The Buddha called suffering a holy truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering and let it reveal to you the way to peace.
- Tich Nhat Hanh
In my early 20’s I was engaged to be married to Anna who was my high school sweetheart, but a few months before the wedding we called it off because I was still Peter Pan and I wasn’t ready to grow up just yet. We loved each other deeply but sometimes that’s not enough, and when the feelings of grief and loss finally hit me some months later, it was incredibly devastating and overwhelming. That loss was the one of the most painful and the most powerful and life-changing experiences of my life all at the same time. This profound grief became a portal of transformation that led me to deeper and more fulfilling relationships in my life because the intensity of my emotions over this loss cracked open my emotional walls and ultimately helped me to face my fears, release the pain of my emotional isolation and emerge from the dysfunctional patterns of my past into a healthier adult life.
Today, I am greatly blessed to be able to have the amazing depth of intimacy and mutual love with my wife, my children and my family and friends because of going through that grief which helped me to melt the walls of isolation and shame that I had carried with me from my past. I am forever grateful for the experience of grief over this loss and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Facing your pain and releasing your fears is the key to transformation, and while it’s not necessary to lose a relationship or a loved one to grow, that was my particular process with Anna. As a counselor, that experience gives me a powerful relationship with my clients every day in the counseling process when clients are facing their pain regardless of the circumstances surrounding their emotional suffering. I wouldn’t want to take away their emotional suffering for anything because I know on such a deeply personal level that they can experience transformation and healing through facing and embracing this emotional suffering. I know down to the marrow of my bones that the way to emotional freedom lies in facing, embracing and going through the emotional suffering to get to the transformation on the other side. You will not grow until you face and release your fears, period. You can face your fears and grow in a proactive manner or you can wait until life smacks you down because you have avoided the problem until the resulting crises hits you square between the eyes; your choice.
Sadly enough, most of us avoid our emotional pain and consequently continue to stay stuck in dysfunctional patterns of behavior that recreate the cycles of conflict and suffering from our past over and over again until we are finally ready to learn from our experiences and begin to grow out of the limitations of our past conditioning. Like my experience with Anna, many of us have to experience pain and loss of some kind before we are ready to release the ghosts of our past and mature into healthier choices and a better way of living, but it’s not necessary to go through these problems if we are willing to look in the mirror, be honest with ourselves and go through our healing process in a more proactive manner.
Whether we are dealing with our losses and our fears individually or collectively as we do on this Memorial Day, our pain is simply another chance to heal and to grow and I encourage you to become willing to take an honest look within yourself and face the issues and the fears that hold you back in your life and learn to step into the greater joy of living a more real, honest and authentic life.