Guest Blog: The Path of Grief
Please meet my colleague, Nicki Temple of the UK. Nicky trained as a Spiritual Director at the renowned Sustainable Faith School of Spiritual Direction in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
“My grief is raw today. I live with it every day, but somedays I feel it more deeply and acutely than others. Today is one of those days. Today I feel the loss in the very marrow of my being. I grieve many things, as I think perhaps we all do when we reach a certain age and the path behind us is littered with regrets, disappointments, losses and mistakes. Loss just happens as we journey through life, there’s no avoiding it as much as we might try to protect ourselves from it. Losses leave gaping holes that are open wide with invitation to walk along the up, down, agonising, bitter, sweet, glorious path of grief.
As night inevitably follows day, when we give our hearts to something or someone in love, grief begins to entwine itself within us. Grief is love’s cruel mistress. Whether it be grief for lost loves or friendships, for the things that never were, for lost hopes, dreams and opportunities, for the state of the earth or the way we as humans can treat each other. Grief has many faces, but even allowing for our unique and varied personal experiences, grief also has many similarities and defining characteristics.
As a Spiritual Companion, I regularly walk with people who are grieving losses. It’s an honour to accompany people on this journey, to be witness to this walk of suffering. More than this, in the sharing of that grief as I accompany people, or as you read these words and my grief reaches out to yours, grief has the capacity to see and reveal the depths of the heart and to embrace those it touches. For we are united in our grief as humans, it is a condition that, sooner or later, effects us all. It is part of being human and it shapes us, transforming us for better or worse.
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus says: ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’
When you find yourself in a place of grief it’s difficult to see it as a blessing; it can be difficult to experience comfort, and yet there is something on offer in this place, something beyond ourselves, something true and real – if we want it.
In her book The Wisdom Jesus, Cynthia Bourgeault gives eloquence to this ‘something’…
When we mourn (and we’re talking about true mourning here, not complaining or self-pity) we are in a state of freefall, our heart reaching out toward what we have seemingly lost but cannot help loving anyway… Mourning is indeed a brutal form of emptiness. But in this emptiness, if we can remain open, we discover that a mysterious “something” does indeed reach back to comfort us; the tendrils of our grief trailing out into the unknown become intertwined in a greater love that holds all things together. To mourn is to touch directly the substance of divine compassion.
Our grief connects us to the heart and substance of God, of Holy Spirit, of Jesus. Our grief reaches out from us and touches the compassion of the Trinity, their love responds and wraps itself in and through us as a way to offer comfort. We are held together, sustained by this remarkable love. What a gift this grief contains even when we are unaware, when all feels empty, dark and alone. What a gift to touch directly the substance of divine compassion.
The journey through grief can take everything we have just to survive it. We hold on for dear life to what can feel like a vast hollow space that echoes with emptiness. Days and weeks can roll through us as we cling to life, and yet within the pain, there is hope as compassion reaches back from the very centre of God to hold us. We are not alone. We are not unaccompanied. We are seen and in time we are able to connect with the comfort that has been ours all along.
There is no formula here, no ABC of surviving grief or managing the pain, grief has movement, it is a tornado changing direction and leading us through a myriad of often overwhelming emotions. There is no quick way to grieve either, even if we try and drown its presence it will remain bubbling not too far below. Grief finds its way like the river to the sea, and if we can go with it and be carried by its momentum we will know healing, we will learn to accept it and receive all that it offers. For grief offers something if we want it. It’s a painful offering and yet to be directly connected in our suffering to Divine Compassion is a priceless gift.
Today I pray for you in your grief, I pray that you will have the grace to surrender and let the river carry you where you need to go even when you don’t know where that is. I pray that comfort and compassion will be your companions on this road and that you will know the presence of others who share this path. I pray too that as you reach out in your suffering to others, you will know joy in your tears, laughter in your mourning. To love, to hope or to dream can cost us greatly, but there is One who understands the cost and reaches back with compassion to meet us as we mourn.
I accompany those who mourn in my work as a Spiritual Director. Please message me if you’d like me to do that with you.”
Grief.Com. Resources about grief, no matter what you are grieving from.
Sage-ing International. Resources related to grieving in later life.