Hope Springs Eternal – Susie Pitts, Grief, Loss, and Bereavement Specialist
How many times in a day do you use the word 'hope'? Probably, far more than you think.
"I hope you finished your homework because it's due today."
"I hope you are feeling better."
"My hope for my children is that they are happy."
"My hope for this new job is that I enjoy the work."
"I'm hoping for the best."
"I hope he didn't overdraw his account."
"She has a hope-filled heart."
"I've lost all hope for resolving this issue between us."
Why is hope significant, and what does it mean when talking about hope in the grief experience?
Webster defines hope as: 'To want or wish for with a feeling of confident expectation. A wish or desire accompanied by its fulfillment. Something wished.' Other grief professionals describe hope as an 'expectation of a good that is yet to be. It is an expression of the present, alive with a sense of the possible.' It is a belief we hold on to in hardship and loss. In our humanness, we want to believe that things will get better and that we can overcome and heal the pain within us. Hope can be the impetus for courage and can mobilize our energy and vitality. Hope can encourage creative thinking, helping us discover a sense of purpose and aspiration during difficult times. Think of people like Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela, and so many others that have inspired hope in us all.
Emil Brunner, a renowned Theologian, states, "What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life." As a grief and bereavement specialist, my job is to be present to deep pain whilst believing and nurturing the mourner by creating a calm environment that encourages hope, meaning, and purpose in the loss experience. It is imperative I create a sacred space where acceptance, recognition, affirmation, and gratitude are the cornerstones for hearts to heal. Grief work can be transformative, especially if embraced completely. There is no way around grief – there is only through.
Every morning before I begin my day, I meditate on St. Francis of Assisi's Peace Prayer, the 13th-century monk that gave us the prayer of mercy and peace. I never know what my day will bring, but what I find is that the Peace Prayer fits just about every situation I come upon. In particular,' where there is injury, pardon; where is there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope.'
When I work with my clients, I know and recognize that everyone's grief experience is different. There is no norm. There is no right way to grieve; there is no perfect way to wrap up your grief, tie it with a bow and send it off so that it isn't a part of your life anymore. The old way of thinking about grief is that we have a mourning period and that we "get over it." But we have evolved and understand that sadness and despair about the loss of our loved ones will make itself known when we least expect it - grief is part of our lives. It doesn't have to run our lives but, it is there, we can visit it, and we can come back from it. We can work through the complex parts of grief and loss to get to the point of making meaning of the loss and find a path to move from sorrow to hope and beyond, where joy exists in the memories of the lives we have lost.
Alexander Pope wrote, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." Does that ring true for you? Are you hopeful about your future? What experiences in life have you had to overcome tragedy and found that hope played a significant role in those experiences? Are you encouraged you have overcome hard, desperate times in the past? How did you get there? What steps did you take to move you from hopeless to hopeful? Can you use that as a model or guide to help you heal your grief?
What I know for sure is that as our seasons change, we are greeted with the refreshing spirit of spring. It is around the corner, and with it comes budding flowers that remind us that even in one of the most brutal years of our lives, we can and should be hopeful. Yes, we will see the sunrise and set, experience our children's disappointment and joys, observe the sheer excitement in little ones as they eat an ice cream cone. We will still feel happy when our pets greet us at the door with tails wagging and felines purring, or when we climb the mountain and breathe in the fresh air or observe in sheer wonder when we walk along the shore's edge whether it be a mountain stream, lake, or ocean at the beauty of nature. There is magnificence waiting for us – it's just on the other side of a closed door. We all have an opportunity to open doors to grace and wisdom, forgiveness, and blessings when we acknowledge and work through the pain to get to the other side of despair. We have hope on this earthly journey, especially when we take each step caringly, compassionately, and lovingly. Yes, Hope Springs Eternal for all of us. It will be with us always and forever.
If you are suffering from losses, current or past, whether it be from the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a significant move, the loss of a pet, a breakup with a friend, or the loss of independence, or you are experiencing isolation, fear, and anxiety - know that I am here. I'm just a phone call away. 503.730.6700