Summer can be a time to lie on our backs and watch the clouds go by, to listen to the sounds of a nearby stream, its cool water slipping over the rocks, and the laughter of children playing and splashing in a backyard pool.

It is also a time when our minds can unwind and relax, and we can engage more deeply with that part of ourselves which, all too often, is lost in the maelstrom of daily life — the deeper part of us that, for some, only rarely makes it to the surface. The cacophony of our electronic devices and the inane chatter of “reality shows” and talking heads can render it almost impossible to find the stillness one needs to hear that inner voice which is our true self.

Grief and personal crisis can bring our inner voice to the surface. During such times, it can seem as if this deeper part of ourselves forces its way to the top whether we want it to or not. When this happens, we have a choice: we can push it away as being too painful, or we can just let it be. The death of someone we love or care about deeply can break our hearts, and the grief can, for a time, leave us shattered and in the deepest of despair. It is only when the heavy grey fog of the overwhelming sense of loss starts to lift that we can begin to understand the new awareness which the death of a loved one can bring us.

If we are open to it, this awareness can bring a heightened sense of the importance of truly living every moment we have on this earth. As much as we would like to believe that we will live forever, we will not; of that we can be certain. Those we love and hold dear will also die. Death can help us to embrace the responsibility, the privilege, of treating each moment of our lives as the sacred gift that it is. Is there anything more holy than living as fully as we can, of giving as much as we can? To be so fully engaged, compassionate, and joyful that we are using our gifts to the fullest every day? As Mary Oliver (Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet) says so beautifully, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I never could have imagined that the pain of loss and grief could give me something. It took me a long time to reach that point. But there is no doubt in my mind that such a profound experience of loss, and the subsequent journey back to myself, led to a self-knowledge that would, otherwise, not have been possible. I do not want to be trite and suggest we “embrace” the pain. To me, that diminishes the very real anguish that grief inflicts upon us. I can only say that if, in time, we can, even a tiny bit, be open to both the changes occurring in ourselves and of the deeper awareness they can bring, we can move out of the barren landscape of loss and back into the vibrancy of life once more.

—Ashland resident Susanne Severeid’s latest book, "When Someone You Love Is Dying, Some Thoughts to Help You Through," published this year, is available at Bloomsbury Books and on