Reflections on Loss and Learning
13th May 2017
Recently I lost an old friend who I'd not been in touch with for years due to a very long and complicated story. It was one of those life events that made me stop and think. I reflected on the many memories and ways in which she enriched my life and the many moments that she stressed me out. I was left with this feeling though that life is so precious and short and how fleeting the opportunity of life is. One minute you are here doing your best to make a positive contribution and the next it can be gone.
I watched how this sudden loss threw me back on myself, made me want to be quiet, still and reflective. I noticed how my psyche was recalibrating life without this person and how even though I'd not seen her in years she was still an important figure to me. It made me think that even if we don't see people physically we can still be deeply connected to them and how the universe brings people into our lives to shake us and challenge us to be a better version of ourselves. Relationships can be turbulent and extremely painful particularly when they carry wounding that somehow fits ours. Those are the relationships that leave an imprint somehow and where we get into patterns that can't necessarily be fixed through words. Sometimes the only way through them is to be still.
I attended a ceremony for her passing conducted by Buddhist monks and they have a very beautiful approach of sending loving kindness and good wishes to the soul that they believe is going on to the next life. Participating in that ritual was very special for me because I didn't feel I was just grieving, I also felt like I was supporting the bigger picture of her journey. The trivial human conflicts of the past were just so insignificant in that moment. I like everyone else in the room just wanted the soul to fly free.
I realised that sometimes we get so consumed by life's challenges that we forget to stop and look at the sky, the stars and the vast experience of living on this planet upon which we are but a tiny spark of energy doing our thing. When we lose someone it reminds us that everyone who plays a part in our lives is there for a reason and sometimes our teachers are tough but they all bring gifts in sometimes unexpected forms. In the grand scheme of things, those we go through the most difficult experiences with may well be our best friends. It's so important to have some sort of closure too, part of me was tempted not to go however deep down I knew that this was an opportunity for me to process my feelings and say goodbye. In Eastern traditions they are very good at not holding on or clinging to the person on any level because this is said to pull the soul backwards which ultimately is not a loving things to do.
Saying goodbye consciously is an act of encountering the sacred and allowing whatever feelings are there to be there. How often do we try and fast track our natural grieving process and lose something of the depth of learning and gifts that can be realised when we slow down to be with loss? I realised just how much love I have for her in my heart and how much of that had been covered up with stories that felt real but actually were just like scenes in a play. For years I believed that resolution between me and this person was impossible however I can see now that it may not be possible in person but it is possible on a spiritual level.
Therapy is a place to talk and it's also a place for ritual. My clients write letters, light candles, address unfinished business and find ways to unravel what can seem like impossible relationships or life events. People think that therapy is just raking up the past and yes that can part of it but it's also a place to look at how life events impact you, allow your humanity to be expressed and then think about what significance this life event has for your soul. Nothing could be more precious and healing. Some clients will use the space of therapy to explore their feelings about climate change, religion, politics and generally life on the planet. Where else do you get the opportunity to be heard in the fullness of who you are and for grace to surround you. It's worth a go...
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