The Wisdom of Grief
by Esha Estar
This book is a personal reflection of my grief story. It’s the raw, unfiltered emotions of what I felt during the first year of my grief journey. It reveals that it’s okay to embrace all the feelings of grief.
Feeling everything is part of the healing and that’s how we honor the loss.
Anyone who has experienced loss of any kind will benefit from this book. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves permission to be with all the colorful and painful emotions that grief can bring up and this book gives anyone who is experiencing grief an opportunity to say,
“I give myself permission to acknowledge and to feel.”
Esha Estar was born in Guyana, South America, and moved to New York City at the age of ten with her family. Years later she attended St. John’s University where she met her husband Hassell. After completing her Masters in Education, she moved to North Carolina. She is a mother of two daughters and lives in Davidson, North Carolina.
She has been a yoga teacher and a therapeutic massage therapist for over 12 years, a Spiritual Director, Shaman, and a Death, Dying, & Grief Facilitator. She blends all her experiences to create workshops, retreats, related to death, dying, and grief.
Excerpt from The Wisdom of Grief
My Date With Grief
“Death will come, always out of season. It is the command of the Great Spirit, and all nations and people must obey.”
“I love you.” Those were the last words I said to him through text. Everything seemed so normal, normal conversation, normal night, normal him, normal me. Yet there was nothing normal about it at all, we just couldn’t see the next 20 minutes into the future when normal became a nightmare. I came to recognize this when the autumn of my life came suddenly and tragically in the summer of what was supposed to be my season of joy. After returning from my trip to Thailand, I excitedly prepared for the return of my husband and daughters from their trip in the Caribbean visiting family. They were waiting to board their flight home and I couldn’t wait to see them. Three weeks had felt like a lifetime. It was 11:08 pm and I recall being in my bedroom doing the most normal of things, folding clothes and putting away things from the suitcase I had just unpacked from my Thailand trip. In the midst of folding and unpacking, my daughter called me to check in; they were at the airport waiting to board the plane. In that conversation she related to me that dad was having pain in his leg, it was the first time I had heard that he was having any issues. We continued our conversation and I promised her that I would talk to dad and find out what was going on. Minutes later, I began a stream of text with my husband, I asked him how he was doing and he replied that he was feeling lethargic and that his thigh muscle was sore. He convinced me that he was fine and that he would be okay once he got on the plane.
Our conversation drifted to our excitement to see each other again, he replied how he was looking forward to feeling my warmth and how much he needed a hug. I thought that was the sweetest thing I’ve heard all day. We continued our stream of text and ended with I love you babes, see you in a few hours. It was 11:25 pm and I went back to folding my clothes and unpacking my suitcase as I listened to music. Twenty minutes later I received a frantic phone call from my hysterical daughter on the other side, “Mom something is wrong with dad, he had a seizure as he tried to get up.” Those words rocked my world, along with the words from the doctor about 45 minutes later saying, “I’m sorry your husband has died.” At that moment I was confused as to what was going on and yet through that confusion a tormented shriek tore through my whole being. It was the worst pain, feeling, moment I have ever experienced in my life. At that moment I felt this surrealness, like I wasn’t part of this world anymore, I was in between planes, in a void of some space I could not name. There was no ground for me to touch with my feet, no walls to give me boundaries, only space and that space was more than I could bear, it felt too empty. There was no one to hold me, to catch my tears, no one to tell me that I was dreaming. I felt so alone.
I thought we had time. In an instant, my life changed. I’d been rocked, blindsided, and the earth had opened up and swallowed whatever plans I had, whatever plans we had. What I felt now was uncertainty, fear, torment, and shock. I simply could not believe that the man I loved who I was speaking with at 11:25 pm was now gone at 1:00 am. Surely this was a cruel joke but it was not, it was all too real and the most bewildering part about it all was my trip to Thailand. In October of 2016, I had registered for a course in Thailand titled The Art of Dying for July 2017. It was a course that taught the practices of the Buddhist Book of the Dead. I remember talking to him one night about the course, relaying how amazing the course was and that when he died I would help him cross over to the other side. He responded by saying “are you saying I’m going to die?” I joked it off and said, “of course not, I just want you to know that when your time does come I will help you cross over.” I had no idea that two weeks later I would be doing exactly that. I was in such disbelief. I simply could not believe that upon returning from a course on death and dying that I would need to utilize what I had learned for my own husband. How could this be?
Hours later I found myself on a plane to Trinidad, I cried every step of the way. I didn’t care that people looked at me strangely; I was in pain, mourning, in shock, and the tears had no end. I just wanted to be with my girls, to hold them, and try to reassure them it was going to be okay. But that was I lie I kept conjuring up, it wasn’t okay and how could I reassure two teenagers of anything when they just witness the passing of their father. In the end, all I could do once I saw them was hold them and cry. I had nothing more to give than my own tears. I felt for them, could feel their tired exhausted bodies still confused from the last 24 hours. Confused seemed to be what we all felt and sick to our bellies. I gathered enough of myself up to do what people do in these situations, identify the body, make funeral arrangements, get all necessary documents, and pretend like life didn’t just sucker punch me in the gut. It was the hardest thing I had to do when every part felt like I was a zombie walking around in a post-apocalyptic world. Nothing made sense. The cause of death, a massive blood clot to the lungs.
The girls and I made the tough decision to bury him in his country that he loved so much so the plans were made to bury him in Tobago. We all knew it was what he would want, his soul knew, he never got on that plane to come home. He was home. It seemed like the days went by in a blur, I could not breathe, eat, nor sleep, and the beginnings of PTSD had begun to take over my body. Fear gripped me and I felt myself suffocating like I was dying, death had shown its face and no one was immune, I no longer felt safe. All I wanted to do was go home, as if home held something that could save me, but it was something I knew and I needed to feel something familiar. I left Tobago feeling as if I’d been betrayed by life, I couldn’t trust it anymore. How could I? Not after it had ripped the dreams of two souls who had just recommitted their lives to each other again. We thought we had time, but we didn’t have time. Soon the stewing of anger began to bubble within me, I was damn angry. My anger was not limited. I felt anger towards my husband for leaving me, angry with God for taking him, angry with myself and angry with life. Why did God always take the good ones? Why? I needed to understand, I needed this to make sense. A rawness that I’ve never felt before began to bloom.
Weeks went by and still I lived in that “it can’t be place.” My heart was finding it very hard to believe that the person I had spent the last 24 years with was no longer with me, living and breathing. Everywhere I turned in the house there was a reminder of him, an article of clothing, a picture, his shoes, his phone, car, in some strange way seeing those things gave me a false sense that he was still here, that my normal was still well, normal. But it was the sunken look in my eyes whenever I had the courage to look at myself in the mirror, my tearstained cheeks, the pain and hurt in my daughter’s eyes, and the constant anxiety attacks that now assaulted my body day and night that reminded me that nothing was normal anymore. I had entered into a war zone and it was my life.
Each day I asked myself, “how do I move on, how do I live this new life?” I did not want to do this life anymore, the sheer pain was unbearable. The one thing that pulled me back from the ledge was my daughters. The suffering and trauma they had witnessed were enough, I needed to protect them from further pain. The trauma of seeing their father die right in front of them will never leave their innocent minds, it will be replayed like a broken record for a long time to come. The insecurity they are feeling as if they are waiting for the other shoe to drop also scared me as I felt myself waiting for the same thing. Maybe I was next. I know how morbid it sounds but every day was a struggle to not feel like I too was dying, that the grim reaper in some way had it in for me too. There was no trust for life anywhere, I felt separated from life and God. I felt empty. The concern I saw in their eyes for me and the question they ask me
continually with fear in the background was always “Mom are you okay?” I could tell that they were afraid that something might happen to me too and in all honesty, the level of fear I was carrying around in my mind drove me to that same conclusion. I knew it was the panic attacks talking and the PTSD. Yet it felt so real but I knew I had to fake it and say, “yes baby, mom is okay.” They had been through so much, what more could their fragile hearts take I could no lay another layer at their doorstep? My own limits had been reached for I knew I had arrived at what seemed the edge of my existence. The loss of a mother two years ago now followed by the sudden death of a husband. What was the universe doing? What message was it sending me? And the question that just wouldn’t leave my heart was “Why?” I knew it was the wrong question but it was the only one my grieving heart wanted to know.
In the midst of it all, any trust I’d ever had of the present moment or of God slipped away, the same way life could so easily slip away from our grip. I had more questions than answers but still, I continued to ask them hoping maybe someday an answer will come. I teetered back and forth to loving God and being angry at God. Our relationship during the first year took me to a place I never imagined seeing myself in, a faith crisis. In the first year of my grief, I walked along a dark path filled with disbelief and denial which held me captive with uncertainty and fear. I felt reduced to being a baby unable to figure anything out. The only thing I had the courage to do was to exist, no expectations, no planning, no pressure, just to be here and now feeling all the pain and grief that were now part of my everyday life. It happened to be the most devastating and painful thing I’ve ever experience.
One of the only things that I had inspiration for was writing. It is through journaling during moments of sadness, fear, anger, pain, and in some rare moments, happiness that I share here with you. There were also some moments of laughter that came in between the deep sorrows that helped me shed some light on the darkest time of my life. These short snippets allowed me gracefully to attend to all the feelings that were rummaging through me, to hold each one tenderly and with care and to let the light pass over me soothing the darkness away. I am ever grateful to a God that I love passionately even when I am angry and cannot understand the “why’s” of life.
Most wandering through the streets of grief want to rush back to a busy life they knew, rush back to feeling normal, and rush out of feeling the heaviness that grief brings with it. My hope as you read this book is that you will find some inspiration as you go through your season of grief with me as your companion. Your experience will surely be different from mine and that is to be expected, I honor all of your experiences as I do mine.