Written Sunday, September 18, 2016
Quite a few years ago we traveled to the east coast, taking the journey in a minivan packed with belongings and our family of six. The main purpose of the ride was to see some friends and, as the road turned, see the scenes that make Nova Scotia what she is; that is, we drove to Peggy’s Cove.
We were surprised to hear that it was not safe to walk close by the ocean, and this first experience of ocean came at the price of a mug, complete with a picture of a lighthouse and the words of where we were but no longer are. Something about rogue waves reaching and snatching you into the sea. Lost always, never found.
A few weeks ago a crack appeared. In the mug. Since we didn’t want to risk coffee seeping out, the mug is now retired. It hosts my razor now. I know, it’s only a mug. I was disappointed that things had come to this. It was not a huge loss. Yet this is real. I no longer use the mug for what it was formed for.
I am convinced that life is, in a large lingering way, navigation through losses. For a time I turned away from my first searing loss. In the same year we bought the mug, my mother died a long drawn out, pain filled death. Quite a few years I backed away from this very painful loss. I turned away, avoiding it. I set my face and refused to face into it. I allowed the wind to push me away from the source.
Then the wind died down. I crashed. I burned. I was brought to a halt. Finally I turned to face into that horrible loss, and all the great and small ones too.
A friend who herself has experienced significant loss, scoffs at the notion of grief coming in stages. We were talking over a piece of grief writing from another who journeyed from one loss to another (G. Snow, on Reddit). It’s like a one hundred foot wave crashing in. All you have is a piece of wreckage to cling to. So you do, even while the wave hurls over top of you. At first they come regular as a wave machine at a public pool. A song springs it. An item placed by her in her style of decorating. A drive along the road you used to ride together. Out springs the tears.
Slowly the one hundred foot waves slow, get further spaced, and come they will. Just when you’re not looking.
All in a mug. Learning to face into loss, courageous. Face into. Not faced away. How do you handle loss?
A post script to this. What I wrote her stirred up stuff inside me. Anger. Rage. Disbelief. Right there, evidence of some of the markers observed in losses. This year I have gone through a deluge of a wave of a loss, a life altering event. Another grief. More mourning.