Grief can be
the garden of Compassion
if you keep your heart open
Your Pain can become
your greatest ally
in your life's search
for Love and Wisdom.
Grief, whether for a an actual death or illness, or for the end of a relationship, job, home, dream or hope, can feel life-shattering. Loss, and its accompanying fear and pain, can be extremely difficult to face. It can be hard to imagine how you will ever pick up the pieces of your life. Life may become difficult as depression (a suppression of feeling) and/or anxiety take over. Some people turn to substances or other addictive activities as a way to escape the overwhelming pain inside.
Yet healing and growth come through keeping your heart open, through feeling the pain and going with it, instead of shutting down and turning away from it. The only way out is through; there is no true avoiding of this. This can feel difficult or scary as it may seem that the pain will engulf you, or that you won't be able to tolerate it. Therapy and meditation/mindfulness can be helpful in this process: both in telling your story and being witnessed and accompanied in your grief and pain, and in learning to be with the emotions without running from them.
When everything is going well, life can be on cruise control, but when there is a loss, suddenly routine and a sense of safety and complacency are thrown out the window. Grief then becomes the doorway into a deeper and richer understanding and experience of life. As the Rumi quote says, pain can be your greatest ally in the development of love, compassion and wisdom in your life. As you are able to stay in your heart, despite the seemingly unbearable pain of grief, there is an opening, a softening, an expansion, a new depth in your experience of yourself and of life.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley