“The more we love the more we lose. The more we lose the more we learn. The more we learn the more we love. It comes full circle. Life is the school; love is the lesson. We cannot lose.” ~Kate McGahan
I remember reading somewhere that we are all here on this earth to learn a lesson.
It’s one that is made for us, and only us. Like a special recipe concocted in the stars and implanted in our tiny developing foetus.
While it may sound a bit “woo-woo,” it was extremely comforting to read that.
For much of my life I would compare my life to others. I’d look at those who seemed to have it all together and wonder if they ever struggled. I felt envious as they seemingly sailed through life.
“Why do I have to deal with this and not them? What did I do wrong?”
But maybe they are not here to learn my lesson. They are here to learn theirs, whatever that might be.
While my life has been filled with typical ups and downs, it came to a crushing low when my sister died in 2013.
The pain of her loss was so intense I wanted to claw myself out of my body. I really believed I was the only person in the whole world who experienced pain this excruciating.
I would go to parties and watch people laughing and having the best time and feel so incredibly alone. It was like I was banished to another dark and miserable planet while everyone else merrily went about their lives. It angered me that others weren’t suffering like me. I kept asking myself again and again, “Why me? Why my sister?”
I was too absorbed in my anguish to recognize that others were also going through hardships.
It’s been seven years since my sister died, and now I understand that while my grief is specific and particular, it is not unique. Grief is just another emotion we human beings will experience during our journey through life. It’s just one of those emotions that don’t get as much airtime as joy, so we assume no one else experiences it.
Along the way, I’ve met others who have confided in me their stories of trauma and pain that I was completely spared of. It reminded me that while things could have been different, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would have been better.
This journey of learning that grief is shared by so many others has humbled me deeply. We all experience tragedies and heartbreak. There is no one in the world who doesn’t get hit with some kind of pain, no matter how happy and cheerful they may appear on the outset.
When we think we are alone in our suffering we are not making it better for anyone, let alone ourselves. Focusing on ourselves and our pain is like a vortex that only isolates us further and makes us feel worse.
In these times of immense suffering, it’s important to get outside of ourselves. Often the best remedy is to volunteer or help someone who is less fortunate than you. It will suddenly become clear that you are not the only one struggling.
It can be so easy to forget this, especially since we live in a world of social media. Everywhere you turn there is an Instagram story being born. Everyone seems to be having the best time ever. At least that’s what they want you to think. But how much do you really know about these people you follow?
There is a whole other side to everyone person you meet, whether online or in person, you may never actually see.
So next time you catch yourself looking at others or scanning through social media and wondering why your life couldn’t go as smoothly as theirs, remember that there are people looking at your life wishing they had something about yours. It’s sort of like that quote, “Every time you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.” It can be applied to this situation too.
And remember that everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
Someone may struggle their whole life with an eating disorder and envy a particular model or celebrity for having a perfect body, not realizing that this particular model is coping with severe PTSD.
The list of struggles we can face is as endless as there are people on this planet. You simply never know what someone is going through. But you can know for sure that everyone has their own path, their own challenges, and their own lessons to learn.
I wish someone had told me this earlier, but maybe I wouldn’t have listened. Maybe this was one of the many lessons I needed to learn: no one has better or worse, they just have it different.
About Kimberly Hetherington
Kimberly Hetherington is a Canadian writer and Art Therapist based in Sydney, Australia. She loves to write, read, create, listen to podcasts, be in nature, and experience the kind of conversations that go beyond the ‘mask’ of everyday life. Check out her website for more on her journey through grief and loss, to hope and self-discovery.