Spirituality After "A Hearbreaking Choice"
Reconciling Spiritual Beliefs
By Ayliea Holl
Making a "Heartbreaking Choice" definitely changes a person. It changes so many things about how we view life, it tends to make us realize what
is really important to us; our children, our families, our outlook on life and often, even our religious beliefs.
It was very difficult for me to reconcile why after years of infertility, and finally accepting that I would not be able to have children – to
find myself pregnant with my first confirmed pregnancy, without miscarriage, at the age of 40. Then to lose my daughter to Trisomy-21 with heart
and digestive disorders, I found it not only ironic, but I truly felt like it was some cruel joke that the "creator" was playing on me.
Through much self-searching and a lot of anger and frustration with organized religious beliefs, I have finally come to some sort of terms with
my religious beliefs (or, maybe they might be considered lack of beliefs.) I have come to the realization – for myself – not every one will agree
with me and that is perfectly fine, but I realized that there is no "All powerful being" - no "creator" that had a plan for us, that watches over
us. No "creator" that "reaches down and makes miracles happen!" Truthfully, coming to that realization for myself, was quite painful. It went
against everything I was taught, everything I was brought up to believe in, and frankly, it hurt!
Many of us felt very angry with the "creator" or the "Universe" and questioned the "creator" or our faith. I know I did! Anger was such a huge
part of making a heartbreaking choice for me, and I still continue at times to struggle with anger over my losses, but I had a lot of other issues
such as infertility and sub-loss. The anger issue just kept getting compounded, and it certainly did not help me in the least to try to come to
some resolution with my faith. Rather, it made me look elsewhere – outside of organized religion, for answers.
What did I find? Well, I think what each of us finds is going to be different – as different as each of us is. For me, personally, I found that
it was easier on me to heal spiritually to let go of thinking of the "creator" and of believing in the Bible as the end-all be-all authority.
Rather I came to realize that we are all part of the "Universe." The universe is full of chaos, destruction, and yes, life, but it is ever-changing
and there are no rules or preconceived notions in the universe about what life is, and what it should be. It just is. Period. No omnipotent
being watches over us and decides who lives and who dies, or who will have a healthy child and who will not, or what city gets destroyed by an
earthquake or tidal wave – it is just random, chaotic and it just happens.
Once I came to believe that, I started to notice things about the Universe. I noticed that sometimes certain things work in a certain way –
almost always...but there is that occasion when something goes just slightly different, when just one little atom gets skewed, then the whole
process changes. Maybe just a little, or maybe dramatically – but I firmly believe that is what happened with my loss. The "creator" doesn't choose
to give us an unhealthy child that we have to make a choice of whether to let them suffer, or to give them peace. To me, that shows that we
have the love and compassion that the "creator" is supposed to have, in our hearts.
So what does that mean? To be perfectly honest, I don't know. I know that it means that the "creator" or Religion can not define us. We define
ourselves. We make our own choices, and we live with our choices, right or wrong, good or bad, we take responsibility for our choices. We choose to
be religious or "Spiritual" or we choose not to be. The thing is that we are spiritual; how we chose to practice that spirituality is
completely up to us!
One of our discussion forum members shared a story of "Kali" the Hindu goddess of destruction and rebirth. I have included a few excerpts here.
Story of Kali, Hindu Goddess of Destruction
Black and naked (except for a necklace of 50 human heads)- hair wild and tongue out, Kali certainly knows how to make an entrance! Brandishing a
sword and a human head in her two left hands, she destroys everything in her path and then dances maniacally upon the dead. In terror, awe and
morbid fascination, we stare. Fight or flight?
But how can we fight she who destroyed everything we thought we knew? Cut to the core, how can we run? No matter: in a battle against the
universe itself, where would we run? Old instincts flare, but they no longer serve. When Kali appears, life as we knew it ceases to exist.
Individual traumas vary: life-threatening illness, disabling injury, divorce, job loss, natural disaster, financial emergency, or -sometimes
even more disturbing- an uncanny sense that things are about to change. Despite variations, these experiences hold one thing in common: they demand
attention. What little warnings, gentle nudges, intuitive hits or lesser traumas did not accomplish, Kali has. Distractions, whether silly or
sophisticated, just can't compete with complete annihilation.
In order to begin rebuilding, we first need to examine the destruction. Doing so takes courage. Even though we ultimately need to look at the
mess ourselves, it helps to have a Kali-survivor involved in the surveying process. Someone who has already faced Kali knows the pain of loss in a
way that well-meaning friends or family sometimes cannot understand.
There are losses and then there's a Kali loss: the sense that our entire reality was an illusion and nothing real remains. This feeling
does not respond to typical cheer-up methods because those methods, too, reveal their illusory nature. Alone and scared, we yearn for deep,
unchanging truth. Anything less just adds to the overwhelming carnage. Most people cannot afford to witness this level of destruction because doing
so might crumble their own comfortable sense of reality. Instinctively, they put up walls to protect themselves, fighting us when we try to share
the magnitude of our experience. When our usual support system fails, we're supposed to turn inside, but inside's a terrifying mess right now.
We cry out to the universe for help and Kali herself arrives-in the form of someone who has already witnessed his or her own destruction and
rebuilding. Someone who honors the beauty and life-giving force of such experiences. Someone who can afford to look at our mess because his or her
reality has already crumbled and reassembled in a powerfully expansive way. Non-attached to our previous conceptions or enculturations, s/he can
more quickly and easily sift through the rubble, drawing our attention to pieces ready for new construction. S/he also helps us to look Kali in the
face, recognizing our own prayers for change and ability to manifest the answers. When we paradoxically turn to Kali for help, she reveals herself
not just as destroyer but as Mother-Creator.
Initially we might find Mother Kali in a book, a synchronous new friendship, a spiritual advisor, or Life Coach, but eventually we begin to
recognize her in ourselves. By witnessing our own destruction, we find those parts that cannot be destroyed. We find our Essence, "that" which
defies all labels and runs through everyone and everything. Kali's black form absorbs all color and all vibration: she contains it all. The sword
and head in her left hands symbolize Divine inspiration striking down our ego. The 50 human heads around her neck represent the 50 sounds of the
Sanskrit alphabet-the root of all language. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." "But the Word is very
near. It is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it." We feel Divinity surging through body, mind and spirit, and we, too, begin to
dance. "Let the dead bury their own dead. Come, follow me."
Only then do we notice Kali's two right hands-ready to bestow the blessings. As a Mother, Kali does not shelter her children. She throws us into
the fire and lets all illusion, enculturation and attachments burn to a crisp. We scream as costumes turn to ash, railing against a universe that
allows such suffering. And then it happens. We emerge from the fiery, bloodstained pit. Lighter, easier and full of Grace. We no longer fear death
because we've already been through it. Signs of life sprinkle the horizon as green shoots push their way through now fertile soil. We learn that
some trees will not plant seeds until the searing heat of fire tears through their casings. Pain and sorrow reveal themselves as parts of Life.
Freed from the limitations of fear and resistance, we can revel in naked existence. Recreating ourselves in ways that express the fullness of our
being. When ego goes up in smoke, we turn ourselves inside out and let our Light so shine.
A few points that are particularly relevant to our grief.
"Most people cannot afford to witness this level of destruction because doing so might crumble their own comfortable sense of reality.
Instinctively, they put up walls to protect themselves, fighting us when we try to share the magnitude of our experience. When our usual support
system fails, we're supposed to turn inside, but inside's a terrifying mess right now."
I am sure that we have all seen this first-hand. After our heartbreaking choices, when we returned to work or to our family and friends, they
don't know what to say. They stumble blindly for words to tell us of their condolences or they say nothing at all, or worse, they say it was "God's
will" and yet, as Kali shows – they will never know the magnitude of our loss. At this point in our journeys, we are usually in such despair that
even the most well-meaning of these "supporters" can actually do more damage than good.
Then further on in the story: "We scream as costumes turn to ash, railing against a universe that allows such suffering. And then it happens.
We emerge from the fiery, bloodstained pit. Lighter, easier and full of Grace. We no longer fear death because we've already been through it."
When we finally come to terms with our losses, and we all do, although sometimes it takes longer than we would like, and almost always takes
longer than our loved ones would like, we emerge stronger, more tolerant, more compassionate and more capable of love. We have already been to
"Hell" and we have returned, as better people.
Each of us has our own beliefs and faith, and these too are a choice. Even a lack of belief or a questioning of our faith is still a choice. In
life, that is what it all comes down to – choices. It's how we choose to live our lives after making a heartbreaking choice that shows the kind of
person that we really are. We still have many different beliefs, many different faiths and make different choices with how to live our lives; and
yet, we are all the same. We all have lost that which was most precious to us.
We clearly are a very diverse group of women. In fact, it is our differences, our diversities in life that are one of our greatest strengths.
The fact is that we don't all have to believe the same thing, have the same religion, have the same skin color or same life-style to agree that
making "A Heartbreaking Choice" was for each one of us, the best thing we could do for our children – or maybe, the least worst thing that we
I wish each and every one of you much love and peace as you travel this journey.
Ayliea Holl is a contributor to the award winning book Our Heartbreaking Choices: Forty-Six Women Share Their Stories of Interrupting a Much-Wanted Pregnancy,
published 2008 by IUniverse www.ourheartbreakingchoices.com, and is
the Lead Adminstrator for the Heartbreaking Choice Discussion forums.