Life After Tragedy: The Unexpected Gifts in Catastrophic Events
A guest post by Jennifer Boykin of Life After Tampons
It’s been nearly twenty years since I held my newborn daughter Grace while she died.
In those days, I thought I would never be free of my sorrow.
But I have been, and there are actually great long stretches of my life when I don’t think about my daughter at all. But on occasion, something will catch my heart, and it brings it all back.
A few weeks ago this happened when I read Barrie’s piece, Grief and Loss: 6
Steps on the Path to Healing.
People will tell you that no one should outlive their child, and they are right.
Nobody wants to be a member of the “parents of dead babies club,” but we are out there. And, having lived through it, I can say – in fact I must say – that, if you really, really want it, you can find a way through your suffering, no matter what you’ve lost.
Here’s what I’ve found:
In order to get through loss, you have to be willing to give up your “story.”
Really, really, it is a very dramatic thing to be the parent of a dead child. And there are individuals and even entire communities who will give you unlimited attention for this for the rest of your life. But is that really the kind of attention you want?
Unless you are willing to give up your story of loss, betrayal, and suffering, you are doomed to carry it forward with you wherever you go. You become defined by your loss — but only to the extent that you choose to hold the loss in your heart and mind. Only to that extent do you squander the possible moments of joy that would have been available to you. The cost of martyrdom is joy.
In order to get through loss, you have to understand the duality of change.
Endings and beginnings are simply the yin and yang of change. One defines the other. And one can never be present without the other.
Thus, if you choose to spend the rest of your days with the love of your life, you “lose” forever the freedoms of your single days. Never again can you just do what you want to do when you want to do it. You trade that freedom for companionship. Loss is intrinsic in every joy that you have ever had.
Indeed, loss is intrinsic in all of life, and yet, as a culture, we seek to deny and avoid loss. Once you understand the futility of expecting a life free of sorrow, you are free to really embrace loving and the absolute breathtaking joy of living!
Sorrow is the bill that comes due for the price of loving. Accept that and you are free.
You can mitigate any loss by harnessing its transformative power.
Grief has an energy of its own. It will have its way with you, until it doesn’t. But you can help yourself through. Learn to set boundaries around your suffering. Make appointments with it, in fact, so that you begin to carve out some
moments where you focus on reclaiming your joy and your light.
Your losses are going to change you.
What this means is that your losses are going to make new discoveries, new soul-places, new visions available to you that were not possible before the loss. Before my baby died, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And now I do.
All healing is possible.
There is joy in loss because loss is borne in love. There is transformation in loss because the bereaved has a deeper capacity to love. Loss hollows out your soul, and you either get bitter, or you get better. But you can’t have both.
Because I am Grace’s mother, I absolutely know that life is too short, life is too uncertain, to spend one moment living timidly. We are meant, as Barrie says, to Live Bold and Bloom. But even the most beautiful blossom has a dormant season.
The next time you are suffering, fear it less. Know that this period can be a gift of transformation if you choose life instead of loss.
The only way out is through.
Love yourself gently.
Love yourself more fully.
Embrace and celebrate the love you feel for others.
Yes, there will be suffering when love ends. But only because there was great joy while it was here.
Jennifer Boykin is the founder of Life After Tampons where she helps women at midlife answer the question: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” She challenges us to “Quit your bitching. Change your life.” Love it! Please jump over and say hello to Jennifer.
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