Tuesday, March 4, 2008

To Live Is To Die

As I continue to tweak this Grief Recovery Tools blog to make it easier to find in the search engines, I often find myself re-reading my posts from when I first started writing. Today I was re-reading my post entitled "My Experience With Despair," and it struck me that I had written that grief is for life. I was struck for several reasons.

Firstly, I no longer believe that we have to live with unending pain for the rest of our lives. Certainly, that can be a choice for those who decide to become professional widow/ers, and 25 years can easily go by with little relief from that pain. I do remember that when I wrote that blog entry, a part of me was still against "settling" for a life of grief. At some level, it was unacceptable to me to settle. Probably, this was because I had made it a goal early on to reach the stage where I was totally at peace with Deb's death, and living with pain precludes being at peace. So, I continued to search for that peace. Since attending a free Vipassana Meditation course, I believe I have found that peace that I was seeking. The Vipassana website promises that "Life becomes characterized by increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace," and I have certainly found that to be true.

Secondly, however, I was struck by the idea that grief is, in fact, for life. No, I'm not contradicting myself ;-) Grief is a healing process of letting go, and in that sense, we are grieving all the time. As humans, we like to live with this illusion that things can stay the same for long periods of time. The reality is that nothing stays the same for even one second. Everything is always changing. Even when we drill down to the atomic level of existence, we find that atoms are changing at the rate of billions of times per second. In fact, we use this principle to define what a second is.

So, this whole notion of stasis is really just a mental construct at a very high level of abstraction from reality. As the saying goes, "There's nothing as constant as change." The notion that I was married to Deb for 12.5 years exists only in my head. The Deb who died was not the same Deb whom I married, nor am I the same man today who I was on my wedding day. I'm not even the same guy who woke up this morning. Every cell in my body has regenerated trillions and trillions of times just in the last hour. Thus, when I talk about "me" in reference to my body and collected memories, there is in fact no such entity. It is an illusion.

So, while we constantly use these illusory terms to describe how long "we" have owned our house, car, dog, job, etc, at some deep level we are aware that these things are always in flux, always changing. And the determining factor between those people who appear to be always happy and those who appear to be always unhappy is often how they react to change.

Take the instance of a car breaking down. One person can be very upset because they remembered their car as working fine, and now they have a negative reaction to this new change in the status of their car. Another person can laugh it off, accepting the change and letting go of the idea that the car was working fine a while ago. Same scenario, two different people, two different reactions.

My friend Gary Scott tells of an instance he saw in northern Ecuador where a man who was walking down the street was passed by a truck and drenched in water from a resulting puddle splash. After the shock had worn off, the Ecuadorian started smiling and let out a big belly laugh. To me, this suggests a highly evolved perspective on change. Would you expect to see a similar reaction here in North America? I think not. North Americans tend to have rather negative reactions to events such as puddle splashes.

So how does all this relate to grief? Am I suggesting that we can get to the point where we can laugh off the death of our spouse? Hardly. However, I do believe we can begin to recognize that everything we hold dear is constantly changing, and that in fact we are not holding "things" dearly, but rather we are holding our memories of those things dearly. And, as we learned from Ho'oponopono, memories are the causes of all our problems.

What we need to learn to do is to let go of our memories, and, in a sense, grieve for those memories. As we develop this habit, we can become more aware of, and appreciate, life as it is, not as we wish it was. And with this new awareness, we can begin to find that peace we are seeking.

No comments: