Wednesday 19 March 2014

A continued quest for meaning in despair

“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

No, thank you,' he will think. 'Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.' "

From "Logotherapy in a Nutshell", an essay” 
― Viktor E. FranklMan's Search for Meaning

I am now onto my third reading of Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.  A jolly read it is not! But it is another book that allows me to retain some hope that there is meaning in life and maybe it's even helped retain my sanity a little.

 Frankl is a Holocaust survivor and went on to return to work as a psychiatrist. He lost everything but went on to live a rich and compassionate life.  Insightful doesn't nearly cover it. A totally amazing human being. A wonderful book.

Yesterday was a bad day you see.  Generally I fight hard to stay upright; to stay engaged with life to fight on for those I love and who love me - and maybe even a little for me too.  But yesterday the gloom won and I sympathized with the view that "nobody can really live again after loosing something as deeply precious as a child" - and what a child/young woman she was.  That dark view, that any kind of hope, contentment, or just even a tiny glimpse of happiness, just  isn't really possible after all of that.  I understand that - sometimes.

But I want to fight against it too.  It just can't be right.

But the gloom seems to rise up with it's roaring inferno of pain; flinging me back into the darkest despair of those early days.  How did this happen? where's she gone? Why her?  Where is the meaning in this?  I will never see her face again, feel her soft young skin, hold those beautiful slender hands.  Oh her hands. How I miss those hands. The hands I held night after night as I slept beside her in those last weeks.  Glancing back timidly I now realize the importance of those weeks; the magic; the wonder of loving somebody so entirely/ so completely that it absorbed every fiber in my body.

I have never done anything more worthwhile in my life; and never will.

I was/am so proud of my daughter.  The way she coped; the way she still wanted to protect me, her family and friends from the real pain that she must have been feeling.  She seemed to accept that we were ultimately totally helpless and couldn't help anymore.  All we could do was love her and that was the only bit that was so incredibly easy to do.

And now I'm aware of the necessity/wonder of love and kindness; but also it's limitations.  Nobody can take my pain away. I accept that  I can talk to all the therapists in the world; attend all the self help groups, talk to other bereaved parents, read and read, cry and cry....... anything, everything.  But the deep gnawing pain is here to stay; it isn't going anywhere.  And I recall the words: "The pain of the loss is equal to the depth of the pain". And I get it.

There's a huge benefit in seizing the personal responsibility and accepting that nobody can really help with the loss; but conversely that means you can rob them of the power to hurt too.  And this is for you my fellow bereaved - don't let words hurt you; you've suffered enough.   People often just don't know what to say; so all the wrong words come out. We have paper thin skin for now and life isn't really meant for skin this thin.  I believe passionately in the goodness of human beings - I've seen far too many examples to believe otherwise.  Words may be ill chosen; but look for the sentiment behind the words.  Look at the tears in their eyes and know that people do care - it's just none of us really have any control when it comes down to it.

And if there are no tears - well that this their problem.  It most certainly isn't yours.

Now is a hard time for me but I guess life will soften again as it has before.  I look back to Frankl “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  So I guess that this is now the challenge.  To live with the pain; but to ensure that there is meaning too.  That's what Chloe did and that's what I must too.

I guess a drive that helps me deal with the darker days is that need to turn the pain/the sadness into something more positive/some kind of inspiration - however small.   Chloe was far too precious for anything less. 

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