Circles and squares, shapes without any corners and shapes with many, have been dancing themselves through my mind’s eye these past days and weeks. Finding myself noticing themes in nature and in human nature that play themselves out with or without corners. Noticing how easy it is to retreat, to hide, to shelter, into the corners of our lives, and the courage it takes to live one’s life openly, exposed, within the corner less nature of a circle. No place to hide or at times even to take shelter.
In conversation with a family and young patient this past week I recognised, again, how difficult it is to face death without shelter, without a corner for protection, without some capacity for denial. There is no one right way to face death. Especially the death of a child. If denial, hiding, sheltering our raw heart helps ease the moment then that is as it must be. Perhaps, even in this, there may be a capacity to know that we are using these corners to hide from the raw reality of our lives, and tread this path of denial with some awareness. This was the discussion that unfolded with a parent after time with the child showed me that she, and her parents, were not ready to live openly in the circle. That the corners, for now, were needed and necessary. Yet, these corners can be named, and in time can and will round themselves out. Have you ever noticed that blowing up a funny balloon shape that in it’s resting state shows all angles and corners, when filled with air cannot not keep the angles intact? So perhaps it is with giving time to denial. Slowly, with love and patience, allowing air to creep into the corners, allowing the air to bring a more rounded approach, to life, to self, to loss and pain, and even to death and to dying.
Despite the many attempts to describe the steps of emotional response and grieving that we all encounter in response to loss and to death, we now recognise that there is not one linear approach to how we grieve. That there is no right or wrong path on this journey of loss. That everyone grieves in their own particular way, even as there are some similarities. In much the same way there is no particular and proper way of facing death and being with dying. Even denial and emotional fantasy has it’s place here. A place that protects the raw heart from feeling overwhelmed until we are ready. Sometimes we may never be ready and that too will be as it.
In my work with the hospital teams I consult to I often am called when the families are at their most challenging – challenging in terms of pain control and challenging in terms of dealing with their emotions. Often a family “that just won’t come to terms with what is happening to their child”, whose child is no longer responding to treatment and facing the journey toward death. Perhaps it is the capacity of an open heart that allows all manner of facing difficulty to be heard and be acknowledged. This life is difficult enough without the judgement that is layered when we struggle to meet the difficult in a particularly defined way. This life is also far too fleeting and short. Far too short not to love every moment, even love the denial, and soften into each and every way of meeting this difficult journey. Too short to get stuck in the corners, even as they may give necessary shelter for some time of difficult.
May we all be blessed in however we choose to meet the difficulties of our life. Noticing perhaps in your own lives how these corners and circles play themselves out. May we all find some shelter in the corners and when life enables us to, with courage, allow some air to fill these corners and stretch them into the more rounded circle of life, that continues to grow each day into the infinity of our spirit.
I actually thought I would write a very different post today. My great-uncle died recently and my thoughts have been caught up in how when we let no air or light into the corners of our distress and difficult patterns and can allow generational family feuds to continue. But that is for another day. Just a teaser to keep you coming back to read my blog 🙂