In the first days and weeks after Riley left I felt him near. It felt sacred. I felt like I only wanted to be in places of quiet stillness. It was as if noise or the words of someone who didn’t understand would close the door to the space where Riley and I could reside together, where my spirit could feel his spirit.
I recall, while speaking at his funeral, I felt strongly that the only way to have him near would be to do things to invite, rather than scare away the spirit. I specifically recall an impression to stay away from noise and chaos, whatever it’s source, in order to be close to Riley.
As weeks are turning into months, I cry a lot.
It’s difficult to see those we love express emotion through tears. We, as humans, have a tendency from an early age to say, “don’t cry, it will be alright”. Perhaps it’s because we tell small children, “you’re okay, don’t cry”, and from there we learn to hold our feelings in, to bottle them up, to not express the emotions that have been deemed “bad, wrong, weak, or private”. This bottling eventually turns into denial in its most mature stages. Denial is when a person becomes a master at the ability to hold all “unacceptable” emotions below the surface to be accumulated into one massive ice berg where only the tip is actually seen.
I’ve discovered that even though my heart hurts like nothing I’ve ever felt before, as I allow myself to FEEL the many memories and the aching desire to be with Riley, just one more time,…. When I allow those feelings to arise and exit my body in the form of tears, rather than swallowing hard and damming them back up, when I give myself permission to express my sadness and even better, when I’m blessed enough to have a close friend or family member FEEL those emotions with me as they so bravely hold that space for me, I have discovered that like the saliva of a dog often heals its wounds, so do the tears, as they make their way out of the body, creating space inside which frees the body from its paralyzed and frozen state. I’ve noticed after a good cry, warmth envelopes my heart, I feel cleansed and I’m able to once again move freely.
In simple terms, it’s validating and to be validated is the opposite of feeling isolated.
I am so grateful God lead me to the means of learning how to feel and strengthened me with the courage to do so before my sweet son died.
I want to feel Riley. I desperately want to feel him but it only makes sense that if I shove the feelings of hurt down into the body or if I busy myself with unimportant tasks and don’t have the courage to FEEL my emotions, I will miss the opportunity to feel Riley while the memories of him are still fresh. I’ve learned that when we check out or numb out we cannot be selective in which emotions we get to feel…. The consequence of not feeling hurt, is not healing and the consequence of not healing is the absence of the wisdom that may have been gained, the consequence of not gaining deep wisdom through a painful experience is lack of joy. To find joy in the face of adversity I’ve discovered I have to have the courage to feel the entire storm of emotion.
I never used to understand the gift of feeling each emotion. I had so many misconceptions I had developed through different opinions, perspective and lack of experience. It is understandable why one who’s not lost flesh and blood might see sadness as something to avoid but I would encourage just the opposite. It is in my ugliest expressions of loss where my heart and soul feel the closest to Riley. It is difficult to explain the warmth and healing that take place amidst the pain and while those watching are saying “don’t cry, it’ll be okay, I pray that one day, they too, will allow themselves to feel the healing salve God has given us in our very own tears.