Life’s Highs and Lows:

How to Make Sense of Them

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The last several days have been a whirlwind of emotion for my family. My beloved father-in-law passed away within the same week my son was heading out to prom and graduating from high school.

The juxtaposition of such highs and lows was remarkable but hardly unusual. Perhaps you’ve had to navigate such emotionally complicated terrain, too. My husband and I decided the only way to move through this time was to address each experience completely yet separately, giving ourselves permission to be wholly invested in each one. This allowed us to be fully present at my father-in-law’s funeral, keeping thoughts of Jake’s end-of-year celebrations at bay. And the next day, switching gears, we were able to rejoice in Jake’s big moment, while keeping our sadness – and Jake’s too — in check.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this plan reflected one of my favorite concepts I write about in Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. The strategy is to set aside time to give grief 100%. This may include carving out 30 minutes to linger over photographs, or 10 minutes to re-read old letters, emails, and birthday cards. Devoting uninterrupted time to remembering is healing. It gives emotions their due. Individuals are able to move forward without guilt or reservation because no emotion is given short shrift.

Successfully managing sorrow and joy is what I discuss in a Google Talk I gave not too long ago. In my presentation I reveal the only way to make sense of life’s ups and downs is to embrace the word “and.” It’s possible to honor our past AND celebrate our present.

Absence and presence must coexist. This isn’t a choice. We need to cuddle up to both. This is the essential key to finding resilience after loss.

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