This Sunday, the 25th of September, is the one year anniversary of Ashki’s death. In some ways, it was the beginning of this journey I’ve been on, the one I’m writing about here. In other ways, his death and my grief and what they catalyzed are the middle of a story, a place that I’ve been leading up to for a long time, a turning. And of course it was an ending, a letting go: it was not just his death, but in a way mine too — part of me died with him. Although I’m still here, and he’s not.
Beginning, middle, ending. Ending and beginning. Death and surrender. Purgatory? Is this what people mean when they talk about past lives?
I had to choose – what was this going to be?
All of it. I choose all of it.
When Ashki died, I made a conscious decision to honor him by holding the grief I was feeling, by not turning away from it. I was tempted to turn away from it, I wanted to turn away from it, many times. And sometimes I did turn away from it, but I kept turning back to my grief, I kept turning back and holding it and listening to it.
A saying that I found shortly after Ashki died, is: The work of the mature person is to hold grief in one hand and gratitude in the other, and to be stretched large by them (Francis Weller). That has been what guides me, how I have reminded myself: hold grief by the hand, and walk. Sit with grief, and listen. Don’t turn away.
I realized that when I turn away from my grief, I am abandoning myself and I’m abandoning the love I had for Ashki and the love he had for me. And I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to turn away from the love we had for each other. For the first time in my life in a very long time, I had a compelling reason to stay and sit with the pain and not turn away.
The pain of that grief though, and my commitment to stay with it, is what has led me to search for a different way of coping. This is what has led me to realize how much I check out of life, how I can pretty much use anything to numb, how poorly I treat myself, how crappy I am at dealing with pain and difficulty. It’s made me realize that I was living a half-life, and that I don’t want to live a half-life anymore.
So now I reach and I stumble. I build new, foreign habits that break those toxic, unwritten rules that I’ve unearthed. I sit in stillness and listen and watch. I ask myself what is helpful and what is not, and I test it out for myself. I remind myself to stay open and willing to try something different.
I am learning to question my thoughts and watch and hold my emotions. I am learning to practice acceptance, and the power of sitting in this moment, this one, right now, it’s all I have.
Holding gratitude in one hand and grief in the other. Being stretched large.