The Room That Grief Built

Recently, I was stunned to learn that an important mentor in my life would be leaving.  It’s not a death in the traditional sense, but I realize I am mourning the loss just the same.  At first I didn’t give myself the space, and perhaps even the permission, to truly feel the impact this is having on me.  The hole it is leaving in my heart and soul.

As I was sharing this with a good friend she was kind enough to relay a visual analogy that was shared with her:  “When we experience a grief, it opens up the long shuttered door of all the past experiences of loss and grief we’ve had.  This room is the storage place for all the boxes of our grief.” 

I picture this door bursting open to expose a room filled with lined shelves.  Each shelf contains a tightly sealed box, some bigger than others, but all packed to the brim with the files of our losses.  Those situations we thought we had so effectively either stuffed down or even openly dealt with always leave a residual stain on our mind.  And as my friend pointed out, when we go to place our current box of grief on its shelf; we can’t help but begin to open all the boxes lying in wait.  And, that’s exactly the place I am in right now.  While processing this current situation, I feel like I am re-living all of my past losses, from parents and friends to the loss of my physical abilities, lost dreams and even the recent discovery that I cannot have children (big time loss!).  There just have been too many damn losses!  I want to frantically padlock these boxes and leave them cobwebbed in the attic of my mind.  But before I can follow-through on this unhealthy fantasy, I find myself sitting on the floor of my grieving room, only the top of my torso visible, the rest covered in a flurry of papers, photographs, memories and keepsakes.  Like a scrap booking party gone horribly awry.  And I begin to cry; and to get angry.  “I don’t want to deal with another loss!  I don’t want to calmly accept another change on the landscape of my life! I don’t want to, I don’t wanna..!” my inner child screams.  And my grown-up self chimes in, too.   And I realize that this okay.  Perhaps this is why all these boxes  were stored here just waiting for the right moment to be re-discovered, because I never took the time to properly sort through them the first time around.   For some, I wasn’t in healthy enough places to thoroughly grieve.  But, for others, I did the best I could at the time.  Grief takes time.  A mantra so often stated, but just as often so poorly misunderstood.  It can take months, years, decades.  And the mind never knows what will re-trigger the emotion.  To deny this when it does resurface, is to deny yourself; and the time and space to honor the place that person held in your life, by grieving them, when it arrives.

This current episode of grief triggered a torrent of emotions over losing my male guideposts.  There haven’t been many in my life.  I was always surrounded by male friends and admirers, but as far as emotional centers, nah, not so much! For me, there have been three. With the extended fourth of my Grandpa, who loved me unconditionally, but was only in my life sporadically. My longest champion was my pops.  Phew.  I’m already feeling emotional just writing that down.  He passed on just over two years ago and I’m still not ready to fully say goodbye.  And here I find myself, one week from Father’s Day (“yay!,” insert sarcasm) and I’ve just found out that male mentor #2, my pastor, Scott is leaving for “greener pastures.”  And we, the congregants were given four whole days to process this before his last sermon.  In which he spoke of change, and how, even though it’s difficult, we all need to reinvent ourselves three times in our life!  My inner child once again stomped her feet and pulled her hair. “But, I’ve already had to transform my life dozens of times!  This isn’t fair! I don’t want you to go!”  And what I want should be the deciding factor after all, right? (insert more sarcasm!).

But in all seriousness, this is the person who introduced me to a new way of spiritual thinking (Unitarianism) and with whom I also participated in a small spiritual development group (Soul Matters) for almost three years.  He is much more than a “pastor” to me, he is a spiritual beacon.  So, to deny myself this time in my Grieving Room would to be to deny the impact he has had on my life.  And I realized that both emotions can be held in my heart at the same time: both excitement for him and the new opportunity he is facing and, also, the deep sadness I feel at his loss.  The fact that this is leaving a whole in my heart is a testament to the imprint he has left on it.  I think we so often feel that we need to choose which side our emotions are going to land on.  When all this creates is a river of denial, flowing straight into those cobwebby nooks of our mind.  And, I for one am ready for some proverbial housecleaning!

And, of course, it’s Father’s Day.  A stark Hallmark reminder that my father is no longer here to celebrate it with.  God, I miss him!  What I wouldn’t give to feel his hand touch the side of my face once more, “you’re beautiful. You know that, kiddo?”   But I also know all I need to do is lie my own hand there and the muscle memory of love rushes right back to me.  Even if he is not here in the corporeal sense, he is here in spirit… and that still gives me something to celebrate today.  The bond we shared will never fade with time or age.

In the midst of processing this, I wrote a lyrical piece on my emotions.  This is one technique I used to avoid applying, for fear of letting my emotions take on a life of their own.   But instead, it has freed me up to continue on this journey of grief; and to put my fears out there for all to see.   For in losing someone, the mind naturally drifts to the fear of losing others in the future (in my case, my final male mentor, my champion, my husband).  So in sharing it with all of you, I am no longer holding this grief alone.  One gift I can give myself to aide in my emotionally recovery.


These three pillars sustain me

Yet one than another

Are quickly knocked asunder

Crumbling beneath me with

An impact that rattles my core

I’ve just regained my balance

From the loss of one

When I find myself teetering

On the edge,

At the loss of two

Now precariously balancing

On a one-legged stool

My entire weight, body and soul

Bearing the brunt

Is the one left standing

“But you’ve still got me, right?”

He says with

A tender, reassuring smile

Instead of expanding,

My heart constricts

 At the sound of these words

“Yep,” I gulp out

As my mind screams,

“No! What if I lose you, too?”

My rock, my foundational pillar,

The keystone to my arch

The taproot to my soul

Well, when he crumbles,

I just may too

That’s not so awful, after all

To have lived a life

Tied to another

To love and to be loved

To accept the inevitability

Of fully living

And, thus, fully dying


2 thoughts on “The Room That Grief Built

  1. Tamara – my Dad’s been gone for 13 years (I was pregnant with George at the time), and I still miss him every day. You are definitely not alone in this, and, as you say, each new loss brings up the old ones. All we can do is the best we can do every day, love each other and give each other strength in our times of weakness. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Nancy.
      I am discovering more and more that the beauty of blogging, is feeling connected.
      We all have a daily struggles, yet they are lessened when carried on the backs of many.
      And, I agree, the best way to honor those we’ve lost is to carry on their love & light in our own lives, and to look for those qualities in others. Your father must have been a good man, because you are certainly a wonderful, compassionate woman!

I gratefully welcome your comments...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s