The Valley of the Shadow of Grief and Loss

In the wake of my father’s recent passing from this world of form, I have been reminded once again of the potential gifts of grief and loss, if one wholly surrenders into it. I first learned of these gifts several years ago with my mother’s passing. At that time I chose to honor her by following the Judaic rituals of loss which include a year-long process of prayers, rituals, and observances. I combined these with rituals and practices I had learned from my cross-cultural studies of grief and loss, and my training as a grief counselor.

What I discovered was that the grieving process can be a beautiful time filled with what Shakespeare called “sweet sorrow.” Yes, this time is often a time of tears and sadness, with moments of feeling a deep sense of loss and regret. Yes, surrendering into grief can often mean having to let go of a lot of the busyness of life and allowing oneself to be “out-of-control” in many ways. But I have also found the gifts of reflecting on the past through the lens of love and seeing blessings that I had not seen before. There is also the gift of experiencing times of deep present-moment awareness as I come to recognize the impermanence of my physical beingness and the world around me; The way the light sparkles through the trees, the feel of the morning breeze on my face, the smile of a friend, the song of a bird, all suddenly become powerful moments that fill my mind and heart with an in-the-moment overwhelming sense of grace and awe. In the specific circumstances of the loss of first my mother and now my father, my conscious honoring of their passing has also led to profound personal growth as my being entered the transformative well of the deep parental archetypes inside me. I feel truly blessed by all these gifts for in their light I can feel the love and lives of my loved ones living on within me.

Through these experiences of loss and grace I have come to embrace the spirit of Psalm 23, which is always read at Judaic funerals, by calling this time my walk through the valley of the shadow of the passing of my loved one…for though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, loss and grief, my way is lighted by the love and grace of that Force that radiates out from beyond the thin veil of the world of form.

*Image: "Yea Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I Will Fear No Evil" by Frank C. Pape

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