In the short span of less than 4 years, my brother, father-in-law, mother, father, and teenage son died. My brother and son completed suicide, so these unthinkable deaths were accompanied by deep guilt. Today, I want to talk to you about how I’ve been awakened by grief, and the 3 powerful life lessons I’ve learned from loss.
Lesson 1: Loss is a part of life.
This may seem like an obvious statement, as we’re surrounded by loss from birth. But until you’ve been hit by loss—and therefore grief—it doesn’t truly hit home.
It’s like being told to stop running on the playground so that you won’t get hurt, but not believing that you can get damaged…until you trip over an errant obstacle and break a bone. The shock, surprise, and finally the ultimate realization that you absolutely will experience loss is one of the most impactful and universal life lessons that every person will experience.
Remember, grief and loss aren’t just about death. We lose relationships, jobs, homes, possessions, pets, and more. The grief from any type of life shift is real, valid, and should be treated accordingly. And just because you’ve experienced one type of loss does not mean that subsequent losses of the same nature will affect you in a lesser manner. You can’t ‘get used’ to loss. Each relationship, situation, or attachment is its own unique and beautiful connection and should be allowed just as much feeling as the next.
Lesson 2: Being broken open can be a beautiful thing.
In Japanese culture, there’s a practice called kintsugi. Whenever a piece of pottery breaks, such as a bowl or plate, the areas of breakage are mended with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The result is a work of art, even more beautiful than when it was new and untouched.
There’s a great story called The Golden Buddha, which you can read in full here. The shortened version of the story is this: A group of Tibetan monks were required to move a giant clay Buddha statue because a highway was being built right through their monastery. Upon moving it, it began to crack. One of the monks caught a glimpse of something beneath one of the larger cracks and upon investigating, found that the clay was actually a covering for a solid gold Buddha underneath.
The moral of both of these things is that when we feel like we’re breaking open, especially when we have no say in the matter, it can seem like nothing good can come from it. But much like the golden Buddha statue, the core of our inner selves is revealed during times of great stress—and it’s beautiful, valuable, and even more pure than the clay that surrounds us.
I’ve found that the core of many people is revealed to be a shining light of empathy, kindness, compassion, and gratitude. Much like there is no sunrise without the night, there is no deeper way of understanding how to appreciate what beauty there is in our hearts without being exposed to the darker corners within.
Lesson 3: We are meant to share our stories.
We know that humans are social creatures. We’ve been sharing our stories with each other since the beginning! Even back in ancient times, people were drawing on cave walls to make sure the information they held was available to those around them.
We have rich traditions of handing down wisdom through storytelling. There are fables, parables, and allegories galore to teach us life lessons in ways that capture our attention and ensure the morals they impart stick with us.
When you’ve experienced loss and therefore grief, we learn valuable lessons that we can share with others. We learn more about our human experiences. For me, my way of sharing was becoming a professional whose life is dedicated to guiding people toward radiant living. For others, it’s starting support groups, working for hospice, or simply being there for someone else who is experiencing loss.
When we’re experiencing deep and painful emotions, it can seem like it’s something that needs to be hidden. As an emotion-phobic society, we’re taught to hide our tears until we’re alone. But I want to remind you that your grief tells a story of love, and we are meant to share our stories. It’s how our life lessons and morals are handed to the next heart that needs to absorb your story.
What life lessons has grief taught you?
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
Perfect timing! The sermon this morning is on Psalm 137.
Thank you, Georgena, for sharing your lessons from loss. I can relate to all 3 of them thanks to the work we have done together. Just this morning I received word that my cousin (same age as me) died earlier this month from complications of COVID. I expressed my shock, sadness, & heart-brokenness upon hearing the news. I then thought ‘I am still here’ & that thought gave me some comfort, hope, & purpose to live this day that I have been given as fully as possible. Blessings to you & gratitude for your commitment to helping others understand their grief.