By Sharka Waite
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” – Norman Cousins
It’s interesting how tragedies, losses, and hardships we experience in our lives have a way to either make us bitter, hardened and negative, or make us softer, more patient and understanding, opening our heart to others and to life. Although I am not a proponent of putting on rose colored glasses and practicing comparative suffering, always deciding my pain is not worth the time and mention because someone else is going through worse, at the same time my hope is for no one to suffer so much they become disillusioned to the point to have nothing positive to say about life and the world at large. Therefore, I believe in an honest grieving process, no matter how long it takes, to sort through feelings, emotions of guilt or anger, and find a new ray of hope and light.
When I first began writing After the Sunset, it was to let my creativity dance its song, my poetry spill like fine wine onto the paper decorated by my nature photography, where pain and beauty would collide, making an intricate tapestry of a life journey. I tried to shine light onto my dark times and warm my heart. To remember where I came from and remind myself where I am headed. I rewrote it a few times to find the perfect blend of loss and hope. I had no idea what a cathartic process this would turn out to be, realizing the tendencies we, as feeling hearts, have.
As I wrote the “Remember to Live While Grieving Your Grief” chapter, I stumbled upon a Norman Cousins quote: “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” I began to weep. For finally I realized at that moment I allowed myself to die along with my dad dying. I never learned how to properly grieve and resolve my emotional issues, regrets, guilt and attachments. All of a sudden it struck me, I wasn’t living, I was a dead woman walking. I had no coping skills, I had no direction, no desire to live, I was devastated! Yet, on the outside, I always pretended I was fine and happy and cheerful. So, when I saw the quote, I broke down for all the wasted years, for all the small deaths within.
Needless to say, I had to make many changes in the way I viewed everything. With one small step after another, I reconciled my feelings by speaking to my dad in my thoughts as if he could hear me. For the first time I allowed myself to hear my voice, my pain. I had to! I couldn’t continue to be dead while alive! Death was too heavy to carry as life was becoming too thin to live.
My dad was a wise man, who could be intimidating with the knowledge he acquired about a lot of things throughout his own life, yet, it seemed as if he was patiently listening to my worries at last. Perhaps he always heard my worries, even when they remained unspoken. Perhaps it was me who doubted myself all along. Perhaps that was the main reason for the sorrow and slow dying inside, not just dad’s passing but the unsaid feelings we’ll never get back.
On one New Year’s Day, while walking on the nearby beach, I had an idea to fuse my photography with my poetry, to create something artistic. However, it turned out to be much more than an artistic endeavor. It turned out to be a way of life, a discovery, overcoming, healing and a heart opening.
Say your “Love Yous” to those in your life while you have them!
Peace & Joy,