When I was a first-grader my girlfriend was the love of my life. One glance from her set my heart a-flutter. The highlight of my day would be to sit near her in class. As summer approached, my heart sank; she lived three miles from me—an impossible distance for a 6-year- old. That summer, I sobbed into my pillow for endless nights—I missed her dearly. I’m certain that she had no such sorrow in her heart; to her, we were merely classmates. The entirety of this love affair was in my imagination. In actuality, our relationships exist entirely
in the mental space between our ears. We create beliefs about others and then we look for evidence in the world that reflects those beliefs. Relationships are not only about the unique ideas of two people about each other—these ideas are the relationship. What happens when one person in a relationship moves away, moves on, or dies? Grief—the ego’s reaction to loss—is an entirely personal experience. We can imagine what a person is experiencing, but we can only, truly, know our own grief.
If we primarily define ourselves as a role in a relationship: “I am a husband/wife/father/ mother/son/daughter” etc., then, with loss, that role is replaced by an empty space we feel in our heart. The role we were experiencing loses its basis in reality (the other). We’ve lost our reference point for who we were being— we’ve lost the “yin” for our “yang”. We feel lost and confused—we are grief-stricken.
Practitioners of Buddhism regularly remind themselves that impermanence is a constant part of life. In learning to let go, we remember that we are not any role or identity, or any one person defined by another. Rather, we are the Source of these ideas. When overcome with grief, some people pray, some go to counseling, and some just get busy. There are many ways to endure the grief that follows a loss. Over time, the anguish and suffering do pass, and are replaced by tranquility and acceptance, and we feel whole again.
How tightly we identify with and cling to our ideas and identities ultimately governs how long we suffer. In letting go, we adopt an open mind and heart to the ever-changing circumstances of the world.
About Tony Cecala
Tony is a business strategist. He publishes the Holistic Networker and produces the Wellness Expo. In his spare time he reads about technology and the mind.