I have experienced a great deal of pain, grief, anxiety and fear in my life. When I lost my brother, Joseph, the pain that I felt was dark, raw and deep. It wasn’t anything that I had experienced before yet it had an odd familiarity to it.
Grief & Illness
Joe was only 34 when he drowned. It was especially painful because his entire life was ahead of him and no longer could we see how it could’ve unfolded.
The most excruciating part was not being able to say goodbye and being robbed of the opportunity to make amends for whatever issues siblings go through.
Not a year later, my father passed. He died of cancer. The open wound sustained from my brother’s death was torn wide open. There was no bandage big enough to stop the hurt.
My father’s death was a relief because we didn’t want to see him suffer any longer. What hurt was not being able to take away his pain and his fears around death.
When the oncologist delivered the news to him where he had only weeks to live, I saw all color drain from his face but he still looked stoic. That was my dad. He never showed his pain in order to save us from worrying about him.
Each night before he went to sleep he asked my mom to hold his hand. He knew that each night could be his last and he wanted the love of his life by his side.
All I wanted was to erase all his fears but I didn’t know how.
The Meaning of Life
The anguish from the passing of both my brother and father made me search for answers. The questions that I had felt as though I had asked them before. And indeed I did.
As a young child I experienced weird and fantastical dreams, which I sensed contained hidden messages from beyond the veil yet I didn’t have the tools to decode.
When I was around 12 years old, while playing in the living room, I had accidentally entered another reality or dimension where I was standing in the middle of the street set in the 1930’s or 40’s in the wild west.
As an adolescent I often questioned if what I saw around me was all there was to it. In my heart I felt that there was something deeper beyond the world that I was seeing.
Years later, I found myself asking some of the same questions:
- Who am I?
- What is my purpose here?
- Is death really the end?
- Where do we go after we die?
- Why am I feeling so much pain and how do I remove it?
- Is there a purpose to my pain?
- Is the world I see real?
These questions paved the way for a path that I later identified as the genesis of my spiritual journey. But it wasn’t until another decade would pass, facing a cancer diagnosis, did I start to understand the inner workings of the Universe.
There I was in the midst of my treatments, when I remembered my brother and father, and the old wounds from the past appeared. I had no more capacity to deal with the sorrow and the darkness that engulfed me. There was nothing else I could do but surrender.
It was a pivotal point in my life. I let God take over and lead the way. I let go completely. This is when true healing started.
And it was also at this turning point that propelled me along the journey to the Self.
Our Heartaches Can Be Transformative
Painful experiences can bring about significant shifts if we’re willing to shine a light on them. Marianne Williamson often say that these dark nights of the soul are sacred initiations.
Times of anguish are a call for divine intervention. We don’t have to go through our pain alone. We can surrender our sorrow, fears and anxiety to the Divine, or we can try to do it on our own. In my experience, when I go solo it often brings about more pain and regret.
It may feel like we’re breaking apart but these tragic moments will not end us. According to A Course in Miracles, a call to God (replace this with what you’re comfortable using, Higher Self, Universe, etc) is to unite our mind with His, and we remember who we are, which is love. Love is the only thing that is real, and everything else that isn’t dissolves.
Allowing to let the anger, fear and restlessness teach us or show us what we’re not seeing can help to transmute or transform the painful experience. And what I find is that only that is left is the truth.
When we allow space for God, our ego has nowhere to go. And it is at this point where love comes through. Solutions and answers flow in that come from beyond the ego.
Eckhart Tolle says there are three ways we can deal with a situation:
- Inspiration or
When we are faced with a challenging circumstance we can accept it for what it is, which is similar to surrendering. Through acceptance we can sit still with our experience. Through stillness we can observe our emotions and allow them to be expressed, instead of getting absorbed by them.
We tend to respond when our emotion is fresh and when this happens, we lash out; we say hurtful things; we judge and put down people.
But with acceptance we make peace with what is happening. We do away with the stories that the ego would prefer us to believe.
What is left is the present moment, consciousness – the true essence of who we are. And from here we receive true wisdom for how to move forward.
It Is Our Choice: Love or Fear?
A few years ago I had a conversation with my mom about her pregnancy with me. I asked her what it was like, and she told me that when she was still pregnant with me, she was grieving. My aunt, my father’s sister, whom my mom was close to, had passed away suddenly.
Still a fetus, I must have experienced the energetic grief through my mother. This explains the familiarity of the pain I felt at the loss of my brother.
This could explain my ego’s attraction to pain and darkness. Or was it driving me to question life and discover the truth at an early age?
Painful events teach us many things, but most critical, is that they thrust us on a journey of self-discovery, a journey to help us remember who we are.
They help us see that everything we experience on earth is temporary, and that the only constant is our true being. And the stuff of our being is love.
These life-changing moments can either break us or they can break the illusion of who we think we are.
We can choose to let fear drive our actions or let love.
It is our choice.
How do you choose when your are facing a challenging situation? Would love to hear from you…please share in the comments.
Writer and globe wanderer, who's interests not only take her to distant corners of the world, but also to undiscovered regions of her inner Self. Proponent of the practice of ACIM, mindfulness, self-compassion, and gratitude, to transform her relationship with daily life challenges.