In the happiest of times, life rings out like a soaring piece of orchestral music, a symphony for my soul. The violins are lovely; the trumpets glorious; the flutes and piccolos giddy with excitement. The notes from the cellos glide gracefully, elegantly, a swan on a lake. Poom-pooming, the bass drums pound out a rhythm, a march toward some yet-to-be-heard breathtaking finale.

And in the middle of this song I say “This, this is life!”

And then, in life, there is sudden loss; as if the conductor abruptly and harshly gestures for a new score while the previous score is still unfolding, still in its glory, still building toward some magnificent crescendo before it comes crashing to a discordant halt.

Then the new score begins, but I know longer hear drums. The heartbeat has been silenced.

Now I hear only the cellos; mournful, like a wailing animal that has lost its mother. Then the violins appear, screaming and crying. The flutes and piccolos still light and giddy seem to mock my grief. How can there be happiness when there is such great loss?

The music of my life has become a cacophony. I try to recall the previous symphony but its absence from my life makes the memory a painful reminder of what was. I do not want to listen to this new music.

Someone please make it stop.

Then, almost as in a dream I hear a single flute. A lilting melody, playful, coaxing me to lighten my load, lift my heart. It sends out notes that dance as sparrows dance, darting in and out of trees, in and out of shadows.

And the cellos begin again, mournful as they often are, but somehow…sweet. There is a beauty within their sadness– within my sadness. And then the horns sound, moving up the scale to a joyful resonance, a counterpoint to the wailing cellos. Yet the horns and cellos co-exist, peacefully; they blend as opposites into something that haunts me, yet moves me. They sing “In love, there must also be a letting go. And in the letting go, there exists love.”

The piccolos chirp gaily, as if singing about things they see in the distance, things that await me, things I cannot yet see. The violins still cry but do so with the glory and pain that comes not just from loss but from love.

I begin to hear a rhythm, a single drum, an emerging heartbeat.

And this new music is like the old music but different as well. I begin to hear new melodies mix with old, familiar chords. I realize that not all that once was has been lost. But there is also a freshness, something mysterious, a new song begun but not yet completed; a birth, and yet at the same time a waiting-to-be-born.

Pain that comes from love harmonizes with the love that emerges from pain.

And the music as a whole, in all of its complexities and moments of apparent discord, brings tears of gratitude for my being able to experience all that the music offers.

It is sublime.

And in the middle of this song I humbly say, “This, this is life.”

Dr. Paul Coleman, author of “Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces.”

Paul Coleman

Dr. Paul Coleman is a psychologist in private practice for over thirty years and the author of a dozen books including his most recent “Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces” (ADAMS MEDIA, 2014). He has appeared on national television shows such as “OPRAH” and “TODAY” and has appeared on dozens of national radio shows including NPR and WABC. Dr. Coleman specializes in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as well helping people through grief and other life transitions. For fun, Paul enjoys acting and has appeared in over forty community theater stage productions. He recently appeared as a grief counselor in the HBO series “I Know This Much Is True” starring Mark Ruffalo. He has written several stage plays—as yet unpublished—but has had readings of his plays performed in New York City and Austin, Texas. Paul and his wife have three children and four grandchildren.

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