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.
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.
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.
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.
One piece of my mosaic is this blog. It is a simple thing. It is also a part of me that I share with you. Whatever your work in this world, don’t give up. Valuable fragments often come from ordinary, daily pursuits. No one can duplicate or replace your piece in this life.
How do we achieve these goals? One way is to begin working together. We can honor our cultural, ethnic, religious, gender, and race differences while also embracing our commonalities. We can try to understand that the real enemies are ignorance, greed, fear, hate, and prejudice. We can refuse to follow any leader who promotes hate. We can joyfully decline to be governed by fear. We can embrace our power to make a difference.
Forgiveness isn’t easy to write about or to practice in our lives. When the church community I loved broke apart (not once but twice) over disputes regarding two different ministers, the issue of forgiveness was raised by those who opted to leave. I wasn’t able to tackle the topic then. Even now, two years later, I find forgiveness an unsettling area of discussion. I can’t point to one simple solution or easy fix, especially when no one admits fault or wrongdoing yet many people feel deeply hurt.
Our lives are worthy, not because of what we do. And certainly not because of what we own, where we live, or how we look. Each of our personal stories—regardless of the details—is sacred. They are sacred because we are spiritual beings. As Marge Piercy once shared in a poetry workshop that took place right after 9/11, art is how we give shape and meaning to our lives. Sharing our stories (and other creative expressions) is also how we connect with one another.
There are people struggling with the ills of poverty, outlandishly expensive (but necessary) medical procedures, destruction of beautiful, natural environments, and all the challenges and loss that life brings to each of us. There are also millions of people joining together to find new solutions to age-old problems. In Buddhism we are taught, “Do not turn away from suffering. Learn to see others through the eyes of compassion. Create a better future for our children.”
Perhaps in 2013 we can find ways to bring peace into our lives and create more peace in the larger world community. To do so, we might have to examine our emotional triggers. We may have to understand the conflict and anger within ourselves. We might need to listen to the suffering we have caused others. We may have to share our own sources of suffering. “Practicing nonviolence is first of all to become nonviolence. … This applies to problems of the family as well as to problems of society.”