The Emptiness of Death

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When someone leaves your life forever, never to be seen, heard, experienced or felt on no level, never to walk the Earth again or breathe the air or see the sky, it feels empty to the one left behind.

Empty to a degree that nothing seem to fill that particular emptiness. It is a feeling of despair and disbelief and hopelessness about anything that can be done about it. We can’t change death, we can’t rewind the clock to stop things from happening, we are powerless at the hands of the force merciless and sudden.

It is one of the human experiences that is beyond comprehension. We can’t make sense of it with our minds and when turning to our hearts the pain is too much and unbearable when we tune into that hole, that emptiness, that nothingness that suddenly entered our lives.

Cruel – yes

Unfair – yes

Gaping emptiness – yes

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No amount of reasoning, pleading, conditioning yourself to it is going to stop it in its tracks. When it is time, it is time. How does one say goodbye to that, in the emptiness, in the hole with no sunlight, just emptiness. How to be, what to do, what to feel – all and nothing at the same time. Overwhelm of ripping claws of devastation created by an empty space or frozen in that moment when nothing else exists, no longer exists and you are suspended between living and joining that emptiness.

The pain is sharp. If it was to be described in tastes it is like it suddenly goes very bitter or extremely sweet when overwhelmed with memories, e.g. it is all about extremes of either unpleasant sensations to the max or the pleasure of remembering to a degree it is also unbearable when feeling a hand of a loved one in yours like it was five minutes ago.

Emptiness, what to do? All we can do is stay in it, stay still and wear whatever masks are thrown at you whether it is sobbing creature rolling on the floor whaling and howling like it wants no longer exist or flooding in the ocean of tears till you can’t breathe or see and all sense abandon you in that moment. A road to realisation that nothing will ever fill that emptiness is a long one and it might take for the rest of your life to even begin to feel ok with the knowledge there is emptiness.

Does it transform into something remotely comforting? I think we do need to aim to transform it into something even if it is something we create with our imagination. It is powerful to feel and know that something or someone gone is gone forever. The truth is they are gone, what we are left with is a feeling, a knowing, a memory of it once existing with life and passion and blood in their veins and laughter in their belly. We hold that image where the emptiness is, we make peace with it, we carry it within us carefully hidden in a sacred space of the heart. We can always access it and eventually we will feel more love than pain, more warmth and chilled sensation of an initial emptiness. It is not impossible, but it is a long process of first and foremost of honouring all the feelings that dance around that emptiness in unison with your soul crying. The rhythm of your heart beats as one with the Earth and the lulling comfort of the Earth gives us a reassurance that within the emptiness there is a hope for growth.

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Reading while going through grief

Glencoe
Glencoe Lost Valley, Scotland

While going through a grieving process last month I found myself overtaken by a stampede of endless chattering of thoughts with an additional overwhelm of feelings. I felt I could not breathe, could not be, relax, feel one thing at a time or focus on one thing at a time. I was in a spinning wheel and it was terribly unpleasant. I knew the process of bereavement was takin place and the aim is always to let yourself feel everything. Often, as I also found with my clients, it is not the feelings that are the problem it is the constant chattering of the mind that is difficult to endure. It is frequent my client would say – I wish I could stop thinking, more so than I wish I could stop feeling. Interesting. What was happening to me was both processes at the same time – thinking and feeling and it was manifesting within my body in a way of physical symptoms and ailments. What I wanted to do was to escape, relax and be still.

What came to my awareness as I was searching for some relief and peace was the saying ‘escape into a novel/book’. I never really experienced that sense of being completely consumed by a piece of literature, my memories are more of reading because I had to read for studies, work, etc. I seem to have forgotten the last time I read a novel. I intuitively decided to test this out and began searching for a novel, but which one… I knew I wanted to find and wondered if there is such a work, which covered both my love for Scottish highlands and magic. I found the one pretty quick, which was incredible as if something somewhere guided me towards that piece and relief I was looking for. Trust your intuition I say, it never leads to astray, but always to the heart of what is needed.

The book was set in 1600 in Scottish highlands, Glencoe with a protagonist, who was a ‘witch’, a wild creature. What a gem, what a journey. This woman will remain with me forever. Not only I ‘escaped into the novel’, it connected me with myself, with my inner sacred soul pieces and that unconditional love that shines above and beyond.

Corrag by Susan Fletcher (Kindle edition) is a historical novel, which is based on real-life events, they say, during 1600 when Glencoe massacre took place. The heroin is such a beautifully wonderful creature it was pure magic to read her story and see the land she loved so dearly, as I do, through her eyes. She could have easily be me. The novel took me away into the land of my soul and I melted into that landscape as I walked the land with Corrag and spoke her language.

For those of you, who loves the land of Scotland, history, beautifully evoking, poetic and atmospheric writing, magical ways of the wild woman, unconditional love, deep kindness, herbs healing and humanness most of all – read this novel.

Here are some REVIEWS of this book that saved me from going insane in the moment of being gripped by grief and it will stay with me for years to come. I experienced that ‘losing yourself in a novel’ feeling. It also sparked my desire and enthusiasm to continue writing my own novel, which had been left unattended for many years. Perhaps, it is time to breathe some life into it again.

Please note that this book seem to go under three different titles for reason unknown to me. Corrag title is a Kindle edition and other titles are paperbacks

Corrag

The Highland witch

Witch light

On grief and winter

grief and winter

On grief and winter

From a bereavement counsellor to a bereavement client in one day. Grief carries no warning, death does not wait, time does not stop, nothing stays the same, nothing lasts. Things change from one minute to the next and all we are left with is the present moment, just now.

Having sat opposite people in grief for years I suddenly got it more than I ever did before. I experienced bereavement when younger and, yes, it always gripped me to the core and it was something that did not just pass I had to live it every day, work through it every day for many years, 7 years seems to be the number for me. Here it was again, in my face, unapologetic, under my skin and everywhere in my body and I froze. I knew I could not accompany anyone on their grief journey for the time being, not now, not for a while. I was the client now in need of a counsellor.

Emotions consume you within seconds, you don’t ask for it, you don’t expect it yet you feel it so deeply you might not even recognise yourself in that moment. It is often unreal and you question how life was a minute ago, nothing will ever be the same again. It is strikingly profound.

As I handed my notice I felt a wave of emotion, a wave of pain for me, not for my clients or friends or family, but me. I was IN it. The thing with grief you think you will be ok, you prepare, you tell yourself things, you philosophise on what approach you might take and you apply various beliefs to the journey of life and death, but nothing, nothing prepares you for it and the reason is – emotions have no reason, they just are. They are raw and in need of expression. They take over your body, your mind, your soul and one has to lay in bed with it all feeling like drowning, falling. The sunshine dims and curtains close just like when a coffin is covered with a sliding curtain ready for cremation. Is this it?

For many this is the end and for many it is a beginning of something new. The truth is it is both, the end of something and the beginning of something. Life and death walk together always. There is never one without the other. The Sun rises every day giving birth to the light and disappears every night extinguishing its shining, but the stars are born and darkness is welcomed by all of us sleeping and resting. Grief draws us into the dark place, into the place of pain, questioning and searching. A bit like winter time, which rules the land in its sleeping and invites us into the darkness of our thoughts and emotions. We are thrown into ourselves to dwell on our year past, reflect on all that touched us and got us here to this moment. In winter we are helpless with it all, some like it others crave light and sunshine and that’s ok. Both have meaning and lessons and so grief also teaches us to reflect, how to really feel and miss someone deeply who is never to walk the Earth again. Nothing teaches us more about life than death. Grab it with both hands, I say, run with it invigorated by knowing that each day will never come again. Create, breathe deeply, notice, most of all notice and feel all there is to see and feel around you. Engage with life hungrily knowing that all those that left their bodies are now within us. They are woven into tapestry of our lives forever and we will carry their spirit till it is time for us to hand it over to someone else. The cycle continues. The wheel turns on the 22 December and the light comes back again.

Live, breathe, feel

Blessed Yule and Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice