Over the past few days, some conversations with friends and also personal experiences have centered on the evolving experience of pain and grief. In fact, one of my earliest and most widely read blogs has been on 'Dealing with grief’. Grief in a way is an extension and expression of pain?
This is an attempt therefore, to delve a little deeper into the ‘perceptions’ of pain and grief. I say ‘perceptions’ as each of our experiences of pain and grief are relative reactions to our individual perceptions of the sense of loss, hurt, anger, injustice we are faced with. It arises out of our ‘perceived’ helplessness, a quagmire of swirling emotions at worst.
I’ve been fascinated the past few days on the evolution of ‘pain & grief’ into ‘peace & stillness’. How is it that for some events, deeply scarring though they may have been at the time, we find it easier to grieve and let go and find peace, while for others…we think we’ve gone past the worst of it with time… only to have a thought, a person, a song, a word, a smell, a touch trigger the tsunami feeling of rawness, hitched breath, a choked throat, a fist around the heart, heightened heartbeat, tremors in the hands…all over again. Maybe in a different manner and with different intensity, but present nevertheless.
What stops us from letting go of pain ‘painlessly’ at times?
I revisited a TED talk I’ve been greatly influenced by, and here’s what I learnt this time. Our reactions to perceptions of hurt, loss, anger, injustice are dependent on our perceptions of self. “A feeling of self-worthiness stems from (a) Having the Courage to be imperfect, (b) having Compassion - first to myself and then to others and (c) having Connections as a result of authenticity. In order for connections to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen…really seen…and be vulnerable" - Brene Brown.
A few questions to ponder:
- Do I allow myself to be seen to as imperfect even as I pass through the ravine of hurt and loss? Or do I gloss over and cover the cracks caused by hurt/ loss so that I project a façade of coping well?
- Am I compassionate enough to myself first and give myself leeway to feel the intensity of pain even if others don’t? Or do I ignore myself while extending myself to others in their pain? How can I be compassionate to others if I’m not compassionate to myself?
- Am I content to open up only my shallow self, the surface of me…to others? Or am I willing to be vulnerable enough to expose the depths of my emotions, my insecurities & my pain in a frank manner, while being compassionate to myself and others?
- Am I content with making connections with people based on what I wish to project/what is expected of me and therefore say or do things accordingly? Or am I willing to experience the risk of uncertainty in establishing connections by allowing my deeper self, ‘the real me’, to emerge – finding expression for my deeper fears & cares - uncertain though they may be?
This journey is very person dependent and no two experiences are the same. Immersing ourselves in genuine feelings, expressions and connections and also knowing when to let go enables us in our journey forward through and past our pain & grief. There is a saying that it takes a devastation to experience and know love. So also it takes the immersive experience of pain and grief to become compassionate and stronger for it. What emerges is love.