Saturday, January 05, 2008

"Grief Calls Us to Open Our Hearts in Hell" - Stephen Levine

The above quote is from Unattended Sorrow which is probably my favorite book on grief. Stephen Levine and his wife have been working with grieving people since the 70s. And he knows what he's talking about. No bullshit as that quote shows. In fact, opening my heart in hell has been the only way of making my way in grief. I've tried other ways - like getting drunk and staying that way, going to bed and pulling the covers over my head, getting furious at the world and life and acting out accordingly. None of them work. They only made things and me a whole lot worse.

Levine says, "The inclination to disown our pain degrades us and turns our pain into suffering. Approaching the pain with mercy and awareness, we are called to open our hearts to it." This is unbelievably hard to do. The program has taught me to have mercy on myself for my flaws - even for my unwillingness to bear the pain of grief. It seems to me, though, that the pain of grief is equal to the love I had for the person who died; so the greater the love, the more impossible it is to escape the pain. What else is there to do really, except try to open my heart to it?

"...all that we love will someday turn to dust. But the love will remain. A love that calls us even now to attend more fully as much to the sorrow remaining from a departed loved one as to the unloved parts of ourselves." Quote from Levine again. I'm glad I knew this when Ron died. For awhile my love for the others in my life was what was mostly in my awareness - overshadowing his loss. And I still loved myself as I have since having worked the steps enough times to learn who I really am - with all my flaws - because I know I am God's beloved child. The odd thing was that I lost my conscious contact with God for awhile. I wasn't mad at God. I wasn't questioning the justice of Ron's death and my injuries. I just had no energy to even think about conscious contact. I felt quite lost but still knew God was present even though I couldn't feel it. I felt much like a woman quoted in Unattended Sorrow: "I'm feeling a little better. But to tell the truth, I would rather be with Robert (her husband who died) than with God."

I still feel a little bit that way sometimes. But wherever Ron is, I'm sure he's with God. So, God and Ron are kind of mixed up with each other. When I'm talking to God, I'm talking to Ron. When I'm talking to Ron, I'm talking to God. They are surely in touch with each other and in the same place. There's some resolution in that.

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