationship to death and grief. With this kind of loving witness you will not feel quite so alone in the solitude of your grief.
Eventually, there is the comfort of your conversations with your child’s spirit. I have a friend in Australia, who lost her son when he was in his twenties. She gives talks and writes about Mother’s joy and how spiritually she maintains an active communion with her son though he is now across the Threshold of death. Maybe her experience is the transcendent stage of the suffering mother
There is the comfort of knowing there is no clock timing your process. You can take all the time you need. And the grief of the senses, the grief of the soul, and the grief of rebalancing, each has their own timing, rhythm and resolve.
Please share this message with others. Please share your experiences and thoughts on the Mother’s sorrow or the many experiences you have had with grieving any loss.
With much love and tenderness,
Tomorrow 3/20/15 will be 8 years since I lost my 22 yr old daughter to suicide. She was a beautiful, vibrant, loving individual that experienced so many hurts and disappointments at the hands of other people, especially the men in her life (biological father, husband/ex, boyfriend) that she slowly fell into a deep depression that she hid from so many.
The pain has lessened over time but the grief is still strong (on some days). At first I was extremely angry, then just lost, heart broken and in constant pain. I felt like a failure as a mother and her friend. I felt that my heart would truly tear into pieces, the pains were so intense that I feared a heart attack. I went through the stages of grief and repeated some also, there were days that I could barely breath without pain. At first I asked “How could God take her from me?” Over time I came to realize that no one TOOK her, she made the decision herself. Although I still cannot fathom how one can feel so distraught that they can see no light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been through some distressing things (that being the worst) but I still cannot see suicide as the answer.
A person MUST give themselves time, and it is very different for everyone, to heal, to rebalance, to grieve, to forgive, and forgive you must, to truly heal.
Although my heart is still heavy and questioning, I have the one promise that God gave me on the morning of her funeral. He gave me the gift of the vision (and what a BEAUTIFUL gift is is) of her laying in his arms, sleeping peacefully. No more pain, no more sorrow and no one will ever hurt her again. Best of all, I know that when I enter into his kingdom, I will be seeing her again and the child she lost in her womb, at her husband’s hands.
Yes, my grief is still lingering but the promise of tomorrow (the first day of Spring & Heaven) is the bright shinning gift that God offers to all of us who believe on his name. Who can be sorrowed by that?
Thank you for this lovely column on a mother’s grief. I forwarded it on to my niece-in-law and nephew and their mothers, people I love and have been through a very challenging 17 months of caring for little Xavier, their son and grandson, who died last week at age 17 months. Xavier is the first child of this couple who married 3 years ago and the first grandchild. He was born with a fatal genetic disorder called Gaucher’s Disease Type 2. Babies with this diagnosis die before they reach 2 years. Xavier was hospitalized for 14 months with his parents barely leaving his side. I pray that your thoughts will aid them – and her in particular – as they walk through this grief-filled time together.
Lynn – Thank you for sharing this! I have been feeling such aloneness and pain lately since my family has abandoned me in my intense grief. My son, Morgan, died at age 26 of metastatic melanoma on Decemer 20, 2013 and I just passed what would have been his 28th Birth-day on March 11. These were comforting words and have given me some new tools to deal with my grief. I have done a lot of them, especially reading to him and doing art with him across the threshold – he has taught me a lot! I will be forwarding this to my local chapter of Compassionate Friends (a grief organization for parents who have lost a child at any age). I hope it will help others, too.
For Amber Rose Harrington ( nicnamed Cricket ) Memorial, Tracey Harrington, January 2015
Parker Palmer, teacher, author of A Hidden Wholeness and elder, recently said that in the end he will ask the question,“Was I faithful to my gifts and to the ways that my gifts can meet the needs around me?”
Amber’s last email exchange with me was in response to my sharing the meaning of the word NABAJYOTISAIKIA in South African,” I respect you, I cherish you. You matter to me, and in response the community says…”I exist for you”.
Amber (Cricket) said,
“That’s really beautiful. I have been thinking lately about different types of love…how everything is so compartmentalized here in the West. There is “brotherly love,” “romantic love,” “unconditional love,” “sexual love,” and the list goes on…It seems, first and foremost, people must practice unconditional love for our fellow humans, practice seeing everyone as a beautiful being worthy of love and acknowledgement. That seems like the first and most basic love.”
I am in awe at the courage of Amber Cricket’s life tremendous spirit and gifts. In 23 years, Amber lived what most of us take 70 or 80 years to find. Cricket taught me how to respond to the needs around people without any hesitation, sensing what is called on in the moment to serve the deepest need of an encounter and being fearless in this way, beyond convention and mores. Amber (Cricket) called our ultimate reality, Source and pondered how we return there and how we live on after passing. Amber Cricket once said, “one of the mysteries is that we live on in others”, through an unconditional bond.
This is echoed in the Song of Songs, “Set me as a seal on your heart…For love is stronger than death, stronger than fire. No water can quench love and no river can wash it away.
Amber Cricket envisioned bringing together the healing and expressive arts to create ritual and community support for teens with bipolar. We will bring Crickets work forward through establishing a foundation, The Amber Rose Harrington (Cricket Foundation). Funds will go to continue this work and to PAT in Prescott, working to establish safe conditions and bike paths for cyclists and alternative transportation. http://www.gofundme.com/khmlxo?fb_action_ids=10206161938075378 &fb_action_types=og.shares&fb_ref=fb_cr_n
“Once more I am the silent one who came out of the distance wrapped in cold rain and bells, I owe to the earth’s pure death the will to sprout”…I owe to the earth’s pure death the will to sprout. ~Pablo Naruda