The Deafening Silence of Grief

Photo credit: K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

I am staying home today, all day. I need to be quiet, alone, in solitude, silent. 

A familiar visitor came by this morning. Grief. It’s back. It’s my frequent companion, more and more so as I continue this aging journey.

I heard of two deaths yesterday.

 One was a patient that I used to work with at the nursing facility where I was a social worker for 15 years. He was a lovely man from Ethiopia with a family whose graciousness was a joy to behold and I felt blessed to receive. He died suddenly. He had been ill, but it had been managed for a while. 

He also had some confusion. We had to watch him carefully so he didn’t wander away and possibly get lost on the large campus we were on, or wander into the busy traffic close by. So the staff, myself included, would take him for walks when we could. 

He was sweet and appreciative of the nature around us, of being outdoors, of the fresh air, the trees, the flowers, the wild turkeys that were not shy in making their presence known. He would hold his hands in a prayer gesture and express his gratitude to God for everything. 

His sister let me know yesterday that he died a few days ago. Although I did not keep in touch with the patients once I retired (the pandemic was part of the reason), they never left my heart. So the loss felt deep and sharp, and my tears flowed for this kind man who shared those sacred walks with me.

I also heard that a fellow artist died a few days ago, soon after a recent diagnosis of an aggressive form of lung cancer. I had joined the art association he belonged to less than a year ago, and was lucky enough to be beside him during an art show where he would demonstrate his art techniques to anyone interested. He smiled often, conversed with others, was kind to me as a newcomer, and was so delighted when he would sell any of his paintings. I had looked forward to getting to know this gentle soul more in the future. He is gone. 

I woke up this morning, feeling this familiar weight of grief. I have been quietly sitting with this grief today, the silence only punctuated by moments of deep sobbing. 

I am remembering these two men.

I am remembering the many friends and family members I have lost (the number increasing with each year that I am blessed enough to live). I have no family left around me, none that I relate to further away. My friends are my family, and I have lost many members of that tribe as well. 

I am remembering the three kitties who I lost over the period of a year, the last one a year ago at the end of this month. Two of them had been with me for 17 years. My heart aches for their furry companionship, their presence in my home and in my life, their love that transcended words.

I am feeling all of the losses, the pain, the grief, the deep ache, the utter aloneness. This non-negotiable piece of life. I feel the stinging tears in my eyes, the constriction in my throat, the heaviness of grief in my body and soul. 

And yet…

I am grateful for it all. For the ability to feel all of it. For the pain of loss, which is a testament to the depth of attachment and love. For the heavy silence of today, which helps me tune into my body and soul and its richness and depth. For the sobs, which help to remind me of my voice and its capacity to express these feelings in ways that my words cannot.

I am grateful for life, which has both the bitter and the sweet, one not possible without the other. For the lessons of grief. To remember, to feel, to be. To appreciate each precious connection and each sacred moment while I am still here, still alive. To hope that I have perhaps touched others in some ways that will help them also feel this gift of grief, this gift of being human, of being here with each other, and of being held in each others’ hearts. 

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