Sunday, January 29, 2017

Turning Loss Around

We’ve all been there … from losing something that may be small and insignificant to others, but has great meaning for us – to losing a great love, or the death of a close friend or relative.  Loss comes to us all, in different guises, and the response differs  from person to person…some hide it away behind a wall of false laughter and forced banter, while others mourn openly, talking and crying with the associated mess that this particular kind of grief bestows.  I fall somewhere in between.  It depends on the loss.  Over the last few years I’ve had to bend and stretch to accommodate a wide range of loss – a marriage, a friendship, the loss of hopes and dreams, children leaving to start their own lives, both near and far; the loss of our family home where I grew up, both parents living with dementia  and no longer able to play their long-held roles in my life as well as the death of much-loved relatives.  Listed like this, it seems a lot and I’ve not emerged unscathed.  Grief is like the ebb and flow of the ocean, sometimes the waters are calm and tranquil, sometimes they rage and roar and often there is no warning that the tide is turning.  The smallest things can unleash the wild woman within; the faint smell of your child as you pass their empty bedroom, a random memory jogged by an innocent comment, the incomprehension on your parent’s face when you visit – taken unawares the grief is often overwhelming. 

But still, days go by, life goes on and somehow we survive the changes, the challenges, and by embracing them we become stronger,  learning more about our own resilience and coping mechanisms.  They say that nature abhors a vacuum, and loss creates the biggest of voids – but like nature, the spaces left in our lives slowly fill up - sometimes with new relationships, different friendships, new hobbies. As people move on, as situations change, as our children grow and use their wings to fly, (just as we dreamed they would, never believing that by giving them permission to seize their joy, that our joy would be fractionally dimmed by the sheer loss of their company.  Who knew this? ) we learn to accommodate the gaps, to live with them, to tolerate and maybe eventually to embrace them. 
'Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.' Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Somehow,  the stripping back to the bare bones of loss can reveal its true heart ...  love and loss are inextricably linked and without great love there will never be the pain of huge loss.  So despite the grip of losses talons, there is a way to transmute the grief into something bearable.  To remember that love was at the heart of all loss can be a great comfort - I never believed in the adage 'better to have loved and lost than never loved at all' but somewhere in that trite little phrase, there is a great truth: significant loss is preceded by extraordinary love.  For that, there can only be gratitude. 

 'I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss.' – Rita Mae Brown.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Just one word

Nurture – the word for 2017

verb: to care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.

So each year in January, I choose a word for the year.  Just one word that encapsulates my priorities and travels with me, hopefully permeating everything I do.  I think extremely carefully about what my word will be and the process usually starts sometime in December with a few words that spring into being, before I finally settle on the word.  The trick to finding your word, is not to think too hard about it, just let the ideas come naturally and you’ll just know when you’ve got the right word.  Past words have been laughter, peace and one year was hope.  This year I had several options that floated around my brain for a few weeks – cherish and nourish – but during a meditation session the word ‘nurture’ popped into my head, and there it stayed and so this year’s word is nurture.  In the process of choosing my word I shared the process with some friends and family and we had a totally hilarious hour coming up with a variety of suggestions (many unprintable here!!).  In the end, those same people ended up with their own words – one of which was home – something that was so relevant for that person and for the year ahead.

What is nurture?  How will that impact on my year?  What does it mean for me as I go about my life?

For me, the other word that goes with nurture, is growth.  So in the year to come, I will protect my growth, I will fiercely guard my right to grow, in whatever arena that may be.  In order to grow, like a tiny seedling, there are things that I will need: time to relax and recharge – to read, run warm baths, meditate, walk and contemplate; to know when to retreat and take things at a slower pace; I need to nourish my physical body – exercise and nutritious food, as well as nourishing my inner self – making sure I silence the inner critic and talk to myself in the same way that I would encourage others. I will seek out the new and relish the experiences, knowing that everything is contributing to growth.  I will cherish my relationships, those already in my life and those yet to be made.  I won’t let fear of failure stop me from chasing down my dreams.

So… there’s my word.  Now it’s your turn… what will yours be?