By Sara Eden • January 10, 2019
Someone I love died this year. Before his passing, I had never experienced the loss of anyone so close to me.
My grandfather died when I was young and unsure about what death was. People that I knew of but didn’t know have died, many of them too young. As a sensitive person I wept for all of them, in a fleeting moment of grief, that passed as certainly as the day leaves us each night.
But the loss of Andrew, who died in my mother's old pick-up truck, has worked me in a much different way. My grief for him is something so uniquely unfamiliar and disorienting, and at times agonizingly awkward.
I keep watching a part of me reach for some sense of control and order, to make sense of each experience and feeling. There is no ‘manual’ on what to do when these waves of grief wash over me, sweeping the ever-thin semblance of solid ground and ‘reality’ out from underneath me. It is sometimes scary to be caught off guard like this and moved into the territory of loss where there is an empty space that was once occupied by two familiar loving eyes, arms, and a tiny universe of shared understanding.
I watch part of me trace the departure from familiarity to the land of loss; trying to map this transition so that I can find the way back to a neutral or pleasant experience of the world. In the week after I learned about Andrew’s passing, this rational part of me tried to map a way back in time- to Andrews apartment in SE Portland when he was still alive and making many small and spectacular things of beauty. This part of me was convinced that there was an error in information, and soon enough we would learn the truth of it, that Andrew was still alive and the world would carry on like it always had and always will.
It was this part of me that had packaged up the idea that life would return to ‘normal’ after his funeral. We would gather as community, and lay our grief into the soil along with his body, and after this timeless ritual the turning of the planet would continue to carry us predictably through the universe with an integrated understanding of all that had come to pass. No more surprise tsunamis of grief or lenses of loss coloring our day to day experiences of life.
But I’ve learned, as you might already know, that this isn’t how these things work. Grief, like life, is a process. It takes time, maybe all of our time, our whole lives. There isn’t an ‘end-goal’ in grief or in living. There is just the journey of it, as experiences rise and fall within us, each one bringing to light just a little more of what it means to be alive and to be human. That is, if we decide to pay attention to such things.
This teaching is alive in other parts of this past year and in my life.
I’ve found it in my longing for community and belonging to other people that I love and trust. The ‘rational’ part of me is frustrated when I experience myself lacking community, thinking that there must be some way to ‘fix’ this lack or perhaps even something that I’ve done wrong to find myself without it. At times I fully believe this logic and it is painful. At other times I remember that building meaningful relationships takes time, and I relax into a familiar trust in the process and the small steps along the long path that I have already taken towards community.
I’ve found this teaching in the pursuit of meaningful and sustaining work. A deep frustration with the distance between knowing what I want to be doing, and the reality of doing it often and for sustainable compensation. Here too I learn again and again that ‘becoming’ is a process and I find solace in reflecting on all that I have experienced and created in my life already.
In this change of calendar year, instead of resolutions or goals for 2019, I find myself most drawn to make room for this process of life to unfold as it does, taking all of its precious and frustrating time to bloom into the unknown places it will take us. Whatever your new year practice is, be sure to leave space for the process and the unknown that will certainly visit you, again and again.
I contemplated this newsletter for a month. Each time I sat with the movements of my life and reflections about Solsara as a practice within it, I came again and again to the death of my friend. His death was the most significant thing that happened to me in 2018. He passed shortly before I started thinking of what to write for the next newsletter.
It was a process for me to find clarity around whether or not I wanted to write about this event in the newsletter. Part of me felt sore around this tragedy being incorporated into something as pedestrian as a newsletter. The medium perhaps is not capable of holding the message.
Though, another part of me didn’t know how to write anything without writing about my grief. I experience both writing and this grief as such core parts of myself. Editing out my grief felt disingenuous. And so, this newsletter is written in the practice of being with what is alive in me, and sharing with you, trusting that this is how genuine connection and understanding are born.
May this next year bring you closer to what you long for.