Two weeks following her fifth birthday, my son’s only child, Lillian Grace, perishes. She dies almost instantly when a dislodged rock knocks her headfirst into water and more rock.
A fluke accident. Within seconds, our lives are forever changed.
Shock gets me through the first days and weeks.
I do not ask why. Over 40 years of experience with dying and grieving, in my life and in my work, has taught me that there is no satisfactory answer.
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Nor do I ask how to get through this. While dealing with my own troubles, as well as supporting others and teaching in the area of death and dying, I trust the landscape of grief and my ability to navigate it.
I do ask who. Who can listen to lament without offering advice? Who can travel with me, in a pandemic, through the cascade of feelings? Grief does not easily pivot to the virtual.
I navigate my grief by being faithful to my established exercise regimen and my prayer and spiritual practices. For months, my morning writing and reflective time includes tears. I cry for Lilly’s cousin and best friend, who is only four months older than Lilly and is my daughter’s only child. As a mother and grandmother, I want to fix what is broken.
I know theoretically, and from past experience, that anger is part of grief. I forget. One morning, close to our second Christmas without Lilly, I am doing body prayer in front of Lilly’s pictures. A deep guttural cry erupts. Then, from a place that surprises me, I am compelled by some inner force to keep yelling, “How can life be so f—king cruel?” It is as if I am a pupil writing out the same line, over and over again.
Tears and anger. And then, as suddenly as it started, it stops. I feel release. I am calm, spent, at peace.
Rev. Anne Simmonds is an educator, counsellor and writer in Toronto.
This piece first appeared in Broadview’s January/February 2023 issue with the title “The landscape of loss and grief.”
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