Recently I had a conversation with a friend who has been experiencing prolonged grief since the death of her 80 something father more than 2 years ago. It wasn’t a coaching situation and she was just talking about it. Amongst other things she shared that she was hurt and angry that her much loved father had to die at all, ever.
The depth of her grief reminded me of the overwhelming sense of loss I felt when I split up with my ex, the father of my children, many years ago. Even though it was my choice, and the relationship had been very challenging, I was bereft.
The commonality of our situations struck me. We had both, erroneously, believed that our capacity for happiness stemmed from a relationship. Hers was with her father. Mine was related to being part of a nuclear family. To express it more baldly each of us was subscribing to a falsehood that security could be found outside of ourselves. And each of us experienced devastating pain while we innocently and unwittingly entertained that false belief, after the form had changed.
It occurred to me later that such overwhelming grief can be an invitation to look within to the essence within that is always present underneath the pain. In my own case, even in the middle of the pain there were occasions when I wasn’t in pain. When I was meeting new people, or enjoying different experiences. Yet somehow, again quite unconsciously, I didn’t seem to notice those experiences and went back to my narrative of loss and trying to control that.
Only since I have woken up to the fact of the essence within, can I see how much of the pain I unwittingly created for myself. I’m not suggesting that it’s possible to avoid grief in life, or even that it would be a good idea to try to. Yet much of my pain arose from the inner commentary around what had happened, what it meant for the future – none of those dire predictions came true! – what it said about me, my value, my life. The more obsessed I was with those only vaguely conscious thoughts, the less I noticed or valued the creativity, connections and inspiration that were showing up in my life. Until I woke up.
There has been a growing awareness in me of an inner capacity for peace of mind, love, connection, inspiration and hope. In the years since I first stumbled across it many of what would normally be considered major life events have occurred. Health issues, bereavement, career change, empty nest. Throughout each of them I have experienced extraordinary peace and moments of every painful emotion too. The important shift is the realisation that who I am at essence is that unchanging core. Security flows from that. Not from any relationship, no matter how precious or wonderful.
When I know that the essence cannot be damaged or broken, and that pain is a transient human experience reflecting only the nature of my current thoughts, judgments, conditioning and beliefs, there is always hope. Pain can dissolve in any instant without any change in the circumstances of my life. This essence is common to each of us.