I’ve been in my new place almost four weeks. The dust has settled a little bit and I’m reminded again that Pete has died. Although there is a loneliness to that fact, I am not swallowed with grief at all right now. In fact, I believe Grief and I are working together to create a rhythm to my days. While I am enjoying the freedom of living alone, while I am figuring out who I am as a single person, and my next season of life will be, Grief is working its way within me. Grief is sometimes a very silent, yet busy companion.
This past Fall, I read Frederick Buechner’s Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory. In it he was reflecting on what was going on within him after his brother’s death. I have returned to one paragraph from that section several times -
“I also want to get it right about whatever it is going on inside me now. There is a level of feeling where, after moments when the clouds seem to be lifting a little, it is suddenly all I can do to see the hand in front of my face. And there is a level of thinking, thinking back especially over our last few conversations, including the one within only three or four hours of his death when we said good-bey for good. But deeper down still there is a level that I know nothing about at all except that whatever I am doing there, it is absolutely exhausting. It is as if great quantities of furniture have to be moved from one place to another. There seem to be endless cartons of God only knows what to sort through somehow. The earth itself has to be bulldozed and shifted around and reshaped. A whole new landscape has to come into being.”
Buechner speaks truth.
The layers that he articulates must be true because there are days when I am so exhausted – and I’m not sure why. It must be that my internal world has been moving “furniture” and sifting through “God only knows what.”
I slept almost 12 hours the other day. And I went to bed early, 8pm. I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and I was proud of myself for giving in. I thought for sure I would wake early and be able to write or read. But when I opened my eyes, my bedside clock read 7:30am. Buechner must be right; my body was “bulldozing shifting” the earth while I slept.
This “deeper down still” seems to happen without my cognitive awareness. Oh sure, I’m thinking about Pete all the time. Several times each day I wish I could show him something or tell him something. And I leak a few tears, a handful of times each day still. But there is a level deeper within me that seems to take my cognitive grief – the thoughts I have about Pete, or about me, or about our family, or about my new apartment, or about whatever it is I wish he could witness with me - and moves “furniture” or “earth” as Buechner wrote. My passive brain somehow knows when and how to sift through the cartons of “God only knows what” and file things in new places with new labels.
Grief is like introducing an entire workforce that lives within our bodies and minds. My workforce holds its own schedule with one agenda, healing me and ultimately transforming me into a post-Pete version of Beth. I would love to see the daily docket for this workforce. And who is, what is the foreman for this operation?
If I am to truly emerge healed and transformed, there is a tremendous trust I put in my internal self to navigate these deeper levels. I understand why some people might get stuck in their grief – it’s hard enough to do the active, cognitive work of grief but to also allow your the passive, yet heavy lifting work of grief requires self-trust.
So to my silent, yet very busy companion, Grief,
I’m grateful for you.