“God is palpable in grief,” I blurted out at dinner a few months back to a friend who had recently lost his mother.
Last Sunday night, I lived these words as my world caved in. I knew it was coming. It is insignificant, the details of what occurred, because grief is grief.
I was given a sign the week before, as a hummingbird flew into the window beside me as I wrote. (I have a relationship with hummingbirds as this is not the first time I have nursed one after a crash.) She lay there still, stunned and paralyzed by shock. I cradled her and nurtured her until she took flight again.
As I held her in my hand, I sensed her dizziness and pain, yet I knew she felt safe and cared for. We blended together, as if she didn’t want to leave the space between injury and liberty, and I was content holding her as long as it took her to heal.
I knew she was my warning, I knew I was about to crash too, and I did.
The next morning as I lay in my bed, entangled in grief from the traumatic event the night before, I couldn’t move but to open my curtains and crawl back into bed.
My body was numb, but my heart was throbbing in pain, my eyes drowning in the swells of tears. I looked out my window as I do every morning, but this morning the scenery looked different: as though I was given glasses for the first time. My backyard was the most beautiful and vibrant I have seen.
It wasn’t different; I was. My backyard became a busy street corner. The birds took turns grazing in the grass and flying from tree to tree sharing the air. I spotted a few butterflies and dragonflies waltzing by the oleander. The hummingbird who lives in my lemon tree hovered near my french doors, peering in. A family of quail paused as they walked past my door, like looky loos to a car accident on the freeway.
I was the still one, the one in grief. That’s why they noticed me. All living things are drawn to what isn’t moving—that’s where God is, waiting to pick us up in his hands, nurture us, cradle us and protect us.
I didn’t want to go to my studio that morning, but I did. I noticed my clock had stopped ticking at the time of the incident the night before (as if the battery timed its death to coincide with mine). I knew it was my time for the emptiness, the void, the quiet, the pain, the grief that submerges us under the water, waiting until our lungs almost collapse before grabbing us by the heart and pulling us to the surface. The space between the inhale and the exhale is where the lesson is, where the bud of wisdom blossoms from the previous experience and guides us into our future.
It is the most important time, this space. This is where God resides—this space we fear the most and we run from.
We want to escape it as quickly as we can, avoiding the feelings, distracting ourselves and battling our way through our grief. This is the time we make the most noise to attempt to soothe the pain with drugs, alcohol, people, sex, obsessive exercise, food and social events.
It is equivalent to breathing in the water we are submerged in. We will be resuscitated, but we won’t remember what happened under the water. When we don’t stay conscious and allow ourselves to feel the pain, the burn, the frustration and the torture we don’t learn from our past and we inevitably, repeat it.
How do I know? I’ve used some of these distractions many times specifically a few years to numb the grief of my divorce, until I had no choice but to feel it.
I have learned from experience that when I fight it, when I try to breathe before it is time, I don’t learn and I don’t grow as I should. I become blind and I struggle.
In God’s palm, I am safe. I am safe to question everything, reevaluate my life and my choices. I stop everything I do, and nestle into him like a bear to a cave. I allow myself to cry, to yell, to sleep, and I reach out to those I trust to listen and nurture me as I grieve.
I stopped writing and teaching the last few days. I didn’t feel worthy because of what happened to me, but tonight I realized those two passioned gifts are the palm to my hummingbird. They hold the space as long as I need until I am ready, pulling me from the water, as I inhale—healed and ready to fly again.
This week has reinforced my faith in the power of pain and sorrow—how necessary it is to feel these emotions in order to experience this life completely. Within this grief, I am reminded I have more questions than I do answers, yet I have reaffirmed what I do know for certain—who my friends and supports are and who they aren’t, what I want to be and what I don’t want to be, what I can’t live without and what I can, and most of all, how unbreakable my spirit and all of our spirits are, no matter how hard we crash.
For you, “Who made me see the things I could have never seen alone.”