Returning from Grief to Gratitude

Returning from Grief to Gratitude blog
Living The Big Stuff

Returning from Grief to Gratitude

Kahil Gibran says in his tome The Prophet, “Your greatest joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

These seven words spoke to me and whispered hope in my ear as I weathered the tsunami of grief that came after my husband Richard’s transition. I died a death when he did. According to my angel guides, my human transition has taken quite awhile.

There’s nothing quite as painful as heartbreak, and when it comes through the corridor of loss, it takes people varying amounts of time to heal. There isn’t a yellow brick road you follow.

It’s a process and a journey of healing and mending a broken heart that is filled with sorrow–sorrow that leaks through the cracks of a shattered life, while spilling out the tears of a thousand years.

About three months after Richard’s memorial, I attended a book launch party for a dear friend, Mike Robbins. Richard had finished the foreword to Mike’s first book just three weeks before he died. I felt obligated to attend “the party” on Richard’s behalf. As happy as I wanted to feel for our friend, I was hardly ready to celebrate anything that resembled my previous life that had all too fleetingly been pulled right out from under my feet.

It felt more like a public assault when people who knew me and knew our story looked my way. I’m sure it was only because I felt naked and raw that I felt so exposed to their gaze.

People mean well when they say things to you, but often hearing no words is better comfort to someone grief-stricken than hearing the wrong words.

A man approached me and told me I looked beautiful. Something about tears must be anti-aging; crying does boost the immune system. For some reason the more I cried, the younger I appeared that first year. The man said, “You know, you are very lucky to have lived such a great love with Richard in your life time. You should be very grateful.”

I stared in blank disbelief as if he had slapped my face. Then, he proceeded with the usual and awkward, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

My response: “What do you mean? Loss? I didn’t lose my car keys. My life was annihilated. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel grateful. I feel devastated.”

I walked away and found a post to lean on outside on a stairwell in the fresh air.

As soon as he said the word “grateful,” I knew I felt anything but gratitude for the pain I was experiencing, and I resented him for saying so. I wasn’t sure I would ever feel grateful for having the kind of love that held so much pain to lose.

In time, I changed. And so did my attitude.

I healed by repeating a mantra: “Surrender, trust and accept.” These three words became the lighthouse in the waves of grief that came and went like the tides in stormy seas.

In essence, the Serenity prayer says: find the courage to change what you can, the acceptance for what you cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t consider that the acceptance of my loss was the ending point to grief, but rather the portal to living more life. When I accepted my loss, I began to embrace and step into a new life—one walking solo but not alone.

One that made me feel like new a fawn with wobbling legs, and I began to question everything.

That’s when I decided mid-life is not a crisis unless you are in one. It is a time of inquiry: “Who am I now?”

Years later, it’s been quite a remarkable journey of self discovery,with lots of twists and turns, and blessings too.

Now, I’ve returned to a deep feeling of gratitude for having loved so honestly, purely and with true and lasting fulfillment. People ask me if I’ll remarry and my response is, “I don’t know. My cup is more than half-filled with enough love from Richard to potentially last my lifetime.”

I am truly grateful for having loved so deeply that I know now I am better for it. I would do it all over again for the same soul contract because loving Richard and being loved by him were, indeed, worth the heartbreak–worth the loss and every tear.

Gratitude and noticing all the great things in your life, both past and present, is great salve for a broken heart. The beauty of a broken heart mended is the expansion of compassion that ensues upon its healing. My compassion for humanity grew ten-fold for having gone through loss. I’ve survived and chosen to thrive. My ability to experience joy grew, as Kahil Gibran promised.

Your heart will be broken open to more than you can possibly imagine. The depth that you feel your sorrow is the depth that you will feel your joy. My tears for both are equal now.

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