When we’re rich in what matters, we’re engaged with life. We’re leaning into it, we’re giving and receiving, we’re connected rather than isolated.
Then, we have a loved one die, and we hurt like bloody hell. It’s a universal experience that none of us can escape. Or, a loved one rejects or abandons us. We stagger around, essentially disabled by pain, wounded the same as by a physical death. Job loss and home loss can also feel like deaths.
Death can make us feel like being rich in what matters was all smoke and mirrors, the pain is so blinding. Our engaged-with-life thing , our flow of giving and receiving, can feel like they were a sham.
It’s easy, in grief, to revert to mainstream remedies like overconsumption and overscheduling.
We may decide, not even consciously, that staying crazy-busy and never having a spare moment will keep us from feeling our pain.
Or, new clothes will make us feel better. Expensive food, or lots of cheap food. New phones with the new frills. Alcohol. More apps. Better apps. Hundreds of ways to consume, all bent on avoiding hurting.
Or, we may find other kinds of crisis to distract ourselves from our grief. Getting into agitated conflicts with coworkers, forgetting to take our crucial medications, and neglecting to pay utility bills and risking shut-offs would be examples of creating crisis.
Many of you know that my mother died in March 2011, after being paralyzed with Parkinson’s disease for years. I was a raw nerve ending for months afterward. My housemate Gary died almost exactly a year ago today. Death is notorious for revisiting us on its anniversaries.
Overconsumption, overscheduling and staying in crisis doesn’t help our hurting for more than a few minutes. Overall, these compulsive behaviors just delay healing.
Worst, compulsive behaviors cripple our capacity for healing. We don’t learn anything as we’re numbing ourselves. Numb leads to dumb.
Here is the thing to remember: Hurt. Heal. Repeat.
Did that last word set your hair on end? Sorry, but it IS a cycle. Closing the door to ever hurting again would be closing the door to living.
Healing happens to people hurt as badly as you and I have been literally all of the time. All around the globe. As I’m writing and you are reading.
Healing generally happens via connectedness, whether to other people, animals, the natural world, meaningful work (paid or unpaid). The arts are probably the most powerful healers on earth. They connect us across space and time; they catapult us into realms of beauty.
My many heartbreaks in my 54 years have always healed, with time. They’ve progressively cracked my heart open into a bigger capacity to connect with others, and have compassion for them. Hurt. Heal. Repeat.
Here are 11 Ways To Get Through The Death of a Loved One. Most of the advice can apply to healing from any kind of loss.
I’ve just finished reading a new book, “Glimpsing Heaven” by a tough-minded journalist named Judy Bachrach, that I’ll be reviewing here in December, based on the experiences of tens of thousands of people. Hint: heaven appears to involve a lot of connectedness.