Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey Through Grief

When I finished the very last words of the final acknowledgement, I closed the book, Leaning Into Love by Elaine Mansfield, hugged it to my chest and wept.

Elaine has written a manual for living when your spouse is dying. She has written a story so poetic and yet truth itself. 

Her writing is so honest and raw that you will cry with her, for her and for yourself and the losses you have been dealt and the resilience you have found.

You will gain strength, courage and determination from traveling with Elaine through the highs and lows of her caregiving journey for her beloved husband Vic and the grief that followed. 

You will know you are not alone on this path. 

You will believe that if you do the work that is grief, you too can survive and thrive as you experience the power and compassion and honesty of her words.

Here are a few things I want to thank Elaine for, that I appreciated so greatly when reading her love story.

Thank you Elaine for saying things I haven't dared to say aloud myself.

For  crying as the caregiver, "What about me?"

For asking, "When can I tell my piece of our story?"

For aching for what has gone and what is left behind.

For expressing the fear and loneliness and responsibility that comes with being the caregiver for the man you love.

For describing the warrior strength you find to fight the battles with doctors and hospitals and setbacks and complications.

For recognizing there is compromise in every marriage.

For being the shadow so that a spouse can take center stage.

For knowing you are so deeply, broadly and heartily loved.

For knowing that your soul mate is exactly that and when they are gone they are still with you in your heart but the hole they leave is bottomless and vast.

Elaine, after reading your magnificent descriptions, I want to jump in my car and drive to Ithaca right now!

I want to sit by your side. Walk with you and your dog through your forest. Weed  and tend your garden and make soup with you.

I want to watch the sunset from your deck and sunrise from your kitchen window. I want to look out for the blue birds and wrens flying to the nest box they choose. I want to gather strength, inspiration and kindness and love.

In one breath I want to protect you and be within your aura of comfort.

I know for sure, I was meant to meet you and learn from you.

And so I am, through your writing. Little by little.

I have tried to piece together how we got to know each other. We have never met in person. Was it through Twitter? You are a little younger than my own mother who lost her beloved husband 16 years ago. So my identification with the grieving in your prose, is more aligned with that of  your sons.

And yet the first part of your story is a version of my own: Of a deeply loved, vibrant, highly intelligent strong husband, threatened by illness and surgery and pain and fatigue. And my changing role from lover and friend to role of caregiver, nurse and advocate. I still have Jonny by my side and at 48 I am very grateful for that.

 However I watched my mother lose her beloved as you lost yours, when she was 58, after nursing him through cancer, for a year. And the depth of that grief has no way to measure it.

She too has found her independence, confidence and the gall to travel all over the world.

She has learned to manage her home and her mother's. To read deeply and  laugh loudly without my father's input and humor.  She continues to enjoy her garden,  the theatre and film, books and art. She embraces her friends with love and comfort and food and fun. 

But my father is ever present in her house and in our thoughts.

And so that is how I read the second half of your book. Seeing it through my mother's eyes and wondering which of your steps through grief, mirrored hers.

Thank you Elaine for sharing so intensely, so eloquently, so profoundly, your journey  through illness and grief. The lessons you've learned. The rituals you've created and the comfort you have found through your friends and interests and through your great loss, to the path that has lead you to your latest life chapter: the publishing of your book and giving a Tedx Talk.

What a gift you gave me and will give to any one who is looking for comfort, inspiration, strength and compassion.

So dear readers, you will love this book for the love story, for the raw emotions, for the small triumphs and huge losses and the spiritual tools for grieving and finding hope, that you will learn along the way. 

This book will bring you comfort. Of that I am sure.

Please beg, buy or borrow a copy of this book. Read it yourself. Give it to someone who needs to know that others have journeyed on their caregiving and grieving path. And let me know what you think.

Take a moment to tell me something you learned from your caregiving story, journey through illness or living with grief. 

Leave me a comment below. I know it will help others and I hope it will feel good to you, to share your thoughts and feelings. 

Stay warm.


You may also like:

Love In The Time Of Crisis

Caregiving For The Caregiver

Getting Out of Bed: 5 Ways To Cope When It's Hard to Face The Day

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  1. Dear Gilly,

    Wow. You knock me for a loop with your delightful enthusiasm and deep reading. I love knowing some of the places you resonated with Leaning into Love, and I wept as I read your/my list--including the rough spots that tested us beyond endurance. I also love how you weave this with your experience and your mom's experience because I think that's how telling our stories helps other people understand their own.

    Somehow we humans make it through the rough spots and find meaning in the hardest things in life. It helps so much to be in contact with others who are busy making meaning and providing comfort--like you. I know we met on Twitter, Gilly. You were one of the people who convinced me that Twitter would help me connect with people I wanted to know. Thank you for being friendly. Thank you for your fine work and this fine review. Thank you for bringing comfort everywhere you go. And I look forward to walking in my woods with you in the Finger Lakes.

    I'm grateful right down to my toes.
    With love,

  2. Elaine - Thank you.These words came straight from my heart. Caregiving is a lonely business and you cut to the chase. I know your grief journey will bring comfort to many. I am so grateful for that and thankful to Twitter that we met.
    Looking forward to many more conversations with you.

  3. What a wonderful endorsement for a book I know will be a great comfort to read! I will look for it as soon as possible. Thank you always, Gilly, for your sensible advice and encouragement. I think of you often, and I hope everything is ok where you are.

  4. Thank you, Marie. Sorry for the slow reply! I think the caregiving part of Elaine's book will resonate with you. Caring for a spouse, has its own unique set of challenges and emotions, as we both know.
    You have taught me a lot about grace and resilience through your blog. So glad to know you and have your support. Gillyx

  5. This book looks great, and thanks to your review I decided to read it. A greeting.

    1. Thank you Fuerza. I hope it brings you comfort and hope. GIllyx

  6. You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the article you write.
    The sector hopes for more passionate writers like
    you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.