I woke up, and tossing a bit in my bedcovers, I saw the shadowy figure of my husband walking past my side of the bed. “Are you going downstairs?” I don’t remember if he answered me but that was where he was going. It was 4 am in the morning, a somewhat common time for him to take a stroll but a most uncommon time for me to be awake enough to take notice of it. In fact, my reputation in the family is that, like my father before me, I can usually sleep undisturbed no matter what’s going on in the household, with the weather outside, or in the worldwide geopolitical landscape. My three children, when they were infants got no credit for sleeping through the night almost from the time they came home from the hospital. My delivery room nurse mother was convinced that they had awakened and cried out, but since it brought no response, the behavior had been extinguished.
I shift positions in the bed, attempting to get comfortable and realize that I am experiencing pain in the center of my gut. Drifting back to sleep is not going to be an easy option. Staying with my awareness of the pain I recognize it as a familiar sorrow–a sadness I have carried for many years. It’s connected to someone who has been in my life for many decades, someone I love very much. I have grieved off and on many times for this person whose life is still not working out as they have wanted it to. Their dreams have not been fulfilled nor have my wishes for their welfare come to fruition. Through the years, as a professional social worker and somatic therapist I’ve been able to help many people. But regarding this particular person, a satisfying outcome for my efforts has been denied me. Through many years, I have alternated between trying to help, letting go of trying to help, and doing as the 12 step programs recommend, “Letting go and letting God” (or Goddess) handle it. Now in this way-too-early morning moment, I’m particularly discouraged that this situation has interrupted my night of good sleep.
I give up trying to focus on, or ignore, the pain. I go downstairs, get a cup of sleepy-time tea and sit beside my husband on the sofa. He’s watching a show about Jewish song writers and their contribution to the Broadway stage. I’m reminded of the short distance between laughter and tears played out in the American musical comedy theater, a place I spent much of my youth. Tragic circumstances are portrayed yet hope for positive outcomes remain as musical phrases And orchestral arrangements carry audience members up and down the scale of human emotions.
Climbing back up the stairs to return to bed I notice that the pain is still there, but an inner voice of self-compassion interrupts my inner self-judgements. “Of course, you have sorrow about this situation. You grieve because you love and wish your loved one well.” Climbing into bed I notice that the pain, though still present, has diminished. It’s as though a layer of it has been removed. I feel myself smiling when I realize that I have just given myself permission to grieve, something I know will lead to a future life well lived.
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