In my personal journey through recovery, I went into it thinking that I was just going to learn about the problem and how to deal with it. I soon found out that my healing went beyond that. I learned that I was the only one with the key to my freedom from it.
Most importantly, I learned that by opening up and sharing my stories, the vulnerability allowed others to feel safe in opening up and sharing their stories. My journey of healing gave hope for others to heal.
I remember an article I read by Roshi Joan Halifax, “A Buddhist’s Perspective on Grieving.” Although it was about grieving the death of a loved one, the article really hit home because it reminded me of our humanity and the hidden gift of impermanence (i.e., finding the blessings out of losing what we thought we would have forever).
You can read the whole thing here: A Buddhist’s Perspective on Grieving
There once was a woman Buddhist, Ubbiri, drowning in grief as a result of the death of her daughter, Jiva (whose name means ‘alive’). Wounded by grief, Ubbiri went to the cremation ground of her daughter every day and mourned her loss.
One day, when she arrived at the cremation ground, there was a great crowd gathered nearby. The Buddha was
traveling through the region, and he had paused to give teachings to local people.
The Buddha had overheard Ubbiri’s pain-filled weeping and sought her out and asked why she was
weeping. In agony she cried out that her daughter was dead. He then pointed to one place and another where the dead had been laid, and he said to her:
Mother, you cry out “O Jiva” in the woods. Come to yourself, Ubbiri. Eighty-four thousand daughters named Jiva have burned in the funeral fire. For which one do you grieve?
The sorrow of great and small losses is a river that runs in the underground of all of our lives. When it breaks to the surface, we might feel as though only “I” know this pain. Yet grief is a universal experience, touching caregivers, dying people and, if we look deeply, all of us.
When grief overwhelms us, whether we are anticipating loss of our own life or living with the loss of another, we experience great darkness within. We may even feel forsaken. Fearful, our body is empty and haunted, walled off from all that we have ever cared about. We can be plunged into numbness, with the very life squeezed out of us. We can drown in the cold and churning waters of sorrow or be blown like hot dry dust in a desolate landscape of depression. We can inhabit the hot exhausting dullness of mind and heart of a world without meaning, a life without purpose.
We can try the patience of friends and be an embarrassment to others with our maudlin repetitiveness and self-pity. We can feel heavy with guilt or contracted in shame. We can resent the shallow and defensive reassurances that “this too will pass”…
Grieving is a landscape that is so varied and so vast that it can only be discovered through our own most intimate experience. No one escapes her touch nor in the end should we. The river of grief might pulse deep inside us, hidden from our view, but its presence informs our lives at every turn. It can drive us into the numbing habits of escape from suffering or bring us face to face with our own humanity.
Grief can ruin or mature us. Grief can remind us not to hold on too tightly as she teaches us tenderness and patience with our own suffering.
Wisdom and compassion are not given to us; they can only be discovered. The experience of discovery means letting go of what we know. When we move through the terrible transformation of the elements of loss and grief, we may discover the truth of the impermanence of everything in our life, and of course, of this very life itself.
For me, I would not wish my experiences upon even my worst enemy. No one deserves such pain. And while I’m grateful for the experience, I wouldn’t want to repeat it ever again. But it was only through this experience that I came to find my blessing in it all. I learned how to let go of what used to be in order to open the door for what can be. I learned that while I no longer had the marriage I thought I had, I now have a marriage that both of us work really hard for (and is comparatively so much better). I also learned that I have a voice. I have a brain (a wonderful working, and fully functional brain). I have boundaries. I have a choice. I am fearless. I am unlimited. I’ve got this one life. It’s all mine, and it is perfect only because it is imperfect.