We are helpless when it comes to death. There is absolutely no way we can manage, control or stop it. It’s going to happen to each and every one of us. And before it’s our turn at the deli counter, we will be confronted with the deaths of those we cannot imagine living without.
And we HATE that. We hate that we might lose them. We hate that we have lost them. We hate that death could creep up on us at any moment. We HATE it all.
So when death pays a visit and we come face to face with how truly vulnerable we are, the most natural response in the world is to try to outrun those feelings of helplessness.
And many do manage to outrun the feelings for a time at least, but the “trying to be strong” strategy almost always backfires by either creating chronic depression or delaying the ultimate confrontation with loss.
Trying to be strong.
Yes, we can put on a happy face and bury the pain. We can lock it away with all of the other painful experiences of our lives. Just pile it in there one pain, one disappointment, one loss, one death at a time…
Until one day we can’t keep the lid on. We’ve turned ourselves into a festering pit of pain that starts oozing out…or one tiny last straw brings about a volcanic explosion of every painful emotion we have ever tried to stuff.
Sometimes the explosion feels totally unrelated to any of our losses but manifests instead as irrational, explosive rage or unexplained, unstoppable tears.
For those of us who are more adept at “being strong,” the grief and anger most often turn inward leading to depression.
No matter how it plays out, sooner or later, the buried pain of grief raises its ugly head and it can bring us to our knees…and there we are again, face to face with our own vulnerability.
So is there an alternative? Yes there is. The key to moving through the pain and suffering of grief is to yield to our vulnerability. I know it sounds so counterintuitive but there it is.
Allowing the vulnerability.
In How to Survive Your Grief I write about how incredibly wise grief is when we give it free reign to go where it needs to go.
Though I know that to be true, I certainly understand why it sounds outlandish to so many. Grief feels wrong, so very wrong. It’s hard to imagine anything positive coming out of it. When we’re in the earliest days of grief, it’s impossible to even imagine feeling any better never mind trusting there might be some wisdom there of which we might partake.
Yet, I believe, this is exactly what grief asks of us…to open our hearts to the pain, to the truth, to the memories. To yield to our vulnerability rather than running from it. To embrace the brokenness rather than trying to hold it all together. It comes back together in time reconfigured and whole, but it only works when we allow ourselves the vulnerability of falling apart, of being broken.
It is out of our vulnerability and brokenness that we are reborn, able to taste the real joy life still has to offer and embrace the sweet memory of the loved one who died.