Retreat (part 3) Deeper, much deeper

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One quiet day away from everyday life can be like giving oneself a gift – time to breathe and think, to evaluate and see things afresh. It is surprising how much can happen in 6-8 hours. BUT to stay in an isolated place for a number of days is on a different level entirely. You embark on a journey – an internal journey – which can lead much deeper, into motives, past hurts, hidden issues and buried desires.

Not many of us want to take that journey, but as Ignatian Spirituality teaches, it leads to our heart, where God is, waiting to love us.  I love this idea. With a finite number of years left I really want to find out who I really am and what I was made for. I have accomplished a lot in my 60+ years and am proud of and satisfied with that, but because of my mother’s death and the difficult years leading up to it, I don’t remember a joyful, affection-filled childhood that affirmed me in love. So I feel as if I have missed the essential centre of things, not really known that I am free to be myself… and actually, who is that, underneath all the learned behaviour? If God is waiting to meet me there, I’m fully set on the journey to find Abba/Amma!

As I sat in the chair to talk to Glen I wanted to try to relay my story and my desire as to a confidante. Reading what I’d written in answer to his prompts about the life of Jesus felt a bit like showing your book to teacher to be marked – except of course there are no right or wrong answers. But as I finished he asked only one question. It was as if I had created a beautifully decorated pie-crust and shown him that – and he stuck a knife underneath and lifted it off to reveal what was really inside.

What do you do with the grief?

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There is no escape. The ocean of tears is right below the surface. One touch on the swollen membrane that holds them, one brush with care or sympathy, the sight of a young man with curly hair slouching down the street, the sudden yearning that comes out of nowhere, the sight of healthy young men going about their lives, a happy family of four sitting in a restaurant, a film he would have loved, the thought, “I could tell Sam that… oh”, the lack of a son…  and the tears leak. There is only weeping or coping, the waves that come and go, distractions and when to give in to the pain. And a future hope to choose to hold onto…

This is who I am now – a bereaved mother. It is not all I am and I am working hard to develop other aspects of my life. We have one lovely grown-up daughter, but no extended family of in-laws or grandchildren to keep me busy, and I don’t go out to work. I stay in to work! I love looking after my 2 homes – we have a whole other life in Brittany in France.  We travel to Sicily annually to visit friends there and also the Isles of Scilly because that’s where my heart lives, along with my only happy childhood memories.

It’s turning into another summary, isn’t it? But like Paul, it may be foolish but I have to continue – perhaps to persuade myself of all I’ve done to overcome the essential grief of a motherless child, or to identify my gifts or blessings in gratitude to put on the scales opposite the loss of our son… I have to shine hope, not sink in black despair.

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the stricken tree is sprouting again!

I’ve always taken photographs and have a blog where I post some that are quite good 😉 Over the past few years I have been focussing on developing my creative side, with some painting and pottery classes – wanting to play as children play, to let go and use my imagination. I have been part of a group in the city who write poetry and some of them are not too bad 😉 and I have an online poetry partner who provokes me regularly.  I have to confess and not deny, I am a writer (not wannabe, not will be!) I am a faithful friend and well-loved by many people. Martin and I have been married for 36 years this month and we have a busy social life and full calendar..

All these tasty things are the delicious meat and vegetables in my truly blessed and wholesome pie – but the grief is the gravy.

Glen’s gentle prod – which was really God’s – sent me in tears back to square one. All he did was point out the obvious to any observer: sometimes I am too brave, too focussed on being positive to see the truth about my life.  As you see from my defensive list above, I am determined to find a way to continue living. Yet the loss and mourning cannot just be ignored…

It then became a reminder that a pie badly needs a pie dish! Whenever we stop after running on adrenaline – as we so often are when juggling multiple tasks and deadlines – our body reacts as the hormone drains away and we slump. If you have ever been ill for the first few days of a longed-for holiday it is probably related to this.  My body has had more than it’s share of aches and pains this summer and I had been ill with a tummy bug the day before driving to Launde.  That afternoon along with the emotional storm, the illness returned. I was utterly physically and emotionally exhausted and simply took myself to bed without dinner. Rather than crying all night I buried myself in a new book (I love crime thrillers!) and refusing to feel guilty for doing something so ‘worldly’ while on a spiritual retreat, left God to sort things out.

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