If you open your heart to someone, it will likely get broken at some point in some way. And, it is worth the risk because the heart is meant to open. The heart is meant to love.
“The angels want us to love with all our heart,
even though love always hurts,
to take the risk to glean the gold.”
From “The Angels Want,” in 111 Invitations, by Barb Klein
This poem, “The Angels Want,” speaks to this quite beautifully, I believe. In general, as a society, we don’t do pain well – sadness, anger, grief, fear, hurt… we think these are things to “get over” in order to get back to happy. We’re missing a profound part of the human experience by taking that approach.
Unfortunately, too often we make pain wrong. We judge the person who is feeling these things for “too long,” rather than sitting beside them as they sit in their pain. We try to make the pain go away with simple platitudes and empty promises that "this will get better."
We create fairy tale images of love in all forms – partnership, parenthood, friendship, work… and these idealized loves cannot be lived up to in real life. Pain is part of the deal. It does not mean we are doing anything wrong – it means we are exquisitely alive to this human experience. If we are to live, we will hurt. Not all of the time. But some of the time – sometimes deeply, and some hurts we will carry with us forever.
And, yet, we will still find joy and peace. It is not one or the other. We don’t have to choose. This is where we confuse ourselves because we think that if we are sad or grieving, we should only suffer. We think if we are happy and in love or things are going well, we should only feel good. We forget that being human is messy. That life is messy. That we are called to live in the midst of it all – to feel a little (or a lot) of this here and there.
“The angels want us to get lost in extreme ecstasy
and bathe in unimaginable grief,
allowing the emotions to wash over and through us,
cleansing, refreshing, and rebirthing as they flow.”
From “The Angels Want”
Grief and gratitude – they coexist within us. As we come upon the one-year anniversary of the COVID pandemic and quarantine, it’s likely you’ll reflect that the past year has been full of both. The more we allow ourselves to feel the depth and breadth of these experiences, the more alive we truly are. Fully alive doesn’t mean feeling good; it just means feeling everything more.
I have been guilty of the “stay in the feel-good arena” more often than I’d like to admit – for myself and for those I care about. I’ve not done any of us any service by trying to move us out of the painful place too soon. To learn to be with ourselves, with one another in the depths of pain – this is the gift of the open-hearted human experience.
We can do better. We can live more fully when we stop making it wrong to cry, to scream, to hurt. When we stop numbing the pain, we are more open to the bliss. When we stop over-simplifying what we think life will be/should be, we can get on with living the life that is here, with all of its moments and phases. Afterall, “the angels want us to live while we are here…” (from “The Angels Want”)
Want to be a better support person for someone who’s hurting?
Here’s a great short video by Brene Brown about empathy that offers some tips on how to be with someone in their sadness or pain. It’s something that we have not been taught. It’s OK not to know. And it’s skillful to learn to do better. Here’s another video from Refuge in Grief about How do You Help a Grieving Friend?
More resources are available on my Resources page - this topic feels important enough to have its own section. Please let me know if you have other great resources I should add!