Monday, April 19, 2021

In Grief: Searching for Meaning

[Reviewed and updated July 19, 2022]  

Never stop just because you feel defeated. The journey to the other side is attainable only after great suffering.  
~ Santosh Kalwar

A reader writes: What’s the point in life, when it’s too often filled with more pain than joy?

My response: You’ve asked a very important question, my dear. At various points in my own life, I’ve found myself asking much the same question, which I suppose is what calls me to keep searching for answers (not unlike yourself).

 In my reading, whenever I happen upon pieces of wisdom from other authors who speak to my questions about the meaning of life and loss, I like to gather and share them on my website’s Comfort for Grieving Hearts page. 

I’m especially drawn to the works and writings of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whose ground-breaking work with the dying has had a profound influence on the course of my own career. She speaks from her own experience, both professionally and personally, and I have enormous respect for her and the integrity of her work. Here is some of what she has to say about suffering and loss ~ which is  an inevitable part of life ~ and what she thinks we can learn from it:

If you truly want to grow as a person and learn, you should realize that the universe has enrolled you in the graduate program of life, called loss.  ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in Life Lessons: How Our Mortality Can Teach Us about Life and Living

When a loss hits us, we have not only the particular loss to mourn, but also the shattered beliefs and assumptions of what life should be. These life beliefs must be mourned separately. Sometimes we must grieve for them first. We can’t grieve the loss if we are in the midst of “It’s not supposed to happen this way” . . . We intellectually know that bad things happen ~ but to other people, no us, and certainly not in the world we assumed we were living in . . . Your belief system needs to heal and regroup as much as your soul does. You must start to rebuild a new belief system from the foundation up, one that has room for the realities of life and still offers safety and hope for a different life: a belief system that will ultimately have a beauty of its own to be discovered with life and loss. Think of a lifeless forest in which a small plant pushes its head upward, out of the ruin. In our grief process, we are moving into life from death, without denying the devastation that came before.  ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, in On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss

All the hardships that you face in life, all the tests and tribulations, all the nightmares, and all the losses, most people still view as curses, as punishment by God, as something negative. If you would only know that nothing that comes to you is negative. I mean nothing. All the trials and tribulations, and the biggest losses that you ever experience, things that make you say, "If I had known about this, I would never have been able to make it through," are gifts to you, opportunities that you are given to grow. That is the sole purpose of existence on this planet Earth. You will not grow if you sit in a beautiful flower garden and somebody brings you gorgeous food on a silver platter. But you will grow if you are sick, if you are in pain, if you experience losses, and if you do not put your head in the sand, but take the pain and learn to accept it, not as a curse or punishment, but as a gift to you with a very, very specific purpose. ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in Death Is of Vital Importance: On Life, Death, and Life After Death

And from Lama Surya Das, learned author, teacher and spiritual leader in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition:

We must learn the hard lesson that without the pain of inner irritation, the pearls of wisdom will not be produced in us. I lovingly call this The Pearl Principle: no pain, no transformative gain. Inside an oyster, it takes an irritant – like a grain of sand or a bit of shell – to produce the mucous juices that engulf and surround the irritant, eventually hardening into a precious pearl. It is the same for us, regardless of how much we wish it to be otherwise. Difficulties and suffering produce the aspiration for spiritual enlightenment, and it is this aspiration which is needed to motivate us along the path of awakening and liberation. There is no growth without growing pains – and the labor pains of giving birth to a new world and a new way of being can be the most painful yet rewarding of all.  ~ Lama Surya Das, in Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing Newsletter. Sign up here.


Image by AgnieszkaMonk from Pixabay

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome!