When tragedy strikes, we are often faced with failure. Not failure of our own self – because it is expected that we break down during tragedy – but failure of belief systems to provide comfort or failure of the support from people we were sure we could have counted on.
Having your child die feels like the worst violation. It tears away everything you believe in. Gods become empty, people become paper cut-outs and the sun is merely some transparent disk hanging in a dead sky.
Words take on a hollowness and sound strange and the feeling that somehow life isn’t real begins to chew and gnaw at the edges of sanity.
In that space of thought, as the void of absence spirals and pulsates like a sick, broken and foreign entity – things fall away. Not just useless things, but useful things. Everything separates and tumbles down scattered at your feet and you step over, and away from them as you wander blindly, in pain. There is a need to pull back from the ache and ill feeling of desolation and so there are new little things that start to fill in the gaps. Netflix binges, sleeping, anything that stops the hurt for a bit.
Eventually there does come a time when – in our searching – that we find ourselves back at the scattered remains of our beliefs, hopes and dreams. You stick a toe in it, push it around a bit and one day find the courage to sit with those things and poke through. Lifting, looking and examining (even briefly) what those things are and how they feel to you now.
There are people who I thought would have been there for me who failed me horribly. And really I had no clue that they would have deserted me so fully. There are others who I didn’t expect to play such a role in this new branch of my life but who have been amazing.
There are also beliefs I had that upon running my fingers through them, I realize they are dead and useless to me. They offer nothing. At least right now in my life they have become a compost. Laying there in decay. But other things have been poking through that send out tiny rays of warmth and encouragement.
One thing that spoke to me from the pile of rubble were the myths of the Gnostics. The sometimes very complicated tales of Why and How we are. I realized in those words the need to make sense of the senseless . A need to express in words what the heart could not rationalize.
Another small voice that whispered from the ruins of my once dear personal identifiers was that of a woman named Mary. A woman who – as story tells it – through no intentions of her own birthed a man who changed the life of many, many people. A woman who was otherwise unremarkable but who nurtured and raised a man who’s insight and dedication to walking a different path served as a new direction for many who felt lost within their own journey. A woman who lost her son, who lost the light of her life.
Spiritually I have been on a mainly Pagan, Gnostic path for the last 20 years. Pagan being the majority of those years, with a variety of Wicca, Hermeticism, Canaanite Polytheism and Druidry intertwining into my practice. Gnosticism played a role as well in the contemporary form, and much earlier, in my late teens-early twenties there was Catholicism.
Not long ago, just a few weeks ago in fact I came across a book written by a brother in an order I’ve been in off and on for some time- The Little Office of the Blessed Sophia. I have always loved Sophia and how she found her way into the Thomas Merton writings , I love the idea of Wisdom as personified virtue (just as Logos is a personified power “Though God is hidden, his reality is made manifest by the Logos” but those are ramblings for another day) I felt compelled to get this book and use it as part of a daily practice. I wouldn’t fool myself into thinking I would get every hour of the office done.
The book came and I started working with it. Words of praise for the Feminine aspect of what we call God. I was reminded of that other incarnation of the great Mother. The earthly, accessible Mary. This woman who suffered greatly in her heart. So greatly that she is often called Our Lady of Sorrows. And whereas the Pagan goddesses felt violent or shallow in their stories of loss – Demeter wrecking havoc on the lands and setting babies in fire to remove their flesh and make them immortal etc- I felt that the simple story of Mary was something I could curl up in. I could lay my head in the lap of this grieving sorrowful mother. This mother who had felt rather normal and plain but who had birthed greatness.
That is how it feels. People tell me how amazing I am to have brought Caitlin into the world. I don’t feel that way at all. I feel that she was a blessing given to me to bear and raise. Through no right action on my own behalf. I was given this beautiful daughter who’s spark left the body one day. The ensuing darkness being as though the sun had forever sank and a fake sun rose the next day.
Whether a person is religious or not, we know that what we pay attention to grows. If you have a white Nissan, you become more aware of white Nissans. If you love owls you will be more aware of every owl you see on every knick-knack on every store shelf. When you focus on an idea and pay homage to it, it takes on a life of its own. Some people found this sort of thing true with that famed (though I hated it) book The Secret. Some studies regarding this have been done with Quantum Physics.
So finding something that provides comfort, paying homage to it – nurtures those qualities that exist within yourself. For myself, the quality is the serenity and peace that is associated with the Mary archetype. And so that is where some extra focus has been going. Reading the Little Office of the Blessed Sophia also works to lift and sanctify my femininity, which although I am female, I’ve always been awkward with my own womanhood. Working with this book also re-affirms my commitment to inner truth and Wisdom . Wisdom to understand.
Maybe one day, or some days I will find gleans of comfort in some of the other ideas I had clung to. But right now, these are the things that have sprouted through the remains of my yester-thoughts. On their own accord. And so I am taking heed and paying attention. And finding comfort.