A friend once reminded me to “hold on loosely.” At the time, I was facing a great loss and was conflicted about holding on to what I was losing or letting it go.
I wanted to be finished with the pain and sadness of the impending loss. At the same time, I wanted to hold onto what had once been.
My friend used his hands to demonstrate how to hold on loosely—palms facing up and open, fingers spread just a bit apart. A colander came to mind—something that can both hold on and let go.
That image of his open hands (and the colander) has come back to me at other times of loss, and it occurred to me the other day as I thought of the death of my mother and the end of my work career.
Every day, I am reminded of both losses, and I try to be present to my grief when those reminders pop up.
My usual way of dealing with difficult emotions, though, is to stuff down my feelings and deny or delay the pain and sadness, even though I know it is healthier to allow the feelings of sadness and desolation to surface in their own time and to process them as they appear. Old habits are difficult to change, though, and this one is an ongoing challenge for me.
With every loss, we choose what we want to hold on to and what we want to let go. I am reminded of one of the gates of grief: Everything we love we will lose. Remembering this truth helps me hold onto the gift of what has been and let go of what falls through my open fingers.