I had the privilege yesterday of speaking to a Loss of Spouse Support group. I read them a few excerpts from The In-Between and then we talked about the various stages and places they were at, where they have been and will be.
For several in the group it had been about a year, some a little more, but for two it had only been a few months. When I got done reading I had asked the group “What does your In-Between look like?” A woman who had just lost her husband a few months ago said, “I think I have the wrong answer. I don’t think I am in an In-Between…” Her voice cracked as she continued, “I am not even there yet.” She clasped her husband’s wedding ring in her hand that now resides on a slender chain around her neck and I could see her clinging to the slim hope that it won’t hurt like this forever.
Tears sprang to my eyes as I thought how often we think we have the “wrong” answer. How often we are stuck in the thought that we should be anywhere else but where we are. How often we think that we are handling our grief, our children, our jobs, our friendships in the “wrong” way. And sometimes yes, things need to change, but more often than not it is only because we haven’t given ourselves the compassion and more objective look that we give to others.
No one in that group thought she should be anywhere but where she was, and it struck me to see how everyone was literally leaning forward with compassion, their hearts scooping her up to hold her in love and this tender place of knowing. Sometimes we need that mirror for ourselves. To remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can with what we have, with what we know, and that is enough.
And as I looked to the eyes around the room I silently prayed that they would hold themselves gently as they grieve, to remember that it will take longer than they want it to, to know they are held in love as they go through this difficult time. And tonight I came across this poem by one of my favorite authors that speaks so eloquently to the In-Between time and is the prayer I extend to all those who need to hear these words:
A Blessing for One Who is Exhausted
By John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.