Grief, in my experience, is an extension of love. The depth of which can only be reflective of the depth of love you had before the grief. As such, the process of mourning through grief becomes a process of returning to love, a more evolved state of love, for the one you have lost, that spreads like tree roots, out into the ways you love others. In this process I was forced to learn to love unconditionally both myself & those closest to me. It’s been challenging & initially required vigilance in keeping myself accountable and often still does. However it also requires a level of detachment that, at first, seems a little frightening but becomes beautifully liberating.
In Feb of 2014 i unexpectedly lost my partner of 19 years & father of my children. The preceding 2 years had been a roller coaster of turmoil, uncertainty and heartache, for all of us, as he plummeted into depression and addiction. Ultimately culminating in what became the only way he could see as as a way to be released from his pain & what his mind had tricked him into believing would be ours too, by his absence. Up until that point, I honestly didn’t think my heart could be anymore broken.
As a rehabilitated drug addict, Russell Brand says that the opposite to addiction is connection. This made sense to me, but it also made me feel like I had failed. Maybe I didn’t love him enough? He was my best friend and my worst enemy. When he spoke I hung off his words and when he was happy he took my breath away. I never wanted to be out of his gaze. We ripped each others hearts out often, but like blowing on coals, also breathed fire back into them. Connection wasn’t enough, there were so many puzzle pieces missing.
In her book, ‘Daring Greatly”, Brene Brown talks about shame and worthiness. In the presence of shame and the absence of worthiness of self, we are less able to accept love that is given. In order to drive out shame we must be vulnerable and that takes courage. My missing puzzle pieces. So much of what I recognised and then understood. All the nights he spent with me telling that I hadn’t failed us and it was not my fault, while I could not understand the choices was making, if that were true, made sense and those nights became a beautiful gift in my grief. In the process of my grieving I had to unravel all the facets of love and what I knew as love and cut away the tangles of everything that confused what love is – Ego, expectation, jealousy, manipulation, control & selfishness, just to name a few.
Eventually I wanted to let sunshine back into my life, to feel joy again. I have been learning to love bigger and better. What that has come to look like is this
- Being gentle with myself on the days when I need it and to let myself feel whatever emotion comes, this can take some practice, we are so used to shoving them down. I make time to let them come, indulge them, acknowledge them, uncover them and recognise their origin, then let them pass.
- Reminding myself we are not our behaviour and if we were, would we be people that we ourselves would want to know? I don’t think I would all of the time and that makes it easier for me to be more compassionate and less judgemental with myself and others.
- Being forgiving of myself and others, when it’s challenging I try to remember Ho’oponopono, the hawaiian practice of forgiveness; I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you.
- Being Grateful every day, for all that I have, all that I am and all that I have experienced, which helps to make me who I am
- Loving myself in the ways that I love others ie making time, showing patience, showing compassion, giving.
- Loving unconditionally, which doesn’t mean I let things slide, it means that I love who you are, not what your behaviour is or what I gain from you. It’s a not transaction, it’s a gift that benefits us both. That is given without expectation of a return, without judgement & with detachment. When we remove expectation then it just becomes love.
So now I aim to love better. If I tell you “I love you” then you should know that it is every fibre of your soul which I love. If I say that you are beautiful, that it is every facet of your being that radiates beauty to me and that fills my heart. If I say that I will be here for you, then know that I will lay my heart next to yours to beat with it, just so you are not alone. On nights when your heart longs to beat a little slower & then a little slower still, until it stops, I’ll hope that on those nights you might find comfort with my heart beating next to yours and a little will to continue. That maybe I could blow gently on your coals and raise the flame inside you up enough to keep going until you can raise your flame back into the beautiful fire I see within you, every time I look at you.