Now, I want to talk about a comment that came up in conversation I had with somebody a while back when we were discussing what’s going on in my life since I suffered a heart-wrenching loss and had to redefine all of the parameters of my life.
And the person said to me, “Oh, look, you’ve done so well though,” and made it sound like it had been an effortless event. And my response to it was to say that, “There is nothing graceful in the journey to grace,” and there really isn’t. It is dragging your ass through the mud and the twigs and being cold and alone and frightened and not knowing what’s coming next.
It is extremely difficult journey.
When you’ve had a relationship end whether it’s through death or through divorce or a situation that just simply isn’t safe for you the last thing that you experience in that place is grace. It doesn’t feel like there’s any relief from this pain. This all-encompassing and all-consuming pain that you find yourself in day after day while you’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on for you.
And it can take a long time. There might be little splinters of it. Little beams of light that come through every so often that remind you of that sensation of what grace is. I remember when I started getting a little more memory recall, and I was able to recall specific events, times that I’d shared with Matt that I hadn’t yet put in the memory bank before the trauma.
And then they were absolutely gone. I felt like I’d lost them forever but then when I did have those moments of recall, and I remembered those magical experiences of the time that we’d spend together, it did indeed feel like a moment of grace. I was extremely grateful that not only I could remember it, but that I’d had that experience.
So I guess what I want to say now is that it probably feels like you’ll never going to get to that place. Everything that you thought was going to be a specific way has not turned out to be the way that you thought it was going to be, but that was really just an expectation.
It’s really hard to experience grace when you’re in a state of separation, whether its separation from someone that you love or separation from yourself and the feelings that are coming up for you, and the experience of negative feelings that come up as a result of that separation.
Whether they are anger, or fear, or disgust, or despair, guilt, blaming, shame, all of those separate us from ourselves. And I think it serves us to ask the question of acceptance.
The way that we can get to a state of grace, a feeling that our life is going to be okay, and even though we feel like we’re going to die from the pain that we’re in, we’re not dead. We’re still alive. So we have to recalibrate what this life means to us. The first thing we have to do is come to terms with things the way they are. And that’s very hard when you’re grieving.
Kubler Ross talked about that the state of denial. It’s just this shock, this disbelief, “This can’t be happening to me,” but it has happened to you. There were no guaranteed outcomes. In life, there are no guaranteed outcomes. There are desires and wishes and hopes and dreams, but there’re no guarantees.
You never go into these situations looking at all the possible outcomes, the worst ones we believe we trust. We trust that we have whatever it is within our control that we can manage the outcome, but we can only manage how we are in those relationships.
We can’t really control the outcome and to be able to go back to that state of trust again, that buoyancy of belief is very, very hard when you have experienced so much pain. So what I’d suggest is that we don’t go for the full platinum version of trust, but we start exploring this concept of uncertainty, this idea of uncertainty, and then for everything terrible we can see maybe happening ahead of us there are another 10 or 20 or 50 countless options of other ways that things could go.
Sometimes it’s really hard to see that there are still things that you can be grateful for and they might be small consolation in a situation where you are grieving, but I challenge you to try, and find them.
For me, it was knowing that my husband was meant to be picking my daughter up from school and then driving on a very long windy road through the bush to meet with me before we went down to the city. Now, there’s a chance that he could have had that heart attack when he was driving the car and I could’ve lost my daughter as well. He could have also hit another car and other people could have been involved in a really catastrophic collision. This is something that I’m very grateful for, that my daughter wasn’t harmed and that he didn’t have the heart attack when he was driving the car.
It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? But there you go. On the most painful day of my life, on the day that I watched the person I love more than anyone else in the world die, I can still find a moment where I’m grateful that the outcome wasn’t different and potentially worse.
Of course, the outcome could have potentially been better. There could have been alternative narratives and he perhaps may have not died on that day, but I can’t do anything about that.
Grace is a very old fashioned word and it’s really imbued with a lot of religious meaning, but I think that as a concept, this idea of being able to accept that this life is this life and it is the way it is and right now you are in the weeds, things are shit. There’s a lot of stuff that you’ve got to figure out. There’s a lot of unknowable’s ahead of you.
And there’s also a lot of fear that’s caught up in that. And it’s unreasonable to expect you to trust a situation when life in terms of the life of another person has let you down or the relationship has let you down, you become more wary of what the potential consequences are of any action. So if we can just look at everything from a perspective of uncertainty of knowing that this is where you’re at right now and the future is very uncertain, but that space of not knowing what could come also allows you to open your heart and your mind to an idea that it could perhaps be a different but equally as fruitful and beautiful existence.
So I’m seven and a half years down the track from that fateful day that I lost Matt and it’s been a really hard road. I often don’t stop to reflect on it because I have so much on my plate and there’s so much going on for me.
But this idea of grace and this path that I’ve had to travel until now has been on my mind. And in thinking about what it was I was grateful for, I had an opportunity to go back and look at what’s gone on in my life since then at this struggle. And it’s really only that struggle and accepting that I am struggling and I need to find ways to make my life matter that I’m not going to just be a casualty to pain and grief, to walk around harbouring this deep hole inside me, this black vacuum of energy.
I’ve had to re-cultivate a relationship with myself and see what it means to live my life on my terms and go forward and make choices and decisions for myself and our little family, for Cal and I. So I hope something in there has resonated for you today. I don’t expect that you will have an easy task of finding things to be grateful for, but they’re there. They’re tiny little moments. They’re tiny little observations. What could have unfolded that was worse than what you had?
Being grateful for the fact that I had Matt in my life for 10 years that I experienced this life-changing and beautiful relationship for 10 years. This eclipses the pain that I have over losing him, but it’s taken a long time to get here. It’s taken seven and a half years and I’m a totally different person. I’m like a rebooted model of who I was from who I was on that fateful day that he died, and it’s only been by getting back to the foundations of who I am, what my principles and values are, what I consider to be important, and really appreciating the idea that it’s hardship. It’s the difficulty that actually forges your personality. It shapes the strength and the will and the power of who you are in being able to step forward into the world and say, “Yes, this has happened to me, but I go on, I am going to go forward.”
And still, you squeeze every single piece of beauty and meaning and understanding and self-reflection that I can in the time that I have. And I’m also acutely aware of the fact that I don’t know how long I have and none of us do.
And knowing that we don’t know how long we’ve got we don’t have time to sit around. We don’t have time to be victimised by a culture that doesn’t understand our grief.
By a wilfulness and unwillingness to accept that this is how it is, and we can either react to it and be shaped by it and become a victim of circumstance or we can respond and step into our power and make choices forward that are going to be fruitful and lead us to a place where we can look at that person as a just magnificent addition to the journey that is our life.
That’s it from me. Thanks for your time and attention and I look forward to speaking with you soon. Bye.