Discover more from Songs of Forgiveness
July 13/Full Moon
Relationships happen in three dimentions.
Today is the full moon and I am back home again after a week in my Dad’s house with his partner Linda, my sister Becka, and the memories. It’s hard to be home after all that, but not only because of the grief, but also because of years of being separated by the miles between Washington State and Minnesota. The pattern has haunted me always. The return from visits with him have always been filled with the sensory details of Minnesota. Humidity, deciduous tree lined streets, the sound of crickets. And a heavy heart without him. I know he inhabited that pattern too, and Becka of course. It most likely didn’t affect us all quite in the same way but connected us nonetheless.
Songs of Forgiveness is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A few years ago we found my Grandpa Ole’s letters back home to my Grandma Bernice and his two young kids from his work away on the Alcan Highway in 1943. Dad would have been 3 and his younger brother, my uncle Chuck, would have been 2. It was in transcribing these letters that I saw the long history with the family of parents being separated from children. I connected to a deep loneliness I read in these letters and recognized as my own.
I experienced this a bit after my return from Europe too, because the experience of separation has expanded to other partings. At those times I am vulnerable to a certain malaise that involves a distaste for doing the things that take care of myself. There is a stickiness to it and a tendency to hate the wound that is saying goodbye, the awareness of this new state of things, the process of orienting back to home, to a new reality in space and time but not in closeness.
I listened to a Huberman podcast on Grief on my way home, in which he says that all relationships happen in these 3 dimensions (space, time , and closeness) and grief is actually a process of reorienting to a new reality along those 3 ‘nodes’ (that is what I think he called them). In 2014 Dad lost his wife of 30 years, my stepmother Shirley, and he shared his process of grieving with the 4Ds (the four daughter as he and Shirley called us and we call ourselves - the combination of Shirley’s Karlene and Elena and Dad’s Becka and me). He wrote letters to her. And also wrote her letters back.
So taking his lead, I wrote my first letter to Dad since his passing yesterday. It felt so good to address him directly, no matter that our space and time orientation no longer line up. I can choose to remain close to his memory, even if he no longer exists in my current orientation. Grief is a process of remapping my heart. It will take space and time to care for the wound there. It’s funny, I wrote the letter before listening to the podcast where Huberman includes a letter that Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman writes to his dead wife (at 40:17 in the podcast if you want to listen). He shares it as a way to illustrate what maintaining closeness might look like even though this separation from your loved one is a new reality. He does eventually go on to have other relationships and remarry.
I had a conversation with sister Rachel the other day about how grief with mom is so different. The separation from her has happened little by little over time and yet she is still here in space and time. And in-fact, the disease of Alzheimers has eroded the ability for closeness in a way because she no longer remembers the times when our space and time overlapped and cannot participate when we are in the same space and time. Pauline Boss is a researcher from University of Minnesota who coined the term ambiguous loss, the loss that happens over a period of time like this. She grew up in nearby Wisconsin, the daughter of immigrants, and in a talk with Krista Tippett on On Being, even references America’s repeated history with Ambiguous Loss. I will also link that podcast below in case you are interested.
I have updated my last post, with the link of the YouTube of Dad’s funeral service and other new writing. Which is kind of how I do things around here, link back, edit as I go and update. Choose your own adventure. Please feel free to go back and watch and read, or just keep barreling forward with me. More soon.
Much love, Tina
Episode page for Pauline Boss’ conversation with Krista Tippett on On Being. https://onbeing.org/programs/pauline-boss-navigating-loss-without-closure/