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The first active thing I remember doing after I emerged from my bedroom two or three days after John died was setting the tea kettle on the stove. Something I would have done "Before" everyday to prepare tea for myself and John. With that seemingly small action I was very aware of all eyes turned on me from the dining table and all conversation immediately silenced round me.

I didn’t say anything for several minutes as I waited for the normal, everyday sound of the teapot’s shrill whistle to call out while I measured tea leaves into the teapot’s steeper. A few minutes later I watched the hot water pour slowly from the kettle to the teapot, causing the tea leaves unfurl and wind around each other as steam wafted up and into the ether. I said nothing to anyone, I caught their gazes, worried and expectant, but I had nothing to say, so I lowered my eyes and watched my hands instead find the honey, slowly measured with a spoon, watched it ease off of the spoon and slide smoothly into the handmade earthenware cup John and I had bought two years prior during our first trip to Door County, where we made fast friends with lovely places and even lovelier people.

I waited the three minutes for the tea to steep properly, I poured the tea into the cup the sound of liquid building upon itself somewhat soothing to me, a sound I had heard at least hundred times before, liquid into vessel  then spoon whispering clink, clink, clink around the mug as I stirred. Then the mug warm, easing the world and reality I was in, it was just one of the impossibly few things that now remained the same as I held it in between both hands and stared past my family and friends who now were gaping at me, eyes wide at my silence and I’m sure also my disheveled three days of no shower, filthy hair, bad breath and general frightened and feral animal like look and gaze about my eyes.

In a moment of bravery I looked toward my mom. I held my mom’s gaze for a very painful moment, a moment in which I knew she saw it all-the depth of brokenness, the pain, the hemorrhaging from my heart, my soul, my core. I saw in her tremendous helplessness and fear for me and in an attempt to normalize my world I said, “I just wanted tea.” Everyone nodded their heads as if they were trying to tiptoe around a sleeping giant, but I merely went to the recliner, tucked my legs up under me, grabbed a blanket to cover myself up, as I was still shaking and literally cold with shock, and held that cup of hot liquid, of normalcy, in my hands for a long, long time. I’m certain I drank it but I don’t remember that. I only remember its warmth and it’s incredibly small but necessary touchstone to the world “Before”

That ritual still sticks with me. I think it has been an important aspect of my easing into the new normal that is now my reality. When I visited Oklahoma last winter and needed a touchstone to my daily world I sought out a cup of tea. When I started a new job and cried all the way to work and even harder on the way home nearly every day for the first six months or so, my solace was found in a cup of tea. When the insomnia reigned and the night slept on without me, again, the ritual of tea eased me into the loneliness and then into the solitude and silence of those long hours. Warm, sweet liquid full of comfort and nourishment poured into me, physically and spiritually, caressing the deepest of my wounds from loss, soothing me in times where nothing else really could. Even now so many months later, when my world is stumbling forward and I need the feeling of being at least ever so slightly righted, the ritual of tea begins, and it to carries me to the safe, the known, the normal.

The ritual of tea takes me to a place of okay-ness that nothing else does. I wonder if others have a ritual that has helped them to touch the safe, the known, and  helped them make it through the day? I certainly hope so-without mine I’m not sure exactly what I would have used a coping tool for this wretchedly hard path that had to be traveled. Still, I have traveled it, often without my shoes, sometimes without brushing my hair or teeth, and once without real pants when I nearly wore pajama bottoms to work, but never have I forgotten to pack and travel without everything needed for the ritual of tea-a ritual that takes me to a place of safety and stability , a ritual that helps me touch the beauty and love that was in my world  once, “Before”


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Comment by AEDforever (Ali) on July 14, 2014 at 2:52pm

Flannery  I so get it about the disheveled hair, not brushing the teeth. I didn't really care if I smelled bad even. I still went to work, unshowered and no makeup, and somehow operated in autopilot, but that took every bit of strength I had for the day. I love your tea ritual.  I probably would have done a lot better using tea instead of wine.  ((hugs)) and thanks for letting me know, once again I am not alone.

Comment by IndiaKai on June 9, 2014 at 6:02pm

I came across that  and instantly thought of your post.  :)  It just fit.

Comment by flannery on June 9, 2014 at 8:36am

Nice IndiaKai! I love it! Thank you for sharing this.

Comment by IndiaKai on June 7, 2014 at 9:05pm

Comment by flannery on June 4, 2014 at 7:15am

Hi Choosing Life and IndiaKai,

I use loose leaf tea from Teavanna too. WE also have a local tea vendor but it is far away so mostly I useTeavanna. I use Tazo when I am traveling and can't take loose leaf tea. I like the green jasmine tea and the lavender tea-it helps me to sleep some. I can't say how great it is that I'm not the only one that will share how ritual helps ease grieving with others, especially the tea ritual:). It's really nice to have another point of contact and understanding with others who are experiencing and working hard at grieving and healing. And yes IndiaKai, I make my beagle hunker down with me too lol!

Comment by IndiaKai on June 4, 2014 at 7:01am

I enjoy your posts. Thank you for sharing your moments.  I go for the loose tea from Teavana.  I really enjoy Roobios Matte Chai mix. It's very soothing.  I also enjoy the Spicy Chai Tea that Trader Joe's makes.  During the winters I like to dab a little fireball whiskey (not much because it can over power it) but the spiciness from the chai mix and the whiskey warms up the body. Throw in a fireplace, a book, maybe a pet that snuggles, and hunker down.  :) 

Comment by Choosing life on June 3, 2014 at 7:53am
Flannery --- i too use tea for my comfort and therapy, if you will. You described its powers beautifully. Many times when I felt I had no warmth within me at all I relied on hot tea to soothe and warm me. It seems to calm my insides and those first few sips are magic.

Let me know favorite --- I buy the tea bags ---- usually Earl Grey, Green Tea, or some sort of Lemon. Thanks for posting.

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