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Sacred Absence

A Pilgrimage of Love, Loss & Grieving Well

“Perhaps for now it can be enough to simply marvel at the mystery of how a heart so broken can go on beating…” 

  -Jan Richardson, Blessing for the Brokenhearted


I kept a daily journal for most of my life, beginning off and on during college in the 1980’s. It is how I process my life and my emotions. When I am struggling, it is how I come to decisions and find inspiration, as I take the time to think things through. So, it is no wonder that the day after Craig’s death I sat down with my journal and wrote:

Wednesday, August 23, 2016

“Yesterday Craig died. I am living a nightmare. All I keep saying out loud is ‘I want him back!’ I ache to have him back in my arms, kissing him, laughing with him. I am devastated! My whole body vibrates with fear and anxiety and longing. I vacillate between numbness and staring, and numbness and sobbing. I am emptied of all desire for anything except to have him back and for all this to go away. How can I go on without him? What am I going to do? I have always been the non-responsible one, the non-marketable one. I have always been the childlike dreamer. Now I must take on ALL this responsibility alone! I want to get rid of Prairie Pond Woods (our retreat house). I can’t deal with it! I don’t want to deal with it. I want this to be over, done, never happened! He was right next to me on this deck two nights ago! We argued, we laughed, we loved. Now he is gone.”

“I am in more pain than I can imagine. I never thought something like this would happen to me; to us. I am surrounded by people and totally alone in this pain. Why God? We need to talk! I need to talk to Craig! I need some time alone. But when? But how? I feel a terrifying depression descending on me. I am lost without Craig. I feel like an orphan. What the fuck went wrong?!”

The thing that is so mystifying about grief is how non-linear, how massively tangled, the hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly path of the journey can be. On days one and two, I wanted to die. On day three, I obviously had a different perspective. And back and forth it went, and still goes on, to a much lesser degree.

I also read in one of my books on grief that when your spouse dies suddenly, you have a main thought that you hold on to. When my friends gathered at my home after I left the hospital, I remember saying that “I want to do this in a way that will make Craig proud of me.” I wanted to show him I can be responsible. That was the main thought I clung to. It both kept me going and almost killed me.

August 24, 2016

“I spent the last half hour talking, crying, and laughing with Craig and God. And I recorded it because Craig would have wanted me to. I told him I would be talking to him all the time, blowing him kisses or winking every time i see something of his - every time I walk past his chair. I will be doing that all day long. I also pleaded with him and God to speak back to me. To guide me. To give me wisdom. To show me they are working in tandem.”

“And I promised Craig that I would grow up. Try to be as responsible as I can, which might mean letting other people do what I can’t. Am I now the owner of his company, Paraclete Consulting? How will that work?! I guess I will find out tomorrow at the meeting.

“So much flowed between us...jokes, quotes, movie lines, touches, smiles. He was the love of my life. He IS the love of my life.”

On subsequent entries, I continued to be up and down, back and forth, in and out. One step forward, three steps back, two steps forward again.. It was tempting to see this as a great failure...a broken promise to Craig that I would handle this as a mature, responsible adult. But it was not. It was and is and will be my personal, unique path to wholeness. There is no failure in grief. It takes as long as it takes. It goes as deeply as it goes. It ebbs and flows in the rhythm it needs.*

*FUTURE NOTE: This is the truth I know, 6 ½ years out. It does get better…even though you may not believe it right now.


© Cindy K Steffen  2023

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