Birthing Grief

My heart is heavy. Last week we travelled to see a dear friend for the last time. I never wanted that day to come. Yet there was no where else I could have been. No where else I wanted to be. Before Advent began we heard that there was nothing else medicine could do for her, it was the beginning of the end.

Waiting takes on a whole new meaning.


Downside Damsels CPW 2013.

We prayed harder, after all when all else fails we fall on our knees.
Advent in the Northern hemisphere comes when the year is darkest. In all honesty it has never been darker.
Tine and time again I listen as people shared with me their stories of loss, and heartache. The news offers a continual window on to the pain in the world.

And although it does not add to my own sorrow, (my heart can not be heavier), it deepens the space that my grief inhabits.
I walk slower and speak quieter. I have lost the ability to put my grief down and get on with things. I have no room in my head for anything else.

Grief is as they say all encompassing.

The grief I feel, is not, of course just one grief, but all of the griefs I have faced but were terminated: when my grandmother died I was told not to cry, I had to be strong for my mother; the end of my marriage meant my very young children needed me more than ever; when my heart was secretly broken, no one knew, so how could I explain? Of course there are more, those moments of loss that I can not, even now write their name.
They all fed into the misconception of a hierarchy of grief where I was at the bottom. It was never my time.

This time though it will not be silenced. I can not stop it: it leeks from my eyes, drowns my thoughts, swamps my actions, engulfs my heart.

It is time, I can no longer hold this grief inside my body. Like pregnancy at some point there is no going back. All the grief I have been gestating for so long must be borne and given expression. I remember when I was pregnant suffering from maternal amnesia, and a restlessness. This process of grief is similar. Similar too is the not knowing, knowing that both processes leave an indelible mark upon my soul, that I will not be the same as I was before the journey began, but unaware of how that change will be manifest. But the greatest similarity is the presence of the Incarnate. At this thin place where my grief is palatable, tangible, is where Emmanuel becomes reality.

And because of the Incarnation I know that the process of birthing mmy grief is already underway. It is already but not yet – a fitting motif for Advent.

And like the Christmas glitter, that takes hold, refusing to be dislodged, (despite our attempts to clean it up), specks of joy and wonder break through where you least expect them…

…Spending time with our friend last week we laughed as well as cried.

…I have spent time reminiscing with other friends when they call to see how she is.

…She will be alive, against all odds, to attend her daughter’s wedding.

…She has allowed me to love her and to be loved by her.

…She has brought my grief to birth.

For all this, Jane, and so so much more, Thank you.

Advent: a time of joyful waiting and Holy longing.

A year on, but the truth remains…

Advent: a time of joyful waiting, of Holy longing.

So far, this season of Advent has brought into sharp focus those for whom the waiting is not joyful…

…for those waiting for the bombs to drop

…for those waiting to fly over combat zones

…for those waiting for asylum

…for those waiting for a border to open

…for those waiting for their next fix

…for those waiting for to be evicted

…for those waiting to be made redundant

…for those waiting to die

…for those waiting to hear from an estranged child

…for those waiting for a spouse to come home

…for those waiting, waiting.

Or for the longing that seems far from Holy…

…for those longing for someone to love

…for those longing to be loved

…for those longing for a lover’s touch

…for those longing to be a priority

…for those longing for the grief to pass

…for those longing with such longing.

Advent is full of waiting and longing. And it’s the longing that I find painful, I always find Hope such a cruel virtue.

Whatever we are waiting for (and it doesn’t matter if it is good or bad), hope leaves the door open ajar when sometimes it would be easier if it slammed shut. Never to be opened again.

But hope springs eternal, and particularly in Advent.

For in Advent we await the coming of the only One that can make sense of it all…

…The One who calls us to rest when the waiting wearies us

…The One who invites us to lean on when hope seems impossible

…The One who makes all longing Holy

…The One for whom we all long, all the days of our lives.

…The One who loves us.

But we’re not there yet. And I know there is always hope, it’s just sometimes hard to find it joyful. And as for the longing!

Even when we have seen the light, heard the ancient promise and claimed it as our own.

O God, come to our aid,

O Lord make haste to help us.