One of my absolute favorite movies on the subject of love and loss is "SHADOWLANDS."

Anthony Hopkins plays the middle-aged C.S. Lewis, who, we discover as the movie begins, has avoided love ever since the death of his mother in childhood. "Why love when losing hurts so much," is his creed. Then, he falls in love with an American woman, played by Debra Winger, who it turns out is dying of cancer. Hopkins' Lewis at first resists the pull to fall in love, then once he does fall, he resists facing up to the pending loss of his beloved. Winger's character insists that they face the loss together because she understands that feeling it, even in advance, will keep their love alive. "The pain then is part of the happiness now," she says. At the very end of the movie, Hopkins' character has evolved. He grieves, and through that grief, he discovers that the love lives inside of him. He is free. Hopkins' character learned that to embrace love fully is to embrace loss fully, and that ultimately, it is worth it.

"To one degree or another, we are all in a state of interrupted mourning." Mark Epstein, a psychiatrist and practicing Buddhist, who I quote often on this blog, says that in his excellent book, "GOING TO PIECES WITHOUT FALLING APART." It is not meant to be grim. Epstein is merely saying that life is always changing, always growing, evolving, etc., and as human beings, living in a physical reality in linear time, we experience that changing process as loss.

I often think that the whole human experiment is about experiencing love, the one true energy of All That Is, in physical form and linear time, and learning that the feelings of loss that go along with loving need not be felt as "bad."

"Sad is not bad," I often say to my fellow travelers. Sad is what we temporarily feel when we let go, which is what we are always needing to do in order to love.

Here's the paradox - you cannot really own something internally until you let it go. So many people, for example, feel bitter for so long after a love relationship ends because they don't let go, which would actually allow whatever the goodness of the relationship was to become a permanent part of them.

Here's Epstein:

"We cling to our loved ones, and in doing so, we distance ourselves from a grief that is an inevitable component of affection. Using our best obsessional defenses to keep this mourning at bay, we pay a price in how isolated and cut-off we can feel."

Here's a Buddhist story that Epstein recounts in his book:

"A Tibetan master's son died suddenly from an illness. Hearing him weep inconsolably, the master's disciples confronted him with their surprise. "You taught us that all is illusion and that we should not be attached," they admonished him. "Why are you weeping and wailing?"

The master answered, "Indeed, all is illusion. But the loss of a child is the most painful illusion."

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