Loss, suffering, and gratitude

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Recently, someone I knew took her own life.

She was a talented artiste who endured much trauma and pain throughout her life with great courage. She now rests in peace. Despite not being a close friend or family member, her death hit me at a very core level. I think the reason it shook me as much as it did is because loss and suffering, both personal and vicarious, are constant reminders that our bodily lives are ephemeral.

Unsurprisingly it’s particularly painful to think of loss or suffering in the context of our loved ones.

The tragic death of a beloved family member over a decade ago, alongside some past experiences with political violence, has me constantly fearing for the safety of my immediate loved ones. This fear is a permanent source of anxiety for me. Like an ever-present hum of white noise in the background, it’s always there no matter how hard I try to ignore it or rationalize it away. It can be quite crippling at times and also places a major roadblock to life fulfillment. It can take on all kinds of crazy shapes and forms. For instance, I get morbidly afraid of potential societal violence and collapse, despite the fact that I live in friggin’ Minneapolis, probably one of the safest cities in the world today. I get worried when Sus and Daya come home late from an outing, or if Sus has to go anywhere at evening or night alone. It’s an irrational fear, stemming from very real experiences of loss and suffering.

In other words, it’s a giant pain in the ass.

Now whenever this happens, I remind myself that we are all connected through spirit, and that the love we share will last forever, even beyond the inevitability of death. It’s a metaphysical philosophical framework that works for me.

All well and good…

But along with that spiritual grounding (or hokey mumbo jumbo, depending on your sensibilities), I feel I need a life practice that roots it in the here and now.

Which is why I’ve taken to practicing gratitude on a daily basis via simple journaling. Whenever I’ve done this in the past in some way or the other, it has really helped. This time around, I’d like to keep it going as a regular life habit to help ward off stress and anxiety.

On some days my gratitude journal might have no more than a sentence, even a very snarky one, but nonetheless a sentence describing something I truly am grateful for. On other days there might be a bit more. Regardless, they will always be a reminder that as I journey through life with my beloveds, our feline bffs, and our larger transnational community of loved ones, I have a veritable fuck ton of stuff to be grateful for.

I cannot control all the good or bad things that might happen to me and my family, nor am I ever going to completely heal from the painful anxiety I have over their wellbeing.

But I can certainly be grateful that I have an amazing family to worry about.

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