Five full moons have passed since I took Storm to the mountain, and as I prepare to visit her again tomorrow another one is rising. More than half the year gone already, and so much of it spent opening to the grief that was lying in wait for me when I left her. Not just from our separation, but from all that our previous togetherness had so lovingly protected me from. I hear this next moon is known as The Moon When All Things Ripen. And surely the ripening of our grief is when we finally begin to understand its gifts of initiation.
With each moon that has passed I have wanted to write this chapter, but something else kept telling me to lie fallow for a while, to lie face down in the ashes as my ancestors said of the grieving time. With each month I have looked up again at the boldest moon as it passed over, waiting quietly to be given some sense of direction and clarity. And each time it has reminded me that grief is the mirror that, when we dare to look into it, will show us the depth and breadth of our capacity to love.
When I was a child I only felt love when I was giving it. Told early on I wasn’t wanted, I never felt much love coming in from the outside. I remember viscerally, as the body remembers, that the only time I felt love was as it was leaving my own heart on its way toward another. So many years learning how to love all the lost parts of myself. So many more learning how to let it in from the world. Now I am learning to lift up my sorrow like a sacrament so that others might learn to hold their grief as sacred too.
Eighteen full moons since I walked away from a man I still love but didn’t know how to feel safe with. Twelve since the moon released its monthly grip on my body, leaving a tiny empty nest forever inside my womb. Six full moons since I walked away from my beloved Storm so that she could live somewhere safe and wild and free. Three since I discovered that two of my dear friends are dying. ‘Everything we love we will lose,’ says Francis Weller, and the deeper the love, the deeper the sense of loss.
Grief has a way of bringing up all that remains unresolved for healing, like a wave that brings flotsam and jetsam to the shore. And so it is that my sorrow is inextricably entangled with the sorrows of the world, with its rolling news of economic disparity, social injustice, and environmental devastation. We are living in a time of unimaginable horrors and impossible tasks. It is hard to know at times which way to turn to be of use. Another reason to lie quietly in the ashes for a while and look to the moon for direction. If only so that we do not turn on each other as this great ship we are sailing on continues to let in water.
What would you do if I told you that at times I feel irredeemably broken? That sometimes it feels too hard to summon the energy to lift myself up to meet another day. Would you analyze me? Advise me? Try to fix me? Or would you move in a little closer, and listen, and offer a soft place for me to lay my head for a while? Would you close your eyes and breathe deeply with me? Because this is what Storm knows to do. She knows there’s nothing here that needs fixing. She knows the mountain will reappear of its own accord, once the rain has left the clouds.
And how is your heart? When was the last time you let yourself fall forward onto the bare ground of your own grief? Or took its brokenness in your hands and held it up high enough to see the light shining through? Isn't this what is missing in our world of cheap medication and false consolation? We have forgotten the quiet ways of nature, how the land and the life there can teach us how to be with our grief, and the grief of others. We have forgotten how to trust in the sharing of our sorrows. And yet, you know, people begin to heal the moment they feel heard.
Because healing isn’t a destination, it’s a process. One that is relational, non-linear, ongoing, and deeply mysterious. Just like life. So when people say they are fully healed or complete, that they have no grief in this world of suffering, or that they have a solution for mine, it’s hard for me find any meaning in their words. Surely it is our willingness to keep feeling deeply that brings us together as family, and our tears that water the ground of each others' healing and the healing of our world. No need to hide our true hearts. There is beauty to be found in broken things, and in the gentle gathering back together of all the pieces with love.
"Our capacity for grief is really a reflection of how deeply our love has entered the world."