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Grief And My Sacred Corner

June 13th, 2011 by Alison · 5 Comments · relationships, spirituality & religion

I was walking down 12th street in Salem last week when one of the waves hit me, and out of the bcolorful collage of sympathy cardslue I was crying. I kept walking, pretending all was well, masking the grief even as I welcomed it. Crying lets me feel closer to my mother, who died on March 21.

What triggered the wave of grief*? Maybe a thought of another person I’d once loved, and lost, or it might have been the abundance of pink roses on a bush I’d passed on my walk, and the fact I’d stopped to bury my face and breathe them in, while imagining my mother photographing them. She was a wildlife photographer.

People being kind to me concerning my mother’s death tends to make me cry — again, in a good way. Writing just now brought some tears — but  in my Sacred Corner, which was designed to contain them. Colleen helped me create it here in my bedroom, from a folding brass screen draped with colorful scarves. A vase of eucalyptus lets me smell the earthy, tangy aroma I grew up with in Southern California.  Daylight pours through the window at my left shoulder. My Sacred Corner is a place of porous privacy, where I’m fed by beauty — for example, when I look up, I see the cards from friends pictured above.

The people in my life, geographically near and far, are many times more beautiful than even these lovely images, believe me.

I’ve written earlier about my heart being cracked open by my mother’s death, and how the act of love itself opens us to pain. So I’m crying again right now . . . . . but it is all so frigging worth it. Loving and grieving makes me more fully alive, and in the long run I will have more to offer the world — more love and ability to be of service — than ever before. I may not currently be as Type A or super-womanish about my paid work as I was prior to my mom’s death. And some things I have had to say no to, at least temporarily, because grief is its own form of work.

I appreciate the grief trailblazers in my life, i.e. my friends who have experienced the death of a parent. Cindy’s capacity for love and grief is amazing. My husband Thor and I navigated his mother’s death together in late December 2008, and became closer through the experience. My friend Sue said yesterday, “It’s been two years [since my father died] and I’m still getting waves”. Another friend wrote that he continues to grieve for his pop — ten years after his death — but that it’s become easier to bear with time (good to hear).

My wish for everyone is good containers for both our love and our grief, whether it’s a place in nature, a place of worship, the embrace of someone who loves us . . . . . .  or a Sacred Corner.


*Joan Didion writes in The Year Of Magical Thinking that grief is universally reported as coming to us in waves, unpredictably. The book is her award-winning, keenly rendered memoir of surviving her husband’s death. My kind coworker Jeri gave it to me.

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Tess Giles Marshall

    Beautiful post. Who knows what triggers those cathartic waves of grief in bereavement? A scent, a sound. My mother died 21 years ago but her life is still there in the background, informing mine.

  • Libby

    Ahhh, your beautiful Sacred Corner…thank you for sharing it and for your ongoing support and encouragement in maintaining my own sacred space.

    • Alison

      Libby, I love our mutual encouragement of each others’ spirituality.
      Excited that you and your family are coming up this summer and will see the Sacred Corner . . . . .as well as sing, dance and play with me and Thor.

  • Christina

    I love that you are so natural and uninhibited about letting the waves of grief wash over you. We’ve had conversations where it’s kind of like the sea, Alison, many waves washing over. It’s beautiful to see you not try get in the way of it. You don’t resist, you welcome it even, the grief is there and then it passes and we’re laughing. I never get tired of watching how you negotiate the world, it’s truely inspiring. Thank you for letting me share your Sacred Corner too. What a lovely place.

  • Alison

    Tess: Yes, exactly, our loved ones’ lives continue to inform our lives, no matter how long ago they died. You nailed that beautifully.

    Christina: Thank you — I’m honored that the way I negotiate the world would be inspiring to you. And I loved having you hang out in the Sacred Corner with me that Monday evening. Finally, yes, so true that tears often then give way to laughter. Both of them make us more alive. See you in church tomorrow.

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