20 March 2011

carrying grief on the first day of spring

Spring is a time of emotional extremes from the history of my life, times of immense loss and great change, darkness of depths unimaginable and restorative light. Every subsequent year is different. And the same. It's not that I forget how it is the most difficult time of year for me, it's that every year I think, surely this one will be different. But then the dreams come, vivid as ever, and time removed feels like yesterday.

In times of sadness, I have learned to reach back and call on moments that lifted me before—private moments, sweet joys, prayers. The first time I had opportunity to pray in a sweat lodge, perhaps ten years ago, it was a warrior sweat. On the banks of the Columbia River in sacred space at Celilo, I entered the lodge with trepidation and the heavy weight of unresolved family issues. With nothing to compare it to, I could not gauge the intensity of the conditions; I only knew how it brought me to complete physical breaking.

At the 17th stone, I wept. The woman next to me unexpectedly touched my hand and whispered, "Put your face on the earth, your mother." And so I did, and a peace came to me such as I had never experienced. The pain I carried into the lodge lifted in a way of power and beauty and deep personal awareness I continue to carry.

So with sadness and deep regret, I honor the memories of children lost to me, the deaths of friends and loved ones, and sorrows of irreparable harm. Respect the sorrow; allow it to be what it is. Without a tangible place to direct my grieving, I wonder for the first time if I need to seek one out to allow for something different.

At the same time, with gratitude and an astounded sense of awe I embrace this moment, this year, these feelings, my place in this world. After too many "burning down the house" years, my life was not restored—it was begun anew.

Ah, spring. I seek to find its middle path.


"Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved. But it was not grief that Olanna felt, it was greater than grief. It was stranger than grief. She did not know where her sister was. She did not know."

~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

"The ranks of the stars move in progression, the sun and the moon shine in turn, the four seasons succeed each other in good order, the yin and yang go through their great transformations, and the wind and the rain pass over the whole land. All things obtain what is congenial to them and come to life, receive what is nourishing to them and come to completion. One does not see this process taking place, but sees only the results. Thus it is called godlike. All men understand that the process has reached completion, but none understands the formless forces that bring it about."

~ Xunzi (c. 296 -c. 236 B.C.)


  1. The depth with which you are able to love is in direct relationship to the depth with which you will grieve. Yin and yang, and every blessing comes with a curse.

    You love deeply, and you are deeply loved.

    ~your husband

  2. Yes, I agree with Rick, the price of feeling is feeling it all.

  3. Sherri, you lift me on a day I soooo needed the lift. The earth teaches if only we listen.

    Peace to you dear friend and thank you for letting me orbit within your world.


  4. Sherri, your journey of courage is amazing. No more burning down the house, but letting the scary and beautiful fire of life burn within you, even in sorrow. Joy shall come again, dear one.