When my son Fred re-emerged into the light last May (you may want to check out this post: My Struggling Son’s Legacy), we received so many thoughtful expressions of condolences. As tradition goes, many of these messages took the form of “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Every time I heard the l-word, my chest instantaneously tightened and a wave of nausea would undulate from my throat and extend all the way down to my belly! I remember consciously taking a deep breath to appease this horrible feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I was sincerely grateful each and every time for the generous gesture, it’s just that my body did not agree.
What You Feel Is What You Think
Knowing and respecting the wisdom held in my emotional body, I got curious. I began to tune into this physical discomfort to hear its message. Eventually, I was able to identify the thought that triggered those emotions and feelings. The thought ran something like this: “I’ve lost a son. From now on, something will always be missing in my life. I will never be whole again.” Holy! It’s no wonder my chest tightened and I felt sick to my stomach! How can this morbid thought stream through my brain and NOT feel the sorrow hijack my body?
As always, I had a choice: allow this thought to invade my mind – maybe even colonize it with more equally somber thoughts – and feel horrible every time, or change it.
Well, you know me…
Thinking the Thought That Feels Good
Next thing I knew, a conversation between me and moi was unconsciously activated. Although the following summary might give the impression that it unfolded in less than five minutes, it actually took days before I was ready to accept my new thought as my predominant, life-giving, truth.
Old MC: It’s true. You did lose Fred. Everybody keeps saying it. He’s gone forever and there’s a chasm in your heart that will never be filled.
New MC: Well, that thought doesn’t feel good at all.
Old MC: But it’s true.
New MC: Lots of things are true but I can choose to think differently about them.
Old MC: Can you simply not accept your loss and learn to live with it like everyone else does?
New MC: What does ‘accept’ mean anyway? If accepting my loss means means accepting these awful sensations in my body every time I’m reminded of Fred’s departure, I don’t think this is my best or only option. If, on the other hand, accepting my loss implies that I will feel better, then I think that’s what I need and want to do.
Old MC: Do you actually believe you can make yourself feel good when you think about Fred?
New MC: Maybe. It’s definitely worth a try. If I change the way I think about ‘loss,’ I’ll automatically change the way I feel about it.
Old MC: How will you do that?
New MC (tentative): Let me give it a whirl. Fred is not lost, he’s in a different form. He’s no longer physical. He’s spirit. I now have a spirit son.
Old MC: Uhm, interesting way to reframe death…
New MC: This thought certainly feels better. Much better actually.
Old MC: Do you believe it?
New MC: Yup.
Old MC: Can you not come up with something more socially palatable than essentially saying your son is now a ghost and it’s okay? This is weird girl!
New MC (less tentative, more assertive): Why would I if this thought feels good to me? He IS a spiritual being, just like we all are, have been, and will be.
Old MC: What will people think?
New MC: Don’t care. I’m good. I’ve got my new thought: I did not lose a son. I have a spirit son. Period. I like that thought. The more I say it, the better I feel.
Self-Love Made Me Do It!
You may be questioning my pragmatic approach to mourning. That’s alright. So did I.
While I reflected on the difference between me and those who suffer from the loss of a loved one, or any other cause of suffering for that matter, I realized that I have a very low tolerance for physical and emotional pain. Am I a wuss? I don’t think so.
It occurred to me that refusing to tolerate the physical and emotional pain over which I have control is a clear reflection of something rather powerful: self-love. In other words, I realized, in a profound way, that I love ‘me’ enough to give myself permission to feel good NO MATTER WHAT. I believe I have the power and freedom to choose the thoughts that make me feel good. Now that I think of it, maybe feeling good is a responsibility. Heck, maybe it’s the essence of the human quest! Regardless, feeling good is my top priority because when I do, I do my best work, I’m healthy, I’m kind, I’m generous, I’m fun to be around, and, most importantly, I’m of better service to those around me.
This goes for everyone.
(On a personal level, this thought exercise has sparked quite the ah-ha moment. For the sake of brevity – not my forte… – I’ll be expanding on the meaning and ramifications of this insight in future posts. Be sure to sign up if you want to receive my latest musings.)
But before I go, a few words to my big boy….
Mon cher Fred, I can never thank you enough for the HUGE gifts of growth you’ve presented me with. Not only did your struggle acquaint me with unconditional love, your passage as well as your passing have given me the opportunity to affirm the value of self-love and have heightened my resolve to focus with everything I’ve got on my well-being, my happiness, and my contribution instead of focusing on having ‘lost’ you. In your honour, I commit to feeling good. Hopefully, in the process, I will inspire others to realize they, too, have the power, permission, and privilege to feel good no matter what. Merci bonhomme, je t’aime gros comme l’univers.