I’m standing on a beach surrounded by a vast expanse of dark sand for as far as I can see. Gulls are squawking in the distance. I’m looking into my father’s watery blue eyes. He’s animated and young, explaining something to me with more passion than I ever saw in the last years of his life. His brother, my beloved Uncle Pete, who died soon after my dad, is standing beside us, laughing.
We’re enjoying the vivid openness of the sand and sky and sharing stories when behind them in the distance, I see a huge tidal wave rolling along the sand towards us – maybe 100 feet high and towering ominously over the flat landscape. We turn and see another powerful wave rolling directly towards us from the opposite direction. We’re standing in the midst of these two oncoming waves, and in an instant realize there’s nothing to do.
I grab their hands. “How will we remember?” I ask staring into their eyes. “How will we find each other again?”
“Don’t worry,” whispers my Uncle Pete. “We always find each other.” He whispers something else, but I can’t hear his words from the sound of the crashing waves.
I wake up gasping for breath – still feeling their strong hands wrapped around mine – longing for that moment again, hearing their voices in my head, unable to get back to sleep. Do we always find each other again? Isn’t that endless longing the tyranny of grief? Or is it simply our limited perspective on time and space.
Grieving clients constantly seek me out. They fill my appointment book. Maybe they sense I can help them find their footing in the midst of swirling waters. Today, my client tells me about her partner who recently died. She hasn’t been able to move forward and is lost in her depression. She needs to make a living, yet she’s drowning in pain.
I explain that she’s still here because she hasn’t accomplished her mission for this lifetime, and her partner is watching, patiently waiting for her to get to it. “You haven’t really lost each other,” I explain. “It’s just a shift of perspective, a different dimension. Nothing is really lost.”
As I say this, I get chills over my entire body – a sign that I’ve tuned into something for her. “Do you know that your partner watches you struggle? I ask her gently. My client nods. “He wants me to teach,” she says through her tears. In that moment, I see the spark in her, the life force, rekindling. We both feel it. She laughs softly.
“Let’s talk about how to make that happen,” I whisper. Months later she writes, “You encouraged me to fulfill the mission for my life, and I’m getting to it. I’ve woken up.”
Later, I’m meditating on a new client. I ask if there are messages from the higher realms to help her move forward. In my meditation I see a gentleman, slumped-over and kind of embarrassed, slinking up to me. He mumbles, “Well it wasn’t that great when we were married. Tell her I’m sorry. Tell her she doesn’t need to be so angry. I see what I did. I’d like to help. There is money. Tell her to go to school.” I write it all down for our session.
Later when I’m working with her, I learn that her husband died and left a trail of sexual and physical abuse in the family. My client is very lost in her pain, grief, and anger. I give her the messages from her departed husband. She is slightly amused that he’s slinking around apologizing.
Upon further discussion, she sees that there might be a way to use money from his estate to fund her return to graduate school so that she can move her career forward to get to the great work – the work that her pain has fueled her to do.
Her great shame, that has weighed her down for years, has been that her husband abused the children. She is beginning to see that this is also the great fuel that fires her passion to help others. She looks into graduate school and later tells me, “I feel more clear-headed and focused than I have in years. Thank you so much.”
Why does pain drown us? I reflect back on promises made to my dying husband 25 years before – “We’ll find each other again,” I whispered at his bedside just before his spirit slipped away. Two years later, I whispered the same words to my best childhood girlfriend, Crissie, who was dying of Leukemia at the age of 32. On the last day I spent with her, a hot August afternoon, we walked across our favorite island together, reminiscing about our shared childhood and contemplating death.
“What’s the hardest part?” I asked her. “Seeing it hurt my father,” she cried. How those words haunted me for years – that Crissie suffered not only from her disease, but from knowing how the grief would weigh down her loved ones.
Perhaps the pain of grief is really the pain of remembering our own home, our true nature, our divinity, and wanting to return there. Aren’t we simply longing for that divine realm again – where everything and everyone is luminous and connected?
Yet, until our work is done, our lifetime mission accomplished, we can’t go home. And every moment we spend longing, instead of moving forward with our great work, is wasted time. I’m certainly guilty of that – creating a limbo of pain instead of just moving forward and getting the mission accomplished.
I believe this is our universal challenge – overcoming the “pitiful voice” that stops us all at the door of greatness. It’s those wasted days of feeling “useless, not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough” or saying, “I don’t care.” It’s the days when we lay down and surrender to doubt.
And most of the time we look to the wrong sources for comfort, when we’re lost in our “pitiful self.” It takes courage to focus on the higher self, the divinity, the unseen realms for guidance – instead of looking to our peers for approval and support.
But by going to our higher self through meditation, prayers, and dreams, we do find our courage again. In fact, that’s often the most powerful way to reverse a negative cycle. Here’s an example:
Recently, after several days of struggling with self-doubt and praying for guidance, I had this dream: I arrive at a lake and see my spiritual teacher standing on the shore. He tells me to walk through a passageway, and I do. I find myself winding through hallways and emerging into a large room – a simple open white space where several people are sitting on cushions.
At the front of the room is a friend who is teaching meditation to the group. She smiles at me and says it’s fine that I’m there. I say that I’m tired, very tired. Someone sitting behind me props my back up as I sit to meditate with them. I feel nurtured being in that space. We meditate together. As I sit there quietly, I become aware that the room, the entire space, is filled with golden light, brighter than sunlight, spilling over all of us. It soothes me with happiness like drinking from a fountain of peace. I wake up feeling renewed – still seeing the golden light illuminate the room.