Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Learning To Trust Grief

Tears do not come easily to me. I'd shed very few since my father died two months ago. He was in such anguish for so long and so wanted to go, I think it felt disloyal to grieve his passing. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready.

Last Sunday I went walking with a friend through the tree covered ravines of Toronto. We were both thinking of our fathers- hers had passed ten years ago on Father's Day. We took tobacco to offer to the earth with our prayers.

I want to tell you that magnificently eloquent words uncovering deep spiritual insights and offering solace for all our losses spilled effortlessly from my lips.

But that's not what happened.

As I held some tobacco and sat on the grass by a towering a balsam fir tree (my father taught me the names of different evergreens) the only words that came over and over like a mantra were, "I hate that you're gone."

And I began to weep.

A breeze rippled through the tops of the trees. . . .and I heard a voice within that said, "I’m here."

And through my tears I murmured, "I know. But I still hate that you're gone."

"Hate" is  not a word I use very often,but it's the word that came. I could feel it in my gut, a knot silently insisting, "No, no, no, no. . . ." Denial and anger all wrapped up in each other over the soft core of a long low wail, an ache that anchored me in the beauty and limitations of being human.

Later I spoke with my eldest son, Brendan. Telling him the words that had come, feeling embarrassed, I said, "It feels so. . . young. . . to hate that he's gone. I'm glad he's free from the suffering, and I know that there is no life without death,and I don't fear what comes next . . . but still I hate that he's not here. It makes no sense."

And Brendan said quietly, "It makes sense to me, mom."

And again I started to cry. Brendan's response allowed me to get that grief is just what it is, and all our ideas and beliefs, all our experience of something larger holding us, and all our understanding of the inevitable cycle of death and birth . . . .well, they may give us some comfort, but they do not dull the sharp edge of the pain that comes when we lose someone we love.

I'm learning to trust the grief, to trust it will come at the right time, in the form that will keep me connected to what is true within me. As Anne Lamott once wrote, "The only way through grief is by grieving."

I am so deeply grateful for all of the people who shared their stories of loss on last Friday's Facebook post, all those who sent me cards and gifts (to my surprise) after my father died. The soft hand-knit shawl was like getting a hug in the mail. This is one of the many aspects of what it means to be part of the human family- we all suffer loss, and move through grief in our own way. How grateful I am to feel held on so many levels, to be able to feel the loss, to be able to let the tears come.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (c) 2015 (Photo from Karen Davis at I love the mix of darkness and light in this one.)


  1. I so appreciate your honesty and raw truth that is shared here. Some things can be wrapped in a pretty bow and made to look slightly better than it really is, but you let the truth of this loss right out. This is real life. The emotion and pain that we can feel as humans can be very hard to walk (trudge? drag? crawl?) through. Thank God for the beauty that graces us as well on our journey here, and there is so much of it... at times to maybe be the light that guides us through those painful, difficult times. I truly am so sorry for your loss, Oriah.