The pain and pressure behind my eyes crawled up to my temples, it moved to the back of my neck and radiated pain all over the back of my skull. Everything hurt, and my eyes puffy and red, nearly swollen shut from the sobs that echoed in my chest. I buried my face in my pillow and let out big sighs of pain.
Death. It feels like death.
I don’t want this.
I had hopes and visions, I thought this was the start of a new season in my life. Family, togetherness… I was wrong. Very wrong.
Now I am left grieving a person, the absence of time, companionship, a dream of family, partnership and a warm home busy with life. Individuals that live side by side hurting, loving, laughing, and resolving life’s ups and downs together.
Death. It feels like death.
I don’t get to have that. I’m 37 now. And my heart’s desire is far from me.
This is not the reality I want.
This is hot searing pain and terror.
The ground underneath my feet is gone. What do I have left? I have no security. I have nothing. Where do I belong? Who do I belong to? What am I doing with my life?
All the questions I ask when I am confronted by death.
Death. This feels like death.
What do I have to hold onto? There’s nothing to grab hold of as I fall aimlessly down the black hole of nothingless. I look beyond the plains of this moment and I see a lifetime of loneliness. I don’t want to die alone. I feel a lifetime of hollow pain and watch myself biding my time. For what? The thing I want will never come, because it just left. A deep ache in my chest that cannot be explained or described and I am utterly gripped by nothingness and everything while spinning and grasping at air for something to take hold of me.
Nothing’s there. It’s black. There’s no anchor, nothing I can grasp that will stay with me forever and make me feel safe. My dogs? They are still here but they will die.
My friends? Yes. They are here for now… but…
At the end of the list… I have nothing and no one. In the end, everything dies.
In ONE loss, I feel them all. What is the point? Life is just a bunch of losses?!
Life is the ebb and flow of loss intertwined with moments of joy and goodness. Each loss hits me so deeply – the primal pain of attachment and abandonment.
How do we navigate the ebb and flow of loss throughout a lifetime? As I think about this most recent loss in my life, I see more losses to come. As I get older I see more and more that life is so finite and moments are fleeting. The Psalmist David calls this, “vapor”. Our lives are but a vapor. We’re here – but dissipate just as quickly. “Yes, every human being stands as only a vapor.” -Psalm 39:5
As a river runs, the current changes. It changes based on its destination, the topography of the river bed, the weather, and volume of water. So many variables. Life itself is a river, multiple variables come and go in our lives. Changes in context, our homes, jobs, kids and relationships – they are all ebbing and flowing. How do we hold these variables loosely?
The more I grow, the more I see the anxious attachment pattern in my life – I don’t allow the current to flow through my hands. I catch parts of the water in a jar, seal the lid tight and tell that water, “You can never leave or die”. (literally, I’ve said this to people).
The throat gripping terror I feel when that glass jar breaks and all the water pours out, is unbearable. And so I wait, for the next current of water to come into my jar so I can seal it up tight and never let it go.
When I lose what I love, I stand on the bank of the river, attempting to glue my jar together while trying to collect invisible water to place back in my jar. I fight and I fight. I kick and I scream.
I DO NOT WANT THIS reality.
Radical. Acceptance. of Reality.
This is where rubber meets the road.
I must radically accept THIS reality.
The reality is: He’s not coming back. He doesn’t love me. He is gone. They can’t give me what I want. She’s dead. They aren’t going to apologize and they never will. I didn’t get the job. I don’t get to raise that little girl. This was taken from me. My body was never touched in a nourishing healthy way. He hit me. He raped me. She cheated on me. She’s gone. I have to start again. I can’t pay my bills. I didn’t pass the test.
My radical acceptance of reality demands that I look at the rubble left from the explosion, mark it and grieve it, assess the damage and begin to rebuild from the ashes.
“Okay. This is what happened – now what am I gonna do about it?”
I will experience loss again. It is inevitable. As Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The hollow pain is still there. It aches greatly today, it is a deep undescribable pain. Loss will always rip that ache open while it bleeds profusely.
Radical Acceptance of Reality Requires:
- Acknowledgment of the Loss
2. Finding what I CAN control
3. Allowing the energy of the waves of grief to pass through my body and to feel them deeply.
4. Self-Nourishment and Soothing: what do I need right now? what can make me feel good and calm? what can give me a recess from the pain? how can I help this energy move thru my body? (yoga, sketching, painting, running, bathing, snuggling with a pet, and the list goes on)
5. Speak with Self-Compassion: “There is a reason I feel this way”, “this too shall pass”, “It is a normal response to be devastated by this situation.”, “these circumstances are not pleasant”, “It is okay for me to be sad and to rest”, “I am doing a really good job surviving something extrememely painful.”
This week has been a rotation between healthy distraction, a deep ache, crying, making sure I eat and crying while doing yoga.
This is really hard. I have no idea what God is doing with my life, but I know he dedicates ALL things for my good and my progress forward. Everything works toward my momentum.
With each loss that I face, the more I grow and uncover about myself. The Valley of the Shadow of Death – is a Valley of knowledge and wisdom. When I sit in the silence of the Shadow, I wonder, get curious, ask it questions, I explore it and creatively express it. It holds my hand while I weep and it becomes “The Valley of the Shadow of Weeping”.
I imagine the Weeping Willows cascading around my path within the Valley – inviting me into the pain and comfort, sorrow and joy, loneliness and attachment. Their tendrils sway under the shadow of the valley and I embrace them as they come and allow them to leave as quickly as they came.
It is honoring to self and God to be in this place. When we fully express our emotions in our valley it points us back to the interdependence between the Divine and man. It calls us into the deep, the place where we center ourselves in the midst of the current. The deep reveals our heart and the Beloved, the power of the Creator within us. The power to resurrect and renew. Each emotion pulls me toward this glorious end.
“The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase my knowledge only increases my sorrow.” -Ecc.1:18
When I bravely enter into the radical acceptance of my reality and grieve – the more I uncover in my own wounds and the more I grieve the intergenerational sorrow and brokenness that has passed between them and onto me. I don’t just grieve the ONE loss – I understand and grieve them ALL. I alchemize this grief into wisdom, the more wisdom I have, the more I grieve.
The more I LEARN from the layers of those wounds peeling off one by one being seen, felt and healed – the more knowledge I gain. And the more knowledge I gain – the more my sorrow increases.
Pain is my teacher.
Suffering my companion.
And loss, well, loss has become my friend.
And so, I cry. Weep and anger at the breadth of wounds, isolation, terror, lonely, rejection, abandonment and death. I want to walk in this ‘space between’, joy and sorrow, the ‘both and’ reality of being.. to walk along the border of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This Valley teaches me the depth of life, while showing me the visionary ingeneous of inspiration.
I know there is hope, and joy comes in the morning, tomorrow is another day – but can we TRULY, fully recognize and enjoy that morning if we don’t live in a radical acceptance of reality?
If we have not accepted reality – what are we doing? Avoiding? Pretending? Running away?
So I speak this truth over all the men and women who know sorrow. Whether you are new to acceptence or it’s a long time comrade.
“Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time…. and so, Lord hear my prayer and listen to my cry for help; do not be silent at my tears. For I am here with you as an alien, a temporary resident like all my ancestors… make me aware of my end and the number of my days so that I will know how short- lived I am…. You will send your faithful love by day; and your song will be with me in the night, this is my prayer to the God of my life.” –adapted from Ecc.1 and Ps. 39 – 42
May the sorrow you feel now in this moment, have a refining influence. May the Valley of the Shadow of Weeping bring you wisdom from grief. May the understanding of your past wounds, trauma and hunger for attachment, bring you closer to the healing balm of your community and Jesus. May the Deep call to your spirit as you center yourself in the power, pressed upon your soul, endowed by your Creator. May the death you feel lead you toward healing, renewal and resurrection.
I see you friend.
You are not alone.