Grief as a life-giving creative process

This is my latest column from The Catholic Free Press.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

November can be a difficult month for many. The clocks roll back and the sun sets at 4:30. The temperatures cool and the last of the leaves fall to the ground. There are many cloudy, gray days.

Rosa Dik 009 --- November Golden Reflection ---, Flickr Creative Commons
Rosa Dik 009 — November Golden Reflection —, Flickr Creative Commons

November reminds us that we cannot escape our fate–we all die at some point. Our physical deaths can happen suddenly. Or our health may deteriorate over time, bit by agonizing bit. Dying may be the daily giving up of some part of ourselves that we cherish. Memories fade. Legs weaken and fail. We can barely check our email or turn on the TV because the technology overwhelms us.

rrchurches.com
rrchurches.com

November is the month we remember all those who have died and as a community, we lift them in prayer. It reminds us of the grief that never ends, perhaps bringing it forward just when we thought we had sent it to the back of our minds and hearts.

Grief is mysterious and capricious. It creeps up on us, explodes inside of us, in the most inopportune times and places. I can’t tell you how many times tears have suddenly sprung to my eyes in the middle of a crowded room. There is never a day that we forget our loved ones. Happy occasions make us long for them so that we can share our joy. Hard times see us reaching out in vain for those loving arms that would assure us that “everything will okay.”

Grief is a journey that demands our compliance. Resist, and we will pay the price of remaining stuck in that place of sorrow, bitterness and anger; we will die in our grief. Comply, and grief will recreate us; we will live again.

At the age of fifty-nine I have become the published author of not one, but two books, both of which are the products of my grief. When the journey began in 2010 after I lost my mother, I was too numb and worn out to resist– God’s grace beckoned me to go on grief’s journey. In the process, I discovered the life-giving creativity inherent in that journey, taking that which already existed and shaping it into something new and wonderful.

Any artist, writer, musician or dancer will tell you that excellence in the creative life requires a letting go of control–you must give yourself over to something bigger than yourself, and collaborate with that force which compels you to create. That force will demand that you dig deep for answers and that you be open to any possibility. Your heart must remain soft, supple, and vulnerable.

Beverly & Pack Aurora Borealis
Beverly & Pack Aurora Borealis, Flickr Creative Commons

Grief is that kind of creative force, demanding much the same.

I have no idea why I allowed myself to go with the flow of my grief journey. For some reason I was able to trust in God’s care and float down his river of grace. It was often a very confusing journey as I was given just enough knowledge to motivate me to continue, but no more; I was clueless as to where it would all lead. Sometimes the waters were rough. What I do know is that in the midst of my deep sorrow I found a wellspring of joy: “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. (Luke 6:38, NIV). As a result, each day became part of an exhilarating adventure.

Death and mourning need not signal the end; our faith teaches us that it is in fact a beginning. During this month of All Souls, may we pray for those who have penetrated the veil, and ask for God’s river of grace to carry us through our grief and recreate us. In the words of Saint Paul from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river firstJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

Advertisement

My unexpected miracle healing (part one)

In the last post I wrote about my dear friend and the inner healing she received from God as she copes with Ménière’s disease.

I would now like to share my own story of healing from God, a healing I consider miraculous.

sue with classical guitar croppedSome of you may know that I was a professional singer and songwriter, focusing on songs about my faith. For many years I recorded CDs and appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. I was blessed with the opportunity to perform at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. I served for thirty-seven years in various capacities of music ministry in my home parish.

I poured my heart and soul into my music. Only my faith and my family meant more.

Four years ago, only a few months after my mother died I noticed that my voice was becoming weak. It always seemed to fail when I was performing in front of a crowd. Sometimes the clear, strong sound I was accustomed to would sail out of my throat; at other times this weak and wobbly noise would come out instead. I never knew when it would happen and I cringed at the sound of it.

My voice had been rock-solid; now it was erratic.
Once totally at home in front of people, I became terrified of singing in public.

I had to put a halt to my music career. I stopped doing live performances and resigned from music ministry at my parish.

It was a difficult loss to accept and the grieving process was not unlike mourning the death of my mother.

Four years later I can claim a healing.

It was completely unexpected and not something I asked for.

from http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=28
from http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=28

It began with having my throat blessed by the priest after mass in honor of the feast of St. Blaise. St. Blaise is the patron saint of ailments of the throat; legend has it that he cured a boy who got a fishbone caught in his throat.

from www.itmonline.org
from http://www.itmonline.org

The priest takes two candles crossed together and places them on the throat while reciting a short prayer.

The line was long since the priest insisted on doing the blessings himself. It gave me time to reflect. Did I want a healing? Did I believe I could be healed? I nearly stepped out of line but decided to stay. After my throat was blessed I left the church in tears.

I had no idea what would come of it. It turned out to be far more than I ever expected.

Consider this scripture where Jesus says “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 (NIV).

Consider too the story of the handful of loaves and fishes feeding five thousand from Matthew 14:13-21.

These two scripture passages set the stage for the healing I was about to receive because I left myself open to what God wanted to give.

Stay tuned …

miracle of the loaves and fishes
miracle of the loaves and fishes

Click to Tweet & Share: My unexpected miracle healing (part one) http://wp.me/p2D9hg-Du

Join Susan’s Email List (special surprises just for you!)
Would you like to learn along with Susan how to live your life
in single flow
To subscribe and never miss a post, type your email address under “Follow Blog via Email” in the right hand column.
Follow Susan on Facebook and Twitter
Listen to Susan’s music Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Solace in the rose-colored candle: a prayer for the 26 Innocents of Newtown, CT

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! So says Saint Paul in the fourth chapter of Philippians.

Each reading this third Sunday of Advent proclaimed joy:

Shout for joy, daughter Zion!
sing joyfully, Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
daughter Jerusalem! (Zephaniah 13:4)

Shout with exultation, City of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel! (Isaiah 12:6)

rose colored candle2Amidst a sea of somber purple, the rose-colored candle was lit on the Advent wreath; a sign of joyful expectation for the Lord’s coming as Christmas day draws near.

Yet why does my heart not rejoice? Why is it that a mist hangs heavily over so many?

We all know why. A modern version of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents took place that past Friday in an idyllic, close-knit Connecticut town.

It was senseless and cruel when Herod ordered the original deed in his irrational desire to destroy the Christ Child. The first chapter of Exodus described the Pharaoh’s heartless decree to drown infant boys in his quest to slay the baby Moses.

And it is just as incomprehensible, just as heart-wrenching now knowing those twenty precious little children between the ages of six and seven, and six courageous women died an equally terrible death. Watching their families and friends in Newtown, CT careen from terror to shock and finally, to a grief so deep that it feels bottomless casts a pall over a joyful holiday. There appears to be no consolation.

And yet we were called to be joyful this Gaudate Sunday. We are expected to celebrate Christmas morning with our families while others will have unopened presents under the tree and an empty space at the dinner table.

I try to picture the children and the heroic adults who attempted to save them in the arms of Jesus, hovering over their families like the angels they are, trying to impart some consolation.

Will their loved ones be able to know it? To feel it?

innocent-children

The Christian faith teaches us that God is nearest in those moments when we cannot find the words or process the feelings or even lift our heads in our grief.

I think of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsame, begging for consolation from His Heavenly Father and the angels coming to minister to Him. He knew His Father was listening and therefore could experience their consolation.

All those new angels in Heaven are waiting and ready to offer that same consolation to their grieving loved ones.

Jesus calls on us to be alert, awake and ready: prepared to see Him at any turn.

I dig deep to pray that these grieving people will be able to recognize God in their midst and thus experience the ministering presence of their angels who long to offer consolation.

rose colored candle singleGrief is an opportunity, a moment of supreme and sublime vulnerability. It can be a time of transformation if we allow ourselves to be carried on the journey. It is tumultuous, frightening and exceedingly painful. If we are open, we can find that joy that Saint Paul talks about beneath the hurt. Slowly, gently, this joy can be the healing balm.

The newest angels up in Heaven are ready and waiting to apply the balm. The rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath can be the sign of their consolation.

So I will pray these grieving parents, siblings and husbands will be ready to receive that consolation and I invite you to do the same.

Click to Tweet & Share: Solace in the rose-colored candle: a prayer for the 26 Innocents of Newtown, CT http://wp.me/p2D9hg-kk

Would you like to learn along with Susan how to live your life
in single flow?
Send an email to susanwbailey@gmail.com
to subscribe, and never miss a post!
Follow Susan on Facebook and Twitter
Listen to Susan’s music Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion