what my body taught me about grief
In February I received a call from a good friend. We don’t chat very often so I knew as soon as the phone rang that it was either the best news she’d ever tell me or the most tragic.
It was the latter.
Unexpectedly and seemingly out of nowhere a good friend of ours died. She was 40. We had known each other for nearly 20 years. She is not someone who was meant to die.
Truth be told, I don’t have a lot of experience with this kind of grief, whatever that means. So last year when one of my teachers talked about the importance of the Shamanic Practitioner facing their own death, I softly whispered to the Unseen ‘Teach me about death’.
This was not what I meant.
She was not meant to die. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. She remains one of the most vivacious, hilarious, committed, vibrant people I know. Her zest and joy for life was something that I both envied and which mystified me.
When we were 24 we spent 5 months travelling through Europe. In those months with her, I finally found the permission I didn’t know I’d been seeking to be myself. She held the space for me to be me. We had one disagreement in those 5 months, which brought us closer. She taught me more about taking risks and saying yes than I could appreciate at the time. She showed me what adventure could feel like and the magic that comes along with trying just about anything once. I expanded into the hidden parts of myself during those 5 months, and all of it because she made it safe to do so.
She was not meant to die. I keep having to repeat that because it seems out of step from universal law that she has. In the weeks since her death, I have learned a lot about how I am willing to show up for myself, my family and my community. ‘Love you’ will pretty well finish any conversation we might have now. She taught me that. She also signed her name with xo, which I’ve long since adopted and reminds me of her each time I sign off an email, text or note. I always want people to know how I feel about them, especially those who might occasionally question it.
What she’s also taught me is that grief is a physical experience not an emotional or spiritual one. We feel grief in the body and the only way to be with grief is through the body. I’ve summarized that my spiritual and energetic bodies already knew that she had transitioned, which is why there was a moment after my friend told me that I wasn’t sure I felt sad. It took my body about 5 minutes to catch up. Once it did I could not feel my legs, my breath shortened, my eyes changed focus and I was overcome with the burden of four walls.
It’s not my spirit or my energy bodies that will miss this woman, it’s my physical body. My ears will never hear her incredibly beautiful, vibrant laugh. My eyes will never see her sweet, flirtatious smile. My arm will never feel the touch of her hand. My nose will never smell the scent of vanilla wafting from her skin. And I will never hear her say, ‘Love you, babe’, again. And yet, when I conjure those memories of our physical interactions they are here - clear, crystalline, bright, radiant, present, true.
Since she passed she is everywhere reminding me once again that it is our bodies that die, not our essence. That our physical self simply transitions into a new way of being. And this is especially clear when she encourages me with a song we both loved, the name of a waitress, the scent of vanilla, a piece of amber jewelry.
We are never truly the same after someone we love dies. And within this, I am also reminded that we were never truly the same after they entered our life. Each beginning also an ending and each ending a chance to begin again.