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Walking through grief with Authenticity and Curiosity

writer: M. Leslie Snyder Eaves works with schools and educators across the country on developing STEM and Project Based Learning experiences for kids. She is recently widowed with one pre-teen daughter who keeps her humble. Between work and parenting, she loves to read, paint, embroidery, and whatever kind of craft that flips her fancy.

Drawing by Leslie Eaves

On Dec 31, 2019, I walked into my husband’s office to find him slumped over, cold to the touch, blue lips, not breathing. In that moment, my life exploded. There will forever be a before and an after.


He died.


I have only just begun using other euphemisms for death. Partly because I don’t want to trigger other people’s emotions. But the simple truth is one minute my husband, my life partner, the father to my daughter was there, and the next he wasn’t. Euphemisms can’t capture that reality quite as succinctly as “he died.”

Since that moment, I have walked the sacred journey of grief. Sure, I have lost loved ones before, but there is something so shocking and life changing about not only losing a life partner, but also losing one so early in life.

51, he was 51.


There are days when it feels like a dream, and others when it seems so real it hurts all over again. Prior to his death I would have classified grief as an emotion; what I am learning is that grief is a complexity… an intertwining of emotions, swirling around you in chaotic patterns within patterns. It is being fine and laughing one minute, then crying the next wondering how you will find the strength to ever move again. It is numbness and exhaustion and gratitude and anxiety and self-doubt and pride and sadness all rolled into this mixed blanket that covers how you interact with the world. As I have walked this current path, I carry with me two core values: Authenticity and Curiosity.


As an instructional coach and after reading Elena Aguilar’s book, The Art of Coaching, I have taken time each year to consider what are my top three core values. I always land on Authenticity and Curiosity. As I continue to reflect, I saw that not only have these values served me in my profession, they guide me through this grief process.


Authenticity calls me to be me, to share my thoughts and feelings, and invite others into my reality.

Through this grief journey I feel so many things so deeply. If I were to hide them or try to bury them, I fear they will fester and linger and become an impenetrable dragon. So, I feel them, sometimes I may need to wait until I am alone (because no one needs to see the true rawness of grief); sometimes I am so grateful to the friend who allows me space to break down. Authenticity helps me to come back to my core and allow myself to feel all the feels, to not apologize for the emotion, to feel and process. As I walk this journey, I am becoming somebody different. Authenticity allows me to control and temper this process so I may can purposefully pick up the pieces, examine them, and determine how and if they fit into my new Self.


Curiosity asks the questions. Who am I right now? Who do I want to be? Why am I feeling this emotion? What is triggering me? How will I get through? How the *bleep* did I get through that?! Grief dredges up so many thoughts and questions and regrets, Curiosity allows me to pull those things out like an engineer and scrutinize them. It gives me the mental space to examine and seek to understand.


Curiosity doesn’t demand answers, only questions and exploration.

With these two values intertwined together I find my breath to step from moment to moment, thought to feeling to action and back again. I can authentically feel what I need to feel and be who I need to be so I can move through this journey on the wings of a question.


One final thought, as I write this blog, I find another value is close at hand, Imagination. Imagination allows me to talk and process with my late husband. It allows me to see a new future where I will be whole once again.

Prayer

Heavenly Spirit we have so many questions

And doubts

And truths

Guide us to continuously seek Your Truth.


Heavenly Spirit we are asked to be so many people

In different aspects

In different directions

Help us to be who You have meant for us to be.

Heavenly Spirit are energies are blocked

From exhaustion

From fighting the good fight

Give us a vision to work towards so Your Peace on Earth may be realized.


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PO BOX 1234 | Mebane, NC 27302

A United Methodist congregation.