Loss, painful as it is, has the power, the force, to break us open in transformational ways. That same power and force – because of its dependence upon an individual’s interpretation of a situation – can shut us down so completely that our growth may be stifled for surprisingly long periods of time, in a myriad of ways.
My stifling started at the age of three, when my parents fought, disliked one another vehemently, and divorced. In a time when few did. The world I knew fell away and to remain in it, I built walls.
I do not blame my parents who were involved and loving, hurting me was not on the agenda, the world was crashing for them too. It was a sad and painful time in which we had to cope. We tried to be mindful, but with emotions popping like firecrackers, I’m not sure to what degree we were.
We have all experienced loss in some form, and at early ages. The degrees of relationship may change, the feelings of intensity may vary. A sure sign of fakery and shallow intention is to behave aggrieved for the benefit of others who are watching. Some of my most intense, and genuine, tears were shed in my bed in the early morning with only the dawn as a voyeur to my anguish.
I preferred it that way. It was embarrassing to share those immensely intimate moments with others, even those closest to me. The moments felt raw, vulnerable, and I didn’t know when, or if, they would end. It was difficult for me to view them in myself.
But there is an energy to melancholy, to grief, to gripping loss that wrenches us from any automatic pilot we have perfected. It narrows our lens to what is in front of us, what screams to us, without judgments of good and bad. No matter how hard we pull away, pretend to ignore, or utilize creative thinking to believe we have it handled, its tug is unrelenting. And this is critical to our growth, and enrichment. It is our story, our voice, a pathway into the person we need to find. Which is, of course, ourselves.
It’s one of the reasons melancholy music resonates so. There is an insistence on presence through uprooting normal mental capacities. The music and lyrics find a vein, and mainline emotion. A fascinating way to drag us deeper, into the murky waters of what makes us tick. If we may be objective – consider the learning that takes place here.
Although not easy, staying in a moment that is demanding respect, creates the framework for grounding and rooting. It would have to. Flailing emotions need a foothold or – I swear – insanity could creep in. Like an oak tree that sways wildly but remains standing due to roots that drill into the ground, tendril by tendril, like an anchor.
There is a reason we experience the emotions we do. Individually certainly, it’s part of who we are. but also as a species. It grows us in the direction of love; heart, compassion, caring, empathy. Being a parent has a similar element that cranks open the heart. It is the pain and the caring, that knocks us from our current perspective, and slips us, without asking our permission, into another frame of reference. This slip can never be simulated.
You will know when the slip occurs, it’s undeniable. How ready you’ll be to let it wash over you is another story. Probably not very. Not right away. But it will remain vigilant. You must be strong and courageous to allow an opening, for it can be terrifying. My slip occurred when my parents’ died. Of course, there were smaller, less dramatic slips along the way. Those slips kneaded my heart muscle with tough love and rolling pins to make it practiced, pliable, and proficient.