Interacting with the Light

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
— Edith Wharton

I have longed loved this quote.  I also have to admit, for most of that time, I have looked at being the candle as the preferable way.  I have seen it as more powerful.  I am just now coming to realize that each way has its time and place.

In my role as a grief counselor, I usually need to “be the candle” for my clients – just as I remember needing others to be the candle for me when I was in the depths of pain after losing a loved one.  Grief puts us in a space where we can not be the light ourselves.  Very often we even have difficulty seeing the light that is being held for us.   Everything feels so thick, so heavy, so dark.  All we can do is trust those who tell us the light is there…somewhere…and who remind us that we will once again be able to see it someday.

Conversely, with my spiritual counseling clients, whose focus is often to live from their Higher Self (aka their soul), my job is to be the mirror that reflects their own light.  The first step is to get them to see the light within them, day in and day out, whatever life circumstances they are facing.  It requires holding them as whole, complete, unbroken – whatever they are doing or whatever stories they are telling me (and themselves). Self-forgiveness, self-care, and self-love are frequent topics of conversation.  Most of all, we focus on accepting ourselves as we are, light and all.  It reminds me of the Marianne Williamson quote, “It is our light, not our darkness, that we are most afraid of.”

I invite you to watch how you interact with the light in your life.

Are there times when you are being the candle when it might be a higher calling to reflect the light in another?  What about those times when you are needing the light?  Can you let another help you to find your own – or do you automatically assign them the role of official light bearer?  Just as with every area of our life, the more conscious we can be of how we lift up ourselves and others, the more effective and compassionate as well.

Could it be that everything is more perfect than I can possibly imagine?

I had that notion introduced to me in a healing session a little over a year ago, shortly after my brother Dennis died.  I scheduled a session with a woman I knew who did shamanic work.  In our work together, I started envisioning how my brother and I may have known each other in past lives.  This notion was not new to me as it had captured my heart when I read of it in Brian Weiss’s book Only Love is Real.  Eventually the interaction of our lives started to appear as if on a Lite Brite board, the kid’s game that allows you to make different patterns based on the color of the pegs.  Next our mother’s lives overlaid onto the pattern so I could see where all of us may have interacted, where just she and I came together, and where just Dennis and she came together.  In the final version of the ever-changing board, I saw the lives of other people I have loved who have died appear momentarily before the board transformed into the next version.  This quick series included my late husband, my father, and other friends.  As these scenes were sequencing through, the exact statement, “Everything is more perfect than you can possibly imagine” was introduced to me.  It felt as though it was coming from a unified spiritual voice of all those souls.

As I contemplated this possibility, I initially ascribed it only to who comes into our life when, how long they stay, and how / when they leave.  I then realized that if perfection existed at that level, it must exist for everything that happens in our lives. Still a big if, but one that was definitely worth considering.  It also took me back to another statement on life and death, when teacher Ariel Sebastian postulated that “every death is perfect.”  Her statement was offered several months after my husband’s death, which had come after a long, harsh bout of cancer that had robbed him of his speech, his ability to eat, his gorgeous looks, and many of his favorite activities, such as golf and acting.  Yet I could still see how his death may have been perfect.  He had accepted his condition and its impact on his life months earlier.  The death itself was peaceful and very early in the morning, allowing the two of us to share a final moment of true connection.  His parents arrived just as he slipped into that no-man’s-space between the two worlds, not yet dead yet not really still present in this world either.

It was my mother’s death 15 years earlier that I couldn’t begin to see as perfect.  She had a living will that no extreme measures were to be taken to prolong her life, yet somehow that got overridden by my father and/or her doctor, leaving her intubated in the ICU for 7-1/2 weeks.  Conscious most of that time, she was frustrated and angry that she couldn’t talk or eat.  I could see in her eyes she just wanted to be gone.   I sat in the question of how that could possibly have been her perfect death.  It helped me to realize my human mind can not grasp what perfection is at the spiritual level.  Holding the belief the purpose of each and every incarnation we have is to grow spiritually, there are going to be times when what my eyes see and what my mind judges does not match what may be happening behind the scenes or at the larger level.

This realization is what opened me to the possibility the statement seemingly offered by my loved ones who have passed over just might be true.  It certainly offers more spaciousness and hope than going through life despairing over what is going “wrong” – whether personally in my life or collectively in our world.  If it speaks to you, I invite you to spend some time with the question, “What if everything is more perfect than I can possibly imagine?”

How Does a Grief Counselor Grieve?

Imperfectly. Very imperfectly. I find myself thinking, “I should be better at this. After all, I’ve been through it many times. I’ve read many books on the subject. I’ve taken classes. I’ve even taught classes on grief counseling. I’m an expert.” It’s as though I expect all the head knowledge I’ve accumulated to grow hands and arms: to give me a hug that makes it all better, to be able to gently stroke all the pain and ache in my heart away completely and let the light shine through. It’s not happening.

I do not like the way this year started. At 5 minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve I found myself sitting alone at the bedside of my brother in his hospice room. The rest of the family had left a few minutes earlier. His wife had just fallen asleep in the pull-out couch in the adjoining area; I had agreed to sit with him for the night so she could get some rest. My brother was out of it – asleep, medicated, preparing for the next world…I don’t know – but he certainly was not conscious. At 12:02, he stirred slightly and I gently said to him, “Happy New Year. It’s 2014; you made it. You can go any time.” He did, three days later when he was ready – with his wife, most of his kids, and 2 of his siblings at his side.

As I said, I’ve been through this a few times. I wrote in my book, If You Want the Rain, Welcome the Rainbow: A Memoir of Grief and Recovery, “I have buried my parents, my husband, my in-laws, young cousins, middle-aged friends and many elderly relatives.” This was the first sibling I’ve had to bury. He was the last I thought would leave this world, having been the only one of the five of us to not live many years with a major addiction – either alcohol or food. (OK, maybe the last few years of his life he was in the food camp, but he certainly had the mildest addiction in the clan.)

He was also the sibling I to which I was the closest. For the last ten years plus, I had spent time with he and his family at least once a year; many years there were several visits. In between there were phone calls that could last for an hour or more, often his latest rant on the political front, but it still connected us deeply. We shared those views. This season he had even been calling me during Michigan State football games, something he knows means far more to me than is probably healthy. Any healing that had to happen between us did a few years ago when he off-handedly said, “I would never let my kids treat each other the way we treated you.” It was the closest I was going to get to an apology – and all I needed. Any hurt that had existed between us instantly melted away.

So here I am grieving the loss of my brother, Dennis, in the midst of a brutal, cold Berkshires winter. I got to speak a little of what he meant to me at his service. I am getting to express a little more here – but I am nowhere near the point where the loss is not painful, where it feels the healing is complete. I am being reminded of how absolutely critical it is to be gentle with myself and to practice massive self-care. In the week I’ve been home, I have done a few groundings, gotten a massage, an adjustment, and some exercise. I have been reminded that it is OK – necessary even – to put the walls up when my heart is too tender, whether it’s directly related to sadness over my brother’s death or some other shit life is dealing me at a time when I’m just not ready for it. I have also reminded myself to be around people that “get it” – that don’t make it about them, that don’t try to fix it, that don’t brush it away with the statement, “He’s in a better place.” I believe that – but it’s not helpful.

This morning I came across the tips I had included in my book for getting through grief. Go figure, I had totally forgotten that any part of my book was a “how to.” It had not been my original intention but seemed to be important as I neared the end of my writing. Now that I am personally benefiting from it, I’m glad I wrote it. I think I’m glad I wrote this as well. It’s all part of the process.