There’s Purpose in Pain and a Gift in Every Loss

by Lynn Reilly
tiny buddha

“There’s a bit of magic in everything and loss to even things out.” ~Lou Reed

Although I have spent years training myself to reverse my own anxiety, I have only left survival mode in the last couple of months, and am learning what that feels like and to be comfortable fully trusting that my children and I are taken care of.

I am at my goal of better than fine, but I’ve never been here before. And while I know my work is in the interim of where I’ll end up, I am learning to appreciate where I am in the journey.

It’s a wonderful and foreign place, and I know this appreciation is also a practice, but it feels incredibly important. I don’t want to just say I am grateful, I want to fully feel it. I am whole without more, just as I am. I create as I choose. Peace is happening now if I allow it. Big revelation.

I sent this text to one of my closest friends one morning after a particularly empowering meditation. Our daily conversations were always this deep, introspective, and growth-oriented. It felt good to write out my inner thoughts and fears, and I was excited for every one of her heartfelt and insightful replies.

Her response:

That’s incredible! I understand the angst of living in the now. For years I worked hard, trying to change the patterns and reactions that I picked up as a result of living so many years with fear, angst, and chaos.

So, Lynn, live it, breathe it, be it! You’ve earned it! I’ve only known you a short time, but this has been the best year of my entire life. A year of learning, understanding, and clarity, it’s been incredible sharing my thoughts, dreams, and sorrows.

Thank you. Thank you for what was, what is, and what will be. I am so grateful for you! For your friendship, for your support, for your love. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

Five days later, after many more texts and one evening of sharing our joy through our growing pains in person, my treasured friend died in her sleep.

Unexpectedly for those who loved her, her soul exited peacefully and left an enormous hole in the hearts of her son, family, and friends, who relied on her unwavering strength and glowing light to keep us comforted and inspire our own power.

I, for one, was devastated.

The peace I had felt a week prior was shattered. I felt nothing but shock, anger, confusion, and a deep sadness. But worst of all, I felt alone.

I scrambled to look for the higher meaning. I desperately wanted to make sense of it all. Through the ongoing tears, I felt it, I knew the truth, but it didn’t take away from the sorrow that took over.

The survival mode I thought I had left came back fast, and with enormous strength. I began to question everything. I taught faith, hope, and trust for a living, and I was struggling to access those feelings in myself. I knew they were inside me somewhere, but the darkness was overpowering.

I told all of my regular clients of my loss. I needed them to know in case I was off. I didn’t want to pretend that I was inhuman. It felt important to expose not my feelings, but my reality; I must practice all I preach in order to fully grasp it. And my education was ongoing.

It was a very challenging time.

I am not a stranger to grief. I ran grief groups for years and have experienced enough loss personally to deem me a pro. I know the stages, the normalcy of every emotion, the bipolar mood swings, the moments of clarity that sprinkle their way in. But this loss was different, and I knew that’s what scared me the most.

I grew quickly to rely on my friend after I met her. We did similar work and facilitated an empowerment group together. We connected easily, and trusting her was like breathing in a relaxed state, natural and pure.

I relied on her support, her insight, her praise. She had become my spiritual sister and guide in a matter of less than a year. We were clearly destined to be friends and confidantes.

Losing her felt like losing my dreams. We had talked of working together and teaching in tandem, and it felt comforting to have her by my side.

We were constantly learning from each other, bouncing ideas, experiences, and insights back and forth with a seamless flow. But the one huge lesson that she was repeatedly teaching me was really quite simple: trust myself. I have everything I already need and don’t need to rely on anyone or anything else.

While I see the logic and understanding in this, I had not completely felt it.

I am very independent as a parent, professional, homeowner, and business owner. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities, but at times, personally and emotionally, I still rely on others to reflect back what I’m thinking or feeling, and look for validation when I’m questioning myself.

I trusted my friend to do this for me. She helped me see alternatives when I was stuck. Even if in truth, they were just reminders, I still relied on them. I felt like I needed them. And with her absence, I was now required to completely rely on what I had been avoiding—myself.

Yet perhaps I was further along than I’d led myself to believe. I came to recognize it was my trust in myself that guided me to my friend, to trust her wholeheartedly, to let her in during a time I kept most out.

It was my trust in myself that gave me the opportunity to open myself up to another, which turned into a much larger and richer experience than one I’d experience on my own. Trusting myself gave me the gift of friendship, which gave me even longer lasting gifts of all I’d gained during that time. Gifts that have no end.

In the wake of this loss, I am learning to better rely on myself, my inner knowing, my sense of authenticity, my ability to heal my heart, and my strength to keep going and teaching what I know to be valuable.

I am also learning that it’s still important and okay for me to check in with those I trust when I’m having a moment that requires feedback.

The difference being I check in with myself, listen to their feedback, and rely on how I feel about it, as opposed to relying that they know my truth better than I know my own. Luckily, I’ve been gifted with some pretty amazing people in my life who help me strengthen my core beliefs.

This was my lesson. My teacher came in as my friend, gained my trust, taught me what I needed to know, and then moved on to her next assignment. I know this. It’s been a painful lesson, but one that has been immensely invaluable.

Every loss we experience offers us an opportunity for growth. The pain is not meant to be a punishment, but a pathway to gain understanding, strength, and insight into ourselves and how we choose to live our lives.

When we choose to walk this path with our eyes focused on the gifts, they multiply. When we focus on the hardship, it deepens our discomfort.

We cannot abolish the pain, nor are we meant to. It has a purpose.

The pain reminds us of how our greatest sorrow proves our capacity to love intently and intensely. It shows us how we crave the acceptance of others and their ability to reflect back what we most desire—security, connection, and approval, the purest kind of love.

Loss teaches how we view our place in the world and where we desire to reside in it. When we are forced to look in the dark rooms of ourselves, we are also given a glimpse of windows that beautifully illuminate how each sunset is followed by a sunrise that promises hope and a new way of living.

We see how our past choices have led us to where we are, and we are given the option to change them. Our relationships are altered when we are ready, and our sense of self becomes clearer.

We have perspective that we would not have gained without having experienced the loss of something so important to us, whether a person, an opportunity, or a dream. Each loss teaches us to discover a truth in ourselves that we would not have seen without it.

Loss is never easy, but it always comes with reward. I am exceptionally grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to grow. However, in my humanness, I’m still learning what I set out to know…

I don’t want to just say I am grateful, I want to fully feel it. I am whole without more, just as I am.

And I am on my way.

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