Loss can be an opening, a portal to profound transformation.
We all lose in our lives. We all experience loss. When we bring a depth of awareness to the experience of the loss, and the hole the loss leaves, the portal can open wide, embracing us like a mother embraces her child.
Like you, I’ve experienced profound loss in my life. More than once.
Loss, Love and Life
I’ve also worked closely, and intimately, with women who lost their husbands in 9/11. Many of the remarkable moments I experienced with these women came as I facilitated a course on dating and new relationship.
Over the course of 18 months, in numerous groups around the New York City area, we explored the deep desire to love again after profound loss and grief.
Portals opened wide for these women. They had already done some powerful grief work before coming to this particular course that I had developed. Using my own experiences of grief, exploration of self, and beginning to date anew from the death of my late-husband in the design, the course laid out a journey of opening the heart to the deep emotions that had been buried.
After all, if we are to open our hearts to love again, whatever is in our hearts, whatever has been buried in an effort to not feel, will come tumbling out. When we have a safe, nurturing community in which to feel and express these things, transformation can happen – the transformation of our grief into powerful presence, and transformation of who we thought we were into who we come to know ourselves to truly be.
And, when we realize we are still alive, that it’s okay to live again, to really live with joy and passion, we begin to honor the life being offered to us in each moment.
Feeling Grief and Love Together
Loss, love and life are intertwined. In grieving the death of my late-husband, I found transformation happened when I felt both the grief and the love together. Grieving with the love I felt for him, the love I knew he felt for me, and the love I could feel this portal was holding me in, was deep and rich and powerful.
Grief is an entirely intelligent process, if we are willing to open to its embrace. Grief brings us right up against all the things we shield ourselves from feeling.
And, there is deep love in grief. I experienced it as an invitation to come to truly know the limitations of being a human being, living a human life. I came to realize the deep peace in surrendering to life on life’s terms, not on mine. I came to see that life isn’t conspiring against me; rather, life is unfolding to its own rhythm, not ‘mine’.
In the shattering of the illusion of control, what arises is a willingness to dance to this rhythm wherever it takes you. In this rhythm, there is divine love.
In the course with the women who had lost their husbands in 9/11, a beautiful strength began to make itself known from within them. Through our time together, a natural delight in the idea of embracing life again began to emerge. The women organically began to follow their own heart’s desires to love. In some, the desire was to date, in others it wasn’t. What did appear, though, was a desire to truly live again, knowing that it is okay to be the survivor. One can move forward from something as profoundly devastating as 9/11, as the survivor, and learn to truly have gratitude for the experience of being alive.
This gratitude comes from embracing the totality of experience; not just the ‘good’ things life offers, but embracing the gift of life itself.
One thing loss has taught me is that each day I am here is truly a divine gift. Each year the life odometer turns over, and in that turning I can honestly say I am grateful to be getting older. Getting older means I am still here, alive, living in this mystery. and receiving the wisdom that comes from living into these rich years.
Toward the end of the eighteen months that this course was offered, one woman renamed our course, “From alone to alive”.
Back in May, the lovely Nicola Warwick invited me to be a part of a beautiful project. She was putting together an ebook offering titled, “Loss Love Life”. This was to be a compilation of writings about the power of loss, transition and change with contributions from Thursdayâ€™s Child, Patti Digh, Margaret Fuller, Danielle LaPorte, Michael Nobbs, Carolyn Rubenstein, Andrea Schroeder, Kate Swoboda, Julie Jordan Scott, Dyana Valentine, Eydie Watts Nicola Warwick, and me.
I was honored to submit my offering to this work. This ebook is now available for download. It is truly a remarkable collection of open-hearted writing about these three powerful things, Loss, Love and Life. If you feel called, visit Nicola’s site and download this work. I think you’ll find reading what is shared here to be transformative in itself.
I’d love to know what you’ve experienced with loss and the powerful tumult that follows. If you feel willing, share here, with us, any insights, experiences, or understandings you’ve had.
Image: courtesy of Tapperboy on Flickr; Creative Commons 2.0
10 Replies to “From Alone to Alive”
So grateful to read your words, Julie, and so grateful to be a part of this project. I have often said we are a chronically undergrieved society. People don’t have the privilege of rich grief, of soul grief, of giving oneself over to the love-side of grief you express so eloquently here.
May even more hearts be touched due to your presence and your work.
Julie and Julie, I am so grateful that you both wanted to be a part of Loss Love Life. Your friendship and involvement have meant a great deal to me.
I think the one big thing I learned from all my thinking and working on Loss Love Life was that the timescale is not our own. And this is something you echo here. Yes, definitely, life is unfolding and at its own pace.
Thank you for the mention of Loss Love Life. And for such beautiful words on the process of transformation through loss and grief.
You might also be interested in reading Paul Bennett’s beautiful book, “Loving Grief.” (I had the pleasure of meeting the author in person at a book signing last evening. He’s just as wonderful as I expected him to be!) From the book’s description: “When his wife Bonnie died, Paul lost the one person whose presence had been pivotal to every decision about his future. He discovered that the intensity of his grief matched the depth of his love and learned how to go where it took him, through the depths of loss and into a new life he never could have imagined.” My reaction to the book? Comforting, hopeful and uplifting! Beautifully written and inspiring, I recommend it highly and have it listed on my own Grief Healing Web site (www.griefhealing.com). If interested, I encourage you to visit Paul’s Web site, http://www.lovinggrief.com â™¥
Marty, Thank you for sharing this. It’s the first time I really heard this phrase, “the intensity of his grief matched the depth of his love”. When you love so deeply, feeling that intensity of grief can be overwhelming. I know it helps to know grief is intelligent and loving. It’s not here to hurt us, but rather to open us and heal us back in to wholeness. I will visit his site. Thank you for coming by, and for sharing your thoughts and wisdom. Blessings to you.
your words are so eloqunt and transparent. thank you. i too worked with 9/11 widow and fatherless children… thier courage and reslience were an inspiration… thier pain agonizing… it wss my privilege to journey with them.
loos has been part of my story and i am reminded that there is no salve for the moment… or even for months… no trite words… just a quiet presence of a safe friend to bear the sorrow and silence with you anf for you.
Thank you again for sharing.
Your words and wisdom are inspiring. Thank you for visiting here, and for sharing your experience with us.
I’m glad Marty Tousley pointed out this post to me. It sounds like you’ve been putting into practice in your extended course for widows a view of grief very similar to my own, which I wrote about in my book, “Loving Grief,” and have been speaking about to individuals and hospice workers since “Loving Grief” was published last year. As you point out in your post, there is something deeply enlivening in “opening the heart to the deep emotions that had been buried.” This is beyond the metaphor of “healing” that most conversations of grief stay within; this is about being truly alive when love and grief are most intense. It’s exciting to know that you are finding ways to bring such an enlivening view of grief to people who are setting out to create the rest of their lives.
Thnk you for your wisdom, energy and eloquence.
Thank you, Paul, for coming by to read the post and for sharing about your journey and the wisdom gained. Yes, true aliveness that comes from feeling deeply both the love and the grief together, for they are not different. Your book sounds like it is truly a gift to the world.
Julie, this was beautifully written. My own husband died in 2005, and I have been through a similar process. I have learned much through this process, and have written about it in my ebook, “Remember to Look Up.” I will go and look for Loss Love Life.
One of the many lessons I have learned in choosing to Be Here is this: Caring is dangerous. Live dangerously.
As a 60 year old woman, in a blink, I lost my husband to a divorce, had a failing business, and a threat of losing my home. I was having to start over again. I was devastated in all areas of my life until I allowed myself to see all the new possibilities of my new adventures that were to come. I embraced the changes- not easily, but when I took a breath and let out the pain, life became wonderful again.
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