Grief Into Action


"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." ~Rumi

I stumbled across this quote today and had a particularly visceral reaction. Some thing in my chest opened up and little shocks of electricity spilled out from it. Recently, Leonard Cohen's “Anthem” had the same effect on me, in particular, the line “there is a crack in everything / that's how the light gets in”. On the face, these are simple phrases and yet what lies beneath the surface is anything but.

For me, The Light is the thing which brings some sense of peace, but also that which allows us to transform pain and grief into action. One of the things I strive for and struggle with on a daily basis is how to do this, or more pointedly, how to get to the point where I am able to do so.

When Candice Lightner's 13 year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver, she formed MADD. When Judy Shephard's son Matthew was brutally murdered, she became an outspoken activist for the LGBT community. And no matter what you think of how the anti-war movement coalesced around and perhaps swept up Cindy Sheehan, I don't think anyone can argue that she poured her life and passion into the movement against the Iraq War after her son was killed in action. These are some of the most obvious examples, but there are so many more of them; mothers whose personal tragedy has come to serve a larger purpose.

Let me be clear; I do not think that such endeavors cure the pain or the wash away the grief. At the same time, each one of these women has found a way to move forward in a way that honors their children. I cannot shake the feeling that in some way I should be doing the same.

I am constantly assessing myself in relation to one or another version of the Stages of Grief and for the most part, I seem stuck at anger. What is deceptive about anger, perhaps more so than other base emotions, is how easily you can find unrelated things to focus it upon. We live in a world chock-full of things to get enraged about and people to be furious with. There is comfort and safety in locating all of this anger outside of myself, but it does nothing to move me forward or open me up to receive The Light.

My husband Jay frequently accuses me of “vibing angry” and while I immediately (and usually tersely) disagree, deep down I know that he's right. When I found myself in the hospital this winter with raging blood pressure, I had to face the toll that all this anger is taking on my body. I already know how physically devastating internalized anger can be and I have made a point for many years to fight against the family tradition of shoving it down into my belly to fester. However, this free-floating rage I've become accustomed to is perhaps no better.

What I can't quite figure out is how to get beyond the anger at least enough that I can use it. To face it head-on would be incredibly destructive. To unleash it upon myself, the people around me or the world at large would be dangerous and unwise. And THAT, my friend is where I'm stuck.

Rumi says "The wound is the place where the Light enters you." and yet, my wound is scabbed with rage. Rip it off and risk bleeding out. Worry it too much and impede the process of healing. Some part of me refuses to let go of the anger because deep down, I believe it can empower me to do things I haven't the strength to do otherwise. At the same time I want The Light. I want just enough peace to move forward wherever forward chooses to take me.

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2 Responses to Grief Into Action

  1. Miss Bliss says:

    Long term anger is a strange beast.  I found that in letting it go it did not lose it's power to motivate or inform me, it only lost it's power to control and hurt me.  The "how" of letting it go was slow and involved prayer and meditation and a willingness that I didn't have until I had it.  Today it doesn't blind me the way it used to but it's not really gone either.  It simply exists inside me in a much less damaging fashion, not unlike the love I feel for certain people that I can't have in my life.  Sometimes I think these very powerful feelings simply exist and our challenge is to learn how to exist with them inside us without letting them consume us.

  2. dan says:

    the elders once asked their teacher, "why is it that god created the universe as a broken place?"  The teacher replied, "A vessel that is intact can contain its volume; one that is broken can contain everything."  Wholeness is to be celebrated, as is brokenness.  If we disparage either by demanding that it be the other… well, we know how that turns out…

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