The Nature of Suffering

The Nature of Suffering

Michael Jackson’s surprising death reminded me, as death does, that life is short so we need to make the most of it. He certainly did! Wasn’t it amazing to see all those clips of his life and to see his spirit infused into his work and his art with as much of his heart as talent? Yes, Michael had some things that haunted him. We all do. In this newsletter I will share a paper I wrote a year after the death of my husband in 1998. He died from lung cancer. It was a very difficult and painful time but also a time that brought the meaning of my life into greater focus.

The Nature of Suffering

I have experienced suffering as have most people, so it is only from my experience and nature that I can describe and relate to it. When I talk about it with my daughter or friends, I am even more aware how personal and unique it is. There are aspects of it, though, that are trans personal, like archetypes, a common human experience. Coming upon the completion of the first year of my husband’s death seems a time to reflect on this quality of humanness with some hope that there is purpose and meaning to it as there is to most emotion.

In our Christmas letter this year I reflected that it seemed pain and suffering did prepare us and allowed us to be willing to let go of Chuck, even though our hearts were still hanging on. Suffering can be on so many levels but mostly it means to me that I am disconnected from the nature of my soul. My first thoughts about it were that it meant losing someone you love . . . like my true love . . . or losing a special friend, or job, or thing that can’t be replaced. It seemed to be about what we are attached to. Then, I thought about suffering with Chuck and my daughter at times . . . hurting with their hurts physically and emotionally. I thought about my physical pains and health challenges that require attention at times and suffering. Suffering with loneliness, worry, defeat, sadness, and weariness. Suffering from an emptiness at times that could seemingly engulf me and then suffering because it doesn’t and I am still here to face this life that brings suffering.

I have worked with my dreams for over ten years and this past year my Jungian therapist said something that especially caught my attention. He reflected that the dream life often connects with the numinous. It is that glimpse into our soul that provides the perspective of what we are cut off from. I think that is what brings suffering . . . being cut off consciously from our soul. The other side of that is union with our soul is where we find meaning and joy. Union with our soul is what love seems to reflect. Relationships often allow us to experience a connection to the Self or our soul. We may project it on to the person of our affection and say they bring us love but really it is the relationship that awakens love in us. The dreams and goals we pursue, I have come to believe, are our soul calling us deeper and more intimately into our whole Self. These dreams and goals bring us into roles that foster our contact with more sides of our self and realization of our soul’s expression. A good example is my mother-daughter relationship. It brings me into the mother archetype and the capacity to experience love that only Mothers can know. But, it also touches a place in the numinous that reflects the nature of creation. I have experienced it through my body during pregnancy and in bringing forth of life. I continue to experience more aspects of motherhood as my nurturing supports my child’s growth and development. I appreciate that this archetypal role serves to heighten an awareness of a mystery and wonder that is greater and more meaningful than myself.

Suffering is not being one with this mystery and feeling the absence and loss of its presence and potential. I have felt this mystery in my relationships but have suffered when I have lost them. I have felt suffering with my body, with physical pain, with loss of vitality and disease. For me, however, it is the suffering that continues to motivate me to search for the meaning that exists even in the pain. My soul is not satisfied with the state of suffering, I must seek meaning or greater purpose in the feelings and somehow I know and have experienced the transformation that comes through the not denying and even accepting the state of suffering. As this capacity for acceptance grows there is room for forgiveness, compassion, humility, and a growing ability to receive from others and from God. It seems a paradox that with acknowledgement, experience and acceptance of most feelings there is then the release from their hold and an ability to move on in the process we call Life.

I have extensive professional and personal experience in death and dying so feel free to contact me if you need support in this area. Michael Jackson’s death, like the death of a loved one, may trigger feelings of past losses. Support is available so reach out.

Childs Art
A picture my daughter drew of herself at 6 years old, one year after her father’s death.

This entry was posted in Consciousnes, Depression, Newsletter, Spirituality, Suffering and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.