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The Lowest Ebb is the Turn of the Tide

In grief, everything feels pulled close-in, too close, such that you cannot really see the world around you, while at the same time there is a deep sense of disconnection, not only from the people in your life, but the environment, as if you are wading through an impossibly thick, black fog. Life is suddenly surreal. The levity once afforded by your beloved, now gone, is replaced by confusion and heartache. You may hear the wise, well-intended words of friends encouraging you on, though they fall on deaf ears, for what you actually need is not found in words at all but in allowing yourself the grace to fully inhabit the emptiness of your loss. The way down is the way up, and the lowest ebb is the turn of the tide, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once put it. Hope cannot be forced, nor manufactured, an ethereal element, embedded in the human spirit, surfacing only if and when it is ready, never guaranteed, for it is not certainty but the very absence of certainty, flying in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that creates the conditions for the possibility of hope actually. Hope rises, in its own right, unanticipated, undeserved, in the most dim and desperate of situations, opening a person to the notion of a new beginning ex nihilo, out of nothing, and providing the kindness of a respite from the exhaustion of despair.

Hope is non-rational, or irrational, or maybe both. While optimism rests on the facts pointing in a positive direction, hope, by contrast, rests on no facts at all, indeed vehemently resists proof, the positive and encouraging, and finds its footing instead in the dark soil of the seemingly impossible. Much like faith and love, hope cannot be placed underneath any microscope, yet is felt, deeply, as real as the ground beneath your feet. When it seems all hope is lost is the very moment true hope is found.

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