“Everything is temporary.” – Buddha

Often enough we are reminded that our life and all things associated with it are temporary. Some of these reminders are bittersweet, such as a child leaving home.

Others are shocking or painful, such as losing a job, a home, a relationship, or a loved-one. While no one is immune to the reality that nothing is permanent, we feel vulnerable nonetheless.

My friend Jesse is losing his brother to an inoperable brain tumor. In his words:

My brother is 56. A little over a month ago he was running 3-5 miles a day, working out every morning for two hours, never eating sugar or doing anything he perceived to be unhealthy. I expected him to be in my life forever.

After his diagnosis, the doctors were talking about “days, weeks or months to live.” I went from expecting him to live for thirty-plus years, to hoping he will live for two years. Now, I’m hoping for three months…or that miracle.

No words can describe what it must be like to face this circumstance. Yet, sooner or later, we all must face something similar. How are we to proceed?

A hospice worker once told me:

The most important thing is to open your heart. I know that is hard to do because circumstances can be so painful, but it’s important during times of grief and loss. When in crisis we tend to close our heart and mentally focus on what we have to do, avoiding the pain we feel inside.

Opening our heart gives us the opportunity to connect more deeply with others, to heal and realize that on a spiritual level everything is intended for our good.

I took issue with this last point. Losing a job is one thing; when one door closes, another one opens. Losing my last job was the best thing that ever happened to me, even though I couldn’t have known it at the time. But how can losing a loved one, especially suddenly, ever be considered “intended for my good?”

Yet the compassionate hospice worker continued:

There are stages to healing from loss. Everyone moves through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance at his or her own pace.

During times of personal crisis, we need to slow things down and practice self-awareness, moving our attention from our mind to our heart. Once we’re there, we can ask ourselves: Why has this come into my life?

For some, it may take years to reach acceptance of life’s uncompromising terms. No matter where we’re at in our process of healing, we all need acknowledgment that our pain is real – that facing life under such circumstances feels like it requires so much more than we have to give.

Witness someone where they are and they will move forward at their own pace.