This week’s blog is by guest writer, Cindy Filipenko.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about human vulnerability. We live in a time where human connection is becoming less and less. The reasons are myriad, from lack of time to a culture that prizes the individual above the collective. What I know is that, without connection, we can’t foster an environment where vulnerability is possible.
Thankfully, we still have rituals that bring us together.
From the time we first celebrated the spoils of the hunt, humans have marked their lives with ritual. From celebrating births to honouring deaths, we come together to share our emotions, and in doing so we open ourselves to others and become more vulnerable in the process. Weddings, baby showers, family reunions, milestone birthday parties and graduations all bring people together in positive situations that open our hearts and expose our vulnerabilities, allowing for both connection and reconnection. Funerals and memorial services, the rituals of death, also open us, but in ways that take our vulnerability to a new depths. In letting our pain out, we often reveal more of ourselves than we expect, surprised by how deeply we feel our grief.
Pemberton has had an immense amount of grief in the last month or so. The community has lost several people. They were people who were loved by their families, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. The proof of this love is in the fact that the drug store is down to the last of its sympathy cards. It’s in the hugs and the open encouragement to express emotion. And, most importantly, it’s in the vast amount of support for the loved ones left behind.
Whistler went through a similar time a couple of summers ago when several longtime locals died in a matter of weeks.
It’s easy to say that there are simply times in our lives when loss is the order of the day. It’s much harder to live it. We may watch our loved ones struggle in pain on the last of their journeys to death, or we may have them snatched from our lives in an instant. Eventually we heal, but our lives — and possibly ourselves — are changed forever.
In the ’90s, when I was in my 20s, AIDS swept through the gay community and I watched many of the men I knew die. I saw the community I was part of succumb to a sense of collective grief.
But I also saw it become better and more caring, less selfish and more collective. We were forced to look at human beings as fragile and life as an impermanent state. Being invincible, as most of us like to think we are in our 20s, this was a very hard thing for me accept. Yet, eventually I conceded that it was true, life was fragile and all of us were vulnerable.
One of the positive legacies of communities coming together in grief is how it draws us together. Unexpected loss makes us realize the importance of the people in our lives. We can use this time of vulnerability to get closer, to be more “real” and talk about the big issues that make up the human condition. It can be the perfect platform for us being able to express the love we have for our friends and family. It can make us even redefine what family is and whom that label extends to.
It’s been said many times our legacies can be measured in the love we leave behind. In loving each other more, we honour the legacies of the people who have moved on, finding joy in our shared vulnerability. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Maureen Douglas, CPF-IAF, is usually in this weekly space. Mo writes, consults and speaks about the power of positive public, workplace and team engagement. Click here for Mo’s FREE e-Guide to Better Public Engagement. Follow her on Twitter.
This column first appeared in the Whistler Question, July 11, 2013.