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Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief PDF

380 Pages·2009·0.74 MB·English
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HEALING AFTER LOSS Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief MARTHA WHITMORE HICKMAN To Bill and Sudie Contents Permissions 5 Introduction 7 January 1 1 February 1 32 March 1 60 April 1 91 May 1 121 June 1 152 July 1 182 August 1 213 September 1 244 October 1 274 November 1 305 December 1 335 About the Author Other Books by Martha Whitmore Hickman Cover Copyright About the Publisher Permissions Grateful acknowledgment is given for permission to reprint from the following: “Annie Allen” by Gwendolyn Brooks. From Blacks by Gwendolyn Brooks. Copyright © 1991. Third World Press, Chicago, 1991. Reprinted by permission of the author. “Healing More or Less” by Jim Cotter. Cairns Publications, Long-wood Publishing Group. “Two Tramps in Mud Time” and “Haec Fabula Docet” by Robert Frost. From The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Ed- ward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1936 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1964, 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine. Copyright 1947, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, Inc. “Memorandums” by Edward Hirsch. From The Night Parade by Edward Hirsch. Copyright © 1989 by Edward Hirsch. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Originally appeared in “The New Yorker.” “After the Drowning” by Mary Jean Irion. From Holding On. Copyright © 1984 by Mary Jean Irion. Heatherstone Press. Reprinted by permission of the author. “The Lost Son” by Theodore Roethke. Copyright © 1948 by Theodore Roethke. “In a Dark Time” by Theodore Roethke. Copyright © 1960 by Beatrice Roethke, Administratrix of the Estate of Theodore Roethke. From The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke by Theodore Roethke. Reprinted by permis- sion of Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. “All Souls” by May Sarton. From Collected Poems 1930—1993 by May Sarton. Copyright © 1993 by May Sarton. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. “Elegy for My Father” by Mark Strand. From Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. “Dear Men and Women” by John Hall Wheelock. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, and imprint of Simon & Schuster, from Dear Men and Women: New Poems by John Hall Wheelock. Copyright © 1966 by John Hall Wheelock; copy- right renewed 1994 by Sally Wheelock Brayton. “For Dudley” by Richard Wilbur. Excerpt from “For Dudley” in Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations. Copyright © 1969 by Richard Wilbur; reprinted by permission of Har- court Brace & Company. Introduction After the loss of a loved one there is, at first, a great buzz of activity as we make arrangements, as family and friends come together. There is comfort in the close press of friends, in shared tears and hugs, in gifts of food, in remembering. Religious services give meaning and hope as the community gathers around us in love and support. But then the services are over, relatives and friends go home, and we are left to enter a new and strange land—a land where one of the persons who has given meaning to our life is gone. Now there are spaces in the mind, spaces in the days and nights. Often, when we least expect it, the pain and the preoccupation come back, and back—sometimes like the rolling crash of an ocean wave, sometimes like the slow ooze after a piece of driftwood is lifted and water and sand rise to claim their own once more. This process goes on for a very long time. For years, not for days or months, if the loved one has been close. Some losses—a child, a spouse—are never “got over.” But if we are wise and fortunate and have the courage and support to tread the hallowed ground again and again, the loss will begin to lose its controlling power. We will be able to choose. We will be able to walk back from a danger zone if we need to, or save it for a time when we feel stronger. We will be able to feel the spray on our face without a fear of drowning, even to savor the taste of the salt on our lips because, in addition to the poignancy of loss come the rush of love for the one we have lost and perhaps a sense that in the mystery of the universe, we still inhabit that universe together and are tied together in a love that cannot come untied. “What is essential does not die but clarifies,” wrote Thornton Wilder. And again, “The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” Eventually, we will find our way through this particular “valley of the shadow,” and while there may always be a tinge of sadness, there will come a sense of our own inner strength and our ability to rejoice in the life we have shared, and to look toward a future in which the loved one, though not physically present, con- tinues to bless us. Each of us speaks and writes out of our own history of sorrow and gladness. My life as a writer and as a human being has been heavily affected by my experience with grieving—in particular, by the death of a sixteen-year-old daughter who, on a bright summer afternoon while our family was on vacation in the Colorado mountains, fell from a horse and died. It was a long time ago. Grief takes its time, and for a while it occupies all our time. I know whereof I speak. So it was with a particular sense of being in the right place, of congruence with my own life, that I undertook this book of meditations for those who grieve. The meditations follow the course of the year, but you can start anywhere—in any month, on any day. They are brief because, particularly in the early stages of grieving, our attention span is short, and a seminal thought will serve us better than an extended discussion. I am grateful to many people for making this book pos- sible—to the family and friends who upheld me when I was most vulnerable; to the spiritual and religious communities who love me and remind me of who I am, who I have chosen to be. And in particular, now, my thanks to my editor, Lisa Considine, who first approached me about taking on this project; and to the hundreds of people whose words—in chance conversation, in letters, or through the printed page—form the flash points for these meditations. To ac- quaint, or reacquaint, myself with these sages has been a rich adventure for me. And I hope that, together, we will be able to help those who grieve to move with resoluteness and courage and with trust in a gathering light on the long road to recovery and reclamation of life. Nashville, Tennessee August, 1994

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