Brian and Angela Anderson move forward after tragedy. Photos by Keith Borgmeyer As you turn down the long gravel path toward the Andersons’ home...
Most of us have experienced the loss of a relationship, someone we love deeply. Sometimes it’s our choice, and other times it’s not. Sometimes the loss isn’t permanent, but it feels and affects us as though it were. Either way, there is an inevitable pain. Our hopes and dreams, the traditions, the day-to-day camaraderie — they all becomes things of the past. There is a void.
I have experienced this loss of an important relationship. In the beginning, I was so sad that my body didn’t even feel like my own. Activities that had been fun were now a source of sorrow. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had obsessive thinking, and it was difficult for me to be around people. I couldn’t imagine having joy apart from that relationship, which was now gone. The sadness was so strong that I couldn’t get close enough to understand it.
Over time, though, I allowed myself to feel the pain, little by little, and get as close to it as possible. I could move the negative feelings through me and transform them into a new type of freedom and liberation. I would sit in my chair, rest my eyes, and take a deep breath in and down. As I was feeling the grief or fear getting bigger, I allowed myself to get as close to that feeling as possible until, at last, it simply melted away. Along with this release came a wave of peace.
What I once saw as a loss with no upside ended up being one of the greatest gifts I have received. Of course, it wasn’t easy. Throughout the experience, however, I was in choice: I could suffer endlessly and stay in victimhood or re-invent myself as a healthier, grounded, empowered self. I could do the work of self-examination, accept responsibility, and transform to live a more joyful, abundant life.
Accepting responsibility allows for the release of wearying energy and negative patterns — avoiding our own feelings takes up a lot of our focus. For many of us, letting go of the old way means letting go of the person who must be right. But owning our own stuff has the potential to unlock new doors; being willing to be responsible for our own feelings and actions is not blame or guilt. By claiming responsibility, we are no longer leaking energy. We have access to a new supply of vitality and power.
And in the end, that’s how we discover the opportunity for a bountiful life after loss. The choice of finding support, interrupting negative patterns, and accepting responsibility for healing has the power to transform who we are becoming.
Today, many years after my loss, I know myself and enjoy myself at a deeper level than I ever thought possible. I would never have developed such a keen sense of who I am had I not gone through that fire walk. Through that loss, I found myself. I found compassion for myself as well as a deeper understanding and grace for others. I developed strong, healthy boundaries. I have a heightened awareness that alerts me when I begin to fall into old patterns of co-dependence and intrusiveness. In the end, the kind of relationships I encircle myself with reflect the deep level of love and acceptance I now have with myself. And I had to experience loss to find that.