Even with this fertility, this abundance of color and light, and bird wings all around me, yet does the grief blow through me like a winter wind. You can wish winter weren't here but wishing will not make it go away. And no matter how intensely I wish the grief would be gone for good, it ignores my begging. Its natural rhythm is different from the one I had planned to follow. It has seasons that move in upon me. I am the helpless planet enduring the weather systems of grief.
Here I am weeping in the mornings again. The sparrow at dawn religiously offers the most jubilant melody and it does not stop the hot tears from streaming off my cheeks. There is no relief. There is no point in calling anyone because who wants to hear it? Everyone wants me to be better and no one wants to hear about the weeping. I talk about it to no one.
A lady very innocently asked me about my children a few weeks ago—“And you have children, don’t you, Sheridan?”— and I surprised both of us by answering, “The subject of my children involves grief and I can’t really talk about it right now.” When she apologized profusely I said, “Really, it's fine, I understand. You couldn't have known. Someday I will share the story with you.”
But the shift that had happened was that I could no longer only talk about Julia and Sean and not mention my third child. I have gotten through this far, almost two years, by simply very brightly talking about my two children who are walking the earth and never mentioning the third. But the other day before the sun brightened the window I woke up saying, Julia, Sean and Corey; Julia, Sean and Corey, just like it always was, and I felt the three of them in the same way as when they were all three alive and walking the earth, and from that moment on I knew I could no longer leave Corey out when someone asks me about my children. And yet I cannot talk about it without weeping and so I still don't have the proper social response. I suppose for now I will simply have to say what I said to my new acquaintance: there is this grief, and I cannot yet speak of it.
On these mornings as I weep, the grief is accompanied by many logical pick-me-ups, things I hear myself saying, such as: Corey would not want us to cry, Corey would not want us sad, but the problem is grief doesn't give a damn about logic and pep-talks. Logic is a language that grief never learned, and cheery slogans are an affront to the soul in grief. Grief wants to be felt, plain and simple. When the grief is there it is the only language the soul can hear, it is the only book the soul is reading. There is no comfort for the soul that longs for its beloved, and the soul does not know how to stop its longing.
Grief is a searing spiritual path. C.S. Lewis writes of the difference between a photograph of the beloved and the presence of the beloved, between our image of God and who God really is: living essence. “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that his shattering is one of the marks of His presence?”
We think we have it all figured out, and then comes the breaking open. We think we have certain people pegged, we understand how life is supposed to work, and then it all shifts and we realize we know nothing. That nothing matters except love. Finding a way to invite love into your molecules even as the body feels dark with mourning.
The grief shatters me on a daily basis. It is disorienting, it is like living two parallel existences at the same time. There are times when certain qualities of my grief are evidence of Corey’s presence, I feel her presence in my sobbing, and yet I also feel her in the waving of the green leaf in the woods.
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
May you continue to inspire us
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind
And where we will never lose you again.
John O’Donohue, On the Death of the Beloved