Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
−John O’Donohue, “For a New Beginning,” 2008: 14.
Maintaining continuing bonds was right for me
My journey along the path with heart teaches me that maintaining continuing bonds with Karl, my late husband, is right for me. Psychologists, grief therapists and others in bereavement studies agree. Staying connected can provide consolation, reassurance, comfort, support and, importantly, in my case, guidance. I find that the specific methods suggested by Rudolf Steiner a century ago do work, although the communication with a loved one who has died might not last forever in that form.
Expressive writing and journaling about grief (preferably as a conversation or a dialogue) can have a healing effect on the grieving person, provided those activities do not deteriorate into narcissistic behavior. A substantial benefit of the “conversations” approach discussed in this book is that we are engaging in a dialogue with our dear one — not a self-focused monologue.
Our conversations are powerful experiences of deep listening — a type of communication I had read about years ago in a beautiful book, Rachel Naomi Remen’s Kitchen Table Wisdom (2006):
Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing…. When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person. That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others…. Listening creates a holy silence.
In this holy silence, our love blossoms in a new form
In this holy silence, our love blossoms in a new form.
I must also accept that time is a factor in listening, as Mark Nepo wisely explains, “Deep listening also takes time because things get in the way that we must allow to pass…” (2012, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: 152).
Just as we cannot rush the river, we cannot speed up the healing process. We can support it, but speeding it up is not really a realistic option.
For me and Karl, our unconventional medium of communication is a private and powerful way for both of us to express shock, grief, and pain. I cannot really explain how vital the solace of Karl’s actual voice is, as it comes through in my writing. His words provide comfort and reassurance that nobody else can give me. It becomes our little secret. As I review our words when I transcribe them (reading them into voice-activated software), my heart has another opportunity to open. Later, I often weep as I edit those entries.
I can also, at some level, track my progress in healing my grief. Sharing some of this material with trusted loved ones is also highly beneficial.
Some specific processes I develop help to open me up to listening to Karl’s voice so that I can hear him loud and clear. Anyone can do these simple exercises, which are not time-consuming.
I sense the world that awaits me. I must release Karl. And I must release my old life so that I can move on.