I lost my wife to cancer in 1994. My sister and I had lost our father a few years before, and two years after my wife passed, we lost mother. Each loss was profound to me, and to my sister. Each and every human being sooner or later must face the death of a loved one, and many deal with unspeakable tragedies of losing entire families or communities. Each of us will deal with or handle our grief differently, but one thing I know for sure is that we must face our loss directly, not hide or run from it, if we are to find the Light that does await on the “other side” of grief.
When my wife died I was devastated. We had been together since college days, had been through a lot together, mostly good, and were truly spiritually bonded. We did not have children, and really did not have close mutual friends, so I bore my grief pretty much alone. The grief I felt was to me, immeasurable. I actually had pain in my bones, as if her spirit were withdrawing its connectedness from my corporeal being. I did not know really how I could go on, and for a few weeks I did not care if I lived, although suicide was not an option in my mind, but I was feeling almost wanting to find a situation that would claim my own life.
So how did I work with my grief? First off, I faced it. In fact there was no way in my case I could turn away from it, or hide it. Even trying to talk to friends, I could not even say her name without breaking down, so I avoided saying her name and tried to talk “around” using her name. She had loved music, had in fact been a well known jazz singer in our locale, and I loved music as well. Some how I found a song that became my grieving song: Bobby “Blue” Bland’s song, “Angel.” I would play this in my car on my way to work, and during the 30 minutes or so it took to commute, I would be sobbing the whole time. Going back to my work also was something I forced myself to do, in fact I went back immediately, and the “therapeutic” value of keeping my mind on something besides my loss was very beneficial really, although one might say it was an act of escapism. All I know is it reduced the intensity of my suffering, allowing me to work through my grief more smoothly.
I also did something else, a ritual, which is almost too private to share, but I hope it may help someone who stubbles across this blog. My wife had been very spiritual – not religious – spiritual, and while I was not religious, I also was not very spiritual, although deep down I had an inner view of our purpose. After my wife’s grand funeral at her childhood church, when I went home I could still feel that she was in our home. Imagination? Maybe, but to me it was a real sense of her presence. I decided that I needed to help her make the spiritual transition, as I felt her “soul” was still so attached to what she had in this realm that she was not letting go to move to a higher plane.
I went to a local shopping center, where there was a black-owned book store (oh, my wife was black, and I white), and approached one of the owners, who I knew and who was well acquainted with my late wife. I asked her if she could recommend a ritual that I could do, and she did. The next day, for each of seven days, I laid out on a table in the living room, a clear bowl filled with water, and a white candle that I lit (a tall glass jar type), and each day I would add one more bowl and light one more candle, and each day when I did so, I would sit in front of this altar, reciting seven times out loud, a special supplicating prayer, a Santeria prayer actually. At the end of seven days, I immediately noticed something very different when I came home from work: I did not feel her presence any longer.
Another thing I did, within a couple of weeks of her passing, was to write the entire story of her fight with cancer, our lives, what we did during that period, and our final days and the last night together. It was like a recitation of the akashic record, so to speak, of the “event” that we shared. This also proved to be very cathardic, although it was extremely difficult as I had to literally relive the entire experience in detail.
My wife was well known both for her singing, but also for her fashion. She literally had a garage full of boxes, all neatly organized and labeled of clothes and shoes and bags that could not fit in our modest home’s closets. I decided that every material thing she had I would find a good use for, giving away even her medicinal herbs to a friend of hers, her cosmetics to another, but her clothes I decided to sell and raise money for a scholarship. This turned out to be a real project, lots of work, but also fun, even making me smile and laugh. My wife had a friend who owned a boutique store, and she actually was about to leave the country, but she offered that she would take in all of my wife’s belongings and we would have a big sell. We did, and raised thousands of dollars, which did allow me to set up a scholarship at the local high school for the performing arts. I felt very rewarded to have accomplished that in her name, and I highly recommend those who can do so, to do that, or some equivalent. It will give one the feeling that the loved one’s energy lives on doing meaningful work.
After several months, and many discussions with myself, I decided I needed to begin to look for companionship again. I did, and that is a story in itself, but not for this blog. All I can say is that by giving love, you get love back, 10X as is said. Somewhere along the way you will come out into Light.