Life will inevitably bring deep loss to all of us at some point. Somehow, somewhere, some person, place or thing will trigger an ache so deep that we may fear it is too much to bear. I have experienced a lot of loss in my life. Family, friends, pets, and relationships come and go; often times leaving a wake of pain and suffering. I am familiar with the pain that comes with the death of someone close to me. A pain and suffering that seem to be incurable by anything other than patience and time. When we are grieving, it can be easy to think that there is no cure, solution, or fix that will ease our suffering. In many ways, that’s true. What we can do is bear witness to the pain. We can trust that if we allow ourselves to be present with our suffering, that the pain will ease and we will heal.
We can give voice to our suffering. We can nurture faith in our ability to be strong enough to endure the weight of our existence and what life brings. I know there are those that hope to “just make it all go away.” There is a hope and illusion that somehow if we run from, push away, or deny our pain that it will magically dissipate. For some, on the surface that may even seem to work. Time passes, the intensity seems to diminish, and we try to believe that we are ok and healing. But, are we really?
The risk with avoiding our pain is that it will be driven into our unconscious. In spite of our best intentions, our avoidance of pain will be dictating our behavior. We can put up barriers and defend against input and triggers as we dress ourselves in armor. We may not realize that our hearts are silently closing. Slowly, or maybe quickly, it’s like dimming the light and closing the door to loving: loving more fully, consciously, and openly.
Love does not have an agenda. Love requires us to open to life experience. That means the pain, joy, suffering, and loss. If we do not face the pain of loss, then most likely there is some part of us that is sheltered and hidden away in an effort to avoid any future pain and suffering. It’s a bit ironic that in an effort to hold onto or manifest love, we do the opposite by restricting the energy of love.
As I try to open to loving more fully, I am aware of my fear of loss. I have worked to heal the losses in my life (in particular the death of my father when I was 15), yet I can still sense a gentle holding back. Certainly this has diminished over the many years as I continue to process and grow. As I deepen and expand my awareness, I ask myself: Am I truly surrendering to the moment if part of me is hoping to avoid future loss?
An easy way for me to observe and learn about myself is to try and be conscious of my reaction to potential loss. For example, I can consider the loss of my husband, family members, cat, and so on. When my emotional reactivity is high, there is a good chance that I feel threatened by the possible loss. I can respond to the threat in a variety of ways.
One, I can close off and avoid the fear. I do not think we can pick and choose which emotions we feel, so the problem here is that we are shutting down some of our ability to feel on all levels – the enjoyable and the unpleasant. Of course, since our subconscious is pushy, our conscious minds need help with avoiding. This is usually where addictions come in. Food, drugs, TV, computers, and so on help trick us into thinking that maybe we aren’t really feeling what we are avoiding. Running takes a lot of energy and effort, so having a strong diversionary tactic can seem like a valuable resource.
I can take a more forthright approach. I can open to my fear and resistance to underlying pain. I can be honest with myself. Life is unpredictable. I may be intuitive, but that doesn’t mean that life will not bring surprises. I am aware that each time I see someone it may be the last, and I can use this awareness to either shelter myself or allow the light of love to shine more brightly. Like Darth Vader in Star Wars, I can take off the armor acquired from loss and turn to the light.
The more I open and acknowledge the potential for loss, the greater my appreciation for the moment. Fear and defensiveness (due to the constant threat of loss) give way to gratitude for what I have right here, right now. Instead of protecting from some imaginary future, I open to serving in the now. Instead of pushing away, I can embrace and accept myself and others more completely. Energy is freed up to be more compassionate, empathetic, and loving.
Ultimately, we cannot genuinely care for one another when we are hiding from ourselves. Loving fully embodies acceptance for what is – not what may or may not be. Loss is a reality. We can use that awareness to foster gratitude and mindfulness, or we can use it to avoid our vulnerabilities and loving one another more openly and honestly.
(c) Sallie Odenthal 2012