I never was a big fan of the 5 Stages of Grief. Boxes tend to break. A better expression for me is the Multi-layers of Loss. Loss has never been a linear experience for me. In the world of the Afterloss point A oftentimes doesn’t go to point B. The last stage in the 5 stages paradigm is acceptance. In my way of relatingto the Afterloss the ultimate destination in the Multi-layers of Loss is healing.

In the initial experience of loss I was in survival mode. There wasn’t a whole lot of processing going on there. It was more ricocheting between shock, automatic pilot and pure paralysis. I just did what I needed to do to do what I needed to do. Between lack of sleep and falling into exhaustion I was living off adrenalin, fear and confusion.Benjamin LayersHowever, as the dust settled into a daily routine of caring for Bryan, Lydia and Matt, then Lydia and Matt, then Matt, I found myself with enough time and space to start the exploration of my multi-layers of loss. One of the major questions I needed to address was what does wholeness and health look like in this new world of the Afterloss? The companion question was then how can I find it, live in it and nurture it?

In exploring the first question of what does wholeness and health look like, I discovered that for me, healing was not a destination point. It wasn’t my experience that wholeness was at the end of the road. Healing was on offer in every moment; and it was only unfolding in increments. I’d get a moment here or a moment there where one layer introduced me to another and something settled within me. A moment of respite, a moment of deep love, a moment of anger, a river of tears. Layer after layer left me less fragmented and more whole.

Everyone lives in loss differently and everyone has their own understanding of what healing means in the world of the Afterloss. Is healing ‘getting over’ someone? Is healing ‘starting again’? Is healing a good night’s sleep and being able to hold down a meal, or just being able to eat a meal? Is healing getting back to work?

I see healing for me is as layered as the journey, but one element that I have found within all my healing moments is peace. I discovered I can have more than one emotion at a time. I’ve heard it said love and fear cannot hold the same space. That may be true for others and there are times when that has been the case for me, but there are other times when my experience is different. I have watched my anger, my confusion, my emptiness, my loneliness, my compassion, my love, my holding on and letting go all have an intertwining connection with some modicum of peace. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Even to this day I measure a moment by my level of peace in whatever I’m going through.

The second question of how do I find, live and nurture healing was very important to me as well. All rivers lead to the ocean in my world of the Afterloss. How I found healing was to keep the rivers flowing. When I was enraged with the ‘unfairness’ of it all, I would keep it fluid. I would ride that river as far as it took me.

When I would take Matt to school in absolute fear of what they would do to him if they knew he was HIV+, I would ride that river of fear to wherever it led. When I would sit in candlelight after we had read our book for the night and he had fallen to sleep and I had fallen into a deeper layer of loss, I would float that river till my eyes could close for the night. All rivers lead to healing. To stop the currents of life would be for me the greatest tragedy of all. I was not given this path to go only part way.

What is your understanding of what it means to heal the loss? Have you discovered what works for you and how you can arrive in the place of healing?

As I mentioned earlier, healing has not been a destination point. Healing has been a state of being. Someone said once, “In every drop of water there is an ocean.” In every moment there is a place I have found at the intersection of heaven and earth, the finite and the infinite. It’s not just my happy place. It is my healing place.


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