Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Treasure What You Love, Then Let It Go

River and Tress

In loss, you are never alone.

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

“Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter
what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this:  the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

from Heal Thy Self, Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine by Saki Santorelli

In loss, there’s something to find, something to learn, something to know.

What have you discovered in loss?

If this post touched you, please share it with others. You’re invited to subscribe for free updates by email.  With love,  Sandra

Image:  Wingchi


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  1. jean sampson

    OMG, Sandra, I love Mary Oliver and I had NOT seen that poem!
    I am the WORST at letting go of anything—-been that way always! I ALWAYS knew that everything changes—even as a child, I took pictures of everything and wrote about everything so that I would have something of the past when the changes happened.
    This does bring to mind what I realized when my Dad died with pneumonia at 90, after suffering from senile dementia for several years. I was his only caretaker (and we loved one another SO much), so I went through the entire, horrible, terrifying, exhausting, grief-filled process with him while staying on his living room sofa at night. When he finally died, I realized that the situation, every awful moment of it, had been exactly what I needed to be able to let him go, gladly, for both his sake and mine. Because I loved him so much, he, being right next door to me for 30 years since Mom died, I would STILL be grieving if I had not seen, felt, known, that letting him go was the best thing that could have happened at that point. I think that had to happen for him to be able to leave me, too.
    Life is strange, but I have learned to trust it. At least, I remember that I CAN trust life, when I think about that situation and others that have the same hard lesson to reveal.
    Keep on reminding us to let go—-I, for one, cannot hear it too often! 🙂

    • Hi Jean,

      That’s such an interesting story of how you starting writing and taking pictures at an early age to capture the impermanent! I’m glad you had the opportunity to be with your father when he went through the dying process as difficult as it was. It can make a huge difference when we can be with a loved one when they go through the process of dying. Like you, I wanted to be with my father when I knew he was dying and this is what brought resolution to our relationship so it was easier to let go. I can see what an important piece it was for you and how it really enabled you to let go.

      I’m inspired by how you have learned to trust life and allow it to unfold! I treasure you comments so much!

  2. Such beautiful verse, Sandra.

    Almost always, I’ve discovered strength in loss. I’ve discovered that I become more tolerant and compassionate, too. And I’ve learned to regularly say my “i love yous” Letting go is never easy.

    Oh, always a pleasure to come over here, Sandra. Hugs! Vidya

    • I agree, Vidya, letting go is not easy. These are the kinds of lessons I’ve also learned through loss. It’s almost like the dying have an incredible gift they give us. Thanks for your insights.

  3. “Loss” is a great gift… it’s only the other side of “gift,” really. As I go through a big change in my life right now, a shifting relationship with someone I love, I’m finding that loss is a great teacher. I’m reflecting on all that the two of us have given to each other, have learned from each other, have made possible in each other’s lives.

    It is impermanence that’s making it possible to see all this so clearly… to let each other go with grace and love and respect. I suppose that is “loss,” but when I practice with it deeply I am feeling so much the gift in it as well, and feel incredible gratitude. Mary Oliver’s gorgeous poem conveys all that so perfectly. Thanks for sharing it here, Sandra.


    • This is so amazing, Maia! I too have found that loss is a great teacher, not necessarily easy but profound. Your perspective gives us inspiration and insight into the gift of loss. I’m grateful for your thoughts.

  4. Dear Sandra,
    This is such a refreshing read. I loved the poem….it has those particular heart touching qualities.
    Loss…oh its taught me SO much, that the actual list might be endless. The top 3 things going through any sort of loss has taught me is : Patience, Self love & Peace. We get to a point while going through the loss when everything seems meek…but in those meek moments we Realize so many truths should we allow them to surface.
    Thank you for this gorgeous Sunday insight Sandra!
    So much love,
    p.s. loving the theme of the blog 😉

    • Dear Zeenat,

      I know you have been through huge loss, Zeenat. So it means so much when you tell us that you have found patience, self-love, and peace in the process. I know that it didn’t necessarily come easily but you have come through with all this wisdom to the other side of grief. Thank you for sharing this with us, Zeenat. It gives us yet another lens on how to be with loss.

  5. I am still trying to learn to ‘treasure what/who I have loved (love) and to let it go – when the time comes to let it go.

    Nothing had prepared me for coping with the loss of my 37 year old daughter this past January. Over the past 15 years, I have read much about the Buddhist philosophy of life – and have felt a true ‘connection’ to that philosophy (everything and everyone is impermanent, do not cling to anything or anyone, let go of worry, fear and sadness, everything that arises passes, live in the present moment, etc….).

    However, when my daughter passed away suddenly (heart disease – no symptoms), the world around me (as I knew it) seemed to implode and I could not even ‘grasp’ the fact that she was truly gone. Months later, I am still grieving and trying to cope with her loss.

    I have moved back to Jersey to be near my grandchildren (who are older – not babies anymore). My 14 yr. old grandson is now suffering from depression and anxiety due to the trauma of losing his mother. We are all coping in our own way and doing the best we are able. I find, tho, that the least little thing (hearing a particular song, a birthday, seeing a little girl running down the street, etc…) seems to knock the wind out of me as the tears begin to fall down my cheeks.
    I know ‘what is’ true – and yet I still feel a heartache that is indescribable. I keep telling myself that – just as all things pass – so will my sadness and so will I one day.

    Thank you for reminding me that I must try harder to accept ‘what is’. I have held my daughter close to my heart and against my bones as if my life depended on it — and now that she has passed, I must let her go. I will never be the same – I am forever changed. I see my daughter in all my grandchildren – in their eyes and in their smiles. I love them deeply — but I will not ‘cling’ to them. They are ‘my grandchildren’ for now – in this moment – but this too shall pass. My daughter’s passing has taught me that. I am striving to not dwell on the sadness. I want to celebrate her life and be thankful for the moments she was a part of our lives.

    Thank you again.


    • Hi Sandy,

      I shared this poem especially for you. I’ve been thinking about you since you responded to my reader surveyed and shared you story. I’ve been wondering what I could write about loss that might help and support you. Then I happened to open this book for the first time right to this poem and these seemed like good words to share with you and others going through the pain of loss. I was also hoping that you would feel supported by the other comments as people really share from the depth of their heart here.

      Mostly, I want you to know you are not alone and my heart is with you. I don’t think there’s an easy solution for loss. All we can do is be in the moment and accept all the strong emotions as they arise, but at the same time allowing them to pass instead of drawing us into more thoughts and memories. The more we can bring ourselves back into the present moment, the easier it will be. But, I also know that’s not so easy. When we realize we are not alone in loss, it can help us open our heart to others and feel more connected but this is a journey not necessarily a quick experience.

      Such a sudden loss is a huge shock and it’s understandable you feel so much heartbreak and grief. I’m glad you are with your grandchildren and can be together, support each other, and share your love. My feeling is that you have a good perspective and are moving in the right direction, but letting go is a process that takes time. We don’t want to deny or push the sadness away, not dwell in it too much. It’s a fine balance.

      You are in my prayers and in my heart. Send you love and healing.

  6. I found you through your post in Courtney’s Be More With Less blog. . . .what a lovely blog you have! Thank you for sharing your wonderful life-outlook. Have a beautiful week!

    • Thank you, Cynthia! I’m glad you have enjoyed my blog. Wishing you a good week too.

    • Thank you, Sandra. Coping with the loss of my daughter has changed me forever. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. I am aware of so many others going through the same pain as I am and my heart goes out to them. I always wondered how a parent could survive something like losing a child — and now I know how they do it. We either ‘give up’ and ‘bottom out’ (which I almost did) —— or we think of our loved ones still with us (grandchildren, another child, etc..) —— and go on living and loving. We try to find beauty and joy in the little things and learn to celebrate the moments we shared with our child that is now physically gone.
      Your post helped remind me of the many losses we experience as we go thru our lives. Loss is part of life – part of living. Some losses are much more painful than others – but this seems to be the cycle of life. Even though I am still grieving and sad I have been reminded that we are all impermanent. Everything and everyone arises and passes. We must strive to make the most of the moments we each have left in this life. I find joy in the smiles of children, when I pet an animal, when I rescue an animal, when I feel the sun shining down on my face, etc… I also find joy in the memories of my daughter. She was such a happy, carefree child and she loved children and animals (as do I). We are connected – all of us. I read a Zen talk once and remember these words “everything is perfect the way it is”. I just need to learn how to ‘accept’ what is — and to ‘let go’ of what is already gone.
      Thank you so very much, Sandra.
      Hugs to you,

      • Sandy,

        The way you are working with loss is so courageous and beautiful. You are an inspiration and teacher for all of us. I’m so encouraged to hear how you find joy in special moments of life and have committed to go on living and loving. This interchange among all of us has been very special. Thank you so much

  7. What we gain in letting go is clarity, relief and sometimes wisdom. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

    As I’ve lost my parents, sister, brother, friends and now watch one friend slipping away, I treasure life so much more and work at coming to terms with impermanence.

    Sandy, I ached with you as I read about the loss of your daughter. There is absolutely NOTHING that prepares us for that or that enables us to rush through this grief.

    Talking about it, being with and comforting your grandchildren, celebrating her life all seem to be the things to do. But allowing yourself to grieve is so important too. Don’t let any well-meaning person take any of this away from you. Your life will never be the same, but it’ll be different, and one day your life will be a new normal.

    • You been through so much loss, Flora. You’ve really touched on an important point when you say that loss can teach us to treasure life – and others – ever so more.

      Thank you too for these sweet words of encouragement to Sandy. There is so much wisdom in what you say. We can’t banish loss, we can only move through it.

  8. I was deeply touched by this poem and by the comments, especially Sandy’s and your response to her. It’s so hard to breathe into such pain. A good friend right now is suffering from such a devastating loss. In her own words, she is so angry–angry at God, at the universe. As Joanna Macy said, “The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” I think your heart is like that–big enough to hold the entire universe. Thank you.

    • It is a profoundly touching poem, isn’t it? You capture the dilemma so perfectly: it’s hard to breathe into such pain. I think Joanna Macy is right – when our heart is broken, if we can stay with it, there’s the possibility that it can become big. It’s not at all easy, but we will get to the other side. Thank you for your kind words. It was so fortuitous to come across this poem almost by chance so it seems like there was a greater hand involved here than just little me!

  9. Such powerful words. Living and loving in the now can be so hard.
    I have lost part of my Dad through a disabling illness – he is not the sporty,vibrant action hero he used to be. But he is alive and that is a gift xo

    • Hi Claire.

      Yes, it’s not easy. This is another way that loss touches us when people slip away into illness. I’m glad your father’s celebrating presence.

  10. I am so happy you offered beauty in this article. It’s a lovely poem, and photo too. I’m a bit “wired” by all the politics, and even though I’ve already voted, I’m having trouble avoiding the discussions about the election everywhere I go. They make me feel contaminated, and reading this gave me a moment’s peace. Thank you.

    • Hi Mike,

      This is not a big topic in my circle so I’m not exposed to all the hub-bub so much. I’m glad you got a moment’s respite!

  11. “Treasure What You Love, Then Let It Go” – what a profound message! I just lost my aunt on Monday. Nothing prepares us to grieve, each loss is different and but the poem you posted and comments from others will comfort me as I let go. It’s not by coincidence that I found this post today. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    • I’m sorry for your loss, Gladys. Yes, I agree it’s almost impossible to be prepared for loss. It almost always seems a surprise to some degree even when we know it may be coming. I’m happy for the synchronicity and hope it provides you some solace.

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