Sunday Morning Musings: As the Advent/Christmas season approaches the paradox of life and its joys and sorrows seems to come more into focus. I suppose the sharpness of contrast is prevalent any time of year but more now. I recently watched and listened to the sights and sounds of the local Santa Claus parade. I am not sure whether the children were as excited as their parents and grandparents but what a joy it was (especially when those standing in front of me hadn’t attended before and were surprised at the candy handouts). Even as I walked slowly (I am getting too old to stand too long) back to my car the enthusiasm of the young families filled the air.
Yet, I am very aware that this same season of wonder and hope knows its share of sadness. Grief doesn’t have a season and can wash over one at any time. There is the struggle that confronts those who hear all around them the sounds that ring out happiness while they feel the heaviness of loss. As the expression of grief has become more acceptable or main stream in the past thirty or so years there have be a rise in the number of occasions designed to address this sorrow. Despite the fact that different names are used to attempt to label these events (Blue Christmas, The Longest Night…), all of these services hope to allow acknowledgement that even amidst the sorrow, joy can be found. And I suppose the opposite is true, that amidst the joy it is okay to express our sorrow.
The main reason to acknowledge this paradox is that life is made of both our joys and our sorrows. Kahlil Gibran in his book The Prophet wrote “when you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” (p. 29). As much as anything I understand this to mean that our joy is muted because of our sadness, but that it only because we have loved and now have lost that love that we feel its pain. Furthermore, this means that to really honour the sorrow, we can and should allow ourselves to cherish the memories and the love and joy we carry with us.
Buddhist teachings, according to Pema Chodron in her writing When Things Fall Apart, goes so far as to tell us that “when inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself.” (p. 87). We can use our loss to inspire us to think about others and it can become an opportunity for us to show compassion.
How truly it is for all of us to show compassion and those who feel the pain and sorrow of loss can lead the way. What an honour we offer to our loved one when we act on his or her behalf living a good and meaning filled way. There is no doubt that we can offer compassion in so many ways, all we have to do is look and reach out. That is not to say what I do is going to be the same as someone else, but when each of us uses our sorrow to create joy, healing begins.