The Gift of Grief
I sat with a family member recently, holding space as she talked about the loss of her husband of 28 years. The one-year anniversary was coming up, and tears continued to well, the wound still fresh and weeping.
Her words brought back the needling of my own wounds—the face of my beloved mother in death, taking rings off of her fingers, touching her hair; the end-of-life struggle of my father to breathe even as pure oxygen flowed into his nostrils.
The heartbreak will forever be present, but the triggers of acute pain do begin to subside, leaving in their wake an occasional wave of loss that is painful, but doesn’t make you double over and take to the bed.
I remember walking down a street in downtown Memphis and seeing a man from behind that looked so much like my dad . . . my breath caught and my heart quickened. Could it be him? Was this all a terrible dream, asked my irrational heart? The man turned toward me, and the fantasy faded into a stranger’s face. What I would give for just one more heart to heart talk with Dad.
And then wonder of all wonders, one fine day a sweet memory flutters into consciousness. Something that makes your soul smile.
But, I’ve found one special gift of grief. It’s a big one. It changed me. I needed it.
Here it is: When you lose someone dear, your heart breaks open and grows. With it, the breadth of your capacity for compassion for the heartbreak of others is exponentially widened and broadened. You know their pain. And you give to them in a different way. Wow.
Ultimately, not a single one of us is untouched by grief or heartbreak. Not one. This, this makes us beautiful.
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