This Sunday, October 9, marks the two-year anniversary of the passing of my best friend. This date is my reminder of how precious and how fleeting life is. My best friend was just 36 years old, had just given birth to her daughter, had recently married a wonderful man, and was passionate about the new career she was starting. Then, just like that, she was gone, a mere five weeks after being diagnosed with acute leukemia.
I felt like the earth had given way beneath my feet. How could this be? She had so much going for her. She had overcome so much to get to where she was. My mind was swirling, my world collapsing. I wrote about it on my blog and share it below.
Re-reading what I wrote serves as a reminder that the work of healing is a continual process. There is no getting ‘there’ – a mythical place where it no longer hurts. We must surrender, understand that letting go is a life-long process, and love even more deeply.
On Love and Loss
I have a tattoo on my right shoulder. It has two Sanskrit words – bodhichitta and vimukti – which mean awakened heart and letting go. It serves as my reminder to live my life that way – keeping my heart open and letting go. Why? Because my heart was shattered and then shattered again. I could feel myself shutting down, closing off, putting a wall around my heart, and I knew, despite the pain, this would not heal me. I knew, somewhere deep down, I had to keep love alive within me.
The reality is your heart will be broken. And it will be broken again. And again. People, animals, and situations come into our lives and sometimes they are taken away from us sooner than we had expected, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts and our lives. We will never be the same. That hole will always be there. At times, it may feel less gaping and at other times, it will feel as if we are newly wounded, tear-streaked, and bloody.
Our lives become different. We become different. Our losses mark us; they alchemize us. Our work is to not allow them to break us. We must keep our hearts open, despite the pain. We must let go of the pain; it does not need to define us. We must seek support and love from those around us even when the allure of isolation beckons at our door. We are still here, we must still have work to do, and we must do it for those that we have lost.
Allow yourself time to grieve. Allow yourself time to recover. Now, more than ever, is the time to revamp our self-care practices because it is exactly at these times that our self-care practices are thrown out the window. Your heart needs to be taken care of. Allow yourself to explore what that means to you and what that looks like. For me, it meant going on walks. The movement served as a way to process the intensity of my emotions, allowing them to flow through me instead of stagnate. It also meant reaching out to people, something that is not easy for me. Writing is another tool I use to help process my emotions, as well as a way to stay connected to myself.
That is the danger here – that we allow the darkness to invade our soul and we disconnect from others and ourselves. This is when we must seek the light, no matter how dull it may appear.
Allow the light to fill the cracks of your broken heart. A loss feels like heart surgery and it is. It is a process of healing and repairing and, ultimately, transformation. This work is hard, it is a roller coaster of ups and downs, but what it is doing, in the end, is bringing us back to ourselves. I believe it is an honor to have experienced such tremendous love. Yes, I would rather not have lost it, but I would also never give up that love, even if I had known they would die way sooner than I could ever have imagined. I don’t understand it. I may never understand it. What I do know is that I am still here and I must allow my heart to grow stronger by loving again. What a gift and an honor it is to be able to do so. I must choose love. I must choose light. Over and over and over again.
In the words of 8 year old, Sam, in the movie Love Actually, “Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.”