• David Sales

Grief Can Be Beautiful

People we love have to leave someday. It is part of the price we pay for our most treasured memories and for the love we shared with each other.

Several people I care about have lost special people in the past few weeks and months. At at my age, it seems to be more frequent. Mothers, Fathers, Uncles, Friends, and others admired for their accomplishments in improving our communities for the next generation. It's hard to say goodbye.

The two wonderful, cheerful people in the picture above are my parents. I was probably around 10 years old. It's one of my favourite pictures - I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because in this photograph, I see them both as wonderful individuals and an amazing couple that loved each other through the good times and the bad. I still miss them every day.

I learned over several years I wasn't very good at grieving, but I've also come to accept that I have very little to do with it. It happens on its own, when it decides, and when it knows I'm ready. One can look at it clinically, study the stages of grief as defined by the experts, but my experience has been that all those stages happen behind the scenes, quietly, often secretly, and one day - beautifully. They say time heals all wounds, but I think it's love that does the actual healing. Grief is just a more powerful form of love.

I know that I'm a little south of crazy sometimes and in my beautifully imperfect brain, 2+2 doesn't always equal 4. Regardless, even though my own experience with grief was often messy, at the end I am left with nothing but love and peace when I think of them. Don't worry, I'm grieving a bunch of other stuff, but I know there is something special being created.

I know the sadness, anger, guilt, remorse, and emptiness will fade into an amazing, healing love. Memories will be experienced differently, relived in a deeper, fresh perspective and place. My job is to be patient and let it work its magic. It did with the loss of my parents.

When I was a teenager, I suffered a fairly traumatic injury, and it was painful, frightening, and life changing. Ambulance transported me to Prince George from my hometown of Quesnel for emergency surgery. The ambulance had to travel extremely slowly; I was strapped flat on my back, and because the injury involved my eye, no pain medication could be administered before the surgeon could examine the extent of the injury as dilation of my eyes could cause more damage. Half an hour into the trip, the shock had worn off, and I was experiencing an incredible amount of pain. My father was in the ambulance with me.

All he could do was hold my hand. I was squeezing his hand with every wave of pain. I couldn't move and all I could do was scream uncontrollably with no relief. He was feeling every ounce of my pain. For many years, the mental reliving of that accident and ambulance ride, played in snapshots, formed a flashback that ran in a loop almost constantly for 30 years. The most vivid picture was that of my father's face and eyes. It terrified him, helpless, and suffering his own trauma of not being able to help his son. It was the first time I had ever experienced in my father being afraid and helpless. It scared me to see those tears of genuine anguish in his eyes. That's how I always remembered it. Loop after loop, day after day.

Through counselling and EMDR therapy, I could clear those flashbacks, but something even more wonderful happened. It was the day I knew in my heart grieving of my father's passing had completed its work. I knew the grief was gone and only love remained in its place.

One day I was sitting thinking about that day, about that shared experience, and suddenly I was overcome with an amazing feeling hard to describe. I won't even try to put it into words that feeling - I'm not that good of a writer.

It involved some tears, but they were wonderful tears. Now that the flashbacks of that day happen only rarely, I often have to really concentrate on that shared trauma to have that old loop play through. When I did, the snapshots began one by one, and when that vivid picture of his face appeared, I didn't see fear, anguish, and trauma. I saw, felt, and experienced the incredible embodiment of love. It was no longer the first time I saw his fear and felt his trauma; it was the first time I experienced his complete love for me. I get to keep that forever.

Since that experience, I've felt it again and again when I think of both Mom and Dad. I don't feel sad. I feel comforted and it makes me happy.

For me, that's the beauty I've found through grieving. The deep, unconditional, heart filling love that grief eventually provides us. The precious memories stay and the bad times fade away.

To my friends, I'm sorry you're hurting right now and there's nothing I can say to make it better. I know how sad it is.

My wish for each of you is that the beauty of grief finds you too and brings with it the gift of love it is now working to create... just perfectly for you.


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