When Grief Calls Forth The Healing
How do you survive and heal the loss the person closest to you? A spouse, a sibling, a twin?
Healing does not mean forgetting the person who has died. It means forming a new relationship to that person and being able to lead a new and meaningful life.
WHAT’S ON MY MIND
Thursday 24, 2016 – Some Thoughts About Thanksgiving and the Holidays:
Thanksgiving Day, the first of the winter holidays, is a loving and joyous time for family and friends. A day when we cherish our relationships and give thanks for the blessings of our lives.
However – when we are suffering the loss of a twin during this time, the pain of that loss is magnified by this wonderful holiday. Our grieving, at whatever stage we are in, finds its way to the front of our minds and hearts. Others’ happiness, celebration, and gratitude can simply underline our sense of loneliness and despair. Friends and family may have integrated their loss and moved forward with their lives. Twin loss takes much longer to grieve. Our relatives and close friends can become uncomfortable with this state of affairs and unsure of how to relate to us. We, in our reawakened and heightened sense of grief, can feel isolated and misunderstood.
How can we enter this day of Thanksgiving, of family love and sharing, when we are filled with the essence of family loss? And, what do we have to be thankful for? I can only share with you my personal answer.
It has been 55 years since my twin died. It has taken time for me to feel, know and deal with the ingredients of these questions – listening to my deepest self and to many other twins.
Most important, I learned the significance of believing and trusting in the truth of our feelings. I found that in respecting my feelings, and stepping out of others’ “shoulds” and “oughts,” I could pace myself and follow my inner guide. I want to encourage you to do what you are able to do on Thanksgiving Day, and no more. You will have a lot of different emotions on this day. Try to safely express them in some form. If you are able to, take some time to be alone. One Thanksgiving, I found it helpful to sit and write in my journal a letter to my twin. Other Thanksgivings, I have taken a walk. I have talked then to my twin in my mind. One Thanksgiving, I cried and hugged a large tree. I felt its strong, rough trunk against my cheek. When I finally let go and stepped back, I saw that the tree had lost one of its huge branches, leaving a large, rounded rim of a scar. Suddenly, the tree seemed to offer me a gift – a sense that it was worth holding onto my life.
I named my book “When Grief Calls Forth the Healing.” I know now that when I finally trusted and expressed my feelings they led the way to the slow integration of my deep loss. Most important, I didn’t die from the fear of my separation when I finally acknowledged Michael’s death. I found the courage to get the help I needed when I recognized that what I felt was real, and its unfolding path needed to be safely embraced.
Was I able to feel grateful at Thanksgiving? I was not able to feel any gratitude for my blessings when I was in the midst of deep grief. But slowly, I found that when I moved to trust the grieving process and felt safe enough to let go of my twin Michael’s physical life, that my twinship still belonged to me – and that Michael was still there for me, alive in my heart. I believe this reality is true for all lone twins. The grieving process is a natural inner journey, with integration of the reality of our twin’s death as its goal. Again, slowly, I was able to recognize and feel my blessings on Thanksgiving Day. Today I am deeply grateful, and most especially for the everlasting gift of Michael and our twinship.
Here are two poems by Mary Oliver that I love and that have been personally sustaining in my deepest, most challenging and saddest transitions:
By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
By Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
January 16, 2015:
Rafael Pi Roman and I discuss the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the importance of the grieving process and the perpetual strength of the twin bond. The interview is now posted on the MetroFocus webcast. Click HERE to view.
October 16, 2014:
In a recent Huffington Post piece, I write about the deeply ingrained fear that can prevent us from grieving and why we must trust and embrace our grief in order to find a new relationship to our loved one and be able to open our hearts to new beginnings. Click HERE to read the full text on the Thoughts page.