The best book on grief I have ever read is non-fiction, by Gerald L. Sittser--A Grace Disguised. The title alone is powerful. Sittser lost his mother, wife, and one daughter in a car accident he survived. The drunk driver who hit his car robbed him of three generations of women instantaneously. I cannot fathom that kind of grief. But his description of what he went through brought healing to me after my own sweet dad died in 1996. I have recommended his book to many others, and bought several copies to give to those in the throes of grief. I remember one passage in particular--he writes an analogy about the necessity to go through the darkness (the grief) to get to the light (the healing). Read along here as he describes his dream:
I dreamed of a setting sun. I was frantically running west, trying desperately to catch it and remain in its fiery warmth and light. But I was losing the race. The sun was beating me to the horizon and was soon gone. I suddenly found myself in the twilight. Exhausted, I stopped running and glanced with foreboding over my shoulder to the east. I saw a vast darkness closing in on me. I was terrified by that darkness. I wanted to keep running after the sun, though I knew that it was futile, for it had already proven itself faster than I was. So I lost all hope, collapsed to the ground, and fell into despair... my sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. (Sittser 33)What a powerful image. I continue to dwell on that as I grieve the losses in my life. A friend of his mentioned a poem by John Donne in which he describes east and west as opposites which come together if one is followed far enough. In case you're curious, here is the poem by John Donne:
Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness
By John Donne
Since I am coming to that holy room,
Where, with thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made thy music; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before.
Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
That this is my south-west discovery,
Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,
I joy, that in these straits I see my west;
For, though their currents yield return to none,
What shall my west hurt me? As west and east
In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.
Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar,
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them,
Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.
We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ's cross, and Adam's tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace.
So, in his purple wrapp'd, receive me, Lord;
By these his thorns, give me his other crown;
And as to others' souls I preach'd thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:"Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down."
Stay turned for more on describing grief in my next blog post. Please share with me an especially apt description of grief you have read, or written!