February 23, 2024

A Lesson on Grief, Suffering & Accepting the Love We Deserve

Recently, I was talking to a dear friend who is dealing with deep loss. She was baffled that another friend told her she had one year to grieve the loss of her spouse. I had to laugh, because after nearly five years after losing Carl, my late husband, to cancer, my grief is just now settling into a permanent fixture in my life. 

There is no predictability to grief. There is no timeline (wouldn’t it be so wonderful if I only had to grieve and feel that deep pain for just one year?). Non-widows cannot fathom a world where the ground falls out from under you. So, often, they press their beliefs and untruths on those of us that have lost because they (fortunately) do not understand the new world we live in. 

Let me tell you something about grief…

David and I have been together for three years. We have moved, changed jobs, gotten married, and blended five children and three dogs from our previous marriages, both of which ended in death. This week he called me Betsy, the name of his late wife. Betsy died suddenly on Valentine’s Day several years ago. While most happily married people spend Valentine’s Day in celebration, my dear husband is consumed in grief. His body and his brain still feel the trauma from that loss, especially on the anniversary of her death. Our brain has a deep embedding of painful memories, all of which are stored in the limbic system. As December turns to January and January to February, David’s body is subconsciously reminded of his loss. 

I’m not going to lie. My husband calling me the name of his late wife does hurt me because I know our love is unique and special as is the life we have created together. But, I also deeply understand and am able to hold space for what he is going through. Every year, from my birthday to the anniversary of Carl’s death on September 9, my body feels like it’s shedding an emotional flu. I’m stuck in memories from the past, memories of his last weeks when he was in insurmountable pain. I felt helpless, and that helplessness will stay with me the rest of my life.

Suffering & Acceptance

This is the daily suffering that deep loss permeates throughout our lives. We cannot deny that we have loved deeply before nor that we have suffered great loss in our previous lives. We also cannot create a story of perfection about our first loves to memorialize and build a pedestal in order to protect those not willing to see the beauty in being human, and the idea that love and life require work and mistakes to grow. This is the side of grief no one wants to talk about.

I don’t say all of this for pity or a pat on the back. What I want to convey here is that the sooner we accept that suffering is a part of life, the sooner we will be able to allow the suffering space to simply be. Once we are in a place of acceptance, we won’t feel the need to make up false narratives for those grieving in order to relieve the suffering they are experiencing. We won’t feel the need to hide our pain, to shove it down or keep it locked in the closet for fear that it will consume us.

In Buddhism, the concept that "life is suffering" is a central tenet, known as the First Noble Truth, Dukkha. This idea is often misunderstood; it doesn't mean that life is constantly miserable, but rather that all forms of life are unsatisfactory and contain some form of suffering. This includes obvious forms of suffering like pain, illness, and death, but also more subtle forms like dissatisfaction and impermanence. 


When David calls me Betsy, the inner child in me truthfully gets threatened that I am secondary. That I am only there because she is not. I am often flooded with guilt for being there when she cannot and very much should be. The pain of trying to love again is deep and difficult. It is full of reminders of the fairytales we learned as children that we only get one true love.

This brings me to the topic of soulmates. The truth is our soul will find the perfect mate for where we are in life — if we are connected enough to know what we need and how to ask for it. If you are lucky enough to have a soulmate who grows with you, then it is natural to feel like you have your one true love, because you do. You are growing individually and together simultaneously, and that is very special. This requires two people being brave enough to speak from their most vulnerable spaces and to not let their fears scare them out of speaking their deepest truths. That is what makes a soulmate. It is the person that you can bare it all to, and they still love you. Now, I am going to say something that might shock some of you – a soulmate can be more than one person. Yet this is rare because we are all so afraid to open up in the ways we need to in order to find and accept love. We suffer in relationships when we hide our true selves for fear that if we show those parts we deem unloveable, that person will stop loving us. It can also cause us to hide from our partners, which can lead to spending our entire lives living in untruth because the fear of losing them is far greater than the suffering that comes from saying who we are and what we require to be connected.

Fear & Resentment

But, where do those fears come from? Remember the inner child I mentioned early? Yep, that’s the voice inside our head telling us we are unlovable by retelling us all the ways the world has told us we aren’t enough, whether it was our parents and caregivers, childhood friends or people on TV. For suffering to lessen in our relationships, we have to be brave enough to remember that we have a right to tell the truth in all moments of our lives and that those truths won’t make us unlovable. It’s impossible to have a deep soul connection unless we can bare our souls and allow our partners to do the same. This is hard, and it also can cause suffering if we them to trigger us. But, trust me, sharing all of yourself with a person is the most rewarding thing you can ever do and will allow you to love yourself more.

Loving Yourself

The most important love we give in this world is love to ourselves. When we believe that we are lovable and that we deserve to be loved, we can be free of the suffering that we are not. This can help remove jealousy, insecurities, and fears of abandonment or rejection. We also won’t allow ourselves to stay in a partnership with someone who doesn’t love us, all of us. We have limited time on this earth. We should spend it with partners who want us, who love us, who want to know the deepest parts of us.

Ask Yourself

If you’ve been to one of my retreats or workshops, you know I can’t let you go without a little bit of homework. Right now, ask yourself this question, “where am I suffering in my life and partnerships due to me hiding and holding back what I need and who I am?” Then ask, “how can I hold space for loving myself and my partner in ways that allow us both to open our souls and deepest vulnerabilities to connect?” Linger on these questions and how you can move forward to love yourself more and be a better, more connected partner.

One Last Thing

Suffering is inevitable, but when you evaluate the suffering you face regularly, you might notice a theme – you’re causing your own suffering by not saying what you need for fear of being abandoned or not loved. When we focus on loving ourselves we know our worth and we can handle any loss in a more tolerable way. 

If you are grieving, suffering or seeking acceptance, I welcome you to join us at Wake. Our app is centered around the nervous system. We offer science-backed tools to heal our dysregulated nervous system, including meditations, sound healing and more. Subscribe to change your life. You’re worth it.


With Love, Alix


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