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Befriending the Darkness


Life is a Growth in the Art of Loss

John O’Donohue


As I took my daughter to the train today she said that every day feels like World Mental Health Day. We read and hear constantly about the struggles all around us.

Sometimes I wonder if this exacerbates feelings we may not hold so much attachment to. I don’t know. Thich Nhat Hanh said that “feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky”, and they really can. Like the flick of a switch.

Have you ever felt in the depths of despair but a good laugh and wonderful company brings joy to the surface?

But whatever the case I do believe there is still much healing to be done within ourselves We are a constant work in progress to live a life that allows us to cope in all states of being.

Loss and sadness comes in so many forms; the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a home, health, a job, a friendship, connections and community.

But it also comes like a thief in the night, with no apparent cause, leaving you floundering and wounded, wondering why.

Time has taught me that in all states of mind where I am challenged, instead of pushing feelings down they must be embraced. Hugged and acknowledged.

Whatever this feeling is, it is valid. And it is okay.

I see feelings and emotions like a meandering river. Sometimes they cling on to a bend for a few days or longer, sometimes passing through with ease, and sometimes damming up.

But the first stage to feeling whole again is acceptance. A genuine self-acceptance that deep down we are okay. And we are okay whatever the feeling. We are not damaged, or useless or weak or something to be fixed. And we will once again feel joy. It is liberating to know that the voice in your head that says you are this or that, is not the essence of who you really are.

With this comes freedom and a crack of light can emerge which in time will enable you to shine brightly once more.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

When I read the quote above in Rilke’s book I saw the beauty in what he was writing. It is so moving. He states that we need to discern the value of these fragile periods and sit with them. There is such personal growth in truly knowing ourselves.

During times of struggle community, friendship or family support are vital. Find your tribe and someone who has your back and loves you with all your cracks and imperfections.

In Burkina Faso, West Africa, the day ends with the community gathering together to share their day. Everyone is welcome. Everyone feels worthy, and it is a time to laugh and cry. No one is isolated or alone with their thoughts and worries. We all need someone to talk to.

The great romantic poet John Keat’s suffered periodic savage bouts of depression which incapacitated him. His hands would become like lead, unable to lift his pen to write. Such is the physical impact of depression.

He said that one thing brought him relief.
“There is a comfort in throwing oneself on the charity of ones friends — ’t is like the albatross sleeping on its wings — ”

With support, non-judgement, self-acceptance and openness your heart can break out in to joy once more.

Life can be so hard, heart-breakingly so, filled with sorrow and loss. But it can also be beautiful, amazing and joyful.

Nothing can be denied to live fully, as a most beautiful human being.

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

Rashani Réa

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