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Featured this Month:

Groundlessness
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
Very recently, an esteemed friend and colleague died suddenly of natural causes. Not suicide. She was loved by many, and possibly at the peak of her life, but without warning, she was gone. We have lost her unique humor and animation, her dedication to helping others. Many of us at Catholic Charities are mourning her loss collectively. We are in shock, and preoccupied with taking her death in, making sense of it. I am no better at grief than my LOSS clients. But I can be grateful that experiencing this sudden loss renews my understanding of the wholly disorienting aspects of acute grief through which my bereaved LOSS families struggle: The strange body sensations, a sense of unreality, feeling disconnected from real time. If we add degrees of intimacy shared with the deceased person, such as child, sibling or spouse, the disabling sorrow and confusion created by a suicide, we know that the intensity and duration of grief becomes exponentially more intense.

At the end of the day on which I learned of her death, I felt very tired. I felt groundless. I turned to a little book by Pema Chodron that I sometimes use for restoration, “When Things Fall Apart.” Opening the book, my eye fell on a sentence: “Right now – in the very instant of groundlessness – is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.” Almost immediately I stopped resisting the shifting-sands feeling of groundlessness (for a few minutes, at least) and allowed myself to just experience it. I quietly breathed it in. It was humbling to simply appreciate the timeless, universal humanness of a loss to which I had no choice but to submit, as I have had to at other times of loss, to cast aside my notions of control and remember how vulnerable we are when joyous connections end without preparation.

In that brief moment when I accepted the groundless sensations, I was closer to a sense of mystery and sorrow, the heart of grief. This is where compassion for the dead and the living arises. I felt grateful for my work that allows me to be with families as they also face confusion and sorrow and mystery, and rebuild lives that have been profoundly changed by the loss of the loved one who had been at the core of their lives.

I would like to learn once and for all that if I allow myself to be present to groundless feelings and the illusion that what is precious will always be with me, then love and connection can be more keenly experienced with each encounter. But I believe we have to keep relearning this. Opening to our pain and the insights it offers us has to be practiced. Perhaps now I will express my respect and love or affection for others more often. Yes, I will care for others and myself, perhaps more so in the realization that we bind to others in loss. I will witness this dynamic as my bereaved LOSS families tell their stories and share their sorrow and regroup for the benefit of each other, and I will be quietly amazed as parents move through great pain to care for their surviving children in a changed world. We find reserves for surviving loss when we identify a sense of purpose. So often it is caring for others. Therein lies love and our discovered goodness.



Archives:

Groundlessness
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
Very recently, an esteemed friend and colleague died suddenly of natural causes. Not suicide. She was loved by many, and possibly at the peak of her life, but without warning, she was gone. We have lost her unique humor and animation, her dedication to helping others. Many of us at Catholic Charities are mourning her loss collectively. We are in shock, and preoccupied with taking her death in, making sense of it. I am no better at grief than my LOSS clients. But I can be grateful that experiencing this sudden loss renews my understanding of the wholly disorienting aspects of acute grief through which my bereaved LOSS families struggle: The strange body sensations, a sense of unreality, feeling disconnected from real time. If we add degrees of intimacy shared with the deceased person, such as child, sibling or spouse, the disabling sorrow and confusion created by a suicide, we know that the intensity and duration of grief becomes exponentially more intense.

At the end of the day on which I learned of her death, I felt very tired. I felt groundless. I turned to a little book by Pema Chodron that I sometimes use for restoration, “When Things Fall Apart.” Opening the book, my eye fell on a sentence: “Right now – in the very instant of groundlessness – is the seed of taking care of those who need our care and of discovering our goodness.” Almost immediately I stopped resisting the shifting-sands feeling of groundlessness (for a few minutes, at least) and allowed myself to just experience it. I quietly breathed it in. It was humbling to simply appreciate the timeless, universal humanness of a loss to which I had no choice but to submit, as I have had to at other times of loss, to cast aside my notions of control and remember how vulnerable we are when joyous connections end without preparation.

In that brief moment when I accepted the groundless sensations, I was closer to a sense of mystery and sorrow, the heart of grief. This is where compassion for the dead and the living arises. I felt grateful for my work that allows me to be with families as they also face confusion and sorrow and mystery, and rebuild lives that have been profoundly changed by the loss of the loved one who had been at the core of their lives.

I would like to learn once and for all that if I allow myself to be present to groundless feelings and the illusion that what is precious will always be with me, then love and connection can be more keenly experienced with each encounter. But I believe we have to keep relearning this. Opening to our pain and the insights it offers us has to be practiced. Perhaps now I will express my respect and love or affection for others more often. Yes, I will care for others and myself, perhaps more so in the realization that we bind to others in loss. I will witness this dynamic as my bereaved LOSS families tell their stories and share their sorrow and regroup for the benefit of each other, and I will be quietly amazed as parents move through great pain to care for their surviving children in a changed world. We find reserves for surviving loss when we identify a sense of purpose. So often it is caring for others. Therein lies love and our discovered goodness.