“I cried for the life you lived and the one you didn’t.”
The historical-fiction novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is based on the death of Abraham Lincoln's son Willie, and the grief he
experienced. It is a beautiful novel about loss and acceptance - I highly recommend it.
The inhabitants of the Bardo didn’t know they were dead. Until they did, they were stuck in the Bardo - a place where their souls could not move on to the after-life until they realized it. When it did happen, there would be a flash of light accompanied by a loud booming sound, what the author called the “matterlightbooming phenomenon." Not only would their lives flash before them, but also the lives they would never experience had they not died. Only then, was it possible for them to move on to the after-life.
Since Mitch and Jessica’s deaths, there have been events that might seem like signs from them. A few months ago, I started wondering what had happened to the stuffed animal, Floppy Bunny, I had given to Jessica when she was born. Most of my family didn’t remember it, but there was a picture she had drawn of it. I reached out to Jessica’s father, and he said he’d look for the original picture for me. Later that evening, he texted me with wonderful news! He had gone to move a box back into a closet, but the lid wouldn’t close. He opened it up, and there was Floppy right on top! We've since been reunited.
Then just last week as I was walking in the garden, a feather floated right down in front of me - I could have caught it had I put my hand out. Feathers were a common image Mitch used in his art. This feather was beautiful - black with white polka dots - I had never seen one like it before. It turned out to be a woodpecker’s feather, which spiritually can symbolize a transition from one life to another, something I had to go through with Mitch’s passing. As I oscillated between the loss I felt and the restoration of life, I eventually was able to accept the reality of his death.
I often wish I could absorb these lovely experiences into my body and soul as a source of comfort, but I haven’t been able to, particularly with Jessica, due to the nature of her death and her being so young. Perhaps there’s too many tangled up feelings within me that don’t leave any space for acceptance. It’s a long process that I’m still working on.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, speaks of acceptance as being active, not passive like a feeling of resignation. We have to recognize the reality of a situation so that we can move on. If we continue to fight against it, we’ll be blocked, which can lead to more suffering. Acceptance sets us free. It doesn’t mean we grieve any less, but we can start to take steps to continue on without our loved ones. He says we need to put out the welcome mat for these situations so we can come to accept them.
mage: Clay monoprint on black emery paper by Meredith Wakefield