Were they gone? Uprooted by the summer road project? The green tips that announce spring’s approach had disappeared from the stretch of road just before I reach my home. Daffodils were already popping up in neighborhood gardens, purple crocuses blooming like a winter’s bruise as February kissed January goodbye. But these daffodils. I didn’t know how much I needed them until they didn’t dot the landscape.
The last few weeks I’ve been scattered. My focus, my usual gift of staying on task, gone. Blogging at least once a month. Gone. Sitting and reading a book for more than five minutes. Gone. Thankfully being able to sink into music-still here. To find solace in walking and swimming-still here. See, this Friday is the first anniversary of my mother’s death—her “deathiversary.” I know it’s coming. I’ve even planned a ritual for the day. But still the scattering of my thoughts like forest fire ash on wind-soaked days has caught me off guard. I’ve given up on most of my “to do” list, choosing instead to tumble into this day, this week, this moment.
I re-read the three blog posts (Being the Daughter and Not the Chaplain, Tiptoeing Toward Death, and Sacred Witness) I wrote the last days of my mother’s life in 2018. It was a rich time. A hard time. Cleansing. Revealing. I was present. One of those blogs I re-wrote and it was published in VoiceCatcher, an online journal (Beautiful Mask.) The gifts I’ve received the last year have been innumerable. And still I’m scattered. I’ve been scattered off and on most of the past 12 months if I’m honest.
Grieving as Adult Orphans
As adult orphans maybe we come unmoored when the last parent dies. Or at least maybe I’ve come unmoored. My “thinking” self wants to drop in all sorts of family dynamic caveats to make this universal (step-families, abusive parents, etc.) So take this where you need. It is an invitation. For me, it took plowing through tasks before the dandelion of loss could be plucked from my heart and the seeds blown into the wind. Those seeds, scatted and bouncing on internal clay and rocky soil, do not want to settle. My companion Grief (and if you follow me, you will recall, I personify Grief as companion and friend) knew that if those seeds settled in loamy soil, though growth could be green and lush, it would be the hothouse kind, not dirt-under-the-nails-grow-through-the-elements-kind my soul needed now. Living as this embodied woman, in her 60th year, I needed to experience something growing in raw and natural conditions. And also an assurance from Grief that the arc, the movement of this path felt true and I didn’t need to turn around or shift my pace. Where are those damn daffodils?
Being unmoored doesn’t mean without direction. Being scattered doesn’t mean you won’t land. It does mean familiar markers may be unseen and new landscapes will form on the horizon. It may mean drifting back to earth where you started with fresh insight. Or settling on charred soil to begin again. Or, perhaps, floating across an ocean, pulled by an invisible thread to a place called home where your ancestors are scattered.
Sojourn with Grief as Invitation to Change
This last one is my story. The death of my mother allowed me to grieve, after thirty-two years, the death of my father (a hidden loss.) I said to someone the other day, “Maybe we don’t truly grieve the loss of our first parent until they are both gone.” (See above caveat for quantity/definition of parents.) In allowing loss to unmoor me, to drift along with the current these last few months, I have been able to let go of the silent “shoulds” that hold sway over my life. And my seeds? They are boarding a plane and heading to the United Kingdom in just over eight weeks for an eight-week sojourn. The home of my parents and ancestors. The current is strong and though it is human engineering that is getting my body there, my spirit is well on the way.
My sojourn back to roots, to sea, to ancestors is a gift that has come out of listening. Of allowing myself to be unmoored. To welcome Grief as companion. Not that I haven’t had times of resistance. Of begging for those familiar markers that say “little has changed. Your life is stable.”
As I prepare for my journey you may notice a shift in tone in my blogs and other social media posts, for I am changing. Yes, grief, loss, life transitions are still my focus, my call, but my way of “being with” it all is shifting. I’m inviting you on my journey not as an outside observer, but as witness and as an invitation to see what is unfolding in your own life. Perhaps being settled and not scattered is the best place for you at this time in your life. Or growing in the hothouse where you are tended and safe is appropriate. Remember, no right or wrong way to do this thing called grief or life.
So, please, follow me in the months ahead as I pack, unpack, repack, and explore my path.
And if this post sounds scattered, has typos, grammar messes, well, I’m not surprised.
Oh, and the daffodils. They are coming up. On their schedule. Their time. Like Grief. Like life.
How have the losses in your life left you feeling unmoored and scattered? What has it been like to let go of the old “shoulds” and allow new ways to unfold?
Your story of grief and loss matters. If you feel comfortable sharing in the comments, please do.
There are still a few spaces in my The Labyrinth Path: Writing and Walking with Grief & Loss, Feb 24th from 1-5pm in SE Portland. Please follow the link to find out more.
You can also follow my frequent postings on Instagram @nurtureyourjourney.