I do not relate to the famous 5 Stages of Grief. I experience grief in the paradigm of The Multi-layers of Loss. My loss unfolds layer after layer that is not bound by dimension or time. Memory and moment weave their own directional course and my sorrow follows the watercourse way.

I do not lead my grief. Loss leads me into the places I must go. I go there because hurt yearns for healing. Sorrow summons solace.  And my heart is drawn to wholeness in the fragmentation loss leaves.

Benjamin Grief not in stagesYesterday I spoke with Lydia’s brother, David, about the death of their mother. Joyce died three days ago after a life of 87 years. David and I have not talked for long time, but our exchange began where it has always been left. Our conversations transcend time and we find ourselves deep in connection as if we just spoke the day before.

Layer upon layer unfolded for me as we shared the years in that moment. He shared the details of the stroke and subsequent pneumonia. He graciously recounted the progression of finding her, the emergency room, the ICU, the hospice…and the love. Layer unfolds layer.

We talked about the funeral arrangements. Joyce being Joyce, she had already arranged everything. She had picked out and paid for the casket so others wouldn’t have to. She had experience so much death and knew how much energy it takes to arrange everything when those left behind are experiencing a death of their own and there is so little energy to spare.

Lydia was definitely her mother’s child. As David and I talked yesterday, I sat beside Lydia in her last days. I was combing Lydia’s hair when David talked about the machine that forced air into Joyce’s lungs. He shared how Joyce couldn’t speak but her eyes met his and cried out to take that thing off and let her go.

I was sitting next to Lydia knowing exactly the look Joyce gave. The second to last time Lydia’s eyes opened she gave me the same look. Layer upon layer, loss after loss, unfolds in the watercourse way.

The last time Lydia opened her eyes she opened them into mine. Lydia died with Joyce and I in the emptying room. Layer upon layer unfolds layers.

I do not grieve Joyce’s death. I celebrate her life and her release. Still, I travel the stillness of my Afterloss following my intimate relationship with loss itself. There is no such thing as one loss. There is only every loss.

Benjamin Layers of griefThere is a phrase, “if memory serves,” that comes to mind. I am not sure if memory serves me or I am in the service of memory.

Nevertheless, the watercourse way of loss takes me deep into memory. I enter one memory and it opens into another. I follow what comes and it takes me where it goes. I rest deeply in the stillness of effortless motion.

I cannot navigate my Afterloss without an open heart, no matter how broken it may be. If I am to find healing I must let my heart guide me into the hurt. An open heart inevitably hurts, but by its own nature, an open heart heals.

My experience is that resistance or avoidance is of no use; and even it was I would not use it. I did not come to this place of sorrow to waste the journey. It would be like going on an excursion to an exotic location and sitting in the hotel room the whole time. I am here. I want to see what’s here. I want to lean into everything for that is the only way to experience what I am here to experience.

In talking to David, I felt this deep and abiding love. He is a beautiful man with an expansive heart. We met yesterday in the realm of the heart. We shared memory and moment. We walked the common path that has brought us together reminding us we have never really been apart.

The multi-layers of loss took us into tender places. I did not know when the phone rang I would be emptied into another layer. The soft reverberations of our conversation are still leading me into places I have not traveled in a long time. New layers rest on my horizons and I am drawn to them. I want to go and see what lies beyond what lies within.

Benjamin Open HeartI miss them. Joyce’s death is a deeper awakening of just how much I miss them. I miss them all. I love this life, but I miss what life has separated.

I am grateful for the layers of my loss that have taken me to a place where there is no separation, but it accentuates what is separate. No matter how far the layers go I know I will still return to this place where I miss them.

It is a perpetual balance of the embrace and the release. Layer upon layer there is the embrace. Layer upon layer there is the release. But always, on this layer of time and space, always…always, I miss them. And I have come to a place of peace that I will forever carry the dark of night into the light of my day. Layer upon layer. And I will follow wherever life leads me in the embrace and release of each moment as memory serves.


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