One of the most basic understandings that thoughtful humans develop is that we are all so deeply flawed. Our relationships--even with those with whom we are closest to, or those with whom we should be closest to-- are often fraught with difficulties. These troubles can be major life shapers. Sometimes they pull the best of us into a swirling cesspool of a never-ending drama and separate us from love and joy, and from each other.
Losing a loved one in these circumstances brings these struggles into sharp focus.
When a loved one passes in the midst of a stormy relationship, or before we were able to reconcile and reach peace in the relationship, the turbulence takes center stage. This can shape your grief and amplify feelings of loss and regret. Not only did you lose an important person in your life, but you feel as if you need to get through a portal that has now been shut.
You start banging on this door with unanswered questions. Why didn’t you love me? Why did you hurt me? How could you? Anger at the deceased is a cloak that conceals your pain.
Sometimes this is reversed and you are overwhelmed with remorse. Why did I do that? How could I have said that? Why didn’t I tell them I love them?
(It is a near universal experience: when you lose someone you love, you wish you had expressed this love more frequently when they were alive. The simplest and yet the most profound statement I love you is withheld during life, but so deeply felt in death. You can erase this regret only by learning its lesson.)
You are not just grieving your loved one’s departure, you are mourning the loss of the loving relationship that should have been. That could have been. If only…
They should have loved you more or better or differently.
Then, you could have loved them more or better or differently.
Anger and remorse serve only to bind you to pain.
There is only one answer to this emotional angst. You must find forgiveness. It is one of the most potent spiritual tools; forgiveness becomes the powerful agent of change. It has the awesome power to transform regret into acceptance and then anger into love.
Forgiveness does not mean you absolve anyone of their crimes or misdeeds, of any injustice perpetrated against you or others. Nor does forgiveness mean forgetting. Forgiveness comes from a much deeper place—it comes from understanding.
Your loved one’s inability to love you more or better or differently has nothing to do with you, but rather everything to do with a troubled history woven into their lives. This past, whatever it was, directed them to make unfortunate choices. These choices hurt you and probably other people as well.
Of course, you wish it was different.
Forgiving means only that you recognize this truth.
It can go deeper still. While we might always wish they had loved us better or more or differently, once you realize their failures of love were driven by the story of their lives, anger disappears. Sympathy beckons. Compassion follows.
Let it in. Mourn the loss of what might have been. Not just for you, but for them as well. While they do not have the chance to choose different, to right a wrong and grow in love, they are gifting this to you. It is the means of liberating you from a troubled past. You are being given the ability to transcend what has happened.
Forgiveness in grief becomes the most profound gift.
It allows you to step into the light.