Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Story — Epilogue

As a conclusion to my story (read parts I, II, III, and IV if you missed them), I thought I would bring you up to date and give you some idea as to how I see life these days, now that I have a wedding band on my finger once again.

First off, I can't stress enough how much of a difference my free Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course has made in my life. No, I don't meditate on a daily basis, at least not in a formal way. It is more of a life perspective, a new, better way for me to look at the world. Had I not invested that kind of time and effort in fully healing from my grief, I highly doubt that I ever would have attracted my new wife.

I've been asked some interesting questions by a close widower friend of mine. Do I truly love my new wife? Yes. I didn't jump into a relationship because I was lonely and had a hole in my heart to fill. Do I love her the same way I loved my late wife? No. She and my late wife have little in common. And I am at a much different stage in my life than when I was first married at age 22. I believe we love people individually. I love my son much differently than I love my new wife, or than I love my sister, brother, father, or mother. And that's fine.

At the wedding, I was more emotional than I had anticipated during the vows. But I did not hold back any of that emotion. I have learned by now to let my emotions express themselves as they will. And besides, those vows were not empty words to me this time, or rather, concepts that I had not yet experienced. "In sickness and in health." Well, I have a much better appreciation as to what "sickness" can mean now. "For better or for worse." I have plumbed the depths of worse, survived, and am now thriving. Yet the mere act of uttering the words brought back memories to reflect that hard-earned experience, resulting in the flood of emotion. And I was reminded that all our problems in this life are a result of our memories. And that was OK. I was aware of this, and I went with the flow.

Am I happy now? Yes. But keep in mind, I was happy before I met my new wife. Or rather, I was at peace. And I am at peace still. Life is different now, sure, but life is always changing. I no longer cling to moments of pleasure and recoil from moments of discomfort. Well, not too much anyway ;-) I observe them and let them go. And yes, I fully participate in them! ;-) Vipassana hasn't made me a doormat. Oh no. It has allowed me to fully enjoy a precious moment and then let it go, thereby freeing me up to fully experience the next moment.

This is a big change from a few years ago. I am now acutely aware of just how much I was living in either the past or the future. Mostly the future. Things were going to be so much better in the future! Well, as Yogi Berra said, the future just ain't what it used to be ;-)

Over the last month or so, I've spent a good deal of time pondering just what grief and bereavement are. I think I've come to the conclusion that they are a devastation of our ego. It is our ego that is shattered. So much of who we thought we were was knit together with the life of our dead spouse. When our spouse died, our ego was undone — shattered. It reacted violently, causing a painful frenzy of thoughts about the past and a gut-wrenching deluge of anxieties about the future. It is almost like our ego is bent and determined to ensure we never spend a moment focused on the now, the present moment. Why? Because that is the beginning of the end of the ego.

Being present with right now, the present moment, is the key to fully healing from the pain of bereavement. If you examine the list I made at the beginning of June of ways to facilitate grieving, notice how each one of them is intended to focus your attention on the present moment. It is only in the present moment that we can be at peace. And really, it is only in the present moment that we can be at all.

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benistar said...
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