Upgrading to the sea view

Tea in BrightonAs I sit for breakfast, overlooking the sea at this hotel in Brighton (Southern England), I look out towards the turbulent waves hitting the pebbly shore and reconnect with my mum’s love of the ocean.

Mum grew up in Mombasa, a relaxing coastal town in East Africa. It’s where she had studied, formed close friendships and first met my dad. My brother and I, as we grew up, would hear stories of the infamous “lighthouse” where all the youth would gather outdoors in the evenings to hang out, for music and hot food – makai (corn on the cob), mogo (cassava) and chips, not forgetting madaf nu pani (coconut water) and perhaps other drinks they never told me about.

We’d had a number of beach holidays together over the years, with our last family holiday together in Aruba, just after I graduated from uni – again close to the water. When I attended a conference near Lago Maggiore in Italy and had sat by the lake on a beautiful June afternoon in 2005, I had vowed to take mum there so she too could enjoy a cappuccino overlooking the lake – but I never got round to taking her there. Now that I can, it’s of course too late.

This September will mark 10 years since mum died. A few weeks after she passed away, most of the family, including my maternal grandmother, had made the day trip to Brighton to scatter mum’s ashes, somewhere along the coastline that I’m overlooking right now.

If mum was here, staying at the same hotel, staying in the same part of the hotel (facing north so not overlooking the sea), I feel I would have upgraded her room to enjoy the sea view from her room. Even with limited mobility, at least she could have enjoyed that. Then I would have brought her down for breakfast to enjoy the sea view from the hotel restaurant. We would have had far too many mugs of tea together, making the most of the unlimited refills!

But sadly she is no longer around and these gestures no matter how grand or small, cannot come to fruition. This makes my eyes well-up realising the futility of my wishes for mum and I to have any more of those experiences together.

On this bright spring morning, as I finish my second mug of tea while overlooking the turbulent waves crashing against the pebbly Brighton shore, my heart is filled with sadness and regret.

While it’s been almost a decade since mum died, these feelings of regret are surfacing only now. I realise too, that while there’s nothing I can do to make up for all that’s left undone, it’s certainly within my reach to simply observe what’s coming up and let it pass in it’s own natural time, in it’s own natural way.

I have a choice now to either get bashed about by the rough waters or to upgrade to the sea view and calmly observe whatever comes up. Like each wave along Brighton’s coast that builds up momentum and gradually comes to rest, even these turbulent feelings will comes to pass.

Resolving the unresolved

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

Those who know that their life may be coming to an end tend to want to get their affairs in order and make amends with anyone they have a fragile relationship and unresolved issues with.

But what about the relationships where you lost someone suddenly and hadn’t had a chance to resolve the conflict before they died?

The unresolved

There was this couple, both in their early 50s, married for over 25 years. They had many struggles in life but somehow worked together to overcome them.

Then one day, out of the blue, the wife (let’s call her Anne) got upset by what her husband did. It was only something small and didn’t really matter all that much, but it upset her and she gave him the silent treatment. The husband (we’ll call him Michael), who was used to this silent treatment over the years, didn’t bother to try to shake her out of it. He knew it was something she did to help herself deal with life. But Anne thought she was teaching him a lesson!

A few days went by, but she was still upset at him. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Still no word from her. Michael tried to get her to see sense and come out of her silent treatment, but Anne stood firm. At this point she didn’t even know what she was angry about, but thought there must have been a reason so she stayed adamant.

Then one dark winter evening, while Michael was walking home from the station after work, he got knocked over by a car and died at the scene of the accident. His wife, upon finding out about what happened, was flooded with feelings of anger, resentment and guilt.

She was angry at the driver for the accident and at her husband for leaving her alone. She had resentment towards her husband for not giving her a chance to make amends (even though he tried many times). She was riddled with guilt for not breaking the silence sooner and resolving the issue, the tiny insignificant issue, that she had been holding onto so tightly.

Anne was carrying these feelings for many months after her husband passed away. So what did she do to finally resolve whatever was unresolved?

Resolving the unresolved

After several months of turmoil brought about by these feelings, Anne sat down one quiet evening with a hot drink, a pen and a notebook.

She started to make a list of all that she was feeling and trace those feelings back to the initial cause. Then, when she thought she may have found the root cause, she went back a little further and found the real reason. Anne realised that what caused the original frustration wasn’t really all that bad and that she ought not have held onto the silent treatment for so long.

She thought about the driver of the car and realised that no matter how much at fault he may have been, any anger she harbours will only cause herself more suffering.

Anne also thought hard about the resentment she felt towards Michael not giving her a chance to make amends, and that it really wasn’t in his hands to resolve the issue.

She thought about her own guilt and realised that any guilt she felt was just causing her more pain, more suffering.

As the months moved on and the years passed, Anne learnt to let go of the anger, the resentment and the guilt. Along with that, she freed herself from the pain and the sorrow and now lives a calmer life – a life with clarity and purpose.

How to resolve the unresolved

If you are still harboring unresolved issues and feelings following the loss of a loved one, what can you do to resolve them?

1. Get clear on what caused the hurt: Take some time out for yourself and think deeply on the root cause of the feelings that are causing you so much turmoil? Are they truly justified? Can you afford to keep feeling them? What value do those feelings bring to your life, and what might you want to replace them with to increase your level of peace and happiness?

2. Write them a note: Granted, the one you loved may no longer be around, but it may help to write a note addressed to them. You don’t need to post it or show it to anyone, but write out your deepest feelings, the causes, how you feel now and how you want to feel. Write whether you love them. Write whether you forgive them. Write whether you understand. Write what you have learnt about yourself. Write to love more. Write so that you may grow.

3. Be kind to yourself: Most important, care for yourself, so that you may free yourself from suffering. Be kind to yourself so that you can release the shackles that have kept you bound in turmoil. Be kind to yourself so that the ill feelings simply lift away and let you lead a peacefully calm and purposeful life.

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Forgive and let go

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

One of the earliest emotions that recently bereaved people report feeling is anger. The perfect antidote to anger is forgiveness.

When you face the loss of a loved one, particularly when it’s a sudden loss, you may find yourself plagued with a whole host of emotions, ranging from shock and sadness through to anger or even relief.

Today we’ll look at anger, seeing if it’s a type that you recognise in yourself, notice what it is doing to you, and then explore ways in which to gradually let it pass.

Types of anger

Anger comes in many varieties, from mild dissatisfaction through to intense frustration, and is normally aimed towards someone.

  • anger at the criminal – the driver who caused the accident; the thug who mugged him in the street; the burgler who frightened him in his home.

  • anger at the medical team – the surgeon couldn’t save his life; the nurse did not take good enough care of him; the doctor didn’t pick it up sooner.

  • anger at the disease – breast cancer took yet another life in my dear family!

  • anger at the person who has died – he went and left me to look after this young family on my own.

  • anger at yourself – I should have been more caring and loving and now I won’t get a chance anymore…

  • anger at the almighty – how can God be so cruel to take him away from me before I was ready for it?

Clouded with the pain of grief, you may feel justified with this anger. But what’s it really doing to you?

Anger – the disease

Anger is the type of thing that grabs you by the throat, will turn your whole life upside down, pushing away all the things you hold so dearly in your life.

  • your health: Anger wrecks your health. It breaks down your immune system. It spreads through every cell in your body, shutting your body down bit by bit.
  • your relationships: Anger wrecks your relationships. It pushes away the people you care about and who sincerely care for you.

  • your career: Anger wrecks your work-life. It clouds your judgement and reduces the quality of your work.

  • your state of mind: Anger wrecks your mind. It places a heavy piercing weight on your head, making you feel like you’re drowning in the boiling ocean.

Tell me, is holding onto this anger worth it?

Some people I’ve spoken with during bereavement support visits report to not caring about the anger or the damage it’s doing. They say they don’t care about any of it because there is nothing more to live for.

But what if there was an antidote – something you could do to banish anger from your kingdom to lead a more calm and purposeful life – something really worth living for?

Forgiveness – the perfect antidote to anger

It turns out that there is such a cure to anger – one that will indeed bring about more lightness and clarity in your life. This antidote to anger is the quality of forgiveness.

To forgive means to let go.

Let go of this blame. Let go of this pain. Let go of this discontent.

The fact is that this world works in a way that we cannot always comprehend. Situations arise in our lives that don’t always make sense and tend to bring us more fear and sadness than happiness and peace.

These situations come about and attempt to destroy all that we have worked hard to accomplish. Our loved ones get taken away and our lives get flattened and sometimes it feels like there’s nothing that can explain it.

So we seek out an answer. We force ourselves to find some way to make sense of what feels like a tragedy taking place in our lives. We find people or situations to blame, thinking that somehow, just somehow, it will help to reduce our pain.

But you know what, perhaps now’s the time to take a step back and see it for what it is. Something totally out of your hands – the nature of the world around us.

You need to know that I do understand. The anger you’re feeling is completely understandable. Those around you, those who care about you, may notice this anger and will either run a mile or will attempt to convince you not to be angry. But it’s ok. By allowing yourself to let it pass, this feeling of anger will gradually fall away.

How to cultivate the practice of forgiveness

To bring about the quality of forgiveness in your life, gradually work through these steps, taking your time through the process.

  1. Notice: Catch yourself when you’re feeling angry. Close your eyes, become still and watch that anger that has taken form within you. How big is it? What shape is it? What colour is it? How does it feel?
  2. Write: Make a note of whenever you feel angry during the day. What trigger caused it to arise? How did you react to the situation? How did you feel about that reaction?

  3. Resolve: Think about an alternative response to that situation. What could you do the next time this situation arises? You may not get it right for a while, but let the responses you feel are more appropriate develop within you over time.

This process of noticing, writing and resolving can be incredibly powerful as a daily exercise.

As you take some time for yourself each day to notice the strong feelings that arise within you, to familiarise yourself with them and acknowledge them by writing them down and then resolving to let anger go, you will start to feel a sense of lightness develop within you.

Really, there is no rush. Allow yourself to step from stage to stage, gradually lifting away your pain, your grief, your anguish.

Soon you will feel a sense of calm as you purposefully settle into a life of forgiveness.