Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a heartbreaking post about losing her partner and dealing with grief
Six months ago, Elizabeth Gilbert lost her partner Rayya Elias to cancer. Now, the Eat, Pray, Love author is opening up in an Instagram post about the gut-wrenching grief she’s been experiencing in the aftermath of Elias’ death. Her words are powerful, honest, and completely heartbreaking.
Gilbert took to social media to share a picture of herself with her partner at their commitment ceremony. Elias had already been diagnosed with terminal cancer, she explained, but that didn’t change the vows they exchanged with one another. Not one bit.
“What does ‘forever’ mean, when one of the lovers has terminal cancer?” Gilbert wrote. “That’s simple: It means FOREVER.”
Dear Ones: This picture of me and Rayya was taken one year ago today, on the morning of our commitment ceremony — a day on which we bound our hearts to each other forever, in front of a small circle of friends. What does “forever” mean, when one of the lovers has terminal cancer? That’s simple: It means FOREVER. Six months ago this week, Rayya died. People keep asking me how I’m doing, and I’m not always sure how to answer that. It depends on the day. It depends on the minute. Right this moment, I’m OK. Yesterday, not so good. Tomorrow, we’ll see. Here is what I have learned about Grief, though. I have learned that Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted. It comes and goes on its own schedule. Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to. In that regard, Grief has a lot in common with Love. The only way that I can “handle” Grief, then, is the same way that I “handle” Love — by not “handling” it. By bowing down before its power, in complete humility. When Grief comes to visit me, it’s like being visited by a tsunami. I am given just enough warning to say, “Oh my god, this is happening RIGHT NOW,” and then I drop to the floor on my knees and let it rock me. How do you survive the tsunami of Grief? By being willing to experience it, without resistance. The conversation of Grief, then, is one of prayer-and-response. Grief says to me: “You will never love anyone the way you loved Rayya.” And I reply: “I am willing for that to be true.” Grief says: “She’s gone, and she’s never coming back.” I reply: “I am willing for that to be true.” Grief says: “You will never hear that laugh again.” I say: “I am willing.” Grief says, “You will never smell her skin again.” I get down on the floor on my fucking knees, and — and through my sheets of tears — I say, “I AM WILLING.” This is the job of the living — to be willing to bow down before EVERYTHING that is bigger than you. And nearly everything in this world is bigger than you. I don’t know where Rayya is now. It’s not mine to know. I only know that I will love her forever. And that I am willing. Onward.❤️
Gilbert went on to explain that her emotions have been up and down since Elias passed away. Some days, she’s okay. Other days, not so much. The fluctuation of her feelings has taught her a very important lesson about grieving.
“I have learned that Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted,” she explained. “It comes and goes on its own schedule. Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to. In that regard, Grief has a lot in common with Love.”
So, what’s her solution to dealing with this truly awful, painful emotion? Well, Gilbert said, she doesn’t do anything at all.
“The only way that I can ‘handle’ Grief, then, is the same way that I ‘handle’ Love — by not ‘handling’ it. By bowing down before its power, in complete humility,” she wrote. “…How do you survive the tsunami of Grief? By being willing to experience it, without resistance.”
Dear Ones: Over the last year, Rayya Elias and I have been through some really difficult days together — but not today. Today was precious and perfect. A simple and spontaneous ceremony of love, surrounded by a small handful of friends and family. Our ceremony was nothing legally binding (no need to alert the authorities, folks!)…just a quiet and private celebration of what we have long known to be true: We belong to each other. More difficult days are to come. It doesn't get easier from here. Her illness is grave. But our love is strong. We will walk together as far as we can go together. After that, it all gets turned over to God. Create beauty with every day you are given, Onward, LG (And thank you, @bindleandkeep, for putting a rush on @rayyaelias's suit, and for hand-delivering it yesterday. She looked beautiful. Thank you for the grace, the care, and the compassion. You are good people.)
The author added that she responds “I am willing” whenever grief visits her. When grief reminds her that she won’t hear her partner’s laugh again, she says, “I am willing.” When grief reminds her that she won’t smell her partner’s skin again, she says, “I am willing.”
“I don’t know where Rayya is now,” Gilbert concluded in her post. “It’s not mine to know. I only know that I will love her forever. And that I am willing. Onward.”