A young widow shares life’s lessons on how to make sense out of suffering
We have all experienced heartbreak of one type or another. For some it came in the form of disappointment or emotional betrayal. For others, it came when a loved one did not recover from an illness or from a divorce that sent both parties reeling. For myself, it arrived in 2007, when I was 33 years old and my late husband was diagnosed with adrenal cancer.
While grief is not for the faint of heart, I wanted to be able to make some sort of sense out of my suffering. I began to ask myself many questions, but the one that continuously came to mind was this: What is one way that I can transform my loss into something meaningful not only for myself but for others?
I considered a number of options, but I settled on writing a book. It would not just be about my own journey of grief, but I also wanted to include the experiences of other widows. I thought because I had waited a number of years since my husband’s death to embark on this writing and research that I had resolved my grief. But the remembering was tough, and, at times, it was like reliving the past. I found myself sharing memories with others that I hadn’t thought about in years.
My emotions ran the gamut: despair, anxiety, guilt and grief. I was surprised by my brokenness. A part of my being was still fractured, and I didn’t want the grief to calcify in my bones. At times it was difficult to catch my breath. For several weeks, I considered whether I should abandon the project.
One summer Saturday afternoon, I remember it was gorgeous outside. The temperature was perfect, the sun was beaming in through the wood blinds creating sun puddles on the floor, and I was indoors feeling tension and stress over my project. I walked through my living room to the kitchen, and saw Dr. Deepak Chopra on the television talking to Oprah about the value of meditation. I paused and sat down. I remember she asked him how someone who has no experience with meditation can begin. He said the simplest meditation is to begin with the word “Om.”
Deepak Chopra said the simplest meditation is to begin with the word “Om”
I remember thinking that I knew that I could do this. After all, I had nothing to lose. I needed to try something new to loosen my constricted emotions. The next morning, I positioned myself near a window on a Mexican blanket, sat with my legs crossed and began with “Om.” The heavens didn’t open, and I didn’t have an Aha moment. However, as I continued to practice this in the following days, something unusual did occur. A sense of calm and healing began to take root.
While some may consider what I’m about to say a coincidence, I personally do not. It was also around this time that the professional writing world opened up to me, a world so foreign and elusive that I had difficulty believing they were letting me into their circle. Within me, change was occurring, and this is when doors, literally and figuratively, began to open.
Change of any kind is difficult to manage. And when the change is related to loss—a job, friendship, divorce or death—the combination can be devastating. But it is through meditation that one can experience inner peace. (The Mayo Clinic reports that meditation can help one gain a new perspective on a situation, build skills to manage stress, reduce negative emotions and increase self-awareness.)
If we want to change our circumstance, we may have to alter our perspective, and meditation helps. Meditation softens our ego, lowers our defenses and creates an openness into which healing can begin.
Kristin Meekhof is a licensed master’s level clinical social worker. She obtained her B.A. from Kalamazoo College and her M.S.W. from the University of Michigan. She is the author, with James Windell, MA, of the new book, A Widow’s Guide to Healing (2015).