Blessed Are Those Who Bear the Loss, for They Shall Teach Us How to Live

My husband, David, writes a monthly column ( for PQ Systems, usually choosing his topic based on what made him cry in the prior 30 days. Following his lead, I’ve decided to use the same inspiration for this blog.

Three things made my cry this month, beginning with news that the baby of a friend/colleague and her husband died in utero at 9 months. The couple had recently invited friends and loved ones to share their joyful anticipation by posting gorgeously artistic photos of themselves preparing for the arrival of their first child. Now we are all sharing in their sense of loss, even while most of us cannot possibly even begin to experience the true depth of their sorrow. In the couple’s generosity, they are sharing the learning from their grieving and healing process, in part in the form of an essay about Akhilandeshwari, the South Asian Goddess known as ‘She Who Is Never Not Broken.’ Among the teachings of the Goddess are that from facing reality and embracing our brokenness, we can piece back our lives, forming new patterns and ways of being. 

The second thing that made me cry was another essay sent by a friend, this one titled “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy,” by Professor Jem Bendell from the UK’s University of Cumbria. In this piece, Bendell urges readers to come to terms with the reality and the inevitability of the losses all humans can expect to face in the “near term social collapse due to climate change.” In addition to recommendations for research and public policy, the piece offers a Deep Adaptation Agenda for community dialogue based on the themes of Resilience, Relinquishment and Restoration. Resilience, Bendell writes, “asks us ‘how do we keep what we really want to keep?’ Relinquishment asks us ‘what do we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse?’ Restoration asks us ‘what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies?’”

These themes brought to mind a book recently recommended to me by another friend, titled The Five Invitations(2017), written by a leading voice in contemplative end-of-life care, Frank Ostaseski. The book urges us to come to terms with the reality of the loss of our own lives, and to see the inevitability of our own death as a “secret teacher hiding in plain sight.” It offers five invitations to “sit down with death, to have a cup of tea with her, to let her guide you toward living a more meaningful and loving life,” to strive toward “wholeness.” Ostaseski asks us to “suppose we lived a life that turned toward what death had to teach, rather than trying only to avoid the inevitable?”  

The third thing that brought tears to my eyes – this time tears of joy -  was a set of experiences with family and loved ones, including the onset of healing for a daughter-in-law recovering from an accident-induced traumatic brain injury; seeing our oldest grandson off to a fine engineering school in a far-away state; having a day’s outing that included amazing conversations with our oldest granddaughter; seeing another granddaughter experience her first job and a driver’s license; watching our son and his wife gleefully launch the Monarch butterflies they so lovingly raise; celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary, and on and on. These experiences make me want to add a fourth adaptation item to Jem Bendell’s agenda, even though it is not an “R” word. That agenda item is Joy, and it asks the question, “How do we find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering?” That is the question addressed in The Book of Joy(2016) by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both of whom have suffered great losses in their lives, and have a great deal to teach us about how to live. The book, based on interviews with the pair by Douglas Abrams, is an exploration of how we can “transform joy from an ephemeral stateinto an enduring trait, from a fleeting feeling into a lasting way of being.” 

These three sources of recent tears in my own life, led me to the title of this blog, “Blessed Are Those Who Bear Their Loss, For They Shall Teach Us How to Live.” Face reality; embrace brokenness; piece back our lives; form new patterns and ways of being; keep what we really want to keep; let go of what will only make matters worse; restore what can help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies; turn toward the inevitability of our own death; and, transform joy into a lasting way of being.” Good lessons for living whole.

Read the essay about Akhilandeshwari here:

Read “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” here:

Read more about The Five Invitations here:

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Carole SchwinnComment