Today there is a memorial service being held in Melbourne for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 tragedy. A day of mourning. Flags are flying at half mast here today and as I write these words, the ABC is playing In the Arms of The Angel by Sarah McLachlan.
I wondered while I listened to her haunting lyrics if there were other people just like me in that moment feeling the sad emotions that song brought up in my throat and heart as I imagined the horrendous pain of all the families and friends of the victims of this tragedy. I was no doubt not alone with my feelings. I thought about the contrast of that harsh reality compared to mine and felt grateful and lucky. I was not on that plane. I am still alive. But it could have been otherwise. It could have happened to any of us that day.
So, what do we do with these overwhelming feelings? I stood in the kitchen and cried for a minute. For the families. With the families. When I stopped crying, I thought, that had I not been alone, I would have held back my tears. There are people who don't understand why you would feel so sad about lives that have nothing to do with yours. I am not one of those people. I do feel the anguish of strangers all the time. So, even though I allowed this sadness to flow out of me, when I was finished, I felt as though my short spurt of grief was insufficient. My day would go on and my life, not directly affected by loss, would move forward grief-free for the most part.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that we are all affected by these lost lives. Everytime something like this happens, we are changed. The only difference between a direct association with a lost life and those of us who did not know them is the scale of grief we feel. Or, allow ourselves to feel. When I stopped crying in my kitchen, I was listening to all the voices in my head that were telling me to stop. And I did. I listened to those voices, grabbed a tissue, took a couple of deep breaths and told myself to buck up. However, I could have ignored the voices and just kept crying until I had no more tears to cry. Instead, those uncried tears will be pushed back into my heart lying in wait for the next inevitable tragedy.
I have held back a lot of tears in my life. There is a fear of losing control associated with just letting sadness rip. The truth is, that the few times I have actually let myself really sob with abandon, it does end eventually and once all the tears are spilled, and the tightness in your chest starts to release, some of the sadness drifts away too.
So, my wish for all of the people who lost precious loved ones on that flight, is the ability to sob with abandon. Let it all go until you cannot summon another tear. Do it as many times as it takes to let some of your grief go and don't listen to those voices that tell you to buck up or suck it up or be strong. Your grief is your gift to those lost lives.
Make it count.
I need some distraction
Or a beautiful release
Memories seep from my veins
Let me be empty
Oh and weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight
- Sarah McLachlan, In the Arms of The Angel