When my grandmother died five years ago, it was the first time in my life I experienced deep, aching grief. The kind of grief that overwhelms you. And all I wanted was for it to go away.
Months after she passed, I was talking with a friend about this nagging and unrelenting pain. I was frustrated. When would it ever end? He looked at me. Calmly. Gently. And said, “Grieving is your way of honoring her. The depth of your emotion shows the depth of your love for her.”
I felt tears well up inside of me. He was right. I adored my grandma. I absolutely loved the relationship we shared. She was genuine. Wise. Kind. The best listener. I learned so much from her. And I knew I would miss her forever.
The aching? It revealed how much she mattered to me.
I let his insight sink in. Maybe I didn’t have to resist the grief. Maybe I could let it be. I heard the voice of a former teacher in my head, “What you resist persists.”
And so, rather than shoving the grief away unsuccessfully, I tried to surrender to it. I let the emotions come, and I let them wash over me, like waves, whether I was driving, at the supermarket, listening to music. It didn’t matter.
I cried. I laughed. I let myself remember her. I let myself feel.
And as I stopped resisting, over time, the grief began to feel different. Softer. Gentler. In many ways, like gratitude. It was something I could always turn to to feel closer to her.
Feelings are an interesting thing.
Some of them tug at our hearts. Some of them make us uncomfortable. Some of them creep into our lives and make it difficult for us to continue on with our days.
But every emotion has something for us, even the most difficult ones. Usually the most difficult ones reveal some kind of gift, over time, if we let them. If we have the courage to be with them.
Is this an easy thing to do? No way.
Feeling stretches us beyond what’s comfortable. Feeling asks us to be with our experience, even if it’s not what we wanted or planned. Feeling the full spectrum of emotions is one of the most challenging things we can do.
But it doesn’t come without reward. Feeling it all fosters a life that is more colorful. More interesting. More honest. More alive.
If it’s one of those seasons for you and you’re feeling it all, I hope you let it be. I hope you let yourself feel. I hope you take good care of yourself and create support around you. I hope you acknowledge your bravery. Feeling takes courage. And I hope, over time, these harder emotions teach you more about yourself and more about life. I hope, in some way, they begin to feel beautiful too.
I wanted to share with you some of my favorite quotes about the beauty of difficult emotions. I hope you enjoy them.
On the beauty of hard feelings…
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“Feeling expands us. Where do we go with the upset? What do we do with the emotions roiling inside us? The answer is, we feel them. We do not seek to escape the upset. We stay with what’s happening and let these emotions move through us. We must be in this moment. And as we do, we will change.These feelings and experiences will alchemize something deep inside us.”
– Marianne Williamson
“The brokenhearted are the bravest among us because they dared to love someone.”
– Brene Brown
“Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend.”
– Julia Cameron
“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter.’ I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life.”
-from Reddit user /u/GSnow who identifies himself as an “old man”
“When I get lonely these days, I think: so BE lonely. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because when you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
–The Velveteen Rabbit
May we have the courage to lean in and find the beauty in each emotion.