“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to transverse.” -Helen Keller
I recently returned home from an exhausting and unexpected 14 hour car ride journey where I was remembering and celebrating the life of a dear, beloved, and inspiring cousin of mine who passed away. Needless to say, my energy was drained physically and emotionally. My best friend’s mother also passed away the week before, unexpectedly, and I was also grieving the loss of a beautiful and joyful woman.
It find it interesting that no matter how many deaths and funerals I continue to confront and attend (which in my short life already has been more than I count on my fingers) each requires its own individual grieving process. From my cheerful cousin Ben, to Jane, a mother figure to me, they each impacted my life me in different ways. I find as we give ourselves permission to grieve, through tears and laughter, with no time line, and maybe most importantly, with an open heart, we give ourself the best gift we need during the grieving process. This way we pass on peace rather than pain.
With my energy at my lowest, to my lovely surprise when I returned home there was a card waiting for me. I love hand written cards and letters in general, but this card greatly humbled me. It provided me a sense of peace and comfort I needed in that moment. My friendship with the woman who sent me the card is unique. She is someone I only spent a few times with, but has greatly impacted my life and will continue to do so. I met her randomly at a coffee-shop one afternoon and I knew from the moment on she was always going to be part of my healing journey, even hundreds of miles away. As she was going through her own deep and internal struggle so was I. And although we had different experiences there was a part of us that felt broken and lost, but there was also a part of us that felt the hope and human goodness that existed and we took the time to share it with each other.
In her card she wrote to me, “I wanted to thank you for your friendship. You were present during a very dark time in my life. When I think back to Tallahassee, meeting you and encountering your courage and wisdom was a shining light amidst all the sadness. I care about you and am so honored to be your friend.”
I cried and smiled after reading this, because I felt the same way about her. The beautiful thing about our friendship is that we were not trying to “fix “ each other. We understood we had our own healing journey to work through, but we provided a safe place for us to release what was holding us back from healing. We both needed that space to move forward.
I remember going over to her house cooking and drinking tea and it was one of the most real, human moments I had with someone in a long time. There was no need to wear a mask. We accepted each other for who we were in that very moment, and we also understood that we wouldn’t always feel this pain inside. We knew the evil out in the world, but we held onto the good even tighter. We sat with each other crying and laughing together the entire night. To this day I love that I was able to be so completely human with a stranger I had just met the day before. It completely changed my life. As I drove home that night my heart felt whole.
Receiving this kind-hearted notice has given me time to reflect. As much as we feel we are going through our dark times alone, we really aren’t. There’s always a light, a force, out there that helps to re-direct us. It doesn’t mean that the pain and suffering goes away, it just means that at any time we feel alone in our suffering, we’re all experiencing these emotions on some level. When we begin to recognize that we can empower each other by holding a safe place to release these emotions and not feel judgment, that is when healing occurs.
Through my own healing journey I have found that peace means being in union with the world, the good and the bad. It doesn’t mean you have life figured out, or that evil and death doesn’t exist; it means being with yourself even when you’re with evil and death too. It doesn’t mean you escape reality, it means you be with reality as a whole human being.
I thank my friend for being a whole human being with me during my dark times as well. We cannot truly appreciate the freedom of the light until we accept the shadows for they are part of us too and we cannot ignore pieces of ourselves if we truly seek to heal from our past pain. I encourage you to take time to simply be present for people as they are going through their own healing journey of past pain and grief. It will impact their life and yours too. As you share your light and hope with others, you open the door for people to feel human in their own their own grief and pain. Some days are harder than others. Some I cry more, some I laugh more, some feel just “okay”, but living life as a whole human being is a powerful experience. I can’t imagine living life any other way.
When we allow ourself to feel the whole human experience we become whole. Now I don’t hide or feel shame in my tears by wiping them away and I don’t feel guilty smiling and crying at a funeral. This is the whole human experience and when we allow yourself to just be who we are in this very moment of grief, pain and suffering, there’s a peace that comes with it too.