Grief and Gratitude

This morning, my shower was once again my sanctuary. As the water ran over my tired body, tears also flowed as if they finally had space to be set free. I thought of the people in Nepal whose lives have literally been shaken up and torn apart in a matter of seconds; of the after shocks that must be rippling through their land and their hearts; of the unimaginable pain and fear they must be going through. I inhaled and called upon God and the Angels to help them and then me, so that I didn’t feel so much. But in that same breath, I stopped myself.

‘Why not feel it? Why not feel the pain for a moment, whoever it belongs to?’ I thought. As a sensitive person, I am acutely aware of how important it is to stay in my own energy and not to carry other people’s pain but in this case, I wanted to stay with it. To allow my beating heart that was One with everything to just feel what it felt.

As my mind was flooded with images of the devastation in Nepal, and other places I could not name, I could barely think straight. It was unimaginable, even though it felt like part of me had been transported there. It all happened very quickly but I sent as much love as I could and soon, the pictures altered to remind me of those closer to home. The grief of losing a child, a sister, a partner; those who had lost their hair, their limbs, their money, the life they once knew. It all came rising up. My heart ached for them, and suddenly myself, as my own grief surfaced in the tears. Tears that I could not run to lift my nephew up yesterday when he wanted a hug; for the times that will happen over and over again, for the kind of passionate love I am yet to experience, for the touch I am yet to know, for how it all feels so far away. For the way my teenage years were spent being in pain every day; and how I have to think so much about whether I can travel to London tomorrow to see a friend because I can’t just jump on and off a train or a tube like hundreds of others do. For all the things I have missed out on and those that might always remain a dream. And, and, and…

I began chastising myself for being so self-pitying when I was enjoying a hot shower in a comfy, safe home. I do not have a life-threatening illness, I have not lost a child, nor was I in Nepal. My feelings seemed a little ridiculous at first. But grief is grief. How often do we stand in judgment of ourselves or others rather than remembering how alike we all truly are — how we are all doing the best we can with what we know? And honestly, what I know right now is that it doesn’t serve anyone — least of all ourselves —  to compare anything or to belittle our feelings. They matter. Because we matter.

I do believe that everything happens for a reason. But I also believe that some things may never make sense. I do believe that life is amazing and there is so much to be thankful for but it is also HARD and to deny that is to be a robot. I don’t want to be a robot, I want to be a human. I want to be REAL. I want to be surrounded by others who show me who they are, too. Including their tears. To me, that’s when I get to bear witness to how beautiful and brave they are.

And so, I believe that grief and gratitude are not exclusive. They can walk hand and hand together in our life experience. In fact, I think allowing ourselves to ride the waves of human loss, to break down, to fall apart, to allow ourselves to be cracked open, so to speak, is actually what makes way for a deeper sense of gratitude and faith. It is the reason I do what I do, the reason why I celebrate life as much as I can because I know how painful the flip side can be. It is the reason why some of the people I love most have epic stories of triumph in adversity, because I am drawn to that same fire behind their eyes that says ‘I survived. I now choose to live and I will not waste a moment.’

So whatever you feel, feel it. Give yourself permission to go into that place where you’re mad, sad and heartbroken, even for a few minutes. That is where healing begins, even when we least expect it. Even in the shower on a Sunday morning with the Beatles playing on the radio.

My love and prayers are with you all. Whenever you are in the world.


That’s What Friends Are For

It’s no coincidence that the dear friend I talked to on the phone today, also just posted a blog about friendship. When I called, I hadn’t heard her voice for several months but as soon as we began talking it was as if any time between our conversations or miles between our homes vanished. And despite the fact that we’d talked over an hour, it was as if we’d only just begun to catch up!

On the other hand, our honesty meant we got right to the core of what had been happening in our lives. I know there were times when we both felt vulnerable, but that’s what made it beautiful, too, because we were sharing our hearts – the painful, inexplainable, changeable, enjoyable experience of life without edits and yet, without having to share every detail of our stories or what we felt, we just knew.

It got me thinking about close friendship. That it’s when we allow ourselves to be open – hearted, we get the most in return. Not out of expectation but because that’s just how life works, how acceptance of ourselves and eachother works. We may not have walked the same path but to be able to walk in the shoes of those we love for a moment and truly say ‘I hear you’ is such a gift. Even in words unspoken. Especially in words unspoken.

It is a rare treasure to find such a safe place to BE but a place I feel blessed to share with a handful of wonderful people and is perhaps why it can come as a shock or disappointment to be met with an occassional, less than supportive experience from others I wanted to trust as much. Having said that, I am aware that those who push my buttons actually give me the opportunity to look in the mirror and face the parts of myself that are not so healthy. So while they may never cheer me on in the same way my best friends do, my uncomfortableness gives me the impetus to make changes I’ve been tip-toeing around, and reminds me of the abundance of love I share with the true friends who are there for me no matter what!

No man (or woman!) is an island. We’re in this together! So if you are wishing for closer friendships or new ones to share your life with, reach out and share your heart! Our pain may have us believe it’s safer to remain hidden but the world is full of kindness if we choose to see it that way. And then instead of focusing on the risk it may take to open up, we see that there is far greater risk in the doing the opposite.

As Leo Buscaglia said:

To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” 

Will you take a risk with me?

Much love to you, to Laura who inspired this post, and my amazing friends who see my best and worst but love me anyway… you know who you are!!

Anna xxx