“We are not alone. We are privileged to carry in our blood and bone the wisdom of those who have gone before us. We carry their lives, even in the face of their deaths. In each of us there survive the lives of those who gave us life. In our children, and in our brain children, our own lives go forward. Faced with the loss of a human love, I turn to the divine love within me which can accept that loss, embrace that loss, and carry forward the beloved whom I feel to be beyond reach. God is in me and I am in God. All that ever was, still is. We are a divine energy, a divine life. In our dying, we live again. In our living, we die again. There is no loss which is not a gain carried forward. In my moments of greatest sorrow, I am touched by the joy of having loved. In my times of greatest loss, I am still loved. Love is not lost through loss. It is found more fully. I cherish the love my loss has helped me find.” -Julia Cameron, The Blood of Life Flows Through Me p. 23
When I was seven years old, I was scolded in church for making fun of my aunt. My grandfather had just died, and as my family attended church services that week my aunt was visibly and audibly upset. My response was to laugh rather than comfort. I did not understand how someone could be so lost in their grief.
When I was eighteen years old, I visited my grandmother in a casket. I stared bleakly at the weeping and the mourning, the dramatic spectacle of individuals torn and alive in their grief, the reflections, payings-of-respect, and comforting shoulders, and still stood very apart and un-feeling. There was no poking fun at, only a quiet numbness that muted any human need to reach or lash out. I still did not understand how someone could be lost in grief, and I hated myself for not feeling any.
I am twenty-one years old, and I have yet to encounter a death that has touched me deeply; a death that has made my heart ache and my skin feel too tight, a death that has made me feel empty, cold, or guarded.
The loss that I have encountered, however, is this “loss of a human love,” that Cameron describes. I have lost relationships, lost opportunities, lost dreams; lost my own love and appreciation for what was once a gift and joy in my life and I have had others lose their love and appreciation for me. I have lived through circumstances that forced me to confront hard, permanent facts, and the principal fact present in every single one of these circumstances is that I am completely powerless over everything in life.
When I experience a loss, I am forced to confront the most humbling reality of the human experience: my finiteness. In fully coming to grips with this finiteness, I come into contact with my extraordinary lack of power in not only dictating my life and the lives of people around me, but a lack of power so severe that it denies me the ability to both create life or take it away. The more I embrace this powerlessness is the more I embrace the power and the choices that I do have in my life today when I align my finite self with the infinite Creator, or the smaller part with the larger whole, or more plainly, me with God.
To live deeply means to experience both love and loss. There is a great bliss and terrible pain in choosing to “live deeply and suck all the marrow out of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life…,” as Henry David Throeau writes in Walden. The more I choose to extend myself and love is also the more I choose to hurt, to encounter my lack of power, to touch the center of my sorrow and in this agonizing moment discover my humanness.
I once heard a speaker say, “God breaks our hearts to keep them open.” To overcome heartbreak means to feel this grief, transmute it, then celebrate it. There is a wild, vibrant ecstasy in birth and death, in triumph and failure, in beginning and end. Loss serves not to deplete us of our love, but to open ourselves to its resilience and strength.