Recently, I stumbled upon a post by Ram Dass. He was asked via a follower how to turn suffering into grace. His response blew my mind. He said, in short, that suffering is grace. He included, wisely, that you can’t ever tell someone who is suffering that. He also said that if you're avoiding suffering, that is less than graceful. He professed that you have to consume your suffering, and only then does it become grace.
This resonates with me.
As I watched my mother slowly deteriorate, slowly lose the ability to breathe and gradually become unable to swallow, I felt suffering. I felt despair. I felt sorrow. I felt indignation.
I didn’t run from it. Mom needed me to brave the reality, step by step, with her.
I didn’t hide it from my loved ones. If I kept it hidden in the shadows, it would have become more powerful.
I didn’t brush it under the rug. I spoke to it. I wrote about it. I shared from my soul with those who wanted to hear.
It wasn’t easy. There were many tears shed in public. And not everyone stuck along for the ride. I lost students and followers and friends. But I absolutely knew no other way.
I showed up at her bedside everyday, willing, ready and able.
I read books to her and held her hand. I brought her juices and smoothies. And when the end came, I left her in peace so that she could go about the process of dying, even though, for selfish reasons all my own, I desperately didn’t want her to go.
After she passed, I showed up big. I wrote her obituary and delivered her eulogy. I wrote her epitaph and took care of my dad. I met with the funeral home and the florist and the pastor.
I consumed my pain. I met it head on. I continue to do so.
I offer you this humbly. Are you letting your suffering define you? Are you letting it run the show? There's a difference between your suffering consuming you and you consuming it. We all know someone who is defined by their tragedies, injuries and pain. It’s important not to get attached to it. It’s important to feel it fully. And then let it go.
Death is a natural part of life. Don’t fear it. Just be still and know: you are alive right now. Do whatever it takes to consume your suffering so you can return to joy.
Joy is where it’s at.
Joy is home.
Joy. Outrageous joy. My mom has come to me only one time in a dream since she passed. Those were her words: Choose joy.
Feel the suffering. And then let go. If you need help, reach out for it. Don’t waste another moment wishing it wasn’t so. Don’t try to understand or compartmentalize. Do whatever it takes to feel the pain. Then let it go.
So that you can get back to living.
So that you can create a life of beauty and a life of joy.
That is what your loved ones would want. That’s all we ever want for those we love. A life of beauty. A life of love. A life of joy.
Consume the suffering. Then let it go.