Grief and loss are things you don’t think about until you have experienced them at full throttle.
Losing my most precious best friend and sister to death from cancer was an immeasurable loss, leaving me in disbelief and with no words.
My heart had been broken open beyond measure, and I felt as if I would never ever recover. I wanted to go with her.
We had dreams of living a long, happy life together, sitting in our white rockers in our 90s, on our wrap-around porch, watching the grandkids run and play with the animals, and singing out in the meadows as kids do, while doing cartwheels with the majestic mountain range in the backdrop.
That dream was no more. I felt hopeless for life.
Then, the unimaginable happened.
My beloved mother and another even younger sister died all in 18 months. Seriously, this felt like full throttle ahead.
I had so many questions of the heart that they filled a minimum of eight sizeable book journals over the last three years with grieving thoughts, random ideas from love and loss, the meaning of life, spiritual seeking, deep feelings of angst, and never-ending ways of how we can find the power and will to live after unfathomable, unexpected trauma and tragedy.
Several years later, toward the end of my grieving process, my questions changed, and I found myself asking,
“What can I do with the heart-wrenching grief and loss, and how can I turn it into reverence and gratitude?”
I don’t even know where this question came from in my consciousness, but it showed up at the right time and seemed deserving of, again, another answer.
This question, by no means, is the first one that may cross your mind after losing someone dear to you. But these next questions may be the ones that constantly have you seeking answers and dropping you to your knees. This was my story.
I asked myself,
“What can I do with these powerless feelings I’m experiencing from grief and loss that have me constantly dropping to my knees?”
“How can I even begin to process and unravel these brutal, broken, open windows of emotions around the sadness I feel?”
“And how do I find the energy and courage to go on day-to-day after such deep trauma and loss?”
Even now, three years later, my heart feels so tender and still a little bit broken because today we would have celebrated my other sister, Sharlene’s birthday.
On July 9th, she would have arrived at the fine young age of 60. What a spitfire she was.
Sharlene made me laugh so hard!
If she hadn’t left, she would be here. But she’s not, and so her light remains.
So is life. Here today and gone tomorrow. We will never know what tomorrow will bring.
On this special birthday of hers, I’m feeling uncomfortable emotions that trigger me back to the day when I got the call.
I felt numb. My heart had no more space to even feel another death.
I’ve never forgotten the devasting feelings of loss and grief that lingered long after in my heart and mind for so many days, months, and years following her death.
Today, as I sit here on a warm, sunny morning, the sun is slowly moving into my backyard in Santa Barbara, California. I want to write something of a tribute to my sister Sharlene because it feels right to honor her on her birthday for her spirited life and for all the gifts she left behind for many of us.
And at the same time, I have a desire to try and share what grief can feel like because until you’re in it, you can never even fathom how it feels. I think sharing my perspective about her loss will honor her as well.
What does it feel like for the rest of us when you are gone Sharlene, Shannon, and Mom? I want you to know that our feelings honor you in a sacred way.
I want to talk about grief because so many people don’t. I want you to talk about grief so others can learn.
And when people don’t talk about it, they can feel so incredibly alone.
Sometimes, they even feel ashamed of what they are feeling and needing:
Grief gets buried because it hurts. And when it eventually comes out, it can come out sideways and wonky.
Grief is hard because we often do it alone, but it’s a tribal thing to do.
Death is not a sentence. It’s a new life.
Grief is a sacred gift to the soul and feeling all parts of it helped me to understand death more deeply. I’ve learned that the more you love, the deeper your grief.
I discovered that it’s the spiral downward into the vast unknown that eventually heals us.
Sitting in the stillness, right here at the moment, I hold her close to my heart. Dear one, you are so missed.
The grieving process of my divine heart and soul’s journey seemed to last forever because Sharlene’s death was on the heels of my mother and sister Shannon’s death.
Walking about with my wandering soul, one of the many enlightening teachings I learned while being present with the thought that they are no longer here is this:
Sometimes there are no answers. None. Nada.
And eventually, over a long while, I accepted this fact.
We are not to know all the answers, and this is where my fearless faith, trust, and discovery of my divinity became the lighthouse of hope.
I learned that “not knowing” is simply a part of life that is inescapable. And there is beauty in this simple fact.
Loving What Is and Letting It Go.
Many years ago, I was listening to a famous thought leader whom I admired, and he was sharing the idea that when he had unanswered questions, after a while he chose to put them in the “do not know file” and file it away.
He let it go. He surrendered to the unknowing and to the greater I am.
I was taught something incredibly valuable that day. I thought that this act of letting go was a pretty profound idea, and I started applying it to my life as well.
This idea of surrendering and letting go became my reality and my friend during my grieving days and long afterward.
I often found myself alone in silence and solitude, wondering why all this trauma and tragedy had to happen.
This file of “do not know” became a safe haven for me to gently place and file away my sacred unanswered questions about life.
And in an uncanny way, I often felt as if this was the answer. Letting go and being at peace with not knowing.
Inside this learning, it was so important for me to embrace some serious self-care, and be patient with myself, while also being present with compassion.
I thought this was the way to move through to the other side safely and soundly. And in doing so, I could process all of my grief without having to have all the answers.
When Spirits Speak.
Oftentimes, I found myself in a place of really wanting to know the unknowing, and I would hear a soft, gentle voice of compassion and love.
And it was through this opening that I was able to receive sacred guidance and support from spirit.
My own inner knowing gave me the answers I needed, and I left the rest of my unanswered questions in the “do not know” file.
Eventually, after going through all the tunnel stages of grief, I was able to surrender and be at peace. I felt so much freedom from my spiritual insights and the unknowing. This grieving place of pain and sorrow now has a new space within my heart and soul, filled with peace, love, and gratitude.
A Renewed Perspective of the Heart.
Today, I hear the ringing of the bells in a completely different way. I’m imagining that you too know the rhythm and the sound.
It’s the church bells ringing because there is a celebration or solemn ceremony.
Feeling my pain, my heart wounds, and my sadness in solemn ceremony has now shifted into a celebration of vast appreciation and intimate love for my loved ones’ lives.
I feel my awakened heart holding immense gratitude for the lessons we taught each other, the laughter, happiness, and joy we shared. And most of all for the tremendous gift their presence brought here on earth to so many people.
This one thing I found transformative: how my perspective on life, love, and loss changed as I healed and transcended my heart and soul.
I’ve become someone I hadn’t had the pleasure of knowing before. I believe I have become more my true Self. Someone who is more compassionate, loving, and understanding, treasuring every sacred moment in the here and now.
This deep love I have for God, my mother, and my two sisters has expanded exponentially into a magnificent, miraculous love that is profound and eternal.
Maybe, this is the beautiful silver lining we can all receive from such deep love and loss.
There are events in life that leave us feeling like we can’t go on. These are the ones that transform us, give us courage, and offer us the opportunity for growth and the expansion of our hearts and soul.
It’s never easy looking at the obstacles and carrying the big burdens in front of us, but there is always a way through, even if you go around them.
I discovered that grief is a very individual sacred process for each of us. Finding your own personal path to healing is the right path for you.
No matter where it winds and turns.
P.S.: This morning, before I began writing this, I read these words below, and I felt they were meant to be here along with my message of love, loss, and freedom.
“Pain is just pure energy moving through us. If you resist it, it will hurt. But if you ride it, breathe with it, allow it to come. It can move through you.”
It just takes time…grace, faith, hope, and as always, love.