Thursday, October 16, 2014
Loss: The Art of Feeling
As an art teacher and mentor, I am often asked to teach people how to 'see'. There are so many exercises that purport to teach this, but none of them are as intense or as deeply changing as experiencing life changes, and the shock that often accompanies those experiences. Today I went out to look for the dog. I saw the yard in a way I don't usually: It was moving. In our little pocket of the land, the wind doesn't flow straight through; it gets caught up in little eddies, and swoops around in a seemingly haphazard way. Today I saw the flow. As the wind left the rose and cauliflower plants, I could see it catch up in the aspen, and then the oak, beyond. I felt the temperature change as a gently warmer current swept over the porch I was standing on and shifted the remaining wisteria leaves, beside me. I could feel the dew evaporating into the damp air. I called the dog and felt the enormity of my voice as it traveled through that air. I saw the many many greens and browns of the autumn yard, decomposing and growing at the same time.
Autumn is generally a time of letting go, and it's a time of pulling up close to loved ones in preparation for the winter, in expectation of the spring, and in celebration that after all, we have each other. We love.
To deeply love, in my opinion, is to love through everything. And everything sure comes up when we experience loss! Maybe the state of shock - the push to carry on despite the tingling of feeling and numbness all around - is what helps us accept each other during this time. I remember the day, year ago, that my aunt called to tell me my grandmother had driven backwards off the ferry and drowned. She said, "Grootmoeder has died." "That's not true!", I snapped. And she calmly said "It is," as waves of comprehension and confusion came over me. Her understanding, calm, and acceptance of my reaction as she was navigating the aftermath of the death of her own mother may be testament to her great wisdom, but may also have been borne of a state of shock. Shock helps us see the relative insignificance of things that may have once seemed to matter more. The waves of shock helped me to recover, too, and I said, "I'm so sorry. I will phone Pappa."
In the days that follow the death of a loved one, there is communicating that needs to be done among family. This communication pushes us together, in a shared state of mind, so that even when we don't want to turn our faces to the sun, we are often compelled to accept the embrace of our family and community. It is our great privilege when life allows us time to be with our emotions, to open ourselves to those heightened perceptions and to the encircling of community, and just feel.
For those interested, I found this helpful list of bereavement emotions:
at 12:18 PM