When I was a much younger version of myself, I discovered a beautiful poem attributed to a gent called Max Ehrmann called “Desiderata“. This piece was very popular in the 70s and remains, for me at least, a terrific recipe on how to live a good life.
There are many passages that resonate with me and have provided me with inspiration when it was much needed. Today, as I reflect on the preciousness of life, the line that is rolling in my head is this one:
Whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul…….
Our extended family is grieving. In our sadness, we mourn the loss of someone far too young. The waves of emotion are strong particularly for his closest family members and, having been down this road before, I remember that in these early days, this is one of the hardest parts. Dealing with the roller coaster that comes when you lose someone can be so confusing for the heart and mind of us mere mortals. One minute you’re sobbing uncontrollably, inconsolable at the pain that feels so physical – like someone has reached into your chest and ripped your heart from its moorings. Within minutes, you’re remembering a funny event that provokes tears of happiness and laughter. An hour later, you feel angry and, railing at the universe, you raise your fist to the sky and curse it to hell and back.
Such is the torture of grief. You don’t get over it, you get through it.
And yet, as much as it’s torturous, so too is it healing. Eventually, there comes a moment where you realise you can smile without as much hurt, laugh without as much shame, remember without as much pain.
It requires the support of others; very often no more than their presence is needed. Communicating your sadness to one who is grieving is a delicate thing that so many of us struggle with. Sometimes saying nothing is all that’s needed.
It requires gentleness – especially to yourself. There can be no expectations which is a crazy difficult thing for us humans to deal with. We are so burdened by our expectations of ourselves and others. This is a perfect time to release all expectations and not get caught up in what we should be doing or feeling. There are no recipes for this. Along with freeing ourselves of expectations, we need to be patient and accept whatever feeling or emotion pops up – none of which is easy.
Most of all, it requires something extraordinarily difficult and something that even those who are not going through an event like this find hard to muster.
It requires keeping peace in your soul.
This means you must nurture your spirit and strengthen it by doing things that bring peacefulness. A walk on the beach, a lovely glass of red wine, some beautiful music, meditating, reading, singing – take some time in the midst of all the chaos, “the noisy confusion of life”, to do something enriching for yourself. Whatever speaks to your heart, listen to it.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, don’t wait for grief to be the reason you take time to nurture your soul. Yes you need to take the time during moments of grief to be gentle to yourself.
For me, the best thing you can do is to live that peaceful life. Perhaps, the best way to honour the memory of loved ones who have gone is through bringing that peace to those you love everyday, with a joyful, grateful heart.
RIP Jeff – we’ll miss you.