For more of Cheryl’s articles, please visit her blog.

In his lovely volume called The House of Belonging (Many Rivers Press, 1997), wiseman and poet David Whyte says, “…anything or anyone/ that does not bring you alive/ is too small for you.”*

Could it be that grief has become too small for me? That’s what it feels like. Which is astonishing, really, because for at least three years it has felt much too large. The sheer, random power of grief has overwhelmed me, sometimes for days or weeks at a time, rendering me unable to move with any sort of clarity or purpose other than trying hard not to expire on the spot.

But things are different now. I do not dread the occasional rush of tears that flood out of nowhere. In fact, I almost welcome them as a sign that I have encountered a deep truth about the inner workings of my heart, mind, and soul. Eyes welling up has become a sure response to beauty, and a catch in my throat means that I am receptive to the poignancy of life itself.

These are all good omens that point to a new life dawning out of loss. I am grateful to see them because I am not by nature a sad person. While I have tried not to rush through grief’s ineluctable process, I am very happy to recognize a bit of the old me resurfacing.

Of course, I will never again be the “old me.” How could I? The tapestry of my being will forever contain the golden threads of my late husband’s love, woven through with grey threads of death and crimson threads of unspeakable heartbreak. But it is not a tight weave. There are holes where rays of yellow sunshine break through and the cool, blue breeze of hope wafts in, calling me to a new life that is just beginning to glimmer with creative possibility. (read on for more about grief and change)

But what is that life? I feel its call into a cycle of change, but the direction is unclear. Of course, I remind myself. That’s the way it is at the threshold. Whenever we enter a new frontier, all the old familiarities pass away. Even the grieving process can become a security blanket once we are accustomed to the way it works in us. And for me, that’s a warning.

Life has never let me get too comfortable. So it’s really no surprise that just about the time I would realize a certain facility with the language of grief and loss, a new wave of thought and feeling should start knocking at the door of my heart, urging me to entertain a fresh adventure.

However, even that invitation sparks a certain caution. Despite my love of beginnings, I have also learned to appreciate endings. And the best lesson is that we don’t get out of anything unless we love our way through to its natural conclusion.

With an experience as painful as grief, it is all too tempting to flee at the first sign of relief. But that’s not the way it works. There is always a transition time in which we must cohabitate with both the old that is ending and the new that has not quite emerged.

Elsewhere David Whyte says, “What you can plan/ is too small/ for you to live.”

Drat! I’m sure he means that any future I can conceive of right now will pale before what actually unfolds in its own, sweet time. So, patience and more patience—and the familiar requirement of self-observation and attention to what remains undone in the current cycle of death and rebirth.

Gestation of anything worth living takes the time that nature proscribes, not me. Much as I would like, I cannot force the bud of new experience, especially when there is still work to do. In some ways, I feel like I have written to the very bottom of my own barrel of grief. That may be true, but other people have not. And other experts have much to say that I am now free to explore and incorporate into my work.

So I am comforted by an old Scandinavian saying I ran across this past week: “Faith is a bird that feels the dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark.”

The future has not yet dawned, but I’m singing away, even as I keep my ears open for the new melody. I know it’s coming soon.

  1. Bliss says:

    Thank for sharing such a personal and powerful message on the overwhelming emotion of grief. Thank you.

  2. Having 3 family deaths in one year, I appreciate your sentiments. Sometime waiting for it to be better is the hardest thing to do. We all want to be better NOW. We want the pain to stop NOW.  All I can say, at the moment, is hurry nature.

  3. Helen says:

    I have experienced much grief in my life, not so much in relation to losing loved ones (even though my father’s death two years ago devastated me and I still surf those waves of sadness on occasion) but in relation to letting go of aspects of myself that were holding me back or grieving the many losses that stem from having virtually no childhood. Today was a particularly ‘bad’ day in that my motivation was zero – this is a sign that I am heavily in grief. Yesterday it seemed as though I could take on the world. I am still waiting for the new me and my new life to emerge…what a lesson in patience.

  4. This is very appropriate for me on the day after New Year’s day. I am feeling very low, like the floor has
    dropped away. The end of another year and getting further away from the past is another daunting feeling,but getting further away from what, I don’t know. I should rejoice in a better future and be looking forward.
    This blog has been helpful in leading me in the right direction, that being now and ahead. Never look back, there’s nothing there.

  5. Sophia Grace says:

    I have been writing a lot about grief lately, too.  It’s unpredictable, but I am embracing the powerful emotions.  And I’ve found that suddenly, I’m seeing glimmers of powerful joy, as well.

  6. Tracy says:

    Thank you for this, it’s been a year and a half since I lost my husband and best friend. I’ve done my best to be functional, go to work, pay bills & rent on my own but it’s been half-hearted at best. On good days, I can still see the beauty in a sunrise, flower, or a baby laughing. On the bad days which are too frequent, I see nothing but a black hole where my future with my husband was supposed to be. I never know what will bring on the waves of grief, but I’m at least learning to ride them out instead of fighting them. In the next few months I’m leaving the apartment where we shared his last five years. Going through all the memories we shared together, deciding what to keep & what not to has felt like someone ripped the band aid off all over again. I definetely feel like I’m hovering somewhere between my old life and hopefully a brighter future.

  7. Lynne says:

    The perfect post for me today – the journey to return  to wholeness 4 years after my mom’s passing has been rich with so much emotion and this post helps me to find greater peace in the process. <3 Beautiful

  8. cjy says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I lost a friend in October of last year. I feel I have moved through much of the grief  but I sometimes wonder if I am pushing it down. I can’t let myself be overwhelmed. I think it comes around in subtle ways. Here are my posts about him :

  9. Thank you for this. I am trying to stay away from recounting my shopping list of losses as I seek not to be buried but to emerge somehow. I do not want to be the woman you heard the story about.  It is however, helpful to remember that grieving is a process and despite my wish to be done already I know it can not be rushed. Yet, I also don’t want to fall in love with my own pain, a poisonous replacement for all that was lost. My nature is bright, but the void that has been created is so deep. I try to move ahead, even in the dark, and cup my hands around the space that I light for myself in the hope that eventually I will be able to see my way.

  10. Kat says:

    Having lost my mom almost 2 years ago now…(wow!  totally amazing that so much time has actually passed because it sure doesn’t feel like it’s been that long ago), your link loomed out amongst the twitter list to me because we don’t often find too much said on the subject.  Oh I’m sure if we make it a point to LOOK for it, we will find plenty, but I believe it’s a topic that many of us avoid for it’s unpleasantries.  Even my two sisters and I don’t talk much about our mom’s passing.  They were on the other side of the continent and I was with my mom all of her last days and have since been caring for my dad who had a stroke 1 month and 1 day following her passing.  I believe blogs such as this are incredibly important to our healing through such times.  

    I believe when we lived more as a “tribe” within our communities, the tribe, village, community helped those who were grieving, but we haven’t managed to create a replacement with our moving away from that tribal, village, community society.  I seem to feel more alone in the world than ever with the passing of my mom, even though I live with my dad here now and both of my two sons are near.  

    Thanks for your words and although our situations are different, I am glad to have stumbled upon them to touch upon my own healing and I wish our words of thanks and grief stories send some healing your way, too! 

  11. Cheryl Eckl says:

    I am so grateful that this article was posted on Soulseeds. You can find more articles like this in my new book, A Beautiful Grief: Reflections on Letting Go. I am continuing to write about the grief journey. We are all in this together and I am grateful and humbled to be able to provide some small comfort to others. Blessings, Cheryl

  12. Providing support for the dying and their loved ones requires thoughts and actions that are sometimes counter-intuitive.  The paradox is that feelings of loss and seperation occur at the same time expectations of hope arise.  It’s as if the seed of hope grows and is cultivated by rich & fertile soil of grief.  The bird singing in the dark while expecting the sunrise is a great metaphor. 

  13. Linda C. says:

    Words put so beautifully. My son & only child died at age 23 in 2002 (rolled his truck). Despite the fact he lives on thru organ & tissue donation (he helped 77 people) I miss HIM still. Songs set me to tears still, the hoot of the owls in winter tell me his spirit is nearby, but dammit, I want my boy back! Almost 12 yrs. down this road and I have finally come to see the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train but will just feel like it every now & then, and that’s OK. I’ve come to realize and accept that time take time and no matter what I do this will not change. I go forward slowly, at my Creator’s pace, who’s pretty old & slow by the way. I have learned to REALLY slow down and smell the roses, embrace the thorns knowing that tomorrow’s a new day and that Todd is always with me in my heart.

  14. Belenda says:

    Being an only child and losing both of my parents in recent years has been a most difficult journey for me.  My mother was the first to die and from within my own grief I had to witness and experience my father changing on a daily basis.  I do not believe that he ever fully felt or dealt with his grief completely, he choose to move on to a second marriage which caused much pain and heartache of it’s own.  In the past 8 months I have been dealt the blow of losing my best friend/cousin, a favorite aunt, a dear friend, my father and another favorite aunt (the last of all my blood kin from the generation before me.)  Death has become a prominent fixture in my life these past few months and there are days, weeks it seems where even the act of breathing is perhaps more than I feel capable of.  Of course I move forward the best I can but I’m weary, and tired and confused.  I feel all alone when I know I am not but most days I just don’t know what I should be doing.  I suppose I am feeling lost in the maze of anger and depression and that I will eventually find my way out but there are days when the tunnel feels very bleak and dark.  I keep looking for that ray of light that will illuminate my way out of this awful place, I know it is there but for now I am still searching.

  15. Virginia Urbach says:

    I’m with Tracy (written on Feb 6th). I, too, feel a void since my husband passed away last year.  It’s getting better, but certainly not easier to cope with the loss. My friend and fellow twitter, Eleesha, put it so perfectly “In your absence, I am learning to live in a manner that celebrates and honors who you were and not in a manner that mourns”. I still look for him in the park, backyard, favorite restaurants, but not physically, in the spiritual sense.  I know he’s around me guiding me, so in that sense I’m honoring him the way I know how.

  16. tlk says:


    I too lost a ridiculous number of people close to me in a short period of time, and at the most inopportune time in my life imaginable. Not that I ever would have been “ready”. It’s horrible. There are days when breathing does seem, as you said, to be the limit of what I can do. So, I focus on that. Just breathing. And then, when I can’t face the outdoors, I look for something small to remind me that there is still beauty in the world and things and creatures that need my love and care. Believe it or not, but helped me more than I can say. It’s stupid, I know, but I couldn’t leave my house – I had two broken legs and no way to get around and no support, and I needed to see things that were the opposite of what I was experiencing to remember that there is still life and sweetness. When I did make it out of the house, one way or the other, I looked at leaves on trees, and sunlight illuminating them, or dark ferocious clouds purpling the sky, or insects marching on their way, or squirrels. Anything that was living and had nothing to do with me, or my life and experiences, and that no one else was noticing and I looked at them and loved them for just those few moments. And, eventually, I started to care about the world again. I wish you peace, and light, and love, and joy and hope that you find your way, in your own way.

  17. Virginia Urbach says:

    What a beautiful blog that really speaks to me for I feel the same pain. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  18. Jack Grabon says:

    I lost someone close when I was young.  Since then, I’ve been fortunate to realize that nobody really dies.  We are not just physical bodies.  But, that might not change feelings that you go through.  Death is still loss.  I personally see it more like a breakup than an ultimate, final loss – which can still be hard.  Things will never be the same when a loved one dies, but he or she still exists – in a non-physical form.  I don’t expect anyone to believe what I’m saying, although I do encourage people to have their own experiences and see that they are more than their bodies.      

  19. Carol says:

    With the death of my husband in 2012 and my Dad in 2013. I am gratiful for your sharing

Post a Comment: