how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Soul Widows Spiritual Retreat ~ Three ~ Friday Afternoon Sessions

our first session, or coming together, in the alcove was for the purpose of getting to know each other's stories and sharing our own. it was to set the tone for the rest of the weekend for me. talking. sharing. commiserating. feeling sympatico with the woman across from me and beside me. crying with and laughing with.

it was a small group. intimate. all the women, including me, had such pain in our faces. we carried the burden of loss that other widows have carried before us and we wanted to know how to survive this. we had questions. we had suggestions for each other. and above all, we had the release of sharing our hurt, our lost love, in the way we wanted and needed to do to get it off our chests and out there on the beautiful wooden floor that has been burnished by footsteps and chairs being pulled up to the fire for over 120 years.

each one of us told our story and in the telling was our worries for our families and for ourselves. in the storytelling around the fire in the stove was the sound of anguish and purpose. there was the somber tone of the exhausted and the clarity of our choices of words that only deep and lasting pain can carve into a voice. we acknowledged we will always bear the mark of widow. we acknowledged that we have no idea what is to come.

and we acknowledged each other. we validated each other. we did that, the 6 of us, without being told we needed to. we did that without being directed that this is the next step in the progression of this session.
this is a photo of our alcove and the shrine we set up on the bar behind the chair and sofa. i am purposely sharing it without anyone in the photo to preserve the sanctity of what transpired there that Friday afternoon.
this is a closer view. it is makeshift. it is ephemeral and we knew that, and yet i feel there is a permanence to our voices that will linger over this shrine. if energy really lasts forever, then in a few years, or who knows, maybe some random quiet Wednesday when a guest passes by, he or she will hear a woman's voice speak a man's name. they may pause for a moment and look into the alcove and wonder from whence it came, and from how long ago. B****, H*****, A***, J*******, E*****, and of course, Dragon. maybe the person will hear a collective sigh. if so, then good. if not, then the sacred names will be kept alive within this tribe that formed while we were enveloped in that alcove, beside our shrine.

Elizabeth had a gift for us. she brought with her, brought to us, a woman who knows grief and sorrow. she knows hard times and difficult choices. she knows how to live with them all and it seems to be her grace, though she calls it her passion, to help other women carry their pain and sorrow, and to find a balance between the Nurturing side, our happy, peaceful, and excited side, and the Creative side of us where anger, anxious feelings, and sadness dwell.

i understand now that grief is something i will always have inside me. i love my Dragon with the very essence that defines me. but i also need to find my way to some happiness however i translate it. i need to find my way to the peace that i crave but now has to be redefined because my love died. and i need to find my way to allowing an excitement in my life and embracing it when it arrives.

our guide is a petite woman with a fire in her spirit and a soul that soars. her eyes have a powerful ability to notice even the smallest things, like when one of the women stops speaking for a while, or stares too long at the flames without pause. and she remembers things she is told and realizes that maybe, possibly, that simple story, that statement carries a weight far greater than it appears. for example, to a pair of hands that have been taught to never lay open, relaxed, she will hand the end of her crocheted scarf to that woman to hold tight with the other end laid across her lap. there. see. she has given a connection, a link, a bridge over troubled water. now there is something soft to hold and magically, without words, that woman is no longer alone.

she came there to us where we sat grieving and sharing and she gave us the gift of her attention, a gift i have never been given to the extent that she did except by my Dragon. she is strong and brave and goes willingly and joyfully {and only someone who has known great pain can understand that word and the many ways it can be used and defined} into the depths of our darkness and despair and sits with us. she speaks to us there and offers, not really a way out, but companionship, the promise of staying there with us, and the words to encourage us to accept, and breathe, and rise to action when we are ready and able. she also tells us the most amazing thing. it is all right to sit back down for a while.

the best thing she said, and i hope i am paraphrasing correctly, was that the process of grieving, that what she does for us, was not about healing. it was about enduring, believing in ourselves, and finding that balance between nurturing and creativity. we are allowed, or should be, to embrace our pain. i can still hear her voice. "Do Not Take My Pain Away From Me." we need to live through it to get through it. it is ours. it is part of our story and now part of who we are. we need to feel each emotion that comes. life is all about emotion. and if it is not, then it should be. emotions are all that are keeping us together through this time. raw emotions.

so we shared our stories. we listened to each other. by suppertime, we knew each other. we knew everyone's names, husband's names, children's names, terms of endearment we had given to our men. the tribe was gathered around the fire burning for this spiritual retreat. by the time we were breaking to freshen up for supper out, we had started gathering to ourselves what we needed to create our own flame in our own darkness. we are going to be women of the light, however we define "light."

there is a table in the middle of the room as you come into the inn. it has a glass top and a carved mermaid holding the glass. i laid on the floor and took this photo. when i am quiet, i am thinking. all of us do, but i am a right brain person so i think with images i create in my mind to speak for me. the more unusual, the happier i am. i scooted and twisted on the floor under the table for the composition of the shot i wanted for the image i had in my mind.

she is reaching for the light. or she is holding the light. she made me think of the 6 of us in the darkness of our grief wanting and needing light, or lightness, in our spirits. this carving lives at the inn and it seemed to me, in looking at her, that she will always be guarding the light, or protecting it, or, since it is me, she will always be reaching for it. it made me think of my old screen name when i chatted online on that AOL IM thing when my children were off at university. i was Clytiesunflower. i love my Dragon and he is my sun. he is more gregarious than i am. he is noisier than i am. he is not afraid of being seen. therefore he is my sun. i was Clytie, always watching him, always taking his photograph. in a way i still am, only now Clytie, or Bunny, me, always watches the full moon.

so there was meaning upon meaning for me when i was laying on the floor like a madwoman skooching around finding this shot in my viewfinder. i hope if and when the sisters of my tribe {i like the sound of the possessive} see this photograph, they will understand. kindred spirits usually do.

taking a respite from writing more today. i have interspersed this in and around embroidery work on a quilt commission. this break is over and i am going back to the embroidery. i will stay with it until i go to bed much, much later on.

come back tomorrow evening maybe, if you will, if you wish, for the next posting on about this incredible weekend that it is taking this many posts to speak about it.

peace to all who read. peace and light to all who grieve.


Kim said...

so beautiful. i feel like in a way, through your writing, i was/am there in some tiny aspect, and my spirit feels cozy and lifted. i am so happy you got this much deserved retreat. xoxo

Suddenwidow said...

Thank you for sharing so much with us. I agree with Kim, it's like you've brought us along with you. I'm so glad your weekend was all that you needed it to be. I was really touched by "i need to find my way to allowing an excitement in my life and embracing it when it arrives". Me too...

thelmaz said...

Oh, I am so happy for you that you had this wonderful weekend that nourished your soul and brought you friendship and peace.

womanNshadows said...

Kim, i thought of you this weekend. i hope you think about coming to one of these retreats. it was all i expected, more than i dreamed, and very much what i need.

Suddenwidow, i am so glad to see you. there was a woman with us, 3 sons, and i kept thinking of you. you two would have connected and become close with the same worries. you and she are standing on the same ground yet have not met.

Thelma, thank you so much. i hope you keep reading as i post more about it.

peace to all.

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