August 5, 2014

You, too? I Thought I Was the Only One

DSC06187“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ~C.S. Lewis

When I read A Grief Observed a few months after my husband Vic’s death, C.S. Lewis became a guide and a friend. Instead of telling me how to escape the dark land of grief, he explored and mapped the landscape there. I absorbed his descriptions of the threshold world of fresh sorrow: not quite here or there or anywhere. He wrote to survive the “mad midnight moment” of losing his wife. He wrote to survive having his faith shaken to the core.

You felt like this, too?  I thought I was the only one.

C.S. Lewis, 1948 (wikipedia)
C.S. Lewis, 1948 (wikipedia)

Lewis wanted to be with friends if they spoke to each other but not to him. He published his book with a pseudonym to protect his privacy and approached grief with curiosity and a deep longing to understand. I wonder if he remained in the valley of grief until his life ended in a heart attack three years after his wife’s death. He didn’t have much time to start over, and he was ill.

You, too? You’re still in the land of starting over? You still feel shock waves often or sometimes?

It’s hard for me to imagine getting over it. Why would I push away this connection? Why try to forget when remembering brings me close to lost love? I want to feel them and the Great Mystery I touched when I stood with them just this side of death.

Swallowtail and Lily
Swallowtail and Lily

You, too? Can you imagine forgetting? My mother expressed deep grief forty years after Dad’s death. She’d had a rich life, a new marriage, and many adventures, but her heart remembered, even as she sank into senility.

I have a new life based on the strong foundation of the old one. My roommate is a dog. She celebrates each walk and swim. She loves every visitor. She pulls me outside to admire butterflies and flowers, bees and sunsets. I’m finding joy again.

Willow in the garden
Willow in the garden

 

 

 

You, too? Are you comforted by a dog, cat, or bird? Or flowers? Or something in Nature? I had my first experience of dog therapy when I was a teenager and my buddy Amigo pressed his warm little body against mine after my dad died.

DSC06994
Monarch and Zinnia

Nature is a teacher, too. The Monarchs and Swallowtails flit and float and lay eggs for new life. Then, in a blink, they’re gone. A few years ago there were no Monarchs. I was sure they were gone forever. Each one I see this year carries hope.

Do you notice you’ve gained a new strength through your experience of loss? Have you noticed love remains?

Ah, you, too.

***

What books helped you? Do other things help you manage loss? Do you feel a mix of resilience and fragility in grief and do you let that in? For other articles about embracing grief, see A Personal Grief Ritual of Remembrance and Relief and Planting Joy in a Season of Sorrow.




29 Comments

  1. August 10, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Gilly

    Reply

    Elaine, this is such a beautiful, comforting piece. I love the lines, “I have a new life based on the strong foundation of the old one. I’m finding joy again. ” I think my mother would echo those words, for the life she has built since my father died.
    15 years on since he died, I still find an immediate connection with someone who has experienced loss of a loved one. With grief we join a club none of us would have chosen, but know we are glad to find we are not alone. Thank you for your eloquent prose. Gilly

    1. August 10, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Thank you, Gilly. It’s hard to understand why our culture is so set on forgetting loss and putting them behind. As you know, there’s plenty to be learned from personal and collective loss and remembrance. Yes, we need to get on with life, but loss is a teacher and becomes an integral part of the new life.

      It’s wonderful to learn that your mom has figured out how to enjoy life. I’m sure you’ve been a huge help to her.
      With gratitude, Elaine

  2. August 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Susan Call Hutchison

    Reply

    Thanks for this, Elaine. This says so much about why we are friends!

    1. August 9, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      It’s lovely to hear from you, Susan. I’m grateful we connected and you resonate with this particular piece.

  3. August 7, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Robin Botie

    Reply

    Me too, me too. I love this. There’s so much to relate to here. I keep thinking of some song related to frogs I used to sing:
    I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody too? Then there’s a pair of us …

    I think it has the same light, fun tone or something.
    Cheers!

    1. August 8, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      I remember that. We’re all in this bog together, Robin. Emily Dickinson is the source of that song/poem.

      I’m Nobody! Who are you? Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

      I’m Nobody! Who are you?
      Are you – Nobody – too?
      Then there’s a pair of us!
      Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

      How dreary – to be – Somebody!
      How public – like a Frog –
      To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
      To an admiring Bog!

  4. August 6, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Mary Friedel-Hunt

    Reply

    Good morning, Elaine. Another piece that touches my heart and yes, my soul. You do something with words that is just amazing, touching, real and profound. Thank you so much.

    1. August 6, 2014 at 8:31 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Thank you, Mary. I wasn’t sure about this piece. It somehow felt a little risky, but I’m getting better at letting myself try new things. In the end, it’s brought me a strong connection with others so I’m grateful.
      Your writing always opens my heart, so I’m honored by your response to mine,
      Elaine

  5. August 6, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Lynne Taetzsch

    Reply

    Elaine, I got comfort from C.S. Lewis’ book also, and what a great and true line: “You too–I thought I was the only one!” This is how you and I started our online friendship, and then I realized you were right here in Ithaca. Always your words are wise and beautiful.

    I found that since my sister’s husband died a year and a half ago, she and I have become infinitely closer because now she understands. I’m sorry it had to happen this way, but I cherish our closeness.

    1. August 6, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Lynne, I’ve had similar experiences although I don’t have a sister. There is a connection with those who have suffered a huge loss and are willing to express it and share it.
      It’s also interesting how we develop these “You too” relationships on line.
      I love this C.S. Lewis quote. It’s from something called ‘The Four Loves.’ I haven’t read that but plan to look it up.
      Best to you on another foggy morning,
      Elaine

  6. August 6, 2014 at 3:52 am

    Jan Crowther

    Reply

    Dear Elaine, thank you for this. I love reading what you write. You are in the same place as me, albeit a few years further on (not that time matters much). When is your book going to be ready?

    1. August 6, 2014 at 8:23 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Hi Jan.
      It’s great to hear from you and I appreciate your encouraging words. I think time matters a little. Slowly I just get more used to the new situation even though it still hurts.
      My book is in the birth canal, coming very soon. It will be available by late September and is already announced and for sale at various places including at the publisher: Larsonpublications.com. Thanks for asking.
      Best, Elaine

  7. August 5, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    kim bodeau

    Reply

    Your poignant prose was exactly what I needed to read today and feel. Grief is often an isolating experience in our culture….thank goodness for my dogs…and today was one of those days for me. I can close my eyes tonight, knowing that I’m not the only one. Today was a day when grief was front and center, but tomorrow, perhaps I will be able to appreciate the swallowtail on the purple coneflower, dig a few weeds, throw the ball for the dogs and take comfort in knowing that I am not alone as I continue to find balance integrating joy and sorrow in my life. I really appreciate your message.

    1. August 6, 2014 at 8:17 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Dear Kim,
      Thanks for the images of what makes you happy. Me too! It’s seemed to me, even when my husband was ill, that opening my heart to grief allowed me to experience beauty and notice the love and kindness around me. Sometimes the best companions are my dog and the butterflies. Sometimes I need to be with others who know grief well or aren’t afraid of it. Our culture isolates us and encourages us to hide the hard stuff, but that seems to be changing fast. We’re talking about loss and sorrow, and we aren’t the only ones. I’m grateful you found a little help in this post and took the time to let me know.
      Warmly,
      Elaine

  8. August 5, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Susan Hurley

    Reply

    I’m so grateful to have found you when I needed you the most. Thank you again for helping my heart to beat once more.

    1. August 6, 2014 at 8:11 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      How beautiful your words are to me, Susan. Here’s to our beating hearts. Thank you.

  9. August 5, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Debby Gies

    Reply

    Wow, what a terrific post. All the questions asked from a grief perspective. I particularly found, “Why try to forget when remembering brings me close to lost love?” this line very profound. The fact that the act of feeling sorrow keeps us closer to the one we lost is very powerful. A most beautiful post Elaine. xo

    1. August 6, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Thank you, Debby. That line has been so true for me. The more I let grief in, the more I discover how much love comes with it. Love/grief come together as the last chapter of a love relationship, no matter how we lose that relationship. It’s often hard to let ourselves feel the grief. My mother taught me by example when I was a kid that shutting down grief shuts down love. Thanks for your kind words. Warmly, E

      1. August 6, 2014 at 10:57 pm

        Debby Gies

        Reply

        I love that Elaine, ‘shutting down grief, shuts down love’. It’s always a treat to visit your warm place here. I am anxiously awaiting your book! xo

  10. August 5, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Marian Beaman

    Reply

    “You too? I thought I was the only one” really resonates with me at the recent loss of my mother. I thought I would not want to connect with my online friends at this time, but now I find I need them more than ever. Thank you for this timely post, Elaine.

    C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors, and I read A Grief Observed at least once.

    1. August 6, 2014 at 7:58 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Ah yes, you too, Marian? I’m sorry about your mother’s death and was glad to hear she did so well until her last days. It’s an interesting connection we have with on line friends. Sometimes we seem to be more unveiled in our writing than we are in person. A Grief Observed was an important book to me because it addressed grief in an unusual way. This quote is from something called The Four Loves. I plan to look for it.
      Wishing you plenty of on line and off line support.
      Warmly, Elaine

  11. August 5, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Liz

    Reply

    Lovely! There is both light and a lightness to this post. I like the conversational tone. Love you!

    1. August 6, 2014 at 7:52 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Hi Liz,
      It’s so nice to get your message. Many of us have been down and out at times, so it’s good to remember we aren’t alone. Oh, you too?
      Love you and thank you, E

  12. August 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Kirsten

    Reply

    Elaine,
    Beautifully observed, as always. Sharing grief has been one crucial way I’ve managed it. Spent the weekend with a close friend of my mom’s, exchanging memories. It was sad and healing and sad and seemed to bring her alive for a little while. Thanks for this new blog.

    1. August 6, 2014 at 7:50 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Kirsten, what else can we do but notice we aren’t alone? I’m glad you could be there for your mom’s friend. It’s sometimes hard to find people who will stick by us in the rough spots.
      Thank you for your message,
      Elaine

  13. August 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Kathleen

    Reply

    Thank you. Me too.
    Kathleen

    1. August 6, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      There are many of us, it seems. Thanks for telling me you too.
      Warmly, Elaine

  14. August 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Marty Tousley (@GriefHealing)

    Reply

    Such simple words, but they carry such an important message. Your writing just amazes me ~ and your photography is no different from your writing. You always warm my heart and bring a smile to my face with your profound but gently stated thoughts. Thank you, dear Elaine, for sharing your wisdom with us. ♥

    1. August 5, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Elaine Mansfield

      Reply

      Thank you, Marty. I don’t have to tell you how empathy binds us together with love. I feel your heart connection to those who send you questions and to all your readers–including me. Thank you for teaching me so much.

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