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Threshold Transformations

a Holy Lament blog 

A sacred space for heartfelt reflections from our community members journeying through the Landscape of Loss

The Shattering from Within

shattering Apr 17, 2024

The Shattering from Within

My first major loss or shattering of life did not have an obvious cause or antecedent. I left home as a freshman in high school to pursue my interest in spirituality as a seminarian about an hour away from my childhood home at a Benedictine Abbey seminary.

My first year there was enjoyable and I loved the “flavors” of personality and friendship on the palette that constituted my classmates. Sure, there was some homesickness the first few months for my childhood home in the country and my seven brothers … but this was a new adventure and I was “in it and on it.” In that same frame, I decided to return my sophomore year thinking it would be more of the same. I was a happy camper and then the bottom dropped out.

I found myself falling into a hole in the earth. Everything was the same around me but everything was now obfuscated and deadened by this deep darkness of anxiety and sadness.The more I tried to “shake it” … the more these fangs fastened into my rib cage. I was grateful for my high school buddies, for supportive parents, for counselors … but it felt as if I were unreachable and imprisoned … and had no idea why.

Many losses that are shared here in Holy Lament will have a particular “cause” … whether an untimely death, the implosion of a secure relationship, or maybe the loss of a pet. And in a way, none of them totally explain away the maelstrom and conflagration one finds oneself in. I have a deep respect for whatever ushers in a particular storm, but what felt so damning for me is that
there was no particular reason for this. I felt like there was an arson who came in the middle of the night, set my mental health home ablaze and was gone before I scrambled out of bed to break open the glass on the fire extinguisher.

Just … “Why???!!! Just tell me … what did I do wrong??!!”

I’ll call this my loss or death of mental health and like you I stand in line with your own acute and horribly exact losses. I cannot tell you why this happened to me. And even if you do have a “why” or a cause for what your loss has been … it really is nothing more than a crumpled, dried leaf compared to the depths of grief and loss I share with you. Sure, there is a linear cause
most often … the loss of a child by a certain disease and maybe you can point to that … but then the “WHY?” just grows larger … “But why my child? And why this disease?!!” The “why” just looms larger and more painfully inexplicable until it takes too much effort to even whisper it after screaming it so deeply … like dry heaves that relieve nothing.

In summary and in homage I say to you: I lost my mental health in high school and it has been a difficult dance ever since then. But this loss, “this thief in the night” has also been the grain of sand in the pearl of my becoming. The utter destitution that would follow this and other periods in my life, has also been my greatest grace and opening into the Mystery at the core of Life. It’s on this very bridge that has been woven with our tears and desperation, I can connect with
you and name you as my own, fellow friend, as you struggle towards and with the light that comes … even as such utter darkness swallows us whole and disrupts the life we thought we had. Even there. Especially there.

By Thomas Amsberry
Holy Lament member

Grief isn't an illness or mistake, it is a natural and sacred response to life’s inevitable losses. It is also a crucible for transformation. 

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