Muse: to reflect, contemplate, to
meditate in silence on some subject.
The pain we would much prefer to avoid can be used as a kind of battering ram for unearthing the true and the beautiful.
Grief can feel like a battering ram especially when we try to avoid it. It can come knocking on our lives with such force that it changes us forever. Initially, we are toppled to the ground by the power of this unwelcome guest. We are battered and bruised and feel like we are living in the rubble of what was once our lives. After what feels like many blows and much damage to our previous self we begin to dig ourselves out of the wreckage. What has been cleared away by this powerful force has left us kinder, more compassionate, and more authentic beings.
As painful as grief can be it can unearth the truth of each one of us.
As we walk this journey may we all learn to see the beauty in one another.
Please feel free to share this “museletter” with others that you think may benefit from it.
A labyrinth is a spiral walking path that is unicursal (one line) which means “the way in is the way out and the way out is the way in.” Grief is like this as the path that pulls us in is the same path that will eventually lead us out. And just like a labyrinth, we won’t come out the same person who went in. A labyrinth and grief are both meant to be transformative experiences.
Many times, people get labyrinths confused with mazes but they are not the same thing. A labyrinth is meant to slow you down and help you find your way; it helps lead you to your own inner compass. Some call it a moving meditation. A maze is compartmentalized and it is meant to get you lost and your purpose in the maze is to find your way out as quickly as possible. A labyrinth is meant to take you on an inner journey to yourself whereas a maze is more focused on the destination as you try to get to the other side and escape.
Early in our loss grief can feel like a maze. We continuously try to get out of where we are but we only keep running into dead ends. When we struggle to find a way out of our grief we usually end up trying to think our way through grief as we try to compartmentalize it.
The purpose of a maze may be to get you lost but most times when we find ourselves at a labyrinth we already feel lost. A labyrinth is a meandering journey that leads us to the heart of our being to help us heal. The most important thing when approaching a labyrinth just like when we find ourselves in deep grief is to make the decision to enter into it. There may be some hesitation to enter into the labyrinth of our grief but we soon realize that our healing comes from going within.
Once we enter there will be many twists and turns that seem to be going nowhere. Many times throughout this journey we will begin to feel like we are almost “there” and then there is a turn that seems to be leading us astray as it takes us farther away from the center. It may feel like once again we are starting over as we begin to slowly make our way back toward the middle. It may seem like we are getting nowhere and that all of this back and forth, all of these twists and turns, make no sense. We begin to doubt ourselves as we feel we should be doing this differently, that we’re going to slow, that we should be making more progress, and we don’t understand how others seem to be doing this journey better than we are.
As we continue to walk this winding path of grief we are forced to slow down, pause, and turn inward as we keep putting one foot in front of the other. We slowly learn to stop resisting the ins and outs of this process.
We will eventually find ourselves in the middle of our labyrinth and it may feel like we are suspended in time. This is a time of living betwixt and between. Our old story is over but our new one has not yet begun. It is a time of deep questioning and inner reflection as we allow our new story to unfold. We feel more removed from the world around us as we allow ourselves to be transformed by our losses rather than trying to get over them. The length of time we stay here is different for everyone. We can’t rush this process as we have much to learn before we step back out onto the labyrinth. In this time of suspension, we will face our own internal twists and turns that reveal more of who we are becoming. We yearn for a straight linear path but grief has other ideas, It takes us where we need to go not where we want to go.
When we are ready to begin the outward journey on our labyrinth we will step onto the same path but we will not be the same person. We will know this path in a different way. Some of the twists and turns still surprise us but we know that if we stay on the path we are never lost but just lead to deeper parts of ourselves. When we once again come to the point where we entered the labyrinth it will also be the way for us to exit. But as we approach this exit we know we will never really leave this labyrinth as it has become a part of us and will continue to walk its twists and turns for the rest of our lives.
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:
In what ways has your grief felt like a maze and in what ways has it felt more like a labyrinth?
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.
Lament For A Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff