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When I decorated my office, I wanted to make certain an ampersand was prominent to highlight and reinforce an idea with which many people struggle: two or more seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time. This is especially true in grief. This notion, when accepted, believed, and understood can help move us into a place of healing and acceptance of our loss(es).
Last week, I made a reservation for five (for my parents, my partner, and my adult child) at a busy restaurant. Seeing as the restaurant was busy, I was told they would set a table for four and pull up an extra chair. When we were seated, it was at a table set for six people. I thought nothing of the empty chair initially.
As I observed our interactions, which I like to do to try to hold on to and make new memories, I couldn’t help but look at the empty chair. It wasn’t truly empty for me. I felt my brother’s presence while simultaneously feeling his absence. In that moment, I felt pure appreciation for those who were alive and with me and I enjoyed a little banter and humor with my dad. In that same moment, I was sad and devastated that my brother was not there and that his children were not there either.
All of this was true and not on a sequential timeline but all at the same time. I felt the heaviness and joy all week. In doing so, I became open to experiences, memories, connections, and a range of emotions. I opened my heart to doing so- even when it was not easy.
When we slow down, observe, and allow the diversity of experiences to exist in the same plane, we can be overwhelmed. We may want to avoid the intensity. Yet, this keeps us from accepting the circumstances , loss, and grief. (More on acceptance another day…)
What can you do when seemingly opposite emotions exist simultaneously?
First, take a moment and observe what is happening. Allow your heart and mind to be open to the experience without rushing or avoiding it.
Second, if so inclined, write about these in a journal, record a voice memo, or share with a loved one or mental health professional.
Lastly, be kind, gentle, loving, and compassionate with yourself.
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