I’ve been studying Frank Ostaseski’s writing on the lessons the dying can teach us to live more fully in his book The Five Invitations. I read a chapter or a part of a chapter each weekday morning to ground and focus me. The dying process has much it can teach us about the end of a marriage as they share much in common. I’m not being maudlin here, quite the contrary. Appreciating the depths the end of life and the end of marriage can take us to enables us to be the suffering that attends both in a different way.
Paraphrasing Ostaseski, each “offers an invitation to accept our vulnerability, be open to the unexpected and the unknown, and let go of life as we have known it.” For some, the end of a marriage or a death can serve as a portal to a spiritual perspective. For others, a time to hit the reset button and lead to a different kind of life. While others over-whelmed, collapse in despair.
With both endings, there is a need for supportive intensive care for those who are experiencing the loss – intensive compassion, intensive presence, and intensive acceptance. That may be as simple as listening without interruption, being available as a reassuring presence, helping them find meaning in their suffering.
“Sometimes adversity is what helps us discover our strengths…The act of accepting the end of a [marriage] can help us move from tragedy to transformation. Suffering is suffering. We can’t always explain it, let alone control it. But we can meet it with compassion. We can meet it with presence, look at it directly, understand it, and perhaps find meaning in our relationship to it. Meaning isn’t about assigning a cause. Meaning has a way of strengthening us; it builds resilience and enables us to confront suffering without running away.” – Frank Ostaseski, The Five Invitations