I wish there was a roadmap in my Afterloss. I wish I knew what I needed to do when my world first imploded. It would have been nice to know the pain was going to last for a certain amount of time and then it would be okay.

Benjamin May 7 Letting go.From the first moment to this moment I have had unbearable moments. In the initial impact of loss there were unbearable days, weeks, months… I just wanted the pain to end. The unbearable had sharp edges that stabbed me with every movement. No matter what I did, no matter where I went, the unbearable pain went with me.

There is a psychological experiment called “learned helplessness.” They put a rat in a cage and everything he or she did they were given a shock. Any door they went through, any motion they made, even the floor gave off a shock. There was nothing this rat could do that he or she was not shocked. Ultimately, the rat simply would lie down on the electric grill. The unbearable just became too much to bear.

When I first encountered the concept of learned helpless I was undone by two things. First, why do we as humans do such things to others? And second, why as a human is this being done to me?

Benjamin May 7 Loss hurtsI know what it is like to have nowhere to escape the pain. I know minor relief is really no relief at all. There have been many moments the unbearable left me lying immobilized in the futility of motion. I knew well what my fellow creature, the rat, was going through. We were kindred spirits in a senseless experiment.

It was there, many years ago, that I began to observe my cage, my pain, and the unbearable. I watched as I awoke in the morning more exhausted than when I collapsed at night. I studied my lethargic motions, the perpetual draining of meaning, the hollowness of hope to think that I could do something to stop the pain, the numbing pain of feeling everything hurt in a state of nothingness.

There are still days where the hardest action I take in a day is lifting my head off the pillow. But today is nothing like the first days and the subsequent days when loss left me helpless and life left it unbearable. In those first days, it took every ounce of my being to just be.

Benjamin May 7 MysticalAnd as I laid my learned helplessness, I found what I could and couldn’t do to bare the unbearable. The only thing I could do came to me. I had to let go into the helplessness and lean into unbearable with the ounce of my being that was still left.

Letting go is about embracing as much as it is about releasing. When people would say to me, “Let it go,” I thought that meant drop it, move it, don’t carry it anymore, get over it. Letting go means none of those things.

Letting go is not about letting go “of.” Letting go is about letting go “into.” I had to stop resisting the pain and find a way of letting go into the unbearable.

Loss hurts. And it hurts in so many ways. At the beginning it hurt in every way. There was no place or time I was not submerged into the depths of my sorrow. Even when I was happy there was still a silhouette of sorrow that shadowed me. I would laugh with a friend and the echo of our laughter secretly reverberated in the hollow chambers of my heart. They would see a smile on my face. I would see my reflection in the inescapable emptiness that haunted me. My laughter, my life, was in constant juxtapositionto my loss.

Benjamin May 7 Not absence of painThe unbearable nature of loss was at times just too much to bear. And I learned that it was okay not the bear it. A friend once said, “If you’re in an intolerable situation, don’t tolerate it.” It was in those intolerable situations of my unbearable loss where I needed to let go into all that was lost to find what was there to be found.

I stopped trying to placate the pain as if I was a hostage being tortured and if I just said the right thing they would stop hurting me. I read an article about a man who was tortured in South America. He said that there came a time when the pain was so great something remarkable happened. He became overwhelmed in peace. And he looked at his captors feeling nothing but unconditional love.

I was blown away by his experience. He leaned into his pain and let go of resistance and let go into something far greater. It was his story that inspired me to let go of everything into the only thing – into love.

I needed a lot of alone time to let go into my pain and find a way through it to love. I couldn’t handle any spectators to my sorrow. The show of the day would finally end and I could finally enter the unbearable with that ounce of being left from the day’s depletion.

Benjamin May 7 unbearable lossI didn’t want to be like the rat in the cage in learned helplessness anymore. I wanted to be like the man that leaned into his torture and let go into love. In the letting go of all resistance and letting go into all that was, I discovered what is, and especially what is possible.

The unbearable became minutely bearable. The pain did not go away. I have no illusion hat the pain will ever go away. However, my exhaustion became bearable. My emptiness became bearable. And I was able to let go into the unbearable loss and find it was possible to live in the midst of great loss. In so doing, even love became bearable.

Healing is not magical. Healing is mystical. I don’t know how I was able to bear the unbearable. There is no magic formula that guarantees a painless remedy to grief. It is just the opposite. Letting go into the mystical, the unknown, the pathless road is the only way I know how to hurt and heal.

Healing is not the absence of pain. Healing for me is being able to bear the unbearable, being able to lift my head off the pillow in the morning and lean into a life silhouetted in sorrow, and even in the midst of great loss, being able to be even greater love.



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