The world has endured much collective loss and grief in the past year. Not only have individuals suffered the ultimate loss of having a loved one die in the most awful of circumstances, alone in a hospital with only a remote final communication with family, but many others have endured the loss of freedoms, connections, and celebrations that have taken their toll on the mental and emotional health. From lockdowns, mask-wearing mandates, business adjustments and sudden outbreaks that leave everyone on edge and hypervigilant, Covid-19 is on everyone’s mind every day in one way or another.
So, how does one manage the losses and grief that seem like our daily menu of these relentless circumstances? And most pressing, what are we personally meant to take away from this epic global experience?
Here is a beautiful piece about seeking Solace from David Whyte – it not only speaks to the experience of this past year, but asks us to look at how we meet loss in our lives as a step on the path of our existence…
Solace is the art of asking the beautiful question, of ourselves, of our world or of one another, often in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments. Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavour: when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize, when people we know and love disappear, when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.
Solace is the spacious, imaginative home we make where disappointment comes to be welcomed and rehabilitated. When life does not in any way add up, we must turn to the part of us that has never wanted a life of simple calculation.
Solace is found in allowing the body’s innate foundational wisdom to come to the fore, a part of us that already knows it is mortal and must take its leave like everything else, and leads us, when the mind cannot bear what it is seeing or hearing, to the birdsong in the tree above our heads, even as we are being told of a death, each note an essence of morning and of mourning; of the current of a life moving on, but somehow, also, and most beautifully, carrying, bearing, and even celebrating the life we have just lost. – A life we could not see or appreciate until it was taken from us –
To be consoled is to be invited onto the terrible ground of beauty upon which our inevitable disappearance stands, to a voice that does not soothe falsely, but touches the epicenter of our pain or articulates the essence of our loss, and then emancipates us into the privilege of both life and death as equal birthright.
Solace is not an evasion, nor a cure for our suffering, nor a made up state of mind. Solace is a direct seeing and participation; a celebration of the beautiful coming and going, appearance and disappearance of which we have always been a part. Solace is not meant to be an answer, but an invitation, through the door of pain and difficulty, to the depth of suffering and simultaneous beauty in the world that the strategic mind by itself cannot grasp nor make sense of.
To look for solace is to learn to ask fiercer and more exquisitely pointed questions, questions that reshape our identities and our bodies and our relation to others. Standing in loss but not overwhelmed by it, we become useful and generous and compassionate and even more amusing companions for others.
But solace also asks us very direct and forceful questions.
- Firstly, how will you bear the inevitable loss that will accompany you?
- And how will you endure its memory through the years?
- And above all, how will you shape a life equal to and as beautiful and as astonishing as a world that can birth you, bring you into the light and then just as you were beginning to understand it, take you away?
Credits: SOLACE From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. 2015 © David Whyte: and Many Rivers Press