Category: Inspired Mind Hits: 1619
I emerge from this conversation dumbfounded. I've seen this a million times before, but it still gets me every time.
I’m listening to a man tell a story. A woman he knows was in a devastating car accident; her life shattered in an instant. She now lives in a state of near-permanent pain; a paraplegic; many of her hopes stolen.
He tells of how she had been a mess before the accident, but that the tragedy had engendered positive changes in her life. That she was, as a result of this devastation, living a wonderful life.
And then he utters the words. The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence:
Everything happens for a reason. That this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow.
That's the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.
It is amazing to me—after all these years working with people in pain—that so many of these myths persist. The myths that are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication. The myths that preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.
You know exactly what I'm talking about. You've heard these countless times. You've probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.
Let me be crystal clear: if you've faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.
Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.
So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:
Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.
These words come from my dear friend Megan Devine, one of the only writers in the field of loss and trauma I endorse. These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on a increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.
They can only be carried.
I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn't. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we've replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.
I now live an extraordinary life. I've been deeply blessed by the opportunities I've had and the radically unconventional life I've built for myself. Yet even with that said, I'm hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in many ways it's hardened me.
While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.
Above all, I've been left with a pervasive survivor’s guilt that has haunted me all my life. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.
In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I've just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it.
I'm simply not going to do that. I'm not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I'm not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I'm certainly not going to pretend that I've made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became "successful" because I "took responsibility."
There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.
Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to “take responsibility” for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. It’s the inverse of inspirational porn: it’s sanctimonious porn.
Personal responsibility implies that there’s something to take responsibility for. You don’t take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don't choose whether you grieve. We're not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don't get to escape grieving.
This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.
In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they're standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.
No one—and I mean no one—has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.
The irony is that the only thing that even can be "responsible" amidst loss is grieving.
So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.
If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.
If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.
Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.
You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.
I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn't an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.
I've grieved many times in my life. I've been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong it’s nearly killed me.
The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing.
In that nothingness, they did everything.
I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.
Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.
Are there ways to find "healing" amidst devastation? Yes. Can one be "transformed" by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.
The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way.
Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.
Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we've done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you're faced with tragedy you usually find that you're no longer surrounded by people, you're surrounded by platitudes.
What to Offer Instead
When a person is devastated by grief, the last thing they need is advice. Their world has been shattered. This means that the act of inviting someone—anyone—into their world is an act of great risk. To try and fix or rationalize or wash away their pain only deepens their terror.
Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. Literally say the words:
I acknowledge your pain. I am here with you.
Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you're going to do something. That is not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to listen to them, to do everything but something is incredibly powerful.
There is no greater act than acknowledgment. And acknowledgment requires no training, no special skills, no expertise. It only requires the willingness to be present with a wounded soul, and to stay present, as long as is necessary.
Be there. Only be there. Do not leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you're not doing anything. In fact, it is when you feel uncomfortable and like you're not doing anything that you must stay.
Because it is in those places—in the shadows of horror we rarely allow ourselves to enter—where the beginnings of healing are found. This healing is found when we have others who are willing to enter that space alongside us. Every grieving person on earth needs these people.
Thus I beg you, I plead with you, to be one of these people.
You are more needed than you will ever know.
And when you find yourself in need of those people, find them. I guarantee they are there.
Everyone else can go.
ॐ Namasté - Blessings!
© 2008-2018 crystalwind.ca. All rights reserved.
Archive: Inspired Mind
- 2018 (6)
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- • Powerful Steps in Making Changes In Your Personal Cycle
- • The Right Thing To Do
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- • Gratefulness - How to Live Each Day to the Fullest
- • How Kindness Can Heal The Body
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- • Why It’s So Important to Pursue Your Dreams
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- • Releasing Codependency
- • The Greatest, Fastest, Surest Way To Experience Joy And Happiness
- • 20 Pieces of Important Life Advice From People Over 60
- • This Is The Day You Become A Better Person
- • When All Hope Is Gone
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- • When Toxic Or Negative Energy Is Affecting You
- • Finding Purpose in Pain
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- • As one goes up – the other comes down
- • Michelle’s Choosing to See the Good Challenge
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- • On Having the Courage to Walk Alone
- • 5 Times the Universe Had Your Back (Even Though You Didn’t Know It!)
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- • The Power of Practicing Acceptance
- • Pay It Forward
- • My Hope for You: How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life
- • How to Be Your Own Best Friend
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- • Born to be kind
- • How to attract love and prosperity
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- • Healing Depression: Valuable Truths to Help You Get Through Hard Times
- • 4 Habits That Add Stress to Your Life
- • The Biggest Disease Affecting Us: I’m Not Enough
- • This Comic Will Change The Way You Look At Privilege Forever
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- • Receive the Hong Bao of Infinite Abundance
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- • 30 Life Changing Lessons to Learn from Tony Robbins
- • How to Deal with Change
- • Forget the Past and Move On
- • Molecules of Kindness
- • 5 Quick Fixes When Feelings Get The Best Of You.
- • The best habit to develop in 2017
- • There Are 3 Ways To React To Failure (And One Of Them Guarantees Growth)
- • On Living Life like a Human Being, Not a Human Doing
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- • 15 Things You Don’t Owe Anyone At All (Though You Think You Do)
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- • Embracing Your Magnificence
- • Michelle’s December Kindness Challenge
- • The Science of High Performance in Sport
- • A Spiritual Guide to Dealing With Family Over the Holidays 2016
- • How to Find the Courage to Disappoint Your Family to Be True to Yourself
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- • Gratitude in Action
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- • 4 Powerful Truths That Will Change Your Life
- • Post-Election Path to Peace
- • 4 Ways to Release Fear From your Life
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- • Why the Hell Would I Want to Skin a Cat?
- • When Should You Quit Your Job and Go After Your Passion?
- • How to Manage Stress During Stressful Times
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- • Self Love: 5 Important Things You Should Know about It
- • Does a placebo work if you know it’s a placebo?
- • My Biggest Struggle and How I Overcome It
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- • Are You a People Pleaser? Here is How to Claim Back Your Self-Worth
- • This Simple Principle Changed My Life
- • How to be a leader of light
- • How a child with Chickenpox stopped itching
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- September (8)
- • A Really Big Idea
- • The #1 Key to Finding Happiness
- • How to Release and Let Go of the Stories You Keep Telling Yourself
- • 6 Common Habits That Are Holding You Back
- • The 3 Types of Energy Behind Your Anxiety
- • The #1 Key to Figuring Out Your Purpose
- • How to use visualisation to boost your self-love
- • 10 Day Digital Detox: The Ups, Downs, & How You Can Do It Too!
- August (7)
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- • The #1 Way to Bridge Our Differences
- • The Time Myth: You Have Nowhere to Be but Here
- • You’re Under NO Obligation
- • Choosing Love Over Fear
- • On Having the Courage to Follow Your Heart and Intuition
- • 10 Signs from the Universe That You Are Walking The Wrong Way
- • 5 Affirmations for Difficult Times
- • Outpourings of Love
- • When Things Get Good, Why Do Bad Things Happen?
- • What Freedom Means to Me & How I Live Freely
- June (12)
- • How to Let Go Of Something That No Longer Serves You
- • 5 Reminders for Difficult Times
- • The Miracle of Divine Perception
- • Are You Getting What You Deserve In Your Life?
- • How The Happiest Man On Earth Stays Happy.
- • 5 Self-Sabotaging Habits
- • The Control Dramas-A Lesson From “The Celestine Prophecy”
- • Courage
- • The Amazing Science Behind Earthing
- • The Highest Good Of Creativity.
- • The Universe is So Alive!
- • 8 Important Reminders When You Are Finding it Hard to Forgive
- May (17)
- • Gifts To Receive Right Here. Right Now.
- • 5 Ways to Give Up Complaining and Boost Your Positivity
- • 6 Signs You Need A Major Life Change
- • When People Can’t Hear You: Vibrational Differences
- • 5 Questions to Help You Find Your Path
- • How to deflect negative emotion
- • How to Manifest Your Desires With an Open Mind
- • Why It’s OK To Procrastinate: Staying In The Zone.
- • Feeling Your Way to Feeling Better
- • Why You Haven’t Been Lucky In Love
- • The Power Of A Smile
- • Noticing What We Take In
- • How to Have a Better Relationship with Time
- • Living happily ever after…
- • Make a Wish! 19 Magical Moments to Ask for What You Want
- • How to Incorporate Meditation into Your Daily Activities
- • Why You’re Like A Wild Flower Even Though You Don’t Know It
- April (15)
- • Let’s Talk About Abundance For A Moment
- • Finding Your Center When You Are Emotionally Triggered
- • How to slow ageing
- • Turn Your Unhappiness Into Happiness In Five Easy Steps
- • Don’t Let Your Research Kill Your Dreams!
- • New Study Reveals Why Intelligent People Are Usually Loners
- • How to Be Ok With Your Anger and Other Negative Emotions
- • How to Persevere When You Feel like Giving Up
- • Finding A Friendly Universe When It Feels Like The World’s Against You
- • Being Not Doing
- • 9 Ways to Let Go of Your Past and Start Over
- • The power of a hug
- • 3 New Views On Time To Help You Slow Down And Be Present
- • 15 Healthy Beliefs to Be Stubborn About
- • Four Lessons That Changed My Life
- March (18)
- • Why Some People Are MAGNETS for Bad Relationships
- • Are You Still Playing the Blame Game?
- • How to Make Yourself Immune to Secondhand Stress
- • How to Attract More of What You Want in Life
- • How to Let Go of Toxic Friendships Consciously
- • What Makes Us Present? This One’s A Surprise!
- • Keep Calm and Carry On: Election Edition
- • Why Silence Is Often the Best Response to a Verbal Attack
- • 6 Morning Habits That Lead To Daily Happiness
- • Setting Those Voices In Our Head Straight
- • How to Deal with Indecision
- • How Imagination Begins Manifestation
- • The Art of Self-Correction
- • What We Fear Isn’t As Scary As We Might Think
- • 10 Ways to Turn a Bad Day Around
- • Dream Big! You Are An Infinite Possibility
- • Exploring Your Resistance
- • Inspiration And How It Connects You To Spirit
- February (14)
- • Do You Know What You Want?
- • You Don’t Have to Know All the Answers (In Fact, It’s Better if You Don’t)
- • The Power of Being Imbalanced
- • Raise Your Vibration & Change Your Situation
- • The Importance of Accepting People Where They Are
- • Does What You Feel Mean Something About You?
- • Living an Inspired Life – Every Day
- • How I Began to Get it Done
- • Learning How to Create Peace From Within
- • Find yourself vs reveal yourself
- • How to Call in Love
- • Are We Really Who We Think We Are?
- • How to Live a More Inspired Life
- • How you light-up a life
- December (10)