(23 Oct 2023)
By Bobby Ahlander
So far this year I have experienced the death of three people that were fully integrated into my life in one way or another.
In March, my dad passed away from natural causes, just one day shy of his 80th birthday.
In April, one of my closest friends died from heart failure, just a few days before he and I were going to be seeing each other for the first time in several years.
And two Saturdays ago, my neighbor, a young man whom I’ve known for twenty years (since he was 13 yrs old), took his own life.
The cause of each of these deaths was vastly different, but the result was the same.
For a variety of reasons (that are far too numerous to name right now), over the past couple of years I have experienced a lot of grief. I’ve grown quite accustomed to what it feels like. It has become somewhat of a constant companion. And so in some ways these recent losses maybe haven’t had quite the impact on me that they might have in a previous season of my life.
That’s not to say that I’m numb to it, it’s just that I am keenly aware of it. And as a sort of peculiar side effect, it has made me much more aware of it in others.
I have learned, though, that just like everything else, grief is not permanent. It ebbs and flows, like the waves of the sea. In and out. If I try to push it away, the more it tends to cling to me (or I to it?). The more I sit with it, examine it, and be curious about it, the less it seems to sink me under its weight.
One of my teachers says, “There is a divine intention behind every experience.” From a buddhist perspective, I would restate this as “There is a dharma truth revealed in every experience.” For me, the dharma truth I learn from grief is that even in suffering, there can be peace. And that peace comes when we loosen our grip on the suffering associated with the grief, allowing it to flow in and out, as it needs.
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