Intense Grief : Immense Gratitude

When I first arrived in Washington, DC a few weeks ago, I took a run from my apartment to Arlington National Cemetery.  Right at the moment I walked through the gates, I got a text from my dad confirming that my brother-in-law has glioblastoma…an aggressive form of brain cancer.  The survival rates are grim and my sister and her husband have four small children.  The situation is absolutely terrifying and heartbreaking.

I knew going to the Cemetery would be intense.  It was my first visit and I always get choked up when I am confronted with the sacrifices of our nation’s military.  But this time, as I was walking through the Cemetery, surrounded by so much loss and sorrow, I carried with me my grief for my sister’s family.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God”

After visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I walked over to a bench and sat in silence overlooking the endless lines of tombstones.   I started sobbing uncontrollably.  My sorrow for all the soldiers, sailors, and marines who gave their lives for my freedoms.  My sorrow for the losses that my sister, her children, and our whole family might be facing.  My sorrow for being separated from my husband and children for the next 4 months while on a work detail in DC.  So much sorrow poured out with those tears.

But this sorrow was much different than the sorrow that accompanies my depression.  Depression sorrow weighs me down.  It has no rhyme or reason.  That sorrow wraps itself around me and drags me into the deepest depths where light cannot reach.

The sorrow this day was different.  It was understandable and had an origin.  I hugged this sorrow and allowed it to overtake me, knowing that it would not pull me down.  As it overtook me, the tears unleashed and the pain flowed out.

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Not all photos should be beautiful….our grief and pain isn’t pretty but expressing it is necessary and healing.

As the tears flowed, the pain washed away.  It will not stay away, that I know.  But for that moment, it disappeared.  And in the next moments and hours everything around me took on an aura of such beauty.  Every smile on a child’s face, every blossom on a tree.  The world around me looked so alive.

It was surreal walking through the Cemetery as I made my way out to run home.  I saw the world through a lens of immense gratitude.  With every step I felt lighter and more free.  Free to run, free to live, free to be happy and live my life to its fullest.  The sacrifices of those around me had given me that gift.  First in our country’s freedoms they gave their lives to protect, but more so in the reminder that life needs to lived and loved.

I have learned that sorrow and gratitude have a symbiotic relationship.  When living mindfully, there is a direct correlation between the amount of gratitude a person experiences and the amount of sorrow a person has handled.  Sorrow teaches us that the good times and small things are worth celebrating.

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This magnolia blossom greeted me in a moment of despair and gifted me with its beauty.

Next time you find yourself feeling sorrowful, slow down and take a look around.  Look for the beautiful flower, the smiling child, or hug of a loved one.  It will be brighter than ever before and you just might find yourself feeling grateful for the sorrow that gave you this gift of clearer sight.

The journey continues……

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