Hidden in every event of your life
is a possible epiphany about love.
— Deepak Chopra, The Path to Love
Loss is a wound that creates a sea change in the way we see and experience our lives. It can’t be healed in our emotional body by applying a poultice of science, religion, or any other measurement. Grief is as individual as our face or our fingerprints. It changes in its course, weaving itself into our life fabric in thin silken threads and thick woolen tangles. It appears as a darker bordering, a contrast that reveals the depth and vibrancy of life’s daily experience. For most of us, the epiphany of love is hidden, waiting to be discovered.
In 2005, I had an epiphany. I had been suffering for some time with a chronic and painful condition. No facet of modern medicine was helping. At the time, I was studying with the amazing teacher, philosopher, and writer Jean Houston, and I was becoming more aware of my need to connect to my higher self and my spiritual guidance in order to heal.
Jean was having a weeklong retreat focused on healing at a Catholic center in the Chicago area. The weekend was filled with ritual and focus on the healing processes used from the beginning of written time, and probably before. We were part of a healing group similar to the ones Asclepius, the father of medicine, created around the year 300 BCE. It was in this sacred atmosphere that I found myself participating in a ritual in the beautiful church on the campus.
As we walked slowly in procession by candlelight, I paused near a statue of the Blessed Mother. Words cannot describe the sense of peace and sacredness that filled my body. I felt my heart weep tears of joy. And then I felt the impression of hands on my shoulders, a pressure that was pure energy.
I knew that presence immediately and was wrapped in the essence of my son Michael. I felt a ripple of energy throughout my body and then a complete feeling of being embraced and at home again. In my heart I heard his voice. “Your wound is not a wound but a portal.”
Your grief has opened a portal,
a place where you can access more than healing.
Those words changed my way of grieving and were the inspiration for my writing this book. As I understand it, without the grievous wound I had suffered, I would not have experienced a way forward into my highest self and my soul’s purpose. If we can each accept that we are on this planet to create a life desired by our soul, we can become exactly who we are meant to be.
Our sufferings are not tests of our faith. Our sufferings can take down our defenses and allow us to open to all experiences, including those of the sacred. To do this, we cannot stay focused on our suffering. We must enter the portal provided by our wound where we will find the answers and the healing we never dreamed possible. Giving up our doubts and meditating are the keys to the portal. We can’t make this geographic and sacred leap without intention and being aware of our challenges.
Grief Leaves Us Powerless
Perhaps the deepest wounding in grief is our realization that we are not in control and we are not safe. We’ve spent a lifetime preparing for every possibility, protecting ourselves and our loved ones by buying safe cars, making sure we wear seat belts, stopping smoking, getting regular medical check-ups, submitting to vaccinations, living in secure neighborhoods, taking herbs and vitamins, and doing crossword puzzles to avoid Alzheimer’s.
The list is exhausting. Lately even grocery stores provide hand sanitizer to kill germs on our shopping carts. Despite all of our precautions, warning systems, and protections put in place, this thing still got through.
We were good people following all the rules, living as we were directed, and our sense of betrayal is hard to focus. Where does this judgment belong? On our parents for telling us everything would be all right? On our schools? What about the church? What about society itself for promising us rewards for good behavior? Or is it our own fault for being so innocent we believed we were safe?
Research shows that people with a lifetime commitment to a spiritual belief or practice will often move to an acceptance based on their beliefs. Then there are those, like me, who reject their faith, move away from it, and finally find the way back to a different view.
How can we compare those two ways? They are equally valid and must be honored. If we were raised in a religion that presents God as the creator of everything, always in charge, it seems fair to question why this pain has been sent to us.
My reaction to the loss of my son was deeply connected to my religious childhood. From the time I was five years old, I knelt every night beside my bed to pray before I lay down. My guardian angel was real and comforting. Through my father’s alcoholism and my loss of friends, pets, and homes, I spent a lot of time on my knees.
When Michael lay in the ICU, my need was huge, and it touched into all the early sadness I hadn’t acknowledged. Again, I went to my knees. The small chapel in the hospital was my place of refuge. By the time Michael died, my knees were bruised from the days and nights of supplication.
The day he died, my husband and I drove home from the hospital in silence. That night I went upstairs and climbed directly into my side of the king-sized bed, lying rigid until morning, refusing the solace of my lifelong connection with God, the Blessed Mother, and my special angels. Oblivious, I had added another grief to the list—my loss of belief and comfort.
Mad at God and Feeling Betrayed
I had lived an honest and prayerful life, followed the rules, and what had happened? Despite my pleas and my promises of more service, the worst of all possible things had happened—my child had died before me.
In all those years of orthodox behavior, I never once saw my kneeling in prayer as an attempt to control my surroundings and protect me and mine from something unnamed and too frightening to acknowledge. Yet it was as much a part of my effort to outwit life’s possibilities as the greens and vitamins I served my children.
I was mad at God, and I felt betrayed. Even though I had no anger toward the woman who hit Michael, I had anger toward God that threatened to explode in me. I rejected all the rituals I believed should have protected me. I continued to go to church, but all I did there was cry. I found no solace, no comfort, and no reassurance. I was betrayed, and as long as I believed God had a hand in this, a direct hand, I was no longer his loving child.
There was a point when, if you would have asked me, I wouldn’t have believed that I would come to a place in my spiritual journey when all of that Father/daughter angst between God and me would mean nothing. But when we redefine God as love, not as a patriarchal Father in charge of every moment in our lives, we change forever.
When we see the universe as a loving place no matter what happens, we refocus on our own responsibility for how we handle our life challenges. This was a gift, received after a long process.
Moving from blame to loving acceptance
is one of the most amazing results
of following the path of love.
Opening Your Heart Just A Crack
When we open our hearts just a crack, even begrudgingly, and decide to let a little light in, we create the moment when each one of us will choose to step out of bitterness or depression just enough to say yes to our own heroic journey. At first we may refuse, but when we do, our first ally—the heart—will come forward to give us the courage to move onto the dimly lit path of change. We must continue to be open to allow for other allies, friends, and compatriots to assist and guide us. The process of conscious meditation is invaluable if this is to happen.
What I know now is that all of our emotional responses— anger, depression, sadness, and fear—are normal and part of the heroic journey we embark on through loss. It’s only when we get stuck in one of these places that we risk closing our hearts to the journey and remaining in the dark for a long time.
Sooner or later, in order to heal, we have to feel each emotion in depth, accept and allow our feelings, and move to the next level. We must give up all our usual protection, our control and safety, and go into the darkness with love and compassion. We are required to love ourselves and honor our journey., otherwise, we will not heal. Courage is mandatory, but look at what we have already survived!
Moving Toward Growth: Accept the Call and Begin
We are moving, always, toward growth. That is the way of the human becoming. Grief inserts itself and acts as a moving spirit to open our hearts to our highest capacities. I know it doesn’t feel that way at the time. Sometimes we manage to feel nothing for a short period, but eventually our broken heart guides us to the road that leads us through and out of grief. I promise you will smile again. I promise you will think of your loss and feel peace before sorrow.
If we wish to be more than survivors, then we can aspire to be creators of our own story. The question we must ask is whether or not we are ready to find the self that has not yet been birthed—the spiritual director of our lives that lives in our hearts and souls. Are we ready to see the one who is made in the crucible of our loss?
It may be frightening to forge through the dark paths that lie ahead, but fear is just your small self trying to veer you off course by saying that you at least know where you are right now, and you have no idea what's ahead. But where you are is not meant to be who you are. This grief, this dark night of the soul, is to have value through directing you to your deepest places.
It’s time to accept the call and begin.
©2013 by Therèse Amrhein Tappouni. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hierophant Publishing. www.hierophantpublishing.com
The Gifts of Grief: Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss
by Therèse Tappouni.
About the Author
Therèse Tappouni is a Certified Clinical and Medical Hypnotherapist, and a licensed HeartMath® provider. Along with her partner, Professor Lance Ware, she is the co-founder of the Isis Institute (www.isisinstitute.org). She is the author of five books, a creator of CD meditations, workshop director, and a woman who leads other women on the path of their purpose and passion. Therèse has co-authored a book with her daughters which is for young children, parents and teachers. "Me and Green" is a book about sustainability for the youngest among us and it has won several awards. Therèse's work finds a home with anyone on the spiritual path that leads to an intentional life.