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Grief, Contemplation and God’s Love (Part 2)

Today’s post is by Tom Adams. This is part 2 of a two-part series. Read part 1 here.

The opportunity to feel and to grieve added new energy and opportunity to embrace God’s love and trust in it. In 2014 I transitioned from leading a small consulting company to being a manager in a bigger consulting company. In 2016 I transitioned from full-time to half-time on my way to this undefined and confusing state called “retirement” that will come in 2018 or so. I felt off balance, sometimes unappreciated or disrespected, sometimes unsure how to contribute and afraid of letting go of my identity built around this work. In September while in Florida with my daughter and her children, my daughter got a call. Her mom, my former wife, had died unexpectedly.

The grief attacks that followed the death of my former wife and mother of my three kids were unrelenting and took me at times to the edge of despair. Nothing mattered. My work had no meaning. Life had no meaning. At times I felt like I had no meaning. I was deeply confused by the power of this grief. I had separated from my former wife over 20 years earlier and was happily remarried. I had good relations with my three children and was able to support them in their grief. Yet these feelings were tearing me apart.

I reluctantly joined a grief group at a local parish. I learned that grief is cumulative. Unfinished grieving reappears. I went back to therapy to understand my feelings and at times, my lack of them. I learned more about how I used my mind to avoid feelings and to attempt to keep me safe. Some of the numbness began to melt.

In April this year, a year after starting centering prayer, my mom died in her sleep. I was in California with my kids and grandkids. It was Tuesday of Holy Week. The last time I tried to see her before the trip, there was a torrential rainstorm and I turned back and told myself I would see her when I returned. While sad about not being able to visit again, I had no regret. I felt I had said my good-bye each time I visited her. The priest planning the funeral commented about how direct and to the point my mom had been. And, he added, you knew she loved you and respected you. Remembering, I savored the look of love between us and her devil-may-care smile and was overwhelmed by all the good Mom did in her life.

After she died, though, I faced my own doubting Thomas experience. I wanted to feel sadness and cry more easily like my sister and others. I began to think of myself as heartless after a well-intended psychologist described my inventory of losses as void of emotion and bloodless. The doubt grew over the next few days. Negative thoughts about myself and my capacity to love grew. Eventually I moved from isolating and thinking to talking to friends. And I continued the centering prayer.

As Easter approached, I was more aware than ever of how much Jesus loved me. I found it hard to imagine how he could have dinner and offer himself in permanent thanksgiving to his father as an eternal gift to us the night before his crucifixion. He had to be thinking about the next day and the pain and rejection he would experience. Yet he persisted in loving. He was “all-in” in loving me and every person who ever lived or will live. What a love story!

I was also aware how centering prayer helped me in moments of deep grief and despair to not give up and to reach out to experience God’s love. It led me to begin Lent focused on what it was like for Jesus to spend 40 days in the desert with his Abba before beginning his ministry. What did they talk about? How did their love and trust grow? I became more deeply aware of how much Jesus gave to us and how this love caused him to come back from the dead to reassure us. My Easter Alleluia was deeper and more faith-filled!

Many years ago, one of my first spiritual directors, Sister Gemma, at the end of our first meeting pulled out an article, “Accepting God’s Love,” and gave it to me. The journey of more deeply accepting God’s love and passing it on seems to be my core calling. Centering prayer and grief have blessed me along that journey.

While contemplation is not supposed to be a results-oriented practice, I suspect most of us would not persist if there were not some “results.” I am so amazed by these blessings through a rough and fertile time. I am actually praying for willingness to go for the second 20 minutes a day of centering prayer!

September 09, 2017 by Tom Adams
Categories: Loss, Love, and Prayer. Tags: grief. Formats: Article and Friday Blog. Interest Areas: Friday Blog.

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