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  • Writer's pictureMairin Smit

The Other Most Powerful Force In The Universe

It’s terrible and backbreaking. It’s knee-shaking and gut-wrenching. It’s terrifying and devastating. And when it hits you, you have a choice.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Khalil Gibran

Five years ago, I lost my mother-in-law.

She died suddenly, nearly two weeks after we found out she was sick.

Then a year and a half ago, I lost my grandmother.

My last living grandparent and the one I was closest to. She was one of my earliest influences on faith and spirituality. Always going deep and asking big questions – encouraging me on my own journey.

She died suddenly too. A month and a half after we found out she was sick.

I had the privilege of being with them both as they passed.

My mother-in-law in the actual moment it happened. And my grandmother in a moment when she was between worlds – that’s the best way I can describe it. As she was in the process of transitioning out of this life.

Both where powerful moments. Ones that combined fear with sadness and shock, but also peace and acceptance.

But even more powerful than those moments was what came after. In the months and years that followed.

Because in their wake, a force came into my life so transformative, so earth-shaking, it reshaped my entire life.


Because when you see the fragility of life up close. Hear what matters to people as they pass. Feel those moments when life is so potent and overwhelming – you never forget it.

It’s life-changing in the truest sense.

It ushers in a flood of memories, feelings and beliefs you’ve kept deep down your whole life – some wonderful, some truly terrible – and mixes them into a giant soup you’re served at whiplash speed, splashing it all over you. Washing you in a wave of the most potent experiences of your life.

It’s terrible and backbreaking. It’s knee-shaking and gut-wrenching. It’s terrifying and devastating.

And when it hits you, you have a choice.

You can fight it with all you have. And it’ll truly take all you have.

Or you can let it rock you.

Let it overtake you. Fall to your knees (sometimes literally) and weep from the depths of your soul. Watch all the memories float by and feel all the feelings you’ve resisted your whole life.

And do this over and over again. It’s terrible, heart-breaking work.

So why do it? Why choose this path?

Because on the other side is a gift.

Because grief is the most powerful force in the universe – other than love.

And by letting yourself be overcome by it. By feeling all the pain, hurt and loss it brings up, you realize it doesn’t kill you.

You can feel all those things – and survive.

And that increases your capacity for love.

For yourself, others and the world.

Because you’re no longer afraid to sit with discomfort. You can do that and survive.

You’re no longer afraid to hear other people’s pain. You can hold space for that and survive.

You’re no longer afraid of change. Because grief makes clear what’s important in life.

It shows you your heart – who you truly are, what you truly believe and what you want to do in the world.

And you’re willing to clear out anything that doesn’t align with that.

That’s the gift.

It changes you and changes your life. It makes you stronger and brings you closer to yourself.

That’s my experience of grief. And it’s the one Leah Nielsen talks about in her episode.

And with our world right now experiencing collective grief – of what COVID-19 has taken from us, the pain caused by centuries of racial oppression, the fact that things will never go back to “normal” – we’re offered an opportunity.

An opportunity to sit with this grief. And let it change us.

To let it wash over us. Bring us back to what’s important. Back to ourselves. And expand our capacity for love.

May we all take it.


What’s your experience of grief? How's it changed you?

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