I’ve come to see grief – and all the messy and painful feelings that come with it – as such a natural response to loss. Most losses are unasked-for and unwanted. The initial reaction is usually “No! Turn back the clock – make it go away!” Yet there’s no denying that loss is going to happen. It’s an inevitable and unavoidable part of life. Actually, the very fact that I care deeply about things (or people, or situations, or dreams) sets me up for the possibility of loss. There is a direct relationship between how much I love (or care) and how much I stand to lose. What courage it takes to love, then!
I used to think that in a perfect world, you could love and never lose, but it doesn’t happen that way, and I’m not sure it would be more perfect if it did. You’ve probably heard the saying “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Well, it turns out it’s true. Yes, my gut reaction to loss is going to involve throwing my hands up and trying desperately to stop it with that huge No! – thinking “I can’t handle it!” But the great thing is, I can. I can handle it. And the handling of it connects me to my humanity, my willingness to have loved.
What I can’t do is to be the same afterwards. When I lose someone or something I have really cared about, it changes me – plain and simple. That’s one of the beauties of our ever-changing and evolving lives. The great thing is that I get to make choices as I respond to my loss, as I go through my grief. To the degree that I choose to go through it (not avoiding it by trying to find a way around, over, or under) I can be changed for the better. My life can open up; my capacity to feel and care – even in the face of more loss – can grow, as I experience the value of saying yes to it.
Don’t get me wrong – knowing and even accepting that I have to go through loss doesn’t necessarily make it a whole lot easier. But it can help me stay on track. Most of us don’t say yes to loss or grief in the beginning, and I don’t advocate trying to do this. A natural part of grief is denial; paradoxically, accepting the very fact that I may go in and out of denial is accepting, is going through. This grief is often messy and almost always non-linear. I’m likely to kick and scream at some point, or maybe many points. And still, the very notion of going through can be the boat that keeps me afloat through all kinds of waves and weather.
There’s a line that I love in a lyric by singer-songwriter Kirtana, in Deathbed Song: “…I know that love is worth the wounding…” (http://www.kirtana.com/content/deathbed-song)
In my experience, it is. Loving is worth the wounding. And we can go through.
Blessings through the waves and weather.