uninterruptedly she flows -
by every boulder
and fallen tree lodged -
bill hunt -of cutler creek – 10 may 2000
Little did I know when Bill sat at the edge of Cutler Creek writing this poem that just five years later, (in 2005), I would be drawing on my own persistence in order to forge ahead as we struggled with his diagnosis of Alzheimer's and as I ultimately struggled following his death in 2010. I can't say I am undaunted as is Cutler Creek but I can say that I will never give up.
Bill loved that creek. It was behind our mountain home in Colorado. At night we would listen to it as we drifted off to sleep. I frequently found him sitting there listening to the sounds it created especially when the mountain snow was melting in the spring. Or he might be writing a poem, watching eagles soar or just soaking up mountain beauty.
Mt. Sneffels-our favorite peak.
For two people who grew up in the city, we learned early in our marriage how to live in nature when we moved to 67 acres of woods and meadows and yes, creeks outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Ten years later, we found ourselves living at 8,900 feet in the glory of the San Juan Mountains of Ouray, Colorado. Surrounded by fourteeners and foothills, creeks and endless views, we cherished our time there wrapped in nature's magnificence.
I remember some of the adjustments we were called upon to make as we dealt with mountain life. It started with our arrival just before Thanksgiving when we expected the construction team to have our house enclosed only to find a slab...just a slab. We found an apartment, donned our work clothes and started helping by building walls, running telephone wires, and more. We moved in 4 months later. Getting used to black bears and mountain lions in our yard took some doing though we did enjoy the mule deer, elk and moose that roamed our yard most days. And then there was the day a bear stood staring at me through the screen of my ground level office. Hiking in those mountains was thrilling. The views were spectacular. How glad I am that we listened to our desire to move west and later the rather whimsical purchase of an elegant motor home in which we traveled North America. It was just shortly after that two year trek, that our life took a sad turn. I say to people, "do it now, you never know what the next day will bring."
Doing it now does not just apply to being a bit wild and crazy whatever that means to you. It also means being persistent in your personal growth and grief work and in all you do. Time alone does not heal. I truly do not think of what I do to heal myself and my life, to grieve my loss of Bill and create a new life- as work. I have always been introspective. I have journaled forever; worked with my dreams; meditated for 50 years; and been committed to personal and spiritual growth. I must say, however, that applying those habits to the deep grief and sadness that was mine as Bill approached death and as I grieve my loss...is a totally different story...one that demands commitment.
How well I remember sitting at the top of Pike's Peak, journal and pen in hand, in 1970.
This journey does indeed call for the persistence of a creek determined to flow to the river ahead. For me, it started with educating myself about grief. Even though I had been a psychotherapist dealing with the grief of my clients and though I had experienced many losses (parents, close friends, pups), losing Bill was totally different. I read...and I read...and I read some more. I wrote my pain. I watched webcast after webcast. I got back to my meditation practice which had been lost as caregiving, exhaustion and trauma ruled my life. I worked with a grief counselor; attended a Hospice led spousal loss support group and the online Grief Healing Discussion Groups I now help moderate. I made this journey through grief my top priority. It still is my top priority. I've made mistakes of all kinds on this journey and still do. I get back up, dust myself off, immediately or eventually, and keep going. I ride the roller coaster of grief with gratitude for the love we share/d. Grief is my companion.
How "griefwork" is defined is up to each person. Each of us is different and our grief is unique. Some may do what I did. Others may choose one or ten of many other alternatives. The important thing is that we journey through our grief, not around it or over it as does the creek in its dealings with rocks and branches. The journey demands the persistence of the creek however.
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Instead of walking away from the pain, I choose to feel it. If I need to cry, I cry. If I need to sit back for a day or a week, I do that. I keep in touch with friends and family and get out of the house as often as I need to. Early on I made myself get out of the house each day even if it was just a trip to the post office. That forced me to get up, get dressed and interact with people. One does not go to the post office in a small town without meeting neighbors.
It is a matter of the choices we make....and definitely a matter of our persistence.
Related to: acceptance, general grief, life changes, transitions. grief work
If you are grieving a significant loss, what are you doing to "heal"?
How has your loss and grief changed you?