Muse: to reflect, contemplate, to
meditate in silence on some subject.
Those pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.
In order to hear the messengers of our pain, we have to slow down and become quiet. The messengers themselves speak very quietly even though the pain itself may be screaming loudly. The messages are there beneath all of the noise and confusion. Are you listening?
May we all learn to slow down, turn within, and truly listen to what our pain has to say.
Please feel free to share this “museletter” with others that you think may benefit from it.
Time. It is such a strange concept yet we all have been taught how to live by it. We have all been taught how to tell time. We have been shown that there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 28-31 days in a month, and 365 days in a year. This human-made construct is not only how we measure our lives but we have also started to use it to measure how long we should be experiencing the very heartfelt emotion of grief. Many times it feels like we are trying to put a time limit on our pain, a statute of limitations on our grief. A statute of limitations is defined as a prescribed time period, a maximum time allowed.
We have constructed many ideas on what the appropriate time limits are for grief. In our culture, we usually give 3-5 days of funeral leave and then we think the bereaved should be “over it” and ready to “move on” with their lives. The message that is given is that after the funeral is over it should all be uphill from there when in reality grief is just beginning. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is a handbook that healthcare professionals use to diagnose mental disorders. In its most recent edition (DSM-V) it says that persons experiencing symptoms of sadness, loss of appetite, trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping for more than two weeks after the loss of a loved one can be diagnosed with major depression. Two weeks. 14 days. Let that sink in. And then we have other random time frames that we have made up that we use to try and control our grief. We say 6 months after the loss the bereaved should be feeling better and getting back to “normal.” Most of us have been led to believe that the maximum time allowed to grieve is for one year following our loss. At some point in time we decided that one year after the loss, “automagically” on day number 366, we should be cured and no longer have any profound feelings regarding our loss. We have used this measuring stick of time as if somehow how grief is measurable, that our grief is limited.
I often wonder why we try to put a number on the intangible. When we try to limit something like a painful human emotion does it make us feel less vulnerable when we think there will be a predictable end to our grief? How many times do we tell someone that after an allotted amount of time they should be over their happiness or their joy?
The truth is that grief is a natural reaction to loss. We were born with the ability to grieve which should tell us that we are meant to face loss. Our bodies know how to grieve but when we put time frames on our grief we are trying to override our body’s natural healing response to pain.
Many of us fear if we begin to let ourselves feel our pain that we will never be able to stop. As Maya Angelou once said, “every storm runs out of rain” and it is true. Over time our pain becomes softer and less intense but it never totally disappears. Sometimes the storm comes back and we learn to allow the storm to run its course.
When we learn to trust the wisdom of our grief we begin to understand that when we allow ourselves to feel our pain it is the way we heal. There is no time limit to our grief and grief is different for each person. We just have to learn to honor our own pain so that in turn others can then learn to honor theirs.
Even though we have been taught how to tell time we quickly learn that grief has its own time clock. We soon find out that it isn’t about us using time as a measuring tool for our grief but instead it’s about how grief teaches us the real meaning of time.
The Written Word
There are many ways to express our grief and putting our thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper can be a very healing process. The suggested prompts here can be done one time or multiple times. I’ve learned it helps to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and keep your pen moving for the entire time. I encourage using pen and paper rather than a keyboard as there is a hand/heart connection when writing longhand. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar, just write. When the timer goes off you stop writing even if you are in mid-sentence. Don’t reread your work at this time. Just set it aside for a couple of weeks and then go back and see what your words may have to say to you.
(If you choose to use a keyboard the same instructions apply).
Try this writing prompt:
What grief has taught me about time is…
I will list some books, articles, poems, movies, or other resources that I as well as others have found helpful on this grief journey. I hope these resources may deepen your understanding of grief, maybe bring you some sense of comfort, and help you to feel less alone in your grief.
One Long River of Song by Brian Doyle