A Hard Peace

August 23, 2012 § 53 Comments

I often refer to “peace.”  I say that peace is “always there.”

Sounds good and works so seamlessly when life’s ordinary ups and downs knock you sideways.  Stuck in traffic and late for an appointment?  No problem.  Just take a breath and feel the peace of acceptance.

But when you confront real loss, the kind that takes your breath away- a child dies, a parent disappears into dementia, a marriage unravels- what does it mean to say that you should seek the “peace that is always there”?  How exactly does that work?  What possible consolation could exist for such loss?

I don’t know the answer.  But this I believe.

If I can spread my arms wide and hold that terrible loss in my embrace, if I can stop all the avoiding, all the thinking, and just let that howling grief come in, I will feel for a moment nearly undone.  Standing on the edge of a terrible precipice.

But it will be there- in that horrific and unfiltered embrace of loss- that acceptance will come.  Not made up acceptance.  Not “all things work out for the best” kind of acceptance.  Not happiness, not even contentment.  And certainly not free of the loss and pain.  But free of all the resistance and all the pretend consolations.  Free to find and hold my strength again.   Free to go on.

It’s a hard kind of peace.  But when unspeakable loss comes crashing in, it’s the only kind I know.

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§ 53 Responses to A Hard Peace

  • sayohmmm says:

    These words just touched my heart. It really does. Thank you for writing your personal thoughts. It is very generous.

  • Julianna says:

    Hello, friend. It’s nice to be back amongst all these loving souls. I am so deeply happy for you and all that you’re doing with this blog…I can only imagine the shifts that are occurring in your inner world. Sending peace and a hug – Julianna

  • Finding this post was timely for me..in the middle of a howling grief but easier to find the peace with Buddhist practice than at times of similar loss earlier in life. x

  • brendamarroy says:

    Dear Tom, This is incredibly written and is filled with wisdom. Thank you for your beautiful words. I’ve shared on FB so many more can read these words.

  • […] Reblogged from only here only now: […]

  • Miss Rosen says:

    mmmmaybe its like: grief is real and its one of the realest things in the universe and we dont know how to negotiate it because it makes us feel powerless. so maybe we do things like talk about hard peace cause we are looking for a way out, instead of a way in, or through, or a way to be with grief simply as part of the cycle life.

    maybe there isnt an answer so much as there is simply an is, as in, if grief is what is happening, feel it in its completeness. i mean, i dig a lot of people dont want this, cause it’s brutal, but me, well, i have discovered that it is an energy that has power in ways i dont even have the slightest clue, only, if it exists, it is meant to be ..

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Your comments- as always- are rich and thoughtful.

      I have been thinking more about this post in the last several days. Maybe what makes the peace “hard” is what you say- we are still not fully open to it, still not yet fully in the embrace. As you say, still “looking for a way out, instead of a way in.”

      Energy from deeply felt, truly embraced emotion- even grief, maybe especially grief- does not sound wrong to me.

      Miss Rosen, hmmm.

      Tom

      • Miss Rosen says:

        just found a lil Rumi quote that i will use, thought you might enjoy it as well ::

        .. one day your pain will become your cure ..

        i’ve discovered this as of late. for every dark vibe, it is my responsibility to create light. it’s a new philosophy so it doesnt always take but, it leads me to something i’ve never had ..

        balance ~*~

      • Thomas Ross says:

        Rumi quote- endless wisdom in eight words. Thank you.

        I began this day- before dawn- standing before the forest- silence. Now strong coffee and a dialogue with you. A perfect beginning.

        Tom

  • Sounds like life to me…

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Grief like this does not come my way very often- lucky. But when it comes, this is the only way I know to weather the storm.

      Thanks, Vibeke, for your read and comment.

      Tom

  • Indeed..this ‘hard peace’ is the beginning of healing. Your account resonates thorough to the heart and soul……

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Kirsten,

      It’s difficult but I don’t know what else to do. Acceptance is the only way- although I find myself resisting still. A struggle.

      Thanks yet again for your thoughtful words.

      Tom

  • So very beautifully said. We all lose everything at some point; that is the nature of life. Finding our way to acceptance, dropping the resistance, takes an immense amount of grace, but it is the only way through, isn’t it?

  • DIRNDL SKIRT says:

    I am not sure that I consciously chose to embrace the loss and pain of having loved ones perish saving others at the WTC on 9/11. But I felt what I needed to feel, did what I needed to do, and know that I came out of it molecularly changed but in some ways a more caring and accepting person. Thank you for this post as a reminder.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Sharon,

      I’m sorry that you must bear that loss and pain.

      I do know that in the way that you take the time to read my writing and leave these replies, you are showing a generous and kind spirit and helping me to keep on. So maybe the terribleness is part of what has brought you to this place where you help and support other writers and artists in such a kind and meaningful way.

      Thank you.

      Tom

  • Cassie says:

    Loss is perhaps the greatest fear we have. Some would say death, but what is death if it isn’t loss? I am losing my mother to dementia every day and I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the sadness of what is happening to her. I also know that a day of deeper loss will come. Perhaps I will hold onto your words at that moment. Meanwhile, as imperfect as they are, those moments I have with the shell of the women who gave birth to me are all the more precious in the knowledge that eventually even those moments will be lost.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Cassie,

      Your mother is blessed to have you as her daughter- just as you feel blessed by her presence in your life. You give her a great gift with your attention and care. And you take away something precious as well, something that will always be yours- those memories, some of them painful to recall, but all of them real.

      I am so sorry that you must travel this difficult path. But you are strong and you are open to the pain and loss and you will make your way.

      I feel blessed to be connected with you.

      Tom

  • First off, many thanks to heather for the connection. Tom, this post is inspiring. I love your words “If I can spread my arms wide and hold that terrible loss in my embrace, if I can stop all the avoiding, all the thinking, and just let that howling grief come in, I will feel for a moment nearly undone. Standing on the edge of a terrible precipice.” … I think that way often. Yes, loss is like standing on the edge of cliff, looking down into horror, but keeping your heart open is key. You have to feel, you have to be completely broken… broken to pieces, in order to find peace and healing again. Thanks again for your meaningful words to me. I look forward to sharing our stories and connecting via writing in the future… Best,
    C

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Chantal,

      Thank you for leaving this thoughtful message.

      What you have written about grief and loss is so stunningly powerful. And you show great courage in sharing yourself in this vulnerable way.

      I am glad we are now connected.

      Tom

  • phlyfitmama says:

    Dearest Tom – what perfect timing. I was just speaking with a dear soul of a friend, who just suffered a terrible loss (see her blog: chantalandfam). I too had a horrible miscarriage a few years back and know that ache and panic and need/desire to fully drown in the sorrow of it all in order to move on. She is there now and I’m hoping to love her through it. She is writing through the pain. Thank you for this lovely peace, I mean piece. xo Heather

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Heather,

      I just went to Chantal’s blog, read her post, and left the best message that I could. More important, I know that she is blessed by your friendship and love.

      I think also of your struggles and the selfless way that you instinctively think of your friend’s grief and her needs.

      And all this makes me think of what I have gained in these past four months. Finding again a passion for my writing. Feeling part of a community of writers who are so generous, so open. Truly exceptional people, like you. I am blessed.

      Thank you.

      Tom

      • You both are wonderful. THANK YOU, Heather, for connecting me to Tom, as reading this post was what I needed today. And what Tom says is right– you are selfless in that you instinctively thought of me while reading this… you are such a good person, and I’m honored to call you my friend. xo

  • Anne says:

    Tom, every new day is an opportunity for healing, by embracing and allowing your pain to surface will help you to heal the deep wounds of your loss.
    May the blessings of love be upon you
    May its peace abide with you
    May its essence illuminate your heart
    Now and forever more . . . .
    – Sufi Blessing
    Namaste
    Anne

  • dadirri7 says:

    feeling the feelings, staying with it, the loss softens in to acceptance of the way life is …. a helpful post for me today as i reflect on the sale of my mother’s house and the ending of connections with my siblings who i never see … thank you tom 🙂

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Christine,

      Times of significant transition can undo us, I know. But our only constant is change so we need to find a way to navigate those transitions. I do believe that embracing the feelings of loss that you must be experiencing is the way.

      Thank you for being a constant, kind, and thoughtful reader. It’s a great gift you give me.

      Tom

  • Having had those kinds of losses, i can very much embrace your words and wisdom. Your words are so very true and powerful. Thanks for the reminder when I needed it the most.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Susan,

      Again, your generous support for my work- and the work of other writers- is like a beacon, a source of energy and inspiration. In your own writing, you are giving us all a gift. And as a faithful and insightful reader of others, you multiply that gift.

      Thank you.

      Tom

  • julienmatei says:

    That is great. I can really relate to this from past days experience.

    Tks Tom!

  • sharechair says:

    Powerful. I bookmarked it and I hope I remember to come back when I’m standing on that precipice.

  • mimijk says:

    It is so counter-intuitive to think of embracing sorrow as a way of healing. And yet, when there is so much pain, it can’t be ignored or rationalized away. In truth, it won’t ease until it is honored – as all feelings must be. And though there are some hurts that never leave – the loss of a parent, a marriage failing to thrive – they do find a place in your heart where they remain – safe and apart – taken out on occasion and re-felt – but perhaps not with the same intensity or duration…?

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Mimi,

      I like the phrase to “honor” the feelings and your thought that they “find a place in your heart.” The idea that grieving is a kind of process to wash away the pain is all wrong. My father died long ago. The sense of loss I still feel today is nothing like the feelings I had back then- but the sadness is still there.

      Thanks, Mimi. You are always a thoughtful and sensitive- and kind- reader.

      Tom

  • Rhonda V Magee says:

    Thanks again for these pearls, Thomas. With metta,

    Rhonda

  • Amazing how timely this post is for me. This past weekend, I felt my walls come crashing down after being strong and putting on the “brave face” for these past several months. Instead of pushing it all aside, I let the crash happen, felt every second of it happening…and made it through. As I continue to deal with the pain of the end of my marriage, I know more of these moments may come, and while I don’t look forward to those moments. I will embrace them as best I can…to get to the peace I search for. Thank you, Tom.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Laura,

      When my first marriage came undone, so did I. I didn’t understand then what I now now. I kept running away from the loss, trying somehow to put things back together when that wasn’t ever going to happen.

      You are in a different place. Strong. Possessing a clear sense of self. Already building that authentic life, a life that is yours, truly.

      And when you falter, you know to forgive yourself and just begin again. Moment to moment.

      When you suggest that my words can help you, even a bit, you give me a great gift. Thank you.

      Stay strong.

      Tom

      • Thanks for the kind and thoughtful reply, Tom. I had a great weekend and feel more confident that I’m on the right path in my healing. Keep those wonderful posts coming. Hope you’ve enjoyed your weekend. Here’s to a great week ahead!

  • Chris Mabon says:

    I love your statement “…if I can stop all the avoiding, all the thinking and just let that howling grief come in…” This is the plain, simple truth – we must let the pain in – wincing all the while – and accept it so that we may transmute it into peace. Simple, but not easy. A hard peace indeed.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Chris,

      “…let the pain in…”

      I really think that’s the only way.

      Your writing, I believe, reflects a strong and deep acceptance of your great loss. Your work and your example are inspiring.

      Thank you.

      Tom

  • A hard peace indeed, and so terrifying to confront when you’re in the midst of it and wondering whether you can/will make it out the other side. There’s a Turkish proverb that says “He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it.” Indeed….

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Lori,

      The Turkish proverb is much wisdom in few words. Thanks for sharing it.

      And thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my writing. I’m deeply grateful.

      Tom

  • jennlaurent (LiveThroughTheHeart) says:

    I can fully relate to what you have written here. When I left my marriage it took time for me to find the type of peace you talk about, but when I did it was the result of acceptance and a willingness to allow. It can be difficult but it is also the road toward healing.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Jennifer,

      Yes, the only road to healing- and back to a strong and centered way of being.

      We continue to walk parallel paths. Your writings- and your kind responses to my work- are a great support to me.

      Thank you.

      Tom

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