Swimming in the blue world of grief


Several years ago I faced the excruciating task of freeing my heart from a terminally broken relationship. I walked five miles a day, gave myself pep talks, reinvented my looks, joined a book club and deleted our pictures from  my phone. Some days all that stuff helped. Some days it didn’t.

One day, during a summer thunderstorm, I flung open my bedroom window, sat on my bed and listened to “Refuge” by Vas, one of the most haunting songs I know. The stormy weather seemed to transform my room, and I felt immersed in the elements. The air felt cool and damp, my room smelled like earth and rain, and sometimes all I could hear was the thunder and noise of the rain pelting the forest outside my window.

Anyone watching might have assumed I was wallowing in sadness. But I knew different. In holding my breath and swimming just below the surface of my sorrow, I was searching for a portal. My skin tingled and I felt a sense of anticipation, as if any moment I might find what I was looking for and swim to the other side.

Sometimes there is an invisible veil between us and what we long for. That day, in the midst of the steady rain, that veil seemed to take on shape and substance, as if the elements that usually kept it hidden were being washed away. It felt close, both earthy and ethereal, and I couldn’t help but feel that, if it could be seen, perhaps it could be penetrated, like a membrane, like a birth. Employing all my senses, I drew as near as I could, then nearer still, yearning to break through to the other side.

I think grieving is a baptism of sorts. Submerged, we swim below the surface of our sorrow, searching for portals, for treasures lost, for the way back home.

I’m all for rising above our circumstances. But sometimes, before we rise, we need to grieve. Eventually the need for air and light and life forces us back to the surface, where we catch our breath before diving again. In time, our hours beneath the surface grow shorter and less frequent. Then one day it dawns on us that the blue world of grief has stopped calling our names altogether.

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