Thursday, August 19, 2010

Embracing Sadness?

Studying Memoir Under a Cieba Tree (Mayan Kapok/Tree of Life)

Oasis Moment: Dealing with Loss

Grieving doesn’t have to be a process that keeps us rooted in our thoughts of fear and sadness. For the moment we might feel despondent, but by expressing and coping with our true feelings, we face the sadness head-on. Daily Om 

The above quote comes from the Daily Om web-log,that was founded by Scott Blum author of Summer's Path and Waiting for Autumn
If you ever were curious about how people who are "spiritual but don't call themselves religious" might think, these books are a must-read. Both are incredibly imaginative, insightful and connect to experiences and thoughts I have also pondered. 

A Death in the Family

My young brother-in-law, Joel, died last week. He was still in his thirties, not always healthy but death is a shock whenever it arrives. When my father died of diabetes complications at 49, I stayed in a kind of shock for years. When my mothered was murdered at 55, it was a shock. When my niece died in a car accident at 17, I was shocked. And now this death is no exception. Age doesn't matter. I'm just shocked by the finality of death. I have trouble feeling when I first encounter the news of death. I become quiet inside and observant outside. I'm treading water out in the middle of the funerary sea. 

All the death details and surrounding dialogue feel unreal when the shocked-state is in place. I remember the words, "He's in a better place," repeatedly sounding, but I'm not so religious anymore. Besides, those words never spoke to my heart anyway. I remember the last time I saw him in the intensive care hospital ward, he had trouble breathing and couldn't talk. Just before I left, I said "I'll see you later" and he nodded affirmatively. He wanted to live. He loved life. He loved to laugh. He held no grudges and didn't complain. He was a journalist and editor who celebrated my children's triumphs in writing, bringing them a little local fame and boosting their self-confidence. I appreciate his generous and considerate heart.

Feeling grief is difficult

In Blum's books, though they are spiritual fiction, he talks about the psychological process of embodying your feelings and allowing them to be fully felt without bodily resistance. I think I have more "embodied feeling work" waiting for me when I'm ready. Encountering deep feeling is frightening. 

I think most of us cope with loss by cushioning memory with distraction.

Some of my distractions?
Reading fiction at Borders drinking Earl Gray-er Tea

Mom and daughter bonding over a homemade honey and oats facial mask
Capturing a funny shot for my Twilight fan, Miss A
Confession. I have laughed inappropriately while waiting for death to arrive. It's like a dark humor enters my body, and I forget death and grief. I hope that I don't offend anyone with my behavior. I have seen death up close when it feels far away. It's just a shock-adaptation. I remember it when it happens- a kind of coping humor. True, I also distract myself with study and focused work where I block out all thought, I think. But then I realize I'm talking about death and loss to my poor happy fresh-faced freshman students. Bummer! I also need plenty of comfort time such as bonding with family, reading fiction or about comfort food and cooking it, immersing myself in nature, and, yes, laughing.

How do you go through difficult times of loss?

The Ceiba tree rooted in life as we are while living
The ceiba tree (or kapok) in Mayan cosmology was considered to be the tree of life that connects earth to sky, or man to the divine. They left notes with requests at the base of the tree, and poured rum around it, ‘feeding’ the muse. Trish and Rob MacGreggor- authors of The Seven Secrets of Synchronicity .

Joel Villanueva Reyes
May your journey be peaceful. May your family and friends feel surrounded in love and support during this time of your passing.


  1. I'm sorry about this recent death and sadness. YOu have had much in your life. Nothing wrong with laughter, when it rises up it brings such relief. And think of the New Orleans funeral marches with much gay music and celebration. That too is a part of responding to death along with the deep sadness and missing of the other and fear too for it is a reminder that we too are mortal. Blessings, Suki

  2. Wow, Cynthia, everything you are feeling is what I felt the last 2 years since my beloved son-in-law Scott died in a motorcycle accident. The process is a long hard journey... The first 6 months all I did was cry except around my 4 grandchildren (1 on the way). The next 6 months traveling back and forth 2 hours to stay for 3 days and then back to work was to try and function. Then moving down to help, I lost myself until now which is almost 2 years later. I am not sure how I got here and wish I could tell you. When people would say :"God only gives you what you can handle" , and so many other sayings, I would think "this is not helping".
    This process is on going and a long hard road and I think writing everything down is very healing.
    So much love and healing coming your way. I wish I had the answer.....

  3. Grief...comes in waves...and lately seems to remind me that life is still ahead and those we have lost would want us to enjoy it...

  4. Beautifully written post, Cynthia. Very honest and refreshing. We do what we intuitively feel we need to do to cope with our loss, including laughing.

    I love so much the image of the Ceiba tree,and feeding the muse with rum.

    You've endured more than your fair share of sudden'd probably rather be teaching anything else, but thank you for sharing the wisdom you've gained from your experiences.

    much love,

  5. Thank you Suki, Vicki, Teri and Jo. Your words are comforting. Sending you love.

  6. Oh, Cynthia, I'm so sorry to hear about Joel. My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours. At the side of the everlasting why, is a yes, and a yes, and a yes. I love your positive take on dealing with death.

  7. Sorry to hear about Joel's demise. Such a wonderful smile. So much maturity to the smile.

    Each life we associate with is a bearing we navigate our lives by. While we move ahead, it is these bearings that help us step back at times. Losing one leaves us bereft of bearing to return to. It is this finality that flounders the navigating step.

    With every loss we lose a part of ourselves. That's how time chips away at eternity.

    Someday, Cynthia, if you decide to make your way to Varanasi if you haven't already, by the Ganga, by the cycle of life, a different perspective will beckon.

  8. Cynthia, I read your post in Writers Rising and decided to visit your blog. I'll be following it because it's so well written with genuine sensitivity and wisdom, but also 'cause I was born in Puerto Rico and somehow maybe that adds to our connection.

  9. Oh Cyn, sorry I have arrived so late with my condolences but I have been busy relocating to England. You've really been through it, haven't you. Let's hope this is your sadness quota done and dusted for many many years.


  10. Willow, Anil, Myrna and Mrs. FF, thank you for your thoughts.

    Willow, absolutely, yes. We have to find the joy in life and celebrate.

    Anil, I would love to go to the Ganges, and when the time is right I intend to visit.

    Welcome Myrna! I hope you find a bit of home here.

    Mrs. FF, you know that your warmth and friendship are so appreciated. I hope you love living a bi-cultural life! (You will spend time in France, too?)

  11. Oh Cynthia, you have been through far too much of your fair share. So far in my life I've been spared from death before its time. And I often wonder how I would deal with a life close to me taken too soon. There really are no words to help. It's personal for each one of us. I just always figure it's my job to keep on best. Those that have left would want that. And that is ALL I know. I also know that if it was my turn to go, I would want those mourning me to have a million laughs in my honor. Keep laughing...even at the most inappropriate times. I know Joel ( and all those you have lost) would like that.

  12. I am so sorry for your loss and the heartache it brings to your family. It sounds like you have had a tough road lately. I hope you are able to find peace and joy in remembering the wonderful times you shared with each other.

  13. I feel sorry for you dear, for all that you've been and for all that you're are going through. Just keep your hope and belief in Him alive:) and you'll get through this, just like He got you through many other tragedies till now.

  14. Hello proffesor...sorry to read about the lost in the family. I always thought of you as a tough human being but sometimes forgot that could be in need of caring words or just understanding. I like the way you go through tough times..always remembering to laugh.
    I will be more atent to what you write, so i get to know about you and see how you are doing. Much blessings!!


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