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When we lose someone we love, there are no simple solutions or ten effortless steps we can follow to “fix” our sorrow (or the sorrow of our friends and family). There are also no magic words or religious gurus—however well intended—that can make everything suddenly better.
We are here on this planet for a reason. Our gifts and our talents are needed, now more than ever. As Gandhi so aptly said, “What you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.”
While the intensity of our grief may lessen somewhat with time, our love stays strong, powerful, and constant. Like a full moon shining bright in the night sky, love is the beacon we follow.
There is just that: Joining together with our friends, family, or neighbors. Remembering what matters. Helping one another when times get tough. Making mistakes. Learning. Getting up again the next day. Starting over. Saying thanks to those people who help us along.
What can we do in times of tragic loss? We can continue to light candles, we can pray, we can sing, we can sob, we can dance, we can paint, we can write, we can rebuild, and we can gather our loved ones close. We can listen to our heart’s call.
This holiday season, try to create rituals and ceremonies that celebrate what you hold sacred in your life and in your heart. Be intentional about finding ways to honor your truth. Most importantly, be gentle and be kind – to others, and especially to yourself.
In ancient times, people gathered around the warmth of the fire to share tales of their ancestors: stories of brave conquests, legendary heroes, and tragic deaths. In the telling are lessons of courage in the face of adversity, hope in the midst of defeat, and enduring love in the face of death.
What I’ve learned from the many people I interviewed is that we don’t “get over” the death of someone we love. We also can’t fix or placate the intense sorrow we feel. Our experiences of loss — like our experiences of joy — become significant strands in the web of our life story.
When we find ourselves on the unfamiliar shores of loss ... We can spend however much time we need there, perhaps finding solace beneath the vast night sky, a bight full moon, or the soft glow of the setting sun. We can allow ourselves to feel whatever we feel — no right, no wrong, and no judgment.
In this epic adventure of being human in the world, our mind is a powerful tool: Use it wisely. Plant seeds of love. Plant seeds of resilience. Plant seeds of dreams. Plant seeds of future opportunities. Then, work to water those life-affirming intentions and ideas.
When we offer kindness to a friend or a stranger, when we teach children how to care for the environment, when we seek solutions to problems, when we discover better ways of responding, when we eat healthy foods, when we plant trees in urban areas, and when we act with awareness and compassion, we bring beauty to the world.
Remaining mindful of one or two things a day may be enough: Remembering to say gratitude each morning or each evening. Noticing the sunlight shimmering brightly on the water. Drinking a cup of hot coffee on the porch while watching a squirrel scurry along a limb. Listening to the woodpecker, Blue jay, or mocking bird songs.
As we sit with our sadness, we may decide not to waste time chasing the wrong things. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow likely no longer appeals to us because we understand the impermanent, fleeting beauty of the rainbow’s hues – knowing such splendor will not last. Knowing it is not meant to be here forever, but nevertheless wanting desperately to grasp each precious moment.
For all who came before and all who follow in our footsteps, we will honor the feminine, eternal, life-giving force of this Universe. And then, women will join together, once again, in the sacred circle dance that is our power and our divine source.
We plant seeds of universal accord when we remember that we are here, as guests, for only a brief while. What makes us truly happy is never that which destroys. Rather, it is the connection to our Source and to our hearts that nourishes a deep, abiding love for humanity, for wildlife, for nature, and for our planet.
Ask questions. Set aside judgments. Go beyond current comfort zones. Learn from the indigenous people, the scientists, the children, the plants and animals, the shamans, the musicians, the artists, the peacemakers, the homeless, the teenagers, the poets, and the dancers. Learn about other cultures, religions, races, and ethnic groups. We have so much we can teach each other! The skills we will need to develop include: openness, curiosity, nonjudgmental mindsets, and humility.
Our hearts seek comfort from things of beauty. We find solace in metaphors, stories, prayers, and songs. We gain strength from those creative souls who remind us, again and again, why we are here. They show us that we can do this hard thing: We can get up each day, do our work in this world, and stay awake to both our sorrow and our joy.
Inner calm is mighty. It is the courage to get up each day despite hardships. It is the willingness to bear witness to loss, anguish, betrayal, death, and destruction. It is the capacity to hear the silence of children who speak volumes with their eyes. It is the ability to cry when tears are needed and the ability to laugh when human folly presents itself. It is the determination to hold fast to a vision that serves our earth home. It is a positive force that ripples out into the world in a myriad of beautiful ways.
As in nature, human life continues its on-going cycles, with seasons of births as well as seasons of death. All the while, the creative, life-giving force of our great-great grandmothers flows powerfully within each of us—bestowing upon us strength, confidence, and courage. American poet May Sarton reminds us, "We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be."
The heart’s tug is a reminder of what’s truly important and lasting: Kindness. Love. Compassion. Healing. Our inner knowing helps us see with clarity: This planet is our earth home. Land, water, trees, and sky are worthy. Future generations are worthy. We are worthy.