Can tragedy become an unexpected gift in our lives?
This is a guest post for Powered by Intuition by Jennifer Boykin.
It’s been just over twenty years since I held my newborn daughter Grace while she died.
People will tell you that no one should outlive their child, and they are right. Nobody wants to be a member of the “parents of dead babies club,” but, we are out there. And, having lived through it, I can say – in fact I MUST say – that, if you really, really want it, you CAN find a way through your suffering, no matter what you’ve lost.
But I was ornery enough to insist that settling for just “getting through” that loss would not be enough. I wanted to TRIUMPH over the suffering, because I realized pretty early on that the best way to honor my daughter’s memory was to make it serve some good use.
When you “do your grief work,” you not only serve as a beacon of hope for others, you also uncover deep and lasting reserves of strength and resilience inside yourself. One way or another, your losses will shape you and the way you live the remainder of your days.
That’s because, when it comes to loss, you either Get Bitter. Or, you Get Better.
If you decide that better is better for you, here are some steps you can take to move yourself through your sorrow so that you can harness the amazing transformational power of loss and suffering:
In order to get through loss, you have to be willing to give up your “story.”
Really, really, it is a very dramatic thing to be the parent of a dead child. And there are individuals and even entire communities that will give you unlimited attention for this for the rest of your life.
But, is that really the kind of attention you want? Unless you are willing to give up your story of loss, betrayal, and suffering, you are doomed to carry it forward with you wherever you go. You become defined by your loss. To just the extent that you choose to hold the loss in your heart and mind, to just that extent do you squander the possible moments of joy that would have been available to you. The cost of martyrdom is joy.
In order to get through loss, you have to understand the duality of change.
Endings and beginnings are simply the yin and yang of change. One defines the other. And one can NEVER be present without the other. Thus, if you choose to spend the rest of your days with the love of your life, you “lose” forever the freedoms of your single days. Never again can you just do what you want to do when you want to do it. You trade that freedom for companionship. Loss is intrinsic in every joy that you have ever had.
Indeed, loss is intrinsic in all of life, and yet, as a culture, we seek to deny and avoid loss. Once you understand the futility of expecting a life free of sorrow, you are free to REALLY embrace loving and the absolute breathtaking JOY of LIVING! Sorrow is the bill that comes due for the price of loving. Accept that and you are free.
You can mitigate ANY loss by harnessing its transformative power.
Grief has an energy of its own. It will have its way with you, until it doesn’t. But you can help yourself through. Learn to set boundaries around your suffering. Make appointments with it, in fact, so that you begin to carve out some moments where you focus on reclaiming your joy and your light.
Your losses are going to change you.
What this means is that your losses are going to make new discoveries, new soul-places, new visions available to you that WERE NOT POSSIBLE before the loss. Before my baby died, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And now I do.
Here’s what I know:
• All healing is possible,
• There is joy in loss because loss is borne in love,
• There is transformation in loss because the bereaved has a deeper capacity to love,
• Loss hollows out your soul and,
• You either Get Bitter,
• Or, you Get Better.
• But, you can’t have both.
BECAUSE I am Grace’s mother, I ABSOLUTELY KNOW that life is too short – life is too uncertain – to spend one moment living timidly. We are meant to embrace life, to wrest from it every exquisitely beautiful moment we can, to flower and grow and shape and change and serve those around us.
Still, even the most beautiful blossom has a dormant season. The next time you are suffering, fear it less. Know that this period can be a gift of transformation, if you choose life instead of loss.
The only way out is through. Love yourself gently. Love yourself more fully. Embrace and celebrate the love you feel for others. Yes, there will be suffering when love ends. But only because there was GREAT JOY while it was here.
Has your life been touched by loss? How did you heal? How did it change you? What helpful advice can you share with others about it?
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