Grief as Medicine...
Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Today (07/19/21) marks the 6th anniversary of my youngest daughter, Dyllan, going back home to the stars.
Grief has been an incredible companion and teacher for me for many years even prior to my daughter's passing. I have experienced the loss of many loved ones in this life. I suppose grief and I have a love/hate relationship of sorts.
The pain is intense, disorienting, lonely, hard to articulate how and why it feels that one of my limbs is missing from my body and there is a gaping hole in my heart that the wind is pouring through. The amount I grieve is the amount I love, and there is nothing like grief to crack me more open to the universe in order to get out of my own way, and focus on what is most important.
A little herstory...
My daughter, Dyllan, went into sudden heart failure at 3 months of age, went into the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Stanford for 9 months, received a heart transplant with a whole lot of complications, and made it home the day before her first birthday. She was on 24 different medications every 3 hours around the clock, and a 24 hour feeding tube going into her nose. We had walked through a raging storm, and I could not believe she was home, and was requiring a very high level of care.
There were many months I sat at her bedside while she was in the CVICU, holding her hand while she was hooked up to many different machines and medications and grieved the loss of her life that was now forever changed (if she did in fact live through this). I walked the fishbowl circular hallway of the CVICU watching the very sick children fight for life. It is REALLY hard to watch children suffer.
I made a vow to myself as I held my daughters hand through this nightmare, that some way some how I would make what I call “good medicine” out of this. I desperately needed to lean into this and not feel like a victim of it. How can this deepen my faith, trust, and courage? How do I put one foot in front of the other and keep going?
There were many moments I was told she would not make it through the night, and I felt very lucky to be able to watch her grow for 5 years on this earth.
The pain of her loss forced me into a relationship with grief that I did not want, and propelled me more deeply into making it "good medicine" for myself. Let me also be clear that this is an ongoing work in progress.
Grief is not a solo journey to be had as much as it may feel that way. In healing my own grief, I continue to look deeper into our culture and acknowledge how out of touch with, separated from, and deeply scared of death (and grief) most people are.
Francis Weller points out in his book the Wild Edge of Sorrow:
“Those of us who live in the West are conditioned to accept the notion of private pain. This cultural conditioning predisposes us to maintain a lock on our grief, shackling it in the smallest concealed place in our soul. In our isolation, we deprive ourselves of the very things that we require to stay emotionally vital: community, ritual, nature, compassion, reflection, beauty, and love. Private pain is a legacy of the creed of rugged individualism. In this narrow story, we find ourselves caught in the shadow of the heroic archetype, We are conditioned from birth by the image of the hero, the one who needs no one, the one who rises above his or her pain, the one who is always in control and never vulnerable. We are imprisoned by this image, forced into a fiction of false independence that severs our kinship with the earth, with sensuous reality, and with the myriad wonders of the world. This is a source of grief for many of us. (p.104-105).
There is much to say, study, and change with our relationship with grief in our current culture. Did Covid help this or separate us more and feed our fear of death? (Stay tuned for much more on this important topic right here.)
Making Grief "Good Medicine" is a daily walk, a daily embrace, and certainly some days are easier than others. A friend gave me the picture below and I'm not sure who created it, and I really like the visual perspective. I believe, "We grow around our grief" with the intention that it is something that strengthens me by cracking my heart wide open, and making me more available to creation.