This is a guest post from Halina Goldstein.
I have spent much of my life struggling with loneliness. Eventually, it led me to an inner transformation and from there into a state of peace and contentment, alone. And then I met my soulmate.
We both believed our marriage would last until death would us part. And death did — it has to, sooner or later. Sometimes death is physical. In this case it was not — and yet it felt like it. It was a death–like divorce.
And so once again I found myself alone, grieving my lost happiness as much as fearing the return of loneliness. It was the fear that led me to a bold determination: I would not allow myself to suffer again; I would do whatever it took to get ahold of my life, the sooner the better.
I planned to unpack, to do stuff, to go to work, to connect with friends, to learn new things on the Internet … But life had other plans for me.
On the very first day of this new, unwanted life alone I got sick with a high fever and was coughing, choking and tired beyond description. Unpacking was not an option, and neither was talking. I called my friends anyhow, but by some strange magic no one would answer. I turned on the TV just to keep my mind occupied, but there was no signal. Same thing with the computer. No matter what I tried, nothing worked. There was no escape.
I felt like a castaway. And yet it was exactly this state of utter isolation that helped me heal and find my way back to joy. That’s why I want to share this experience with you.
The thing is that whether we are being kicked out of our sense of belonging and safety overnight or over years, by physical death or by other forms of separation, our reaction is the same:
We respond with fear
Now, in many situations, fear is an amazingly helpful state. It triggers our survival instinct. It helps us deal with a potentially dangerous situation and prevents us from losing our life.
When we’re struck by a personal loss, the resulting fear and stress help us take care of the most necessary practical and physical arrangements and create some sort of basic existence.
But what about emotional survival?
How are you supposed to handle that? Be bold? “Feel the fear and do it anyway?”
In most cases, that’s a great approach. But then, what can you do about the fact that who you experienced as the love of your life is gone? You can do nothing.
But you can still be bold. Just not the usual kind of bold.
An existential loss calls for a different kind of boldness
Let me explain:
Figuratively speaking, when life made me an emotional castaway, rather than letting me play a heroine and move on with my life as fast as possible, it took me to a sort of inner Avalon.
According to medieval legends, Avalon was a mythical, magical island to which the fatally wounded King Arthur was carried to recover from his injuries. Avalon was reigned by , a powerful sorceress and healer.
So what this wise, old legend tells us is that when a hero (male or female) is wounded, further heroism is of no use. Instead, the hero must withdraw and take all the time necessary to heal.
Obviously, you cannot withdraw from life forever. And you don’t have to. But you can and have to create your Avalon, your place of healing, rest and transformation.
What does it mean in more practical terms, then?
How do you create your inner Avalon?
Avalon is all about allowing (as opposed to resisting, which is where most pain comes from).
- Allow yourself to withdraw. Take time to just be, see and feel what emerges.
- Allow yourself to grieve in whatever way is right for you. Some people (including some family members, friends and colleagues) might react to your grief with fear and will therefore urge you to move on with your life. But rushing it is not going to help. Allow grief to work and heal you in its own way and time.
- Allow yourself to receive the rest and the nourishment that you need: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
- Allow yourself to live. Breathe. Move. Be yourself.
- Allow yourself to enjoy the signs of life within you and around you. Feel the gentle touch of wind on your face. Watch children play in the park nearby. See how nature is changing all the time.
- Allow yourself to see love. The universal kind of love is always there. It can never die, and it is here for you. Learn to see it.
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.” Leo Tolstoy
About Halina Goldstein
Halina Goldstein is a mentor, teacher and writer supporting widows around the world on their way from grief to growth and joy. Halina’s gift for readers of The Bold Life is the Guide to Peaceful Evenings, with three concrete ways to create your inner Avalon.