This is a word I have recently been introduced to. Duality. By definition, it means “the quality or condition of being dual, an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or two aspects of something.”
As survivors, we often talk about “moving forward” as opposed to “getting over” our loss. As a moderator for the Alliance of Hope forum, I have told many people that it is possible to live a life of joy that honors those we lost.
These words fail to convey what I really mean though. When I write them, I am trying to inspire hope, to let someone who is in the raw stage of grieving know that they will be happy again, but I also know that they will always miss the one they lost. They will never “get over” losing their spouse, child, parent, or friend.
There are two aspects of surviving – a duality to surviving. You never get over your loss, but you move forward to live a happy life.
How best to say that? How do we balance the fact that our loss will become a part of us?
The most tragic event of our lives will become embedded in our souls, but we will also be happy again someday. That is a very hard concept to get your head around. Forget about trying to explain it to a broken heart.
Being told that my husband had shot himself was the worst moment of my life until a little while later when I had to tell our children that their father had died. And there were a thousand difficult moments thereafter. Moments where I could feel my heart breaking. Literally. I know every survivor who reads this will nod their head at the mention of the crushing feeling in the chest. Although that feeling does ease up and eventually goes away, you will never forget it.
Yet you do have happy moments again. My crushed heart expanded to include happiness, laughter, hope, and new memories. These days, I experience these things even though I can still remember the “crushing chest” feeling and even though that feeling returns from time to time (but with much less force).
I can think about my husband and miss him and be sad he is gone, all while enjoying a moment. And not “enjoying” in a bittersweet way but really enjoying something. Enjoyment, as in that smile in your heart feeling. Yes, my heart still smiles, even though it has been crushed. That is duality.
Perhaps learning about Duality can help to explain another topic that can be confusing.
The word “acceptance” is something that has come to be synonymous with grief recovery. Many survivors have asked the question: “What is acceptance? What does it mean?” I have often wondered about “reaching acceptance,” as if it is a final destination on the grief journey. A finish line of sorts. I think I’ve reached acceptance, but it is not a magical place where you stop missing your loved one and your grief journey is over.
By definition: “Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it. The concept is close in meaning to ‘acquiescence,’ derived from the Latin ‘acquiēscere’ (to find rest in).
I offer this explanation: Acceptance is living in a state of Duality.
Your loss is there, embedded in your soul, but happiness is there too. Love is there. Sadness is there. Joy is there. Hope is there. All of the emotions are there together. You can feel them one at a time, and you can feel them all at the same time. They exist in duality.
And as survivors, we exist in duality. It is in this state that we go beyond surviving to find meaning, hope, joy, to live a life that honors those we lost.