In January 2011, I posted my first blog, which I titled “Epiphany of Despair”. Upon a re-reading, I realize it represented a significant shift at the time in both my thinking and my experience. I had (reluctantly) embraced technology in a new way. Now eleven year later, I am using the same title in the way writer Jan Hatanaka originally wrote about it – as an experience that results from moving faithfully through the process of grief.
When I was in my late 50’s, early 60’s, I thought one would get to an age and stage where life had mostly sorted itself out; the challenges would diminish and it might be smoother sailing. The last year and a half have shown me anything but. Between Covid and the sudden death of my 5-year-old granddaughter in June 2020 (which I wrote about last year), and the subsequent fallout in my family, I have been forced to embrace my grief, deep feelings of loss, sadness, and anger, yet again. The good news, if there can be any, is that ‘Grief Work’, an area in which I have taught for many years, when engaged in, does indeed work to help heal and move us to a different place. This begins to feel at times like having more energy, peace, even moments of joy. It’s not a fixed process and such moments can be quickly overshadowed by the heaviness of grief. Maybe short periods (hours even) of what I referred to as “smooth sailing” are not only the most we can hope for, but must be gratefully savoured when they occur.
When I wrote in that blog eleven years ago of my then epiphany of despair, I said “it was not my first; it is not my worst, and no doubt will not be my last.” How true. I do hope however, that the future does not hold such losses as have the last two years, yet I know life offers no guarantees. I wrote then and it holds true now: “It was a reminder for me, yet again, of what is at the heart of what I believe about life. The only way through the dark times is through them. There are no short-cuts to healing and transformation. We have to be willing to feel the full range of painful feelings in whatever situation we find ourselves in order to receive the learning and ultimate blessings that are there for us.” In the words of an art teacher who was talking about painting, but where I have discovered lurk many important lessons in life: “Don’t be afraid of the dark!” The art piece above was not finished until I went back and made the dark bits even darker. The teacher of grief has herself been re-taught.