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Category: Bereavement

Circling Back Around the Sun

Circling Back Around the Sun

“Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”

-Mary Oliver

October is such a vivid, dynamic month in the Northeast as the natural world undergoes dramatic transformations of appearance and temperature. It’s a time of year that really nestles into your memory, perhaps because it is so fleeting. Whereas snow can cover the landscape for four or five months a year, the blazing colors of autumn foliage are pretty much limited to a few short weeks during October. I am in the midst of creating my 2016 photography calendar, and it will be a painstaking task to select only a couple fall images. I wish I could fill the entire calendar with them because they are among the most vivid images of the entire year!

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I have been experiencing a lot of déjà vu this fall in regard to certain dates. It seems a piece of our essence remains in places where we experienced special moments – and that we also leave behind an energy imprint at significant points along our elliptical orbit around the sun. I’ve noticed this especially during the past year, which was the first year following my mom’s death. Meaningful dates took on an extra weight as memories from the previous year(s) arose like ghosts determined to haunt me. I have been told (and hope it’s true) that these ghosts are strongest the first year as we circle back around and become less intense as time goes on.

So, I’ve been reviewing my photos from the past year to select images for my upcoming calendar. My photo library serves as a poignant reminder of what a challenging year it has been – probably THE most heartbreaking, intense, bewildering year of my life! In May – the most anguishing month this year (and the month of my mom’s death anniversary) – the lilacs reminded me of her rapidly deteriorating health last year, just as the cooler temperatures at this time of year generate other associations. Some are more wistful and emotionally charged than others.

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In nostalgic moments, I sometimes ask myself: If I had the power to return, would I really want to, knowing what I know now? Would I want to relive that all over again? What, if anything, would I do differently? Could my intuition have been the voice of my present self returning to guide me? Or would I not have done anything differently because I understand from a higher vantage point that everything I experienced served an important purpose and that the spiritual gifts would ultimately outweigh the tears and fears?

It’s no small consolation to realize that, as I watch colorful leaves twirl to the ground just as they did a year ago, I am better off today than I was a year ago today. And that is something to be grateful for. I have weathered some storms and become stronger as a result. In the past year, I have liberated myself from restrictive energies and have learned a thing or two about myself in relation to others. The journey wasn’t an easy one, but it is a net positive. No doubt about it.

Sometimes we require or choose bitter medicine. Difficult circumstances shake us from our sleep so we can perceive things from a different angle that may help us to grow and to position ourselves more favorably in relation to key situations, people, and events moving forward. Perhaps we can come to know our suffering as labor pains that we can handle with some support – for ultimately we are all midwives for one another, helping those around us to give birth to their greater selves. I’m so grateful to be looking behind at, rather than heading into, the storm of the first year without my mom and grateful, too, for the wisdom that resulted from it.

Historically, fall was the time of year my mom became more available to us again after we hadn’t seen much of her during summer, her busy season. So fall was when her loss really began to hit hard last year. It also heralded the cold, dark time of year and a string of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays when her absence would be felt most poignantly.

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Memories are often activated when we return to the same spoke on the wheel of the year – except that this time around, following significant loss, everything is different. Our world has changed. Any sensory impression or seasonal nuance can serve as a trigger that reopens a wound that is still in the process of healing: sights (colorful trees, leaves twirling down, plants going to seed), sounds (crunching of leaves, geese squawking), smells (decomposing leaves, bonfires), foods (apple crisp, squash, soup), changes in temperature and angle and duration of sunlight, etc.

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It’s as if these sensory impressions are keys or passwords that unlock memories that tug at our heartstrings and pull us back. But of course, we can’t go back. We can only move forward.

While traveling through significant dates and memories where ghosts lurk, I have experienced myself doing everything in my power to resist trains of thought that could hook me and set more tears in motion. It was as if the train was approaching. I heard and saw it coming and felt the ground vibrate as it came closer. I felt the anticipation of getting on it – and jumping on that train had become a habit. But I didn’t want to get on it, even though the destination sign was lit with the name of a place that was somehow compelling. I whispered to myself (out loud!), “Don’t go there! Don’t go there! Don’t go there!”

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But in the next breath, I realized I can go there – but not as a vulnerable child who becomes overwhelmed by the view and is afraid of the shadows and the precipitous drops. Rather, I can go there with a wise and loving guardian and not linger in uncomfortable places but pass through safely and unharmed. I need not avoid this thought territory altogether because it’s so “scary” or “dangerous” but can go there with someone who understands the terrain and is looking out for me and my best interests. That caring presence is the inner presence and consciousness that arises. It’s the witnessing presence that is strengthened through mindfulness practice on and off the cushion and is able to be there with me as I navigate the colorful and sometimes dramatic landscape of thought. Sometimes I will stumble, and sometimes I won’t. But when I do, the witnessing presence will assure me that it I am okay and will see me through.

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My mom has been gone for 17 months, and I have longed many times for the nurturing, maternal presence that only a mom can provide – especially with all the changes and losses I’ve been dealing with since she passed. She was a devoted listener who always stood up for me and wanted to make sure I was being treated right. It didn’t matter who it was, even if it was one of her grandchildren! She would declare, “This is my daughter, and I love her and want you to treat her right!” My mom is not around to do that anymore, but there is a familiar voice in my head that had never been there before and keeps growing stronger. It arises from within and is so comforting, loving, nurturing, reassuring, and maternal. I don’t know if it’s her voice, but it is the most tender voice of loving-kindness I have ever known. And it arises instantly, without me attempting to conjure it. It feels like this is the same voice that mysteriously wakes me up and prompts me to look out the window at exactly the right moment to catch and photograph a magnificent sunrise. This voice looks out for me and is one of the greatest gifts I have received since my mom’s passing.

If weathering the storms of the past 17 months has cultivated this new voice inside me, it is one of the best justifications I have to be grateful for this bittersweet journey. It’s true: My life will never be the same. There is a kind and loving presence growing in me that will not allow me to be mistreated or undervalued by anyone, including myself! And the best part of all is that it is a gift I can give to others by being a loving, affirming, maternal presence in the world. It is what we moms who have lost our own moms can do for others. We need not limit our mothering to our own children and can spread it around the world because we truly and deeply realize what a difference it makes. We can become, ignite, and inspire that voice and presence that makes inner space a kinder and more welcoming place to be. A place where new stars can be born from the gaping void where the brightest stars used to shine.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Feathers All Around

Feathers All Around

I’ve been noticing feathers everywhere lately. They seem to appear around me constantly. Yesterday morning, I went on the river, and right where I put in the kayak, there was a feather floating on the water. Once again, I took note.

As I got in my kayak, I recalled reading an article about the most common signs from deceased loved ones. Feathers were on the list. I wondered if there’s something especially significant about white feathers – even though the feather floating next to my kayak was not white. Come to think of it, I couldn’t recall seeing any white ones since I started noticing feathers.

So I paddled out to the middle of the river to photograph the water lilies as they opened for the day. (It has been an extraordinary week for water lily photography!) I was totally in my element. Pure bliss.

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When I returned to the dock, what do you think I saw floating in the water right where I got out of my kayak?

That’s right: a white feather. It certainly raised my eyebrows and even brought a few tears to my eyes. Could it be my mom saying hello?

Who’s to say whether the feathers – and the white feather, in particular – are actually a sign from a loved one who has passed on? I’m not committed to that possibility, although I am open to it and would like to believe that’s the case.

Maybe it’s more about perception and becoming more aware of the environment. You think about feathers, and all of a sudden, you see them everywhere. Perhaps they were always there, and you never noticed until now.

Maybe it’s about the power of our thoughts to manifest in the physical world. You think about feathers, and you draw them to you like a magnet.

Maybe it’s entirely random.

But there’s more to the story.

This morning, I returned to the river to photograph water lilies. They were even more ravishing than yesterday.

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After nearly an hour, I paddled to the other side of the river to view and delete some photos in the shade. As I focused on my camera, I felt a tremendous sense of peace fill every single cell in my body. It was the most wonderful feeling. I spent about 20 minutes reviewing and deleting photos and appreciating this profound sense of peace. Then I decided to paddle back across the river to get sunscreen and a bite to eat.

When I put away my camera and looked up, I noticed that I was surrounded by white feathers floating on the water! The feathers definitely weren’t there before because I absolutely would have noticed them.

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With wide eyes and a huge smile on my face, I paddled back home. It felt like a sign, especially because of the incredibly peaceful sensation that accompanied it.

But who’s to say for sure? From my perspective, the most likely explanation is that we have no idea how powerful our minds are and what we are a part of. All I know for certain is that it filled me with joy and raised my energy for the rest of the day!

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

When She Comes Calling

When She Comes Calling

My heart is beating a mile a minute, and I’m nearly breathless. I just woke up from one of those dreams! My dad handed me the phone, and when I answered, my mom’s voice was at the other end – so familiar, sweet, and pleasant – and she said, “So, you’re not setting up your classroom like you usually are at this time of year.” I was going to respond, “I told you I wasn’t going to stay in that job!” But I was stunned virtually speechless and could barely even stammer, “MOM????!!!! Is that YOU????!!!!” It was as if my mouth was mostly paralyzed and required every bit of effort and concentration I could muster to utter those words.

It was one of those “real contact” dreams, which are very different from regular dreams I have of her. Every time I have one of those dreams, the conversation only lasts for a few seconds because I’m so stunned that she’s really there talking to me – that it’s really her! I wish I could hear what she had to say rather than allow my stunned reaction to completely interrupt the conversation! Perhaps she just wanted to acknowledge that she is aware I left my job.

I love it when she comes to me in dreams. It tends to happen every two months or so. And when it does, it’s amazing – and so real! In the dream, I feel  overcome with excitement and joy. There’s always some kind of border or transition I’m aware of, such as a staircase or doorway (that seems to be off-limits to me), a phone receiver, or I walk out of the living room and then come back in, and she’s sitting there.

She passed on 15 months ago. But it seems only her physical form is really gone.

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When I was on vacation with my son and daughter earlier this month, I was consumed with sadness one morning as we walked around Mystic, Connecticut on a beautiful, blue sky day. I wore a hat and sunglasses to try to conceal the tears I couldn’t hold back. I can’t remember what the trigger was, but I felt empty and wished with all my heart that my mom were still around because she would be able to make things better. I longed to walk into a space brimming with love, like my grandmother’s house or my mom’s radiant, welcoming smile when she came to the door, and the house smelled of freshly baked raspberry muffins, macaroni and cheese, flowers, or scented candles. I missed her so much as I walked around Mystic.

My son was in search of an elusive record store and led us off the beaten path. And when I was consumed by thoughts of missing my mom, something amazing happened: A car drove by with windows down blasting “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. John Denver’s songs are like my mom’s calling card. I literally stopped in my tracks.

HELLO, MOM!

Fortunately, there was a public restroom right in front of us, and I dashed inside and became a waterfall in a bathroom stall for several minutes while my son and daughter waited outside for me to pull myself together. They understood. When I emerged, we drove to a beach in Rhode Island and had a wonderful afternoon.

After setting up our spot on the beach, I read a book as they rested on either side of me, and I filled with gratitude for what I do have rather than grieve what I don’t have at this time.

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I took a long walk alone on the beach beyond the crowded spots to much quieter areas and felt as if my mom were walking with me.

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Although many people, including some family members, refuse to believe in the credibility of so-called psychics, I keep an open mind. Back in the spring, I went to a psychic medium who said my mom was with me in a particular place I had just visited. A couple months later, a relative had an appointment with a different psychic medium in another state who said the exact same thing. In fact, many of the same messages came through – including that my mom is aware that someone (presumably me) is writing about her publicly, and she thinks it is good because it can help people. So I am willing to believe that my mom was with me both at the place I visited in the spring and at the ocean this summer. I could feel her presence. It’s always such a blessing to feel her presence rather than grieve her absence. And every time she comes, it seems that the greatest fallacy of all is to believe that our loved ones have ever left us.

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© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

A Luna Moth Encounter

A Luna Moth Encounter

Last night, I  did something I’d never done before: I attended  a group session with a psychic medium. And it was mind-blowing. I hadn’t planned to do it, but it’s interesting how the universe works.

It all began with a visit from a luna moth Sunday night.

I was doing some work on the porch that evening. Before going to bed, I put everything away and proceeded to shut the porch windows. As I approached the last window, I noticed a lovely, emerald-toned luna moth about five inches wide, with elegant, feathery antennae, suspended on the screen. She seemed to be looking at me, waiting for me to notice. I gasped with amazement.

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I’d never seen a luna moth before and had wanted to ever since reading Eric Carle’s picture book, The Very Quiet Cricket, to my children when they were young. Even though I was quite tired, I took out my gear and spent the next 45 minutes photographing the luna moth from inside and outside the porch.

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It felt like a very special visit, and before I turned out the lights, I pressed my hands together in a prayerful gesture, bowed to the luna moth, and thanked her for visiting.

Then I did something I never do, not knowing why: I woke up Jack to tell him there was a luna moth on the porch window. It was action driven by pure intuition. And then he did something he doesn’t normally do: Instead of grouching at me for disturbing his sleep, he sat up and, in an interested tone of voice asked, “Really?” I was surprised that he wanted to see the luna moth. Unbeknownst to me, before he fell asleep, he saw a picture of one online and thought strongly about how much he wants to see one because he never had before. He fell asleep with the picture of the luna moth on his phone and thoughts of it in his head. In addition, he had an experience during the day that brought to mind someone named Luna. So when he saw the luna moth on the porch – right next to the table where he does his spiritual reading and writing every morning – it was very powerful and significant for him. The next day, after he explained the significance to me, I summed it up by saying that what we are seeking is also seeking us.

I went to work in the morning, and a woman who was a substitute teacher in the building had some free time and was sent to my classroom to help out. After the children went to lunch, we talked for a while. We’d conversed once earlier in the year when she was helping in my classroom. I sensed we were on a similar wavelength and told her I had a story to share with her that I thought she’d understand. So I told her about the luna moth on the window screen, and she got the significance of it. The conversation deepened, and she asked me if I’d ever been to a psychic medium. She planned to attend a session later in the week and thought I might be interested in going and wrote down the information. The way she spoke of him gave me a good feeling. Even though it was an incredibly busy week with report cards due, my intuition nudged me to go.

So I did, along with my adult daughter, an open mind, and no expectations. When the psychic medium, Adam, entered the freshly smudged room filled with the earthy fragrance of sage, I felt immediately drawn to his gentle, loving, joyful energy. No ego! As he explained the process to us before beginning, the electricity went out – something which apparently hadn’t happened there before! It’s often said that disembodied spirits are able to manipulate electricity, and I felt the presence of spirits was strong.

The session lasted for two and a half hours, and there were probably 20 women (interestingly, no men) in attendance. An hour and a half into it, nobody had “come through” for me, and we took a brief break. I went to the deserted second floor to use the bathroom and whispered, “Come on, Mom! Where are you?” In my mind, I heard her say, “I’m here! I’m just waiting my turn.” And that would be so like her – to stand back graciously and allow others to go first. She was never one to push her way to the front.

When the session resumed, Adam led us through a meditation to help us connect with loved ones who have passed on. My grandmother came through first, followed by my mom. (They were the same two who came to my daughter, seated next to me.) I asked each of them a question and received an answer. Then Adam went back to connecting with the spirits who were gathered to communicate through him. At one point, I heard my mom’s voice inside my head say, “I’m next!” and my heart began to pound. Then Adam said my sister’s name and mentioned a young boy with a musical connection. He said “she” (the spirit) was with him a lot. He said he saw an acoustic guitar, and I knew it was my mom coming through, so I spoke up.

For the next 10-15 minutes, so much information came through to my daughter and me from my mom and my grandmother! It seemed like my grandmother was there but letting my mom do the talking – which was often the case during their earthly existence. I am not going to relate specific information, but the content that came through via images, words, and the “language” of intuition was astonishingly accurate and meaningful. (I hadn’t provided any personal information beforehand other than my first name when I signed in.)

Adam described features of a landscape I had been to recently and said that my mom had been there with me. He quoted – word for word – something my son had said to me three days prior about the ways in which my mom and I are alike and different. He knew my mom died of cancer and said she’d had it for two years then immediately corrected himself because he saw her bring her hands closer together in a “shortening” gesture and said she had it for two years but only knew about it for a few months. He referenced that I make “good bread” (which is true) and said that she (or my grandmother?) is with me when I make bread.

In addition to seeing an acoustic guitar, he saw an airplane and a theater stage. If I could illustrate my mom’s life in three symbols, those would be the ones I’d choose. She was passionate about learning to play guitar during the final years of her life, had a career as a flight attendant early in life, and enjoyed a long career working at a performing arts center for 35 years, until retiring only a few years before she died. She and my dad met when they both worked for the airlines and always loved to travel. For her funeral services, the three objects on the altar (as per her instructions) were her guitar, her flight attendant hat, and an autographed baton given to her by her favorite conductor.

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Adam explained that my mom is still very strong around me because I talk to her frequently, and she wanted me to know that I need not worry about these conversations keeping her earthbound because it’s perfectly healthy and fine, and she has free will to come and go. That really spoke to me because when I have my conversations with her – out loud if I’m alone or inside my head if I’m not – I often tell her that I don’t want to pull her back here. I worry that missing her so much or trying to communicate with her will prevent her from moving on to where she needs to be. So this seemed to be a direct response from her to my very sincere concerns about that. Adam didn’t say this to anyone else in the room.

The experience leaves me convinced that Adam truly was in touch with a dimension in which our deceased loved ones continue to exist. I could write many more paragraphs about the content that came through – meaningful and relevant content, including specific messages to my daughter and me and details about us that very few people are aware of. However, it would be difficult to truly understand the potency of it without experiencing the energy in the room. That is something I can’t convey verbally. I’ve continued to process the experience for the past 24 hours, making connections and remembering more details. One connection I didn’t make until this morning was that right when the energy was shifting from someone else to my daughter and me, Adam saw the image of a butterfly and said that when certain animals are around you, the spirit of your loved one is with you.

The luna moth!

The same luna moth that led me to Adam’s group session in the first place, when I followed my intuition and shared the encounter with someone I barely knew.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Waking from the Dream

Waking from the Dream

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
Hafiz

I’m getting tired of writing about grief and loss. My plan was to write my way through the first year without my mom. It’s not that I thought the feelings of loss would disappear or diminish after the one year marker had come and gone. I just didn’t want to dwell on them – for there is so much else going on!  So much else to write about! Positive, beautiful stuff.

There have been many moments in the past week when ordinary images have awakened me in some way. For example, waking up to the rising sun shining through the window filled me with gratitude and a simple prayer: May we rise in the morning fully aware of the value of the gift of this new day and resolve to bring our highest self into expression. In other words, may we wake up and shine! May the first thought we think when we wake up in the morning be positive and hopeful and set the tone for the day.

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On the creek yesterday afternoon, I was able to get closer than usual to a great blue heron and was impressed by the bird’s keen attention, which I interpreted as not thinking or planning but simply being fully present, and from that state of presence discerning where to be, what to do, and when to act. The heron reawakened me to the value of here-and-now presence.

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Opportunities to awaken and expand our consciousness surround us all the time, whether or not we notice them. It’s a matter of mindfulness and perception.

I could write about either of the above images – or many others, as well. But this is an extraordinarily hectic time of year as I wrap up yet another school year and attend to a dizzying array of paperwork, meetings, and deadlines. There really isn’t much time to write during most of June, so I haven’t. Then along comes something that demands to be written, immediately – for last night, I dreamed of my mom. And it threw me.

I barely had enough time to fall asleep before I dreamed that I walked out of the living room, and when I returned, my mom was sitting in the chair. Sometimes in dreams, it takes me a few moments to remember that she has died in waking life. But this time it was instant. I exclaimed, “Mommy!! It’s so good to see you!” (I haven’t called her “Mommy” since I was a young child.) Then I woke up.

The dream only lasted for a few seconds, but it took my breath away. I felt a bit panicked and anxious upon waking and realizing acutely that I will never again experience that particular joy and comfort in this lifetime – for she is physically gone forever from my life.

I’ve written previously about the waves of grief. When these waves hit, they hit hard. It feels like a wave crashing over me with such force that it knocks me over, and I lose my footing. I suppose I should just allow myself to float back up to the surface without so much resistance to “what is”. It’s a very unpleasant feeling.

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I believe it is also an invitation to go deeper and to get in touch with who I Am at the core. The totality of (my) consciousness, where I experience love through being the most loving person I can be, rather than depending on a certain person to fulfill certain emotional needs. It is so much more fulfilling to relate to others from the higher, infinite Self than from the lower, egoic self. The higher Self is like a sun that shines its light freely. It doesn’t need anything from another person in order to feel complete. It is free to appreciate and enjoy the other without any expectations, to be grateful for what was and what is. It is able to find beauty in the present rather than focus on what is missing. When we walk with presence and gratitude, we don’t worry about the future because we trust our footsteps and know we will be okay.  In this manner, each step blesses and enriches our journey.

I recently listened to an Enneagram presentation by Robert Holden and was struck by the notion that on a spiritual level, there is no such thing as a broken heart. Our expectations and hopes break, but not our heart. The essence of who we are can’t be broken because it is made of love. When the waves hit, it’s useful to remember who we are when we’re not suffering and to reconnect with the groundless being that can contain it all – the ocean, itself, which is so much greater than a single wave.

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There’s oh so much I wish I could talk about with my mom, but I won’t be able to, ever, in this lifetime – at least not in the way we were accustomed to communicating. It can be painful to awaken from a dream to the realization that I don’t have a mom anymore and will never experience the joy of seeing her in the same room as me. When I fall into ego and forget who I really am, it feels so lonely.  And when it happens, it’s time to call upon the inner Mother and nurture the little egoic self with kindness and compassion. It is a call to be present to the beauty and goodness here and now rather than get lost in yearning for what is missing. To experience love by loving, rather than yearning for love. Generate it from within.

Why do we characterize others with qualities that we think we don’t have in ourselves and therefore need from them, when who we really are contains the totality of consciousness? The solution is not to look to others for what they can give us – to fill our holes – but to expand our consciousness and cultivate those qualities in ourselves. And then we can REALLY love, from a source that is a blessing and not a burden for others.

From where I am writing, I can see the river sparkling with sunlight. It’s time to engage with the splendor of this new day, one grateful footstep at a time.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One Year Later

One Year Later

Soon buds and leaves
will fill the empty spaces.
In the mind of this love
The fissures mend themselves.

-Sharon Salzberg

This week marked my mom’s first “angelversary.” In the early evening on Memorial Day last year, our family gathered around her bed to say goodbye. She passed on during the night, in the wee morning hours.

This year, Memorial Day weekend was pretty rough as I remembered each day leading up to her death. Ideally, I would have been more mindful and resilient, but I was worn out from various personal and work-related matters and was not at my most resourceful. I cried a lot. However, one morning later in the week, I woke up feeling peaceful and hopeful. Mercifully, the energy seems to have shifted.

On the evening that marked the official anniversary, the weather and the colors of the sunset were essentially the same as they were exactly one year prior.

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There was a familiar holiness to the evening, a deep, comforting peace in the air. Before going to bed, I stepped outside and savored the intoxicating fragrance of black locust blossoms that permeated the warm, evening air as a few fireflies flashed under the light of the rising moon. I returned to the practice of writing in a daily gratitude journal, realizing that gratitude makes all the difference in the world.

The remainder of my mom’s ashes were interred during the week, and yesterday, family and a few close friends gathered for a ceremony at the cemetery and formed a circle of love around her grave. The circle of the year – a long cycle of holidays and rituals – is now complete.

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But I have to say… This past year has been the most intense, challenging, and vulnerable year of my life, as I tried my best to adjust to the physical loss of my mother and best friend. The toughest parts have been not being able to pick up the phone and call her to share news and yearning for the kind of presence only a mom can provide. 

I  journeyed deep into the wilderness, although on the surface I continued to go to work every day and did my best to fulfill my various roles and responsibilities. I functioned to the best of my ability despite feeling like I was living two different lives. And I learned so much.

I learned a lot about the nature of codependence and the importance of putting our foot down even when it breaks our heart to do so. I learned that we can neither depend on anyone else to rescue or complete us, nor can we save anyone from doing the hard work that is necessary for their own growth. The best we can do for others is to be a loving, radiant presence – a beacon of light and inspiration rather than a sponge. I learned not to look to anyone else to give me what is already latent inside me, for others can only support me in finding it within. I learned that what matters most is love and that we can only love and nurture others to the extent that we love and nurture ourselves. 

I learned that grief comes in waves that can throw you off balance if you’re not mindful, and I know what it feels like to have my body ache with the heaviness of grief – to feel it in my heart, solar plexus, and sacral chakras, and deep down in my bones. To feel it so intensely that I want to scream at the top of my lungs or do whatever I can to expel it so it won’t suffocate me, even though resisting it only makes it worse. It’s not just the loss of my mother but the loss of so much else as well. To restate it in more hopeful terms, it has been a year of clarity and clearing the way for what’s next – even though I don’t yet know what’s next.

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Perhaps most important of all, I’ve learned that when I feel shattered, empty, and severed, my core essence remains whole, immaculate, radiant, and indelibly connected.

For about 25 years, I’ve had recurring nightmares in which a door of my house couldn’t be locked. I feared an intruder would enter and harm me. On Memorial Day, I dreamed that two different doors had broken locks and was afraid when I heard a man call my name in the distance. Then I noticed two adolescent boys entering the garage and shooed them away. They returned later and took some of my possessions, which I demanded that they return. When they gave them back to me, I looked at the objects in my hands and realized I had no use for them. I told the boys they could have them – and anything else they wanted. I realized I was surrounded by things that I no longer needed and wanted to open up the garage and let people come and take what they wanted and thereby lighten my load. I wanted to let go of all the stuff, rather than hold onto it, and realized there wasn’t anything that really could be stolen from me. It was a wonderful dream that had a deeper meaning and also filled me with a strong desire to purge so many possessions in my waking life. Get rid of what no longer serves a purpose to make room for something new.

On this anniversary of my mom’s passing, I feel as if I am emerging from the forest. I spent a full year wrestling with the illusion of separation and loss and becoming clear about what is not healthy for me. Letting go is a process, but I am finding my way back to the Source and turning toward the light. My backbone, which had softened for a while, is on the mend.

I’m sensing that all the while during the deep, dark winter of grief, I was like a chess piece being moved by the unseen hands of a master. I am beginning to sense the brilliance of this cosmic dance we do on earth and the energies that come to our aid. Perhaps what felt like a humbling fall from grace is all part of the dance, and there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn and grow.

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Recently, I took my kindergarten class to see local puppeteers perform The Wizard of Oz. Before the performance, I summarized the story for them, and tears welled up in my eyes when I talked about how each character yearned for something they thought they lacked. They put their faith in the great and powerful Wizard of Oz to give them what they desired. However, in the end, Oz explained to them that they had these qualities in them all along. At the end of the show, Glinda assured Dorothy that now that she knows in her heart where Home is, she will be able to go there. And after she returned home, she always remembered and was enriched by her adventures in Oz.

What a great metaphor for the past year.

This morning, I woke up and realized that, like Dorothy, I was wearing silver shoes of protection fashioned by my mom’s love for me as I wandered through the enchanted forest. All is well – and I believe it always has been.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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