My dear friend of 20-something years lost her son earlier this month. A senseless, tragic accident. A 19-year-old’s death is always tragic, of course. But this death, likely because of its ‘nearness,’ has felt devastating, a rug pulled out, prompting a dark night of the soul.
Eckhart Tolle wrote that the dark night of the soul could be seen/felt as “a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness…. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature
death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.”
In the wake of my friend’s sons’ death, I reflected on how I would feel if my only child (also a son) died. I began to empathize deeply with my friends’ loss. The shock was followed by a sense of meaninglessness – what, then, is life all about?
A week of feeling out of sorts, angry, devastated. To a couple of close friends, I was able to admit, “I don’t give a crap about anything.”
And for several days, I allowed myself those feelings. I wasn’t happy about those feelings. I wasn’t my more-normal ‘perky’ self. I slept a lot. I ate too much sugar (trail mix with M&Ms has been my go-to comfort food). My whole body ached. Even my cheery, abundantly blooming narcissus, with their intoxicating fragrance, barely created a ripple of enthusiasm.
In all honesty, I thought this was heading into a depression – an ugly one. After all these years, and all these episodes, I recognize the signs.
But I no longer want to feel like such a victim of my circumstances, my darker feelings. I want to be used by God for better things. This time, I refused to wallow in my sadness and despair. (Not that this was easy, mind you! A real war had to be waged against self-pity)
Am I completely through? No way. Almost every day, there are little disappointments that can knock me off course. They may not be as debilitating, but they can send me down the tubes, nonetheless. I’ve got to establish even stronger habits to keep winning this war. But, here are some things I can share that have lifted the dark cloud cover:
What Works When Life Pulls the Rug Out
- Accepting exactly where you are – sad, frustrated, shocked, in despair
- Lots of prayer – in whatever way you choose
- Lots of writing – including letters to God, expressing displeasure, anger, frustration
- Way more than usual reaching out and asking for help, someone to talk with, someone who will walk with you through the depths
- Finding things to be grateful for…and sometimes, the simpler, the better – like fragrant narcissus!
Is a dark night of the soul at your doorstep? Or the hints of one? I encourage you to reach out…let someone love you as it feels like your heart is breaking. It really is good for the soul.