We Can Choose to Let Go, Stop Suffering, and Find Peace

Peaceful Woman

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve called it my “Epiphany Bubble,” and it might be hard to believe, but it’s my true experience.

I stood on the lawn of our city’s hospital. The sun was shining down on our group of grieving parents. My belly was big with my third child, but my heart was still heavy with grief from my second.

Jonathan. I’ve never personally known anyone whose entire life was surrounded by compassion and love, like every minute of his twelve-and-a-half hours in my arms.

Although the summer of 2000 was a long, painful journey through terminal pregnancy, Jonathan had blessed my life in countless ways. I just hadn’t yet understood that.

Our hospital had this gathering a couple times a year. Parents who grieved babies would come, enjoy some cookies and punch, and chat with other moms and dads who were coping with loss.  

At the end, we always did the same thing—write our baby’s name along with dates of birth and death on a white balloon.

As I wrote “Jonathan 9-21-2000 – 9-22-2000” on my balloon, I smiled a little just at the joy of writing his name. I gave my belly a gentle touch and said a little prayer for my next little boy.

Then I looked to my left. There were three women standing together, quite distraught in tears, comforting one another. I, of course, knew why they were crying, but I was curious.

I was curious about the dates. When I looked at their balloons, I saw dates reflecting years prior. Six, seven, eight years earlier. My heart sank. I wondered, “Do I have to be in that much pain years from now? Does this heartbreak never end?”

And that’s when it happened—my epiphany bubble. I suddenly felt as though I was in my own space, and that the world had ceased to spin. Everything outside of my bubble was blurry, and everyone seemed frozen, when I realized…

I have choice.

I stood for a few moments more, and the bubble vanished. But its effect on me did not. Something now stirred within me—a determination to really heal, let go, and be genuinely happy again.

At home I began to wonder about choosing how to feel about life and how to perceive all that I experience on my journey. I started to seek within.

Through journaling, praying, and meditating, I felt a shift. I sensed guidance. I glimpsed a bit of inner peace.

Some of my wonderings were a bit surprising, but I gave space to let them unfold. Rather than judge, I allowed them to come to me without logic. I also resisted the teachings from my childhood, which would have stopped them from showing me a new way to perceive Jonathan’s life.

I wondered, maybe Jonathan is a guardian angel. Perhaps he will protect and look after his big sister, Sydra, and his little brother who has yet to take his first breath.

I smiled a bit at imagining my sweet Jonathan, from some other place of being, guiding and loving his siblings.

I wondered, perhaps Jonathan was meant to leave this life at a very young age, and perhaps this could have happened in a variety of ways.

Would I choose for his life to be very short, spent in my arms, and surrounded by love and compassion? Or, would I choose to have more time with him, but risk something worse—have him be a child who I’ve heard horrifying stories about, children who are abducted and hurt?

I felt a bit of trust at realizing that I don’t know how it all works. Life, death, and all the days between and following are a mystery, really. Maybe his life was exactly how it was meant to be, or perhaps it might have been more tragic.

I wondered, could it be that Jonathan was my son for this short time to teach me?

I reflected on the months we spent together—when I learned he was terminal, my decision to carry him, the long nights, the quiet moments, the countless tears and prayers, the painful delivery, and the hours I had him in my arms looking into his beautiful eyes three times.

I relaxed a bit realizing all I had learned. I was a strong woman, someone who was willing to give all I had to another, a woman who remained hopeful and optimistic amidst a very difficult time. I was a woman who sent prayers and love to other pregnant women, asking that they not suffer as I was.

I wondered, could Jonathan’s life have served purpose beyond me, our family, and my understanding?

I thought about all the people who had surrounded Jonathan with love and compassion before and during his life. I recalled the many people who came to his memorial service, each saying how deeply he had touched their heart.

My trust deepened. I knew Jonathan’s life, however brief, served purpose. He was a blessing, a sweet, little blessing, to many people, and I was the lucky woman who was honored to be his mom.

Grief is nothing to be rushed. Throughout this time, I was gentle and patient with myself, honoring all my emotions, not pushing through them or stuffing them in the secret places of my heart. By doing so, I was better able to deeply heal.

Grief is also nothing to cling to simply because it’s familiar. Although the journey had many twists and turns, and I needed to allow it to show its way, it is worth the inner work to let go and find peace.

It is not just grief where we have choice. With all our life experiences—every emotion from anger to joy, from love to fear—we can choose.

Allowing our heart and mind to wonder, taking time to feel it all without judgment, and seeking within for the path of letting go, this is the way to embrace all of life and peacefully enjoy the now.

Peaceful woman image via Shutterstock

About Shannon Elhart

Shannon Elhart is a life coach, author, and speaker who teaches mindfulness. She has a M.A. in counseling and is a certified life coach with nearly twenty-five years of experience. Her signature program Happiness of You™, and her monologue on healing your past, FIERCE monologue™, guide people to mindfully let go of their past and live happily in the Now.

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