The holiness of anger. The divinity of grief.
The life I once knew had disassembled itself.
My former life had been held together by the adhesive forces of a family of three, a house, a dog, ongoing busyness, and TV on Friday nights. I had a sense of security and stability about that life. Then, suddenly my marriage ended. What I had imagined to be certain gave way under my feet as the vision of my life became distorted and the direction of my life veered off road.
Diving into darkness is not something I’m good at. Before my daughter, I never had the skills to be real with dark, shadowy feelings. When she was born, she stripped away my bullshit. Connecting to her in a real way made me connect to myself in a real way too. I was thrust into being accountable, vulnerable, and authentic. It’s not my habit. I have had to break down decades of learned behaviors and patterns. Every change and shift has been uncomfortable all the way down to my bones.
And then here it was, the Big Test: the dissolution of my marriage. I was beat down to a pulp by grief and anger. It was a force of destruction that brought with it dark, all encompassing feelings. The sort that reach up from below, grab your wrists, and wrestle you down to the ground. The sort of feelings that when they rush in, you have to move other things out of the way to hold them.
If I didn’t dive into these feelings, something else would happen. I knew I was teetering on the edge of something. Alcoholism would have been easy. Or an eating disorder. Or some other damaging behavior. Something to numb the pain and gain control. In so many ways, that’s all I wanted. Avoidance and disconnection seemed like the most healing balm possible.
For some reason, I paused before taking this route. As much as I craved disconnection, some part of me knew this path would just accumulate undealt with pain that would hurt me later. I wouldn’t deal with what needed dealing with. I needed to ante up.
I truthfully did not know if I was up to this task. I doubted my ability to hold everything. To hold all of this darkness and still wake up and get out of bed in the morning. To hold all of this and still feed my child breakfast and play with her throughout the day. To hold all of this and not collapse under it all in front of my daughter. I knew, I needed to figure it out for her. Without my daughter, I may have been wholly defeated by all of this.
The power of a child’s gaze is one of the more powerful forces I know. I knew my daughter was watching me. She watched me deal with hardship and suffering. She watched me shoulder conflict and the aftermath of devastation. She carefully observed my every reaction, gesture, facial expression, and word. She sensed all of the things I didn’t say out loud.
I wasn’t going to get through this as a perfect parent. I knew that. But, I could be an authentic parent. I could be loving and supportive towards her own emotional process during the wreckage. I could say the wrong things and then finally say the right thing. I could be lost and distracted sometimes, but have moments of full clarity and presence with my daughter. I could fall apart for a moment if it allowed me to heal in the long run. Most importantly, I knew I needed to be accountable for my own healing. My daughter deserved a parent who wasn’t adrift in bitterness and shock. I needed to get through my shit in the healthiest way possible for her sake.
So, I walked into the fire. I sat within my emotional hell and watched it burn and destroy and fuck with everything. Perhaps it’s my spiritual nature or perhaps it was simply a need for transcendence, but the journey into the dark took on a holy nature. Not the sort of holy that is light or pretty. But the sort of sacredness that emerges after devastation and you find yourself unintentionally muttering prayers under your breath to a force you’ve spent much of your life doubting. Sometimes faith is involuntary and divinity is accidental. Standing on scorched earth took on a significance that landed in a place that I can only describe as my soul.
I wrote a prayer and hung it up on my bathroom mirror. Every morning, I repeated it to myself. It was how I coaxed myself back into the mess and darkness. It reminded me of the meaning behind all of the suffering. It told me to keep plodding through it. Don’t stop. Keep feeling.
Let anger protect you and grief move through you to dislodge what is heavy and stuck.
Let anger lay down your boundaries and grief remind you of what you hold dear.
Let anger remind you of your self worth and grief remind you of the value of the life you have lived and dreams you have dreamed.
Let anger burn and cleanse. Let the embers burn. Be patient as ash transforms into rich, fertile ground.
Let grief complete your undoing and the false idea that you need to hold it together. Let there be broken pieces of your heart spread across the landscape of your life. May you know that this relentless breaking is the only way to move in a heart-centered way into what is next.
I wish I could say fortitude or bravery got me through this time. That some quality in my soul drove me onward. But, that is not the truth. The truth is, I am an incredibly fortunate person. I am parent to a small person with watchful eyes and a very big heart. She senses and feels deeply. She loves fiercely. And, somehow, I am lucky enough to not only be one of the people in her life, but to be her parent. What I do and how I live in the world will have ripple effects that move their way through her life. I owe it to her to keep feeling, keep being real, keep being connected to my truest self. I owe it to her to show her that by walking into the weakest and most shadowy parts of ourselves we are able to cross a threshold into what is next. For only when we do that, my dearest one, are we able to bring our hearts with us.