Sunday, October 25, 2020


 When I listened to Jennifer Louden's Writer's Oasis on Friday, she included a meditation that was based on something a therapist had shared with a member of the Oasis. She was told to imagine all the ingredients of the past week, the good, the bad, the ugly, being tossed into a giant colander. Then all the bad and the ugly are washed away, leaving only the good, the kindness, the thoughtfulness and the love left in the colander of your life, and each fragment of good shines with its own colorful light so that all your goodness sparkles and dazzles in the bowl of the colander.

I thought of this today, as I was helping to give a retreat called "Coping with Life Alone," sponsored by Beginning Experience of San Diego.  Beginning Experience is an international movement that primarily offers weekend retreats for widowed, divorced and separated to help them along the path of healing after their loss. We haven't been able to have our weekend retreats since Covid shut down so many things, but a couple of weeks ago we were finally given permission to have a one day retreat at a church hall, with masks and social distancing and Covid-19 regulations in place.  We filled every place on the weekend and had a waiting list, and most people who signed up said it was something that they needed.

The last presentation of the day was "Where do we go from here?"  One of the questions we reflected on was sharing our feelings with others. It was an opportunity to ponder the sea-change I have experienced since my beloved husband's death nearly eight years ago. "In many ways, I've been risking and disclosing my feelings since 1981, when we made our Marriage Encounter Weekend and then became a presenting Team Couple. But it's very different risking my feelings of grief and loss within the context of Beginning Experience. These feelings of plunging to ground zero as I faced the worst thing that could ever have happened to me, the one thing I begged God never to allow to happen but he did anyway, as the ground I stood on was cut away from me, and the work we did together which was rewarding and powerful disappeared the moment he died, leaving me on an ice floe drifting aimlessly in the Antarctic, frozen and numb and unbelieving, stunned at how, in a clap of thunder and a blaze of lightning, the whole landscape of my life was upended as if by a hurricane or a wildfire or an earthquake.

Sharing these feelings, with the slow toxic drip of pain, is far more difficult and challenging and harrowing. At the end of a Marriage Encounter Weekend, we'd see lives transformed, love renewed and strengthened, and bursting with the brilliance of the Holy Spirit. In what we do in Beginning Experience, it's a much slower process, where we learn to creep and crawl, to pull ourselves up little by little with bruised and bloodied fingers, and to hope little slivers of light creep in through the cracks in our hearts. I feel hopeful about doing this, but it is a pale hope, like starshine rather than the sunlight of a summer's day.  It's like the wavering steps of a child just learning to walk rather than the dancing leaps of children playing in the grass. Every step is hard-won and there are plenty of falls along the way. And each time I am sharing with others who are also facing their own zero hours of despair and desperation and horror. So we move ahead in the dark, comforted by the presence of others on similar journeys, none of them the same, but striking little flames of light as we find compass points together we can steer by.

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