Feeling Grief Fully

(Originally published October 2005)

In September of 2005, my dear friend, mentor and dance teacher, William Burdick, passed away. I was not prepared for his passing. I saw him on Thursday of the Labor Day weekend for our regular weekly class and received a call on Monday that he had passed that Sunday evening. During our class, he was fully lucid and present, and when I said goodbye, we had spoke of our class the following week.

My first sensations and emotions were shock, then numbness set in. I felt distracted and had to keep telling myself again and again that he was no longer living next door to me and I would not be seeing him again. I kept waiting to wake up from the bad dream that I was experiencing.

What was more disorienting for me was that there was to be no funeral, memorial service or gathering. I felt like I'd been dropped off a cliff and was left hanging there.

During the week that followed, I had mildly disturbed sleep and dreampt about him often.  When I woke up, I had the feeling something wasn't quite right in my world.

But I also noticed that as I was teaching and talking with people, and speaking with William's partner, Daniel, that I was present to how much I love being alive, I enjoy my work teaching and the relationships I have. There has been nothing painful about remembering.

And, I recalled a piece my friend and colleague, Vivien Schapera (www.4windsacademy.org) had written on grief. Reading her words many years ago had connected me to a resource I have in me to deal with loss. In her piece included in the book "Curiosity Recaptured", Vivien writes of her experience after her brother's death:

"As a self-employed mother of two young children, a "run and hide" reaction would have been disastrous. On the very same morning of my brother's death I had to start choosing how to be - to put everything on hold, or to continue functioning. I chose the latter and it was immediately empowering. I found that I could still think, plan, organize, eat, laugh, and socialize.  I discovered that life goes on."

I am finding my grieving process is taking on a life of its own and I am following where I am lead, with respect for whatever inner wisdom knows how to do this in a way that works for me.  I am fully engaged with my work and friends, while at the same time experiencing some anxiety in the form of a racing heart and a trembling feeling in my solar plexus. These symptoms peaked about a week after William died and after four days, I attended to myself with nutritional and hands-on support to bring the anxiety levels way down.

For the past 12 days or so, I've had lower back pain, an area that rarely if ever hurts. I realized the other day that I was feeling the pain of this loss physically, which is not unusual for me. I have been doing lots of floor work and constructive rest and getting hands-on support to help me through.

Surprisingly, I have not wept many tears, and whenever I speak about William, I feel gratitude for the depth of our relationship, and I am fully at peace with his passing. I don't find myself wishing I had said or done things that I won't have the chance to no that he's gone.  I feel complete, and an acute awareness that I miss spending time with him.