To live in this world

you must be able 

to do three things;

to love what is mortal;

to hold it 

against your bones knowing 

your own life depends on it; 

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

                   Mary Oliver, In Blackwater Woods  

In the ten days since my sister died, I have been blessed with many beautiful messages of comfort and consolation, most of them in response to last week’s blog where I shared about her death. I marvel at the simplicity of it and how fortunate I am that such an easeful communication method exists. And that so many people took advantage of it. I’m also grateful for friends who sent flowers that spoke to me through their beauty, offered prayers on my behalf, and sent soup,–a wonderful gift for someone like me, too tired to cook. 

To be connected to others in a time of loss is the greatest of comforts and consolation, but like many other people in that early stage of bereavement, tiredness has kept me from reaching out much. I was already past due for some rest and relaxation after a cross country airline trip to family in CA when I got the news of my sister’s emergency hospitalization. 

Dealing long distance with the flawed, crippled health care system on her behalf was more than a bit stressful, though the physicians in charge were compassionate and most helpful. I’ve wondered if the fact that my sister’s illness has entailed extended processes of a long goodbye is adding to the tiredness now that her life is finished. It’s been nearly seven years since our extended family gathered to assist Pat in getting out of her four-bedroom home and downsized to a two-room apartment in an assisted living facility. But the deepest truth is one I learned years ago, when I complained to my acupuncturist after my daughter Corinne died, “I want to eat, but I’m too tired to hold my fork.” His answer, “Of course. Grief takes your chi.” (Life force).

To console myself last Sunday I turned to choreographer and transformational facilitator Sasha Soreff and her workshop, Mourning, Movement and Accompaniment on the Reimagine platform. Her work invites participants to explore and express the grief that is held in their bodies, which to me is the central issue, and a powerful way to use one of my favorite arts as a tool in the grieving process. I teach others, and I know myself, there is a part of me that’s smarter than I am. InterPlay and other forms of movement and stillness help me access that part. 

I moved from my heart, as Sasha encouraged us to do, and I asked the question, “What do I need for consolation and comfort? I got the answer. It wasn’t proper English, but it was just what I needed to hear as Pat’s forever big sister, “You done good.” 

I have taken some beginning actions with my nephew Adam to organize and re-gather my siblings and their offspring, to honor the life of our sister, his mother, before the weather turns too risky to travel. I plan to keep going the “speed of my body” which is slower than usual, and to keep reading poems like the one above by Mary Oliver that offer consolation and nourishment to my grieving soul. 

Here’s another resource to access literature as healing – Let me know your favorites.

Feel better with books –