When death makes its entrance
Here’s how it happens: You live your life in dedication to your partner or to your child or to what you believe is your life’s work, day by day, with the usual ups and downs that are part of it all.
Then suddenly the one you have dedicated yourself to is gone forever, and your life falls apart.
It is beyond comprehension. The pain is excruciating, and all you can do is just try to survive it and to cope with it somehow. Your friends, family and neighbors come to help.
But then, after a while, because they can’t bear to see so much suffering, they start pushing you, ever so gently (and sometimes not so gently): “It’s time to move on,” they say, “You need you start doing something with your life.”
Do something? Move on?
How are you supposed to do anything when you have lost your very reason to live? That’s the question – and it leaves you without answers.
Well, I’m here today to show you that your situation is not as hopeless as it feels, and that answers can be found after all.
The thing is that under the kind of of emotional, mental and practical strain that you’re experiencing, it’s nearly impossible to see the real reason why your loss led you to meaninglessness.
It’s not only because the death of your loved one appears meaningless in itself.
It’s also because the relationship with your partner constituted the very meaning of your life.
Your love was what you lived for
So now that your life together is over there’s nowhere you want to go. There’s nothing you want to do. You are trapped in a meaningless void.
I’ve been there. I know how you feel, and I respect you and your feelings deeply. And yet, from a perspective of time and experience, it all looks differently. Here’s how I see it:
Your life’s true purpose is still here
Even if you cannot feel it right now, your life’s true purpose is more powerful than you can imagine. You can never lose it. It is here, and it is waiting for you to find it when the time is right.
Perhaps you have felt it already, like a yearning. Perhaps you have tried to find a purpose and a meaning by reading and thinking about it, by searching your past and your soul. Perhaps you even gained a general idea of what it is – or maybe not. In any case, an idea is not enough.
Your purpose, the meaning of your life and your ultimate reason to live is not an idea. It is more like life itself:
It is something that resides in every cell of your body. It’s in the way you feel and think. It’s in your soul. It is such a natural part of you that you cannot even see it.
Discovering your purpose
I’ve seen this too many times to count, in my life and in the lives of students and clients, friends and strangers who spend years searching for a purpose. In spite of their efforts, their search doesn’t bring them what they were longing for. Or at least not in any permanent way. The pain and the void keep reappearing.
Eventually they give up the search itself. They surrender and accept that there is nothing they can do but be who they are and be willing to love themselves exactly as they are, for good and for worse.
Interestingly, it is in surrendering this way that they do find their purpose. It stops being elusive and becomes immediately apparent, in an instinctive sort of way. You just know. There’s no doubt.
This is the general experience:
Being your authentic unedited self – seeing yourself for who you are and loving it – equals knowing what you’re here for.
Becoming and loving your authentic self unconditionally sounds like a big thing – and it is. But then again, you can do it one tiny step at a time – and that makes it fairly simple.
Here’s how to become yourself and find your purpose (and how not to)
Start with being kind to yourself.
Please notice that your first step is not finding a reason to live. Your first step is not moving on. Your first step is not “doing something with your life”.
Your first step is just to start practicing simple acts of kindness toward yourself.
Do these in a similar way that you would with your loved one.
Maintain simple, daily rituals, such as meals or walks.
Listen to your needs and fulfill them the best you can.
Ask yourself in the morning: “How can I be kind to myself today?”
Thank yourself in the evening for having been there for you.
Do it day by day and over time you will see how your care and your love for yourself will start filling that inner void, bit by bit.
As it does you will not only find a new reason to live, but also a fundamental sense of safety, empowerment and joy.
Halina Goldstein is a mentor, teacher and writer living in Denmark and supporting widows around the world on their way from grief to growth. Halina’s gift for readers of PickTheBrain is the “Guide to Peaceful Evenings.” The guide will take you by the hand and show you three specific ways to be kind to yourself and learn to cope with loneliness.