Hush, My House

Kathy Teipen, writer, hospice and grief specialist shares ideas for finding the quiet that lies within all of us and how that quiet can be just the time for reflection and growth as we move through our grief. Sometrimes we need the quiet to calm our spirit and find our way.

by Kathy Teipen

How does one hush one’s house?

I’ve never been much of a poetry reader, but when my mother died five autumns ago, I kept several of her favorite books of poems. Among them I found Jessica Powers’ piece, The House of Rest, in which she asks the question that consumes me still today: How does one hush one’s house?

It seems to me that we need to hush our houses if we are to negotiate safely through the gray days of winter, especially if those days are filled with grief. Whether you are the grieving person, the caregiver to the bereaved, or a friend trying to respond to the person in grief, you can use the quiet.

And it seems that nature agrees, doing what she can to help us hush our hemisphere. There are shorter days and less light to encourage us to stay in and do less. There is a natural instinct to hibernate – to hunker in and rest a while – in areas of snow and cold. And there is cold weather simply slowing us down by making us take the time to add layers of clothing before we venture out.

But why hush our houses at this festive, busy time of year? Many have already started shopping and planning parties. Why would we want to be hushing when this is the time of glitter and song and visits to the mall?

Very simply, because we need the quiet.

Because we need to listen.

Because we need the time alone.

In the hush, those of us who are grieving can remember, can acknowledge our feelings, and can identify again who we are in a world that is moving on, minus someone we love. We who are caregivers can nourish and replenish ourselves so we may be fully present when we are caring for others. And we who are friends can reflect on how we can be there for the griever without expecting ourselves to make it all okay.

Surprisingly, we can find opportunities to hush ourselves in the middle of our busyness. For instance, the traffic lights most of us find so frustrating can serve as a subtle reminder to take the few moments spent at an intersection to slow down and quiet ourselves. So can a long line at the store.

Still, this hushing business can be hard work. Silence fits into our lives with some effort. Many people will encourage us to keep busy, to try to forget, to not talk about our loss, to fill every minute with work and life’s minutiae. Then there is the clutter of our lives, the clutter of balancing our responsibilities, and the fear that if we are quiet, we will come face-to-face with our pain. But it is necessary to feel – even though it hurts so much – to be healed. Indeed the silence, the hushing can lead us to that healing.

Perhaps we fear that if we clear away the obstacles to hushing our houses, we might hear that insistent voice that asks us to change. We might feel the pull of faith which we may have tried to ignore in our pain. We might have to accept our need for a willing person trying to come into our lives just now. We might have to accept our heart’s yearning for some consistent solitude. If we hush our houses, we might see that this awful loss does have a purpose.

If I hush my house, I may see and hear that invincible spirit within me. I may feel the pull to reorder my life in response to my loss. I may know that this is indeed a powerful call to reshape myself, to embrace the challenges, and to find the fulfillment I may be offered despite all this pain.

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