I grew up in Norco, La., a small town west of New Orleans There was a woman in our town whose name was Miss Makabot. Most of the children in the town were afraid of her because we thought she might be a witch. She was a strange-looking figure who haunted my dreams. She wore black clunky heels, black stockings, a plain black dress, and covering her grey hair was a black bandana folded into a triangle and tied on her head. Her skin was sallow and wrinkled and I think she had a pointy nose.
When I’d see her coming down the sidewalk I’d run to the other side to avoid being anywhere near her. She never did or said anything to make anyone afraid; it was her demeanor that scared me. The darkness of her clothing and her dour expression reminded me of death.
I woke up Wednesday morning and for the first time in almost sixty years I thought about Miss Makabot. What I realized as I recalled her demeanor was that this woman was probably in mourning for a dead husband. Back in those days widows dressed in black for a year or two as a sign of grief for the loss of a loved one. Some wore black for the rest of their life, as did Miss Makabot.
That was a time when people seemed more apt to go through the grieving process, instead of around it. They took their time in grieving their loss and literally wore their sadness for all to see.
The last twelve months has brought a lot of loss into my life. I lost my home and land, which I loved, nurtured and cared for, my cat who was my constant companion for sixteen years died, some family relationships that I held dear crumbled before my eyes, and I finally took off and gave up my rose-colored glasses of idealism. These things are all gone and I had to experience the loss in my life.
Being with my grief and processing it has taught me a lot. I’ve learned:
1. I have to complete the process; I cannot stop halfway and say I’m through. Unprocessed grief continues to show up and will dog me in my body, my psyche, and my relationships.
2. As I continue in the process, the more I see and feel the wellspring of joy that is bubbling within and making its way to the surface. It reminds me of a poem by Rumi:
I saw grief drinking
a cup of sorrow.
It’s sweet, isn’t it?
Grief said, you put
me out of business.
How can I sell grief
when you know it’s sweet?
I have finally gotten to the place where I am tasting the sweetness of sorrow. The sweeter the taste, the easier it is to give myself fully to it. Grief is not something to ignore or deny: rather, it is the gateway to true joy in being. Not the feeling of thrills and excitement that generally accompany happiness, but joy deep in my gut.
3. Giving myself over to the grieving process is what I call dying while I’m living. I get the experience of letting go and moving into the light.
The more I allow myself the gift of grieving , the lighter my life and vision gets. As I release my losses to the wind I sense the time is drawing closer when I will shed my mourning clothes. Until then, I’m giving myself over to the process.
Thank you, Miss Makabot for visiting my consciousness on Wednesday morning. Sixty years later I understand that the process of grieving loss is not something to fear and to run from, but that it is necessary and good.
From The Seeker’s Guide by Elizabeth Lesser
The universe would not be complete if you were not here.
“Grief is a river running through the heart. I know that if I block the way, the water dams up, builds pressure, and spills over, making me sick, or hostile, or tired. Grief turns into joy when we get out of the way, let the river flow, and wait for the water to settle and clear. It’s that simple, and that difficult, and that magical.”
You are important. Love and peace ∞ Brenda