On Sorrow

“The best we could hope for would be insights that left us feeling common, ordinary, everyday unhappiness.” – Sigmund Freud

Side note: The above photo is from the tea I had this afternoon. Interesting that it fell into the theme of this blog.

Western societies generally treat sorrow as if it isn’t an acceptable state of being. We do everything we can in order to keep sadness away. Take prescribed medication. Pretend. Shove the pain down deep inside. Keep moving. Self medicate. Get into relationships. Buy things. Over eat. Ignore. Seems we will do anything in order to keep the sadness at bay. “The pursuit of happiness” is even alluded to in the Constitution. The way we live pretty much demands we are constantly striving for complete happiness.

Eastern philosophies have a much different view concerning the sorrow in life. 

Buddhism has Four Noble Truths. The first being: Dukkha. The truth of suffering. Suffering exists. This statement is neither optimistic or pessimistic. It is simply reality. I have done in depth reading on the Noble Truths over the years and recently the desire to understand myself, and my state of existence, has prompted a return to these writings. 

I was having a conversation with someone who is relatively new in my life and he stated that my sorrow was a choice. As if I could just set it aside and not find myself turning back to pick it up again. My reaction was silence. I was at a loss for words.  Then the saying ‘to be human is to suffer’ appeared in my thoughts and I decided to revisit a few old books. I know there are the truths in Buddhism and there is also the Eightfold Path to enlightenment – nirvana to help us rise above the suffering. :

The Second Noble Truth is: Suffering arises from attachment – Samudaya. Which is related to the concept of Tahna, craving. When we desire a thing we set ourselves up to suffer when the craving is not satisfied. Or, it is satisfied, but only briefly. The latter is true of everything. This being a fact means we will always be in a state of suffering. Even when things are good, somewhere inside, we know they won’t always last. There will be an end. And, then the sadness.

When applying this to my personal existence I can see that it makes sense. One of my attachments is to my daughter. I desire my daughter’s presence on earth. This desire will never be met. The time I had with her is over. Moments are fleeting and have no permanency. 

Nirodha. The Third Noble Truth. Suffering ceases when attachment ceases. The attachment to my daughter will not disappear until I, myself, have died. I will never not crave the presence of my child. Therefore, my sorrow will never go away.

I guess I am a failure at Buddhism and living by the Noble Truths. 

I am not as wise as the people who have studied this belief system for years. I don’t pretend to be. I am not claiming to know whether one can actually rise above all that causes sorrow and ultimately reach Nirvana. I imagine some can.  I just don’t think I can. 

Is it because to no longer feel sorrow concerning the loss of my child somehow feels like a betrayal to her life and the love I have for her? Probably. Do I measure how much I love her by how sad I am by her absence? Undoubtedly. I bet it is a combination of those two things and so many more that I am not cognizant of. 

Maybe existing in suffering isn’t so bad. Is the secret to life knowing we must live in the moment and that every moment is impermanent. That there is suffering during and after all things? Accepting that suffering is inevitable in every life? That isn’t to say that there are not moments of joy. There are. But they end. Living in the moment seems the best way to exist. But, we are human and most of us will not transcend the desires and attachments that we have. 

Again, this isn’t pessimistic. It is just reality. And, there are lessons we can learn from the suffering we experience. Wisdom is gained.

We can gain a healthy respect for reality when we have an acceptance of what limitations exist. When we know the boundaries of reality we will not set ourselves up for dashed hopes in attaining a certain outcome. 

Compassion is the awareness of suffering in others and the desire to relieve it. I’ve said this so many times before: people hurting intensely are generally the most compassionate and empathetic. 

Our resilience is built up and we are able to handle the next painful circumstance that arrives. I talked about this the other night when I shared my belief that surviving childhood sexual abuse made me know I had the strength to endure losing Becca. 

The moments we are joyful will mean more to us when we know they will, someday, be a memory. We will give our full attention to what is in front of us because we know it will not last. 

When we finally accept that grief and sorrow are a necessary part of life we will lessen our own suffering. Guilt and shame won’t add to our burdens because we can not seem to attain complete happiness. We will learn we are not alone is our suffering because we all suffer. 

Sorrow and joy seem to be at the opposite ends of a scale of emotions in their definitions. Aren’t they really just two sides of the same coin? Inexplicably combined in the same moment even though they seem opposed. 

There is so much more I need to untangle in the concept of life is suffering and suffering is a necessity. I know I have not even scratched the surface of what I must learn in order to understand my existence. As I said before . . . I write in order to understand myself. My motivations. My life. 

I know that I will always suffer in relation to the loss of my child. That is an attachment I will never be able to break. I am fairly certain I will never be able to walk the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. I will continue to strive to live a life of happiness, however. I think I need to change what I envision happiness to be so I can actually attain it. As fleeting as it seems to be. 

As far as the person who told me that sorrow is what I choose . . . I will give him a pass as he has never lost a child. A sorrow, I think, that is impossible to overcome, completely.

Author: Diane Neas

I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. I find writing, and painting, heal me. Sharing my story of loss and healing lightens what I carry. And, hopefully, my words help another along the way.

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