After I offered an update on my 2016-17 writing project, my friend said, “It sounds like the book is writing you.” He was right. Each time I dipped back into the words to rework, edit or add source material, I re-entered sacred space. I returned to a place of waiting and deep listening. I hoped my message was authentic and true, at least from my point of view, and that it might help others. At the same time, the process of writing opened a place of honesty and humility that feels like home.
Thus began my journey back into the Land of Loss. My intention was to describe the landscape of Loss and offer tools to navigate it’s various territories. I knew the Well of Sadness and the demands of Surrender. I had traveled through the agonizing forests of Passage and was painfully familiar with Secret Yearning. But I also knew the Fountain of Hope, it’s waters had soothed my journey and I believed it could offer hope to other travelers in the Land of Loss.
I did not understand, however, the impact that writing a book to help others would have on me. I did not fully appreciate the influence of the writing process on my inner life. Each time I returned to Alone, Passage, Surrender and Changed – the four territories in the Land of Loss – I entered an emotional experience of feeling stranded, of surviving, of letting go, of allowing transformation. My work deepened after each revision, my heart claimed what I was learning.
My personal story is not woven into the body of the book, instead I shared stories of those I worked with at the hospital bereavement program to illustrate how I have come to understand grief. But my story is, of course, the place I return to retrieve wisdom and insight, to find my ground. It is the counterpoint to fellow grievers’ stories, the bereavement research and grief theories that I learned in my work as a chaplain. My story is my teacher. My friend’s suggestion that the book was “writing me” led me to a felt-sense of my own transformation and a return to my soul.
Writing and grieving are similar. They each provide a reliable, yet mysterious, template for movement through the unknown. As a writer, I may have a sense of where I am headed, but at the same time, I remain open to new ideas or shifts that ask a little more of me. Grief, too, offers a path to follow. But if I listen carefully, I might find myself asking questions or facing fears that come forward unexpectedly. While painful, grief guides me through loss toward healing.
Grief is my ally in the ways of Loss, just as writing is my companion in the mystery of Life.
The light that each provides shines just as far as I need to make the journey, one step at a time. My task is to keep going and to trust the great Wisdom that underlies the human story, that holds all of us in the arms of Love.
Peace to you, friends –