Somatics of Grief

IMG_5828-001.JPGI have been surprised by how physical this process of grief is.  When Doug was very sick, I was walking down the road one evening  taking out little dog, Bijou for his evening walk.  I looked up and in the window saw a woman walk by her husband and gently touch his shoulder as she passed.  I wept with the tenderness of the intimacy and the coming loss in my own marriage.  Such a small gesture that conveyed so much.


As Doug’s body became so very fragile, we found ourselves holding hands at night instead of the usual body snuggle.  One morning after he was gone I found myself half asleep holding  hands.  There was this momentary excitement as I felt that all that loss was a dream and his body really was still here.   As I awakened, I realized that in the night my arms had encircled the pillow and my hands were holding each other. There was a soothing in the touch that only stopped when I was awake enough to place the disappointment there.  It was a learning moment for awareness of how much need my body has for him and how my interpretation could change the moment from one of soothing to loss.


I am feeling compassion for this body of mine.  For the cells and neurons so used to 38 years of Doug’s loving touch.  I am in a new place of experimenting with these sensations that come up.  When I have the sharp deep pains of loss, I  allow it and also stay present to it without trying to label it.  I ask myself,  “What is this sensation without my thinking of it as painful.”  I then allow it to lead me.  I may cry or I may settle into my body and it all gets calm.  The heart pain may not leave but it doesn’t have the same grip on me as when I have a story attached to it.


Even watching couples on television can bring up somatic memories for me.  It isn’t that I only think of the memory of Doug but in a caress that I see, there is an actual physical feeling in my body. It is as though the cells of my body are responding to the images.  Each cell leaning towards a touch that is no longer forthcoming.
A heightening awareness  in  my body  as though to catch some passing flow of  his cells lingering in the air.


I breathe him in.
I touch my own face soothing this body…
a reminder that love and compassion are still here
even in my aloneness.

23 thoughts on “Somatics of Grief

  1. I continue to be in awe of your insight and the way you can share it in your beautiful words. My hope is that someday you can publish so that others can benefit from your insightful thoughts. You put your feelings into words that others might feel but be unable to explain. Thank you for sharing such personal aspects of your life.


  2. I just read the post, and had the exact same reaction….someday the journey that you and Doug Shared should be published!


  3. Thank you Walker!

    It is an amazing gift you offer us, sharing your experiences and practice of presence amidst all that life is presenting to you. In your sharing you’re also teaching and extending offers for me to practice too. Thank you!


  4. Each one of us who has lost a partner has probably experienced it in a different way. Thanks for sharing how it has felt for you afterward.


    1. I agree Lowell.. I think each of our experience is probably a little different. I know that having lost both parents, a best friend and siblings that each one was different depending on my relationship to them. None were nearly as difficult as losing Doug as he was such a powerful relationship and in my life in so many roles.


  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Walker. I have been thinking of you and Doug all week on my walks and wondering how you are settling into this new phase of life. So glad to be reading your gorgeous words.


  6. You are healing through your sharing and we are leaning and preparing so that we can also one day be healed and healers. Thank you, Walker.


  7. Thank you, Walker.

    On Sat, Feb 9, 2019, 9:43 AM Let Life Live Through You Walker Silsbee posted: ” I have been surprised by how physical this > process of grief is. When Doug was very sick, I was walking down the road > one evening taking out little dog, Bijou for his evening walk. I looked > up and in the window saw a woman walk by her husband and gen” >


  8. Dear Walker,
    Your courage and willingness to share your experience continues to open and astonish me. I hope today and always you can feel the love of the thousands of lives you have touched.

    I wanted to share this song with you. It was written for one of my dearest friends. She lost her husband in 2012. This was written to honor the extraordinary love and beauty of their lives. They have an extraordinary story, as do you and Doug. I hope it brings comfort.

    Love and deep appreciation, Darcie


  9. Sending love on this rainy Sunday- I don’t know what you are going through and I so appreciate your courageous honesty as your share your process. My Mom is transitioning and I feel as though I am learning from people who have gone through loss. So, thank you and much love.

    And here’s a poem I heard today- I hope it wraps around like a blanket. 🙏🏼💗


    I awoke
    this morning
    in the gold light
    turning this way
    and that

    thinking for
    a moment
    it was one
    like any other.

    the veil had gone
    from my
    darkened heart
    I thought

    it must have been the quiet
    that filled my room,

    it must have been
    the first
    easy rhythm
    with which I breathed
    myself to sleep,

    it must have been
    the prayer I said
    speaking to the otherness
    of the night.

    I thought
    this is the good day
    you could
    meet your love,

    this is the black day
    someone close
    to you could die.

    This is the day
    you realize
    how easily the thread
    is broken
    between this world
    and the next

    and I found myself
    sitting up
    in the quiet pathway
    of light,

    the tawny
    close-grained cedar
    burning round
    me like fire
    and all the angels of this housely
    heaven ascending
    through the first
    roof of light
    the sun has made.

    This is the bright home
    in which I live,
    this is where
    I ask
    my friends
    to come,
    this is where I want
    to love all the things
    it has taken me so long
    to learn to love.

    This is the temple
    of my adult aloneness
    and I belong
    to that aloneness
    as I belong to my life.

    There is no house
    like the house of belonging.

    – David Whyte


    1. I have read many David Whyte poems and find his words ring so true. I have read his poem the Well of Grief and never truly understood his meaning til now. It seems poetry speaks to the heart slipping past some of our borders of the mind. Thank you for this poem!


  10. Walker – Your presence with what is is such a gift…helping us all find our way lovingly through loss. Sending blessings and comfort and this John O’Donohue poem ( ):

    When you lose someone you love,
    Your life becomes strange,
    The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
    Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
    And some dead echo drags your voice down
    Where words have no confidence
    Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
    And though this loss has wounded others too,
    No one knows what has been taken from you
    When the silence of absence deepens.

    Flickers of guilt kindle regret
    For all that was left unsaid or undone.

    There are days when you wake up happy;
    Again inside the fullness of life,
    Until the moment breaks
    And you are thrown back
    Onto the black tide of loss.
    Days when you have your heart back,
    You are able to function well
    Until in the middle of work or encounter,
    Suddenly with no warning,
    You are ambushed by grief.

    It becomes hard to trust yourself.
    All you can depend on now is that
    Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
    More than you, it knows its way
    And will find the right time
    To pull and pull the rope of grief
    Until that coiled hill of tears
    Has reduced to its last drop.

    Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
    With the invisible form of your departed;
    And when the work of grief is done,
    The wound of loss will heal
    And you will have learned
    To wean your eyes
    From that gap in the air
    And be able to enter the hearth
    In your soul where your loved one
    Has awaited your return
    All the time.

    – John O’Donohue, For Grief, To Bless the Space Between Us, pp. 117-118


  11. Dear Walker, Your expression of this pain has me crying, for you, for me and for everyone who loses someone they love. Each loss is different in the subtle somatic experience. I think this work would make such a difference for people in grief. I lost my mom 20 years ago and I’m sobbing now as I think about how soft her skin was, remember her smile and how it filled my hear, and how I loved her hugs and kisses that I will never have again. I can hug my grandchildren (at least the young ones), and pass on that love to them. Thank you!


  12. Dear Walker,
    This is so lovely. Thank you for allowing these glimpses into your journey and for the reminder to treasure each touch.
    Please know that you and Doug are still missed here on the alley.
    With gratitude,
    Cheryl Dalton


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