This book is about exploring the healing of loss, grief, and trauma in the context of the wider container of consciousness that extends beyond our limited human perspectives. It is about widening our embrace with life and seeking healing options in the highly charged atmosphere of despair and a sense of futility that often accompanies the death of a loved one.
The book is also about the astonishing revelations I experience, as my late husband and I confront unhealed parts of ourselves and our relationship, accept our circumstances, give thanks for our love, forgive what needs to be forgiven, and to heal aspects of our human relationship so that each of us can move on.
My story is one of tragedy transformed by love. Four years ago, when I am 73, an unexpected and dramatic event takes the life of my husband of 23 years.
Our car plunges off a narrow rural road and lands upside-down in a river. While I sustain some challenging physical injuries, I also experience trauma and severe Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). That event changes everything, snatching away all my identities. I am a survivor. And, I wonder, was I saved for something different, something extraordinary? The big life I was living evaporates instantly. Inches from death, I am flung back into life.
I ask myself: am I meant to make something significant out of my new life?
And further: what would my beloved Karl want me to do with my new opportunities?
My three potential healing pathways
I imagine three healing options as confront this crossroads in my life’s path. I want to choose a path that will lead me in the direction of healing and reconciliation with my loss (and acceptance of my brush with death and diminishment of my abilities).
I need to prepare myself, read the signs carefully, and choose well.
ALTERNATIVE 1: business as usual
I’ll call the first potential healing path business as usual. Taking that route, I would accept our culture’s mainstream ideas about how to manage my loss and grief. I would soldier on, recovering the best I could (and as quickly as possible). I would break my bonds of attachment with Karl, accepting that he is lost to me forever. Then I would move on as soon as I have passed through (and, to some extent, mastered) the five predictable stages of grief. I would re-invest my energies elsewhere.
Being a naturally spiritual person, I sense that such an approach is not right for me. I intuitively know that there must be something more appropriate and heart-centered for me. Somewhere.
ALTERNATIVE 2: option b
Sheryl Sandberg and Alan Grant propose what I see as my second option (in their 2017 bestseller, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy). I’ll call it the psychological approach, based on popular resilience theory. Using their guidance, I could confidently set out on a path that offered tested psychological approaches to “managing” loss, grief, and trauma. That path promises results, as evidence-based research supports its approach. However, I cannot find in Option B anything even resembling a spiritual dimension. My spirit yearns for support and connection with something greater than my own identity. I need to find another path that aligns more closely with my spiritual values. I need a path that offers the potential for successful healing. I know that I must choose and get on with my life. But Option B, offering no spiritual potential, feels conservative and limiting.
ALTERNATIVE 3: develop and inhabit my own “Option C”
How does a person who is a shattered wreck find the right path?
Serendipitously, I rediscover a book by Rudolf Steiner I had read several years ago. I allow it to guide me. I have sought spiritual knowledge throughout the whole of my adult life, so early in my mourning, I know that I need more than conventional remedies. I am desperate to stay connected with Karl, despite knowing that connection with the dead is often a taboo subject in our culture. It would not be the first taboo I break. I have always marched on my own path to the drum of my own, independent spirituality.
No spiritual bypassing for me
I am also alert to the dangers of “spiritual bypassing” (http://robertmasters.com/writings/spiritual-bypassing/). First coined by psychologist John Welwood, spiritual bypassing means using spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid addressing painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and, in my case, grief and trauma. Although I am in deep pain, I do not want to bypass anything. I am in this for the long haul. I will travel as far and delve as deeply as I must.
As Rumi wisely reminds us, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
I strongly believe that my whole future depends on how I engage with my grief. I want to find a path with heart. And I want to journey without my pain engulfing or destroying me. I want to be artful and to employ healing processes that align with my values. And I am desperate to move on.
I passionately seek to be courageous.
I believe that my life depends on it.