It is one thing to be free; it is quite another to be liberated. Liberation implies that freedom was absent for a time, and there was bondage. Though it may seem like a dichotomy, grief has both the power to bind and the power to liberate from bondage.
Initially, when a person we love dies, we are in the bondage of grief and it feels as if we will never recover-never be the same again. And we are right; we never will be the same again. But maybe being the same again shouldn't be our goal. Having been confronted by death, we suddenly see LIFE in a totally different way than we had ever considered it before. Gradually, we begin to realize how we are different, and it is in those differences that we can find liberation and new freedoms.
Many of the things we used to think were important are now irrelevant. Previous goals and opportunities are now limp, meaningless, empty and discarded. But as we lose interest in many of the things that formerly seemed so life-enhancing, we discover new values and priorities.
At last we are liberated from the bondage of competition. If we were formerly obsessed with the fastest, the most expensive, the biggest, the newest, the most beautiful, the most powerful, we now know how empty and futile those victories can be. In our "other lives," we believed we had to belong to the right organizations, attend the right schools, live in the right neighborhoods, work in the right jobs, wear the right clothes, have the right opinions. Now, some of the things that were "right" are wrong, and some just simply don't matter anymore. Grief has liberated us from those masters.
We have a new freedom to challenge old ideas and goals, to attempt new ventures, to confront old relationships, to develop and explore latent skills and talents. No longer are we burdened and shackled by "should" and "ought."
We have the freedom to be wrong. While we are no longer "right" as often as we used to be, when we are right, we're more certain and less abusive about it.
We have been liberated from inhibition and self-consciousness. The strength born of our pain has given us the courage to speak out when before we might have been silent. We no longer fear the criticism and judgment of others. Who can hurt us now? We have experienced the worst and survived. Sorrow has stripped away those fears. Now, we are more aware of the panorama of life and less concerned with our own little piece of it.
We have discovered the freedom to express our affection for others freely, even lavishly. We are acutely aware that there may be no more chances to say "Goodbye," or, "I love you," one more time.
We are free to develop a new acquaintance with our inner selves. Often we have a keener awareness of the "still, small voice" within. We hear our directions with more sensitivity and trust. We are more aligned with our spiritual connections and perhaps less impressed with "religion." We have learned to appreciate wisdom above knowledge.
We have the freedom to appreciate time in a new value system. Our experience has taught us to view time with a new fragility, because we know how easily and quickly it can seem to end.
We have the freedom to have an open mind. Previously, we may have made concrete and inviolate decisions about anything ranging from breakfast cereal to eternal destiny. Now, we are more cautious, ready to hear another point of view. Where we used to have all the answers, now we just have all the questions.
Finally, we have achieved a freedom from the fear of death. We can now look Death squarely in the eye and know that there is no more intimidation. No longer are we afraid. Death had one trump card, and now that it's been played, we stand in the victor's circle.
With liberation, we are free to live and work and advocate in memory of our absent loved ones for whatever time we remain here on Earth. And when it's our turn to be called away, we will leave behind an ongoing legacy of freedom for those we love who yet remain.
Yes, in liberation, there is peace.
Good Grief Resources (http://www.goodgriefresources.com) was conceived and founded by Andrea Gambill whose 17-year-old daughter died in 1976. Almost thirty years of experience in leading grief support gropus, writing, editing, and founding a national grief-support magazine has provided valuable insights into the unique needs of the bereaved and their caregivers and wide access to many excellent resources. The primary goal of Good Grief Resources is to connect the bereaved and their caregivers with as many bereavement support resources as possible in one, efficient and easy-to-use website directory.