A friend said to me ‘courage is all well and good when things are going well for you’.
I think I understand what he meant.
When you are facing failure or loss, when you feel that your world is falling apart on the outside and you are disintegrating on the inside, there is too much turmoil to gather strength. At times it takes all our strength to continue simply existing and there is nothing more. At times like this, courage belongs in a different world.
We all want to avoid pain but it finds us anyway. When we face loss or rejection from people we love, or due to mistakes we have made, we want to run from the pain we feel.
We can find some respite in hard work, in sensory pleasures, and chemically induced anaesthesia. This is of course offers only a temporary respite because the pain remains until it has been fully felt. We may spend many hours analysing what happened, what was the cause, how could it have been avoided, who is to blame. This can also be an attempt to avoid feeling pain.
How long that takes depends upon the severity of the meaning of the loss in your life. And how much you are willing and able to fully feel the pain.
It feels so horrible. For me, it feels like my insides are hollow, the area around my heart hurts and it takes all my energy simply to go on breathing. My focus is so short that I can only see five minutes ahead. And all the time I have to pretend. And go through the motions of working and parenting. I save my grief for when I am alone. And we are always alone in our grief. No one can reach down and take our pain away.
It makes uncomfortable reading I know but my purpose is to provide comfort by offering the knowledge that although we are alone in our pain it is also universal. A vital part of what it is to be alive. The hardest part of what it is to be alive. When we allow ourselves to fully feel our pain, it will eventually pass, and we will eventually emerge. And we will be different. How we emerge depends on the meaning we make of what has happened. If we see the world as unfair, ourselves as a victim, people as bad, we will continue our journey with fear. If we see the world as unfair, but that everybody suffers, and in that suffering and confusion there is beauty too, then we continue our journey with hope. When we have been to the darkest depths normal life can sparkle by comparison.
And this is when we continue our journey with courage.