Feeling grief

How long has it been?

Sometimes it seems only last week that my mother died, tho it’s been over 18 months. But the ache comes back at times with such intensity that I feel it may never go away.

Just this morning I was reduced to tears and sobbing by the simple act of pouring cream into a glass of iced coffee. My mother loved iced coffee. With cream, but “only if it’s not stirred!” she always said. She loved the way the cream swirled into the dark coffee.

Watching it swirl in my coffee this morning, I could remember her sitting at my kitchen counter, holding her glass up to admire the cream swirling among the ice cubes. I’ll never see that again, except in my mind.

Why that creates such exquisite pain I can’t explain. Grief is such a complex thing. It swirls through one’s life like the heavy white cream lazily drifting around the ice cubes in the black coffee, slowly, ever so slowly blending in, settling at the bottom over time – until you pick up the glass and tip it to sip, then the swirling begins again. And only after many tips and swirls does it finally blend in totally, becoming part of one’s life.

Meditation practice, particularly Vipassana practice, helps with the process.

As I felt the stabs of pain brought on by the recollections of my mother this morning, I was able to move to that quiet place in my mind where I observed each level and layer of sensation: beginning with the constriction of the throat, the sting of tears, moving on through the ragged breath, the pressure inside my head, the tightness in the abdomen, the contortions of the facial muscles, then sobs shaking my body.

I was home alone, so I could just release, accept, not resist and supress. I sat down in the window seat and just held my face in my hands, letting it roll through me. It was not a fun moment, not one I would invite back in, but it was — well, it was just sensation.

And somehow, though I was certainly experiencing it fully, and the tears were real, there was in that quiet place the ability to focus on each sensation with the understanding that it was all gonna be okay. I don’t suppose that made it hurt any less, but I think it made it pass more quickly and not leave any scars on my morning.

I think it was the many hours on the cushion, many hours in simple life situations, practicing being aware of sensation that made me able to be aware of those sensations. And each time I go through one of these experiences, it seems to get a bit easier. The sankharas there are eased a bit.

One day maybe I’ll be able to remember those moments and just smile. Ah, Mother, I love you so much!