Love, Loss and Gratitude
One of the most pernicious legacies of grief is bitterness. Acutely aware of what has been lossed, we allow anger to take the wheel of our lives in a way that is rarely helpful to us and nearly always destructive. A focus on what is good in the moment call Matt including the positive gifts ****** owed by grief can help us to settle feelings of bitterness and mitigate their damaging effects in our lives.
As we grow and develop, our lives are shaped bye the way in which we learn to interact with external stimuli. The vital parental bond of early years lays the foundation for healthy development and then the years of play, of school, of puberty and the struggle to find identity in early adulthood all shape who we are today regardless of how old we now are. For instance, for me and many of my generation, the music combat fashions and the attitudes of the 1980s provide the background noise of our daily lives 40 years on.
As these elements of our identity develop so we become attached to them. They will usually include key relationships, most notably with family and friends, an idea of our status socially, educationally and physically as well as the answer that we provide at parties to those who say to us “So what do you do?”.
Losses and bereavements in the form of the deaths of loved ones, the fracturing or failing of a friendship, the painful end of a relationship in which we had made a deep emotional investment can all leave us feeling confused about our identity and therefore fearful in a way that is unfamiliar to us. This fear can then in turn give birth to bitterness and to anger. This bitterness can then in fact all that comes afterwards making us difficult people to be around or sitting like an unexploded bomb at the heart of future relationships, jobs and the way in which we show up in the world generally.
However, there is something available to us which is incredibly powerful and disable both to settle and overcome the anger and the bitterness and under pain an attitude of hope under renewed optimism and vision for our lives.
Consider this exercise:
Sit quietly for a moment, close your eyes and take a few long deep breaths allowing yourself to relax. Now in your imagination, take yourself back to an experience of grief and loss. Rather than immediately identifying with the painful feelings around this awful event, imagine yourself watching yourself, observing from a distance. Observe yourself with love with warmth and with kindness. Notice the pain, notice the anger, notice the fear. Now, addressing the self you were in that moment, thank them profoundly for paying the wholly unacceptable price for the wisdom that you now enjoy. Maybe you can be specific, thanking your earlier self forbearing the pain that has taught you kindness and empathy; That has given you clarity about the transient nature of things in the world underneath to be mindful, to pay attention and to be grateful for what you have in the moment.
This is not easy. The first time that you do it, in fact the first few times that you do it, it will feel odd, but regular practise will gradually encourage you too be grateful for the lessons of loss even as you recognise that the price of those lessons was unacceptably high particularly in the losing often loved one, in the loss of a beloved relationship or even in the acquisition of a life changing disability.
When we are able to thank our earlier selves and show respect for the pain that they have felt and born then the anger and bitterness which originates in the experience of those earlier selves is robbed of its sharpness. At one in the same time you are acknowledging your pain and thanking yourself for making it through. Furthermore, you are committing yourself to discovering and learning from the lessons that that experience wishes to teach you.
So when you feel a bitterness, and anger, a tightening of the chest, a fearful fluttering of the tummy, a rising of the temper, just remember but these emotions are likely to originate in a sense of loss in, in the context of a grief, that is unresolved. Pay attention to these feelings but don't hand them the steering wheel of the car of your life. Instead invite that earlier self to express the pain that they feel and then honour that pain by offering them your gratitude for their resilience and your commitment to learn the lessons of that experience.
Love takes work and the greatest work of all is to encounter your fear show it love, acceptance and gratitude and allow love to be the engine of hope, vision and optimism for the future.