A few weeks ago, I received a phone call that rocked my world. One minute I was going about a typical Tuesday evening and the next I was being told that a dear friend had suddenly passed away. In the moment, the reality of what was happening didn’t quite register; I had just spoken with her at length two days prior and texted the day before. Both conversations were in step with the way they’d always been: connected, rich, and ripe with curiosity about the unfolding of each other’s lives. Needless to say, the news of her death was a total shock. Adjusting to and accepting the reality of her being gone has been an important – albeit unwanted – opportunity to practice what I preach about letting go.
As a therapist, loss is an ever-present theme in the work I do. This month, in particular, I’ve noticed an uptick in conversations focused on grief. Whether the loss is physical or emotional, losing someone or something you can’t get back is difficult to bear. Often, and understandably, people want to wish the difficult feelings away and avoid their pain. I’ve never seen that strategy work long-term; on the contrary, it tends to amplify their suffering. So how do you endure the myriad emotions that accompany actual or anticipated loss? I’ve been asking myself the same question.
Lucky for me, I haven’t had to look very far for the answer. My beautiful friend left behind a treasure trove of wisdom that imbues me with strength and informs what I’ve come to understand about the nature of healing. Namely, that our deepest sorrows make the richest soil for our most important growth. I hear her voice when I read these words:
“There is a twin paradox in being human. First, no one can face what is yours to face or feel what is yours to feel – and no one can make it alone. Secondly, in living our one life, we are here to love and lose. No one knows why. It is just so. If we commit to loving, we will inevitably know loss and grief. If we try to avoid loss and grief, we will never truly love. Yet powerfully and mysteriously, knowing
both love and loss is what brings us fully and deeply alive” (Megan Devine)
To live in the light of her legacy is to embrace the full spectrum of what life – and death – offers. You can’t have one without the other. Ironically, one of her greatest gifts was helping me find a way to let her go.