As I read an email newsletter centered on powerful writings by authors daring to deal with life's most complex issues, I could not help but think how important feelings are to being fully alive. 
Among several topics in the current article was one focused upon Elizabeth Gilbert writing about “Love, Loss, and How to Move Through Grief As Grief Moves Through You." Who has not experienced grief at some point in their life? Sometimes, many of us find ourselves re-experiencing moments of grief over a loss that occurred a long time ago. This happened for me as I read along. I first thought about my daughter, Jennifer, and her loss of her mother almost two years ago. The pain still runs deep for her due to the closeness of their relationship. My thoughts turned to the passing of my mother, an experience that is as clear to me in this moment as it was in 2002.
My mind found itself considering what life must be like for those who appear to have no feelings, people who seem to coast along living in the moment without regard to a history of connections or a future of discovery. Several people I know, as far as I can tell, would fit this description. They are not bad people because they do not seem to feel things as I do. Yet I feel they have a different type of loss, a life not quite as colorful as it might be. Understand, I am not saying that sadness is required for us to have color in our lives. It is, however, important to realize the strengths and character that are built by our ability to face loss in such a way as to allow moving through it with grace and depth of meaning. In short, if we are feeling loss it is because whatever, whoever has been “lost” was and is important to us.
In this article Joan Didion was quoted as saying, “Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be." Gilbert reflects on the death of her partner, Rayya Elias . . . the love of her life.
“Grief… happens upon you, it’s bigger than you. There is a humility that you have to step into, where you surrender to being moved through the landscape of grief by grief itself. And it has its own timeframe, it has its own itinerary with you, it has its own power over you, and it will come when it comes. And when it comes, it’s a bow-down. It’s a carve-out. And it comes when it wants to, and it carves you out — it comes in the middle of the night, comes in the middle of the day, comes in the middle of a meeting, comes in the middle of a meal. It arrives — it’s this tremendously forceful arrival and it cannot be resisted without you suffering more… The posture that you take is you hit your knees in absolute humility and you let it rock you until it is done with you. And it will be done with you, eventually. And when it is done, it will leave. But to stiffen, to resist, and to fight it is to hurt yourself.”
When my father passed in 1981 the news arrived by telephone while my son and daughter and I were having dinner with a friend in Denver. Loss comes in its own time. There really is no being ready for it. Perhaps that reason above all is why it is so important that we allow ourselves to be feeling individuals. Feeling allows us to be resilient and able to bend in the winds of stress and change.
“There’s this tremendous psychological and spiritual challenge to relax in the awesome power of it until it has gone through you. Grief is a full-body experience. It takes over your entire body — it’s not a disease of the mind. It’s something that impacts you at the physical level… I feel that it has a tremendous relationship to love: First of all, as they say, it’s the price you pay for love. But, secondly, in the moments of my life when I have fallen in love, I have just as little power over it as I do in grief. There are certain things that happen to you as a human being that you cannot control or command, that will come to you at really inconvenient times, and where you have to bow in the human humility to the fact that there’s something running through you that’s bigger than you.”
Finally, a thought about people who may consider it a weakness to express feelings. Dads used to teach their sons, “Men don’t cry.” Hopefully, that is not being taught any longer. Our emotions are not always accompanied by tears, but when they are, it may be that extra step we allow ourselves that frees us to relax into a more satisfying understanding of the love that embraces what appears to be lost. Living without feeling is not really living at all.
I am always glad to receive my Sunday digest of “Brain Pickings,” edited by Maria Popova. Each week there is something to take me more deeply into my understanding of self. Check it out after reading the footnoted post.