Have you ever noticed that as you walk through grief, certain aspects of your life–or life around you, start to mimic or echo how you feel?
A couple years before Mike was diagnosed, we were gifted a Bamboo plant. We had these plants before, usually without much success of keeping them alive (however I do have to give my late cat the credit for destroying our last one). Mike and I found the perfect location for our new plant, giving it subtle sunlight and ample water (but not too much). For years, it grew hardily.
Bamboo has so many representations and meanings. Certain behaviors and character traits are traditionally associated with bamboo. Its strength lies in its grace — it is tranquil, flexible, humble and simplistic, and an emblem of modesty and mental strength. Its deep roots denote steadiness and longevity.
Why am I talking about bamboo? Why bring this up you might ask. What does this have to do with grief?
Recently, I noticed that our bamboo plant, for which we had lovingly taken care of for so long, has started dying. Interestingly, it isn’t dying completely. This plant has two vines (like veins of life force); they crisscross each other and meet at the top where the leaves (or grass) continue to grow. One side is completely healthy, verdant, and growing vivaciously. The other is completely dead, brown, and stopped growing half way up. I had walked by the plant so many times; sat in this very room, talking to Mike daily. I never noticed it before, not even when I would water it. A month back I finally looked at it–really looked at it. That’s when it hit me, this plant was echoing my life right now. A limb of this plant, a limb that ties the whole plant together, that is connected in root, in spirit, in strength, had withered up and died while the other side continues to grow.
This is the realization of grief, a live representation of what it looks and feels like to walk through extreme grief. On one hand, a part of you withers, dies, becomes an unsteady foundation because you feel lop-sided and weak. But, there is also this other side of you, a side where your strength prevails, takes over, keeps you steady and upright, and finds a way to continue growing around the sadness and death. For me, it was a paralyzing moment of sudden insight.
It’s like trying to see through dense fog; you can make out a shape or object in the distance, but you can’t tell what it is or how close it is until the fog lifts.
I hold a deeper, more meaningful relationship with my bamboo plant now (yes, I said relationship). Nurturing what’s left, it has transformed the landscape of my thoughts. Like this plant, we have to nurture our hearts and souls. Be gentle, kind, and loving with ourselves. Let a steady stream of light shine in on us, feeding our bodies and our souls as we heal.
Just as with the dead bamboo vine of the plant, Mike’s spirit continues to grow inside me, his soul forever tethered to mine even though his physical form is no longer growing besides me. His soul holds me up, gives me strength to continue moving forward. His soul energizes my life. And, it’s in that spirit that we find the strength we need to continue living, to take steps into the “unknown.” Like the dead vine, there is a soul still inside it helping the other half of the plant live.
This is grief! This is our process and journey. Life finds ways to show us how it can help us navigate very hard, lonely, and trying times if we are open to receiving its messages (which I have not been very open to until recently). We feel guilty about moving forward, taking steps into a new life, rebuilding a life. I know I have felt guilty. I thought it meant leaving Mike behind, having to let go. But, I don’t need to let go to move forward. I move forward carrying him inside me, carrying all he has taught me over the last 20 years, carrying his extreme love for me with me as I take steps into an unknown future. I continue to falter, to make mistakes, to cry, to miss him tremendously-and I talk to him every day. That’s ok! Grief is walking forward because that is what life needs us to do. However, we are held up by the love and soul of the one that has left us. As widows, we are the living representation of the special bond and love that we were so blessed to have. Now, we take that love and use it to guide us forward because that’s the gift that our spouse/partner has given us.
This is NOT an easy process. Spousal grieving will never be uncomplicated but there are shimmers of light that break through. As more cracks of light shine in, breaking through the barriers of grief, it radiates a warmth that seeps into our spirit as we move into a new chapter of life!
Let Grace, Guidance, and Gratitude always be your pillars for moving through grief.
**Season 2 of The Game On Glio Podcast airs May 26th!