After my wife Holly died in 2014, I had hoped to continue writing and maintain the continuity of the healing work to which we had dedicated our lives for 15 years. But embracing grief after losing someone you built a life with becomes a humbling new journey. That grief has a will and heart of its own that demands that you stop and breathe, and listen. Over and over and over again. A vulnerable new life is forming, unknown at first, and one’s mind must become open to feeling a tentative pulse of life taking form inside mysterious places of the heart and soul.
When the momentum of a dynamic relationship comes to an end, there is a kind of shock that takes over—all of the dreams, visions, and goals that are left incomplete between you dissipate like mist in the sun. The theater set of a shared life remains while the play is over, the intensity of a torturous cancer journey suddenly still, too still. Too still.
I lost my writer’s voice inside that shock. I watched it grow silent within me, and I often thought of the author William Styron who wrote “Sophie’s Choice”. He stopped writing for 18 years after his father died. I had heard that story when I was younger, and I couldn’t understand how a gifted writer could become so blocked. Now, I knew.
My world, our world, died. Though I continued to find meaning in my life working with clients and even met and married another wonderful woman, the core of the commitment I had created with Holly became like a flower bed that had died and over time decomposed into a new organic substance in my heart, waiting to take on a new life. Now, finally and oddly in this time, that new life is gently springing up inside. It is a blessing that took a while, and I am grateful.
It is 2020, and we are in the collective grief and trauma of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are experiencing an upheaval in what they took for granted as normal and may never go back to the same normal ever again. But this is familiar to me. In a very strange way, I feel prepared for this, because I have already lived through this disease-driven shock and displacement of normal life.
Holly’s cancer, like this virus, changed our entire world. We lived every day with tremendous uncertainty, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. Regardless of the outcome, we were changed tragically, profoundly, and beautifully forever, never to go back to an easier, simpler time.
And so now, as then, I breathe slowly and deeply, all day, every day, living on the edge of the unknown, being willing to not know the outcome, embracing the spiritual practice I have taught so many clients. I know that there will be an organic resolution of this national crisis, hopefully making us smarter and better as a people and a nation. There will be many stages of death and rebirth—individually, locally, regionally, nationally and globally—and life will go on. And there will be blessings that come out of this time. This much, I know. And for this, I am truly grateful.