Honoring the Gifts of Loss

Honoring the Gifts of Loss
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
Jerry Smiltneek

Last year was a year of profound loss for me. The greatest and deepest loss I bore was the sudden and unexpected death of my mother. After her death, I was plunged into a well of grief which brought with it a need to process the complicated and multi-layered journey of her life and our relationship. Over the past many months, I have a deeper and more profound sense of what is truly important. Death is a sublime perspective shifter, illusion corrector and authenticity maker. The grief spiral has a life of its own which shapes us with its sharp and tender edges in an attempt to restore wholeness, humanness and vulnerability.

Ten years ago, a bitter divorce primed me with a loss so deep, I felt I would never recover. But the process it catalyzed brought me closer to my true self in unexpected and powerful ways. My adaptations to abuse had left me with such a deep fracture in my soul that I did not even realize how far apart I had grown from my true self. My commitment to processing my pain uncovered a treasure that I continue to draw from. For maybe the first time, I was able to feel how my true self exuded joy and true feeling underneath my adapted and conditioned self.

My mother’s death was a different kind of loss. The loss was more complex and more cellular. After her death, I felt a vacuousness in my body. It is as if her energy that occupied my cellular matter when she was alive, left with her. I was left with this unfamiliar feeling inside, of emptiness yet the spacious quality in my body asked to be filled with a different energy - mine.

The process the began with the divorce over the past ten years which connected me to true self was what I could now apply to fill this spaciousness with. The paradox of finding these gifts hidden inside a profound sense of loss, began to heal me even more deeply. I also felt that as I continued my individuation process since my mother’s death, it would somehow help her move through her current passage to some ‘next level’, bringing her more peace and offering healing to the maternal lineage I was to carry forward.

Clearing out her closet, sorting through her 80 year collection of keepsakes and precious objects was a spiritual exercise that brought me face to face with the gifts that her material possessions carried. I could hear her voice and literally see her tucking these keepsakes away as milestones that marked stages of her life, her children’s lives and the passage of time. I found a pin from TWA that was gifted to me by a flight attendant on a flight from India when I was two years old. I also found a pen she saved for 52 years from Disneyland, a memento that marked our coming to America. These keepsakes marked my life as well and led me through the years with memories they evoked about my own biography. They evoked feelings that lay dormant over the years in my cellular matter, in my heart and soul. They evoked comfort about aspects of my relationship with her that were precious and connected amidst the cracks in her soul from the trauma of her childhood and her life. Finding the saved momentos that marked milestones from my life - coming to America at two, going back at 7, returning at 16 and the hard work this entailed for an immigrant that stages of my life through, college, medical school, marriage, motherhood and entrepreneurship carried, offered me a perspective into myself that defined me even more deeply.

Alongside these precious memories were also painful ones, times of struggle and hardship and rebellion, her resistance against her feeling function and a liberated life. She was bound by her trauma and cultural conditioning. It’s what she felt defined her that she was unable to let go of.

Sorting through a lifetime of memories, the accompanying grief and feelings of loss, I am left with many gifts of perspective. Going through this process in midlife is also a gift. The profound potential that midlife offers of transforming from an adapted to an authentic self is the hallmark of midlife done consciously. At this juncture, nothing but truth, love, meaning and health really matters. Death is one of the most powerful teachers of this.

As I process my feelings of loss and feel my way into even a deeper level of authenticity, I herald in the New Year with an even more authentic platform that I know is necessary for living an truthful life. One that even more profoundly causes me to honor every moment of my existence as I attempt to fill it with soulful inspiration, creative fire, authentic relationships, a commitment to my health and my life’s work, and above all, to healthy love. I feel this is an individuation into ‘eldership’.

As we all mourn our respective losses, both personal and collective, the importance of honoring our feeling function with validation and acceptance is the greatest gift we can offer ourselves. This is the platform for learning self-care and self-love, the antidote for the hopelessness and angst that currently pervades our world. I believe this is the most powerful medicine for our time.

So let us make this vow to ourselves as we begin a new year.

Let us begin to bring consciousness to the practice of self-care and self-love.

I know we will all be the better for it.

It may even be the medicine needed to heal our world.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community