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From Grief to Gratitude

Originally published on, June 4, 2019

Based on an experience from May, 2016, with Peter Bernhardt (my therapist at the time).

Peter and I were discussing the difficulty of goodbyes, or any kind of parting experience. I was having a lot of trouble with this throughout my life.

We were holding each other’s hand, and looking in each other’s eyes… And Peter said, “Well, when you’re ready, see what happens when you let go.” The idea was to really zero in on the subtle feelings, as they can shed a lot of light on the bigger experiences in life.

So I looked him deep in the eye, and for a moment, we both smiled. I actually started laughing. And suddenly I realized that at this particular moment, letting go would be easy – not painful, not full of questions, just easy. So I released his hand. And I felt a wonderful warmth. And it occurred to me that, having felt a TRUE connection – in this case only a brief one, in the form of one sincere, simple smile – letting go suddenly became not just easy, but natural. I felt none of that “grief” that I would usually feel whenever I left or lost someone. Instead of that, I just felt gratitude: I felt honored and privileged to have been a part of something that was wonderful, and real, and deep, and loving.

I wonder if the real sting of separation could be the sense that I did not give myself wholly when I was with someone: Was it a REAL relationship? Was I truly there? Did we really share ourselves, and each other? Did I open my heart entirely in the exchange, so that everything was seen, and nothing was left out? Did I “put my whole life on the line before I died”, so-to-speak?

And from that little, innocent exchange with Peter, I felt that if I had TRULY given and received, then I could go with a sense of gratitude – to have lived, to have loved, and to have really BEEN there. Would that I might feel the same gratitude when there’s a REAL curtain call – mine, or someone else’s. But I see that that depends only on how I live my life. 

And how ironic it is… that I avoided love for so long because I was afraid to lose it… When loving wholeheartedly would seem – now – the only way to bear – eventually – truly, gratefully, letting go.

: )


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