The gift of pain.

umzila kawulandelwa
7 min readSep 7, 2023

I had my last TRE session on Wednesday last week. My god. What a truly transformational experience!!! I am just so grateful I was able to do it. I came out of that program convinced that EVERYTHING happens for a reason.

I joined the program to release the trauma I was sure my body was carrying from losing my boyfriend. I started thinking of all the things I have done in the past two years and some change to heal my heart from all that pain.

I won’t lie. The pain of losing my boyfriend remains hands down the worst pain I have ever (EVER!!) experienced. My god. It hurt so bad I am convinced it tore me apart. I was completely destroyed but to be rebuilt. My god. My old self was completely obliterated by that loss.

Even now as I still desperately try to cling on to my old self I realise none of her exists anymore. She is buried wherever our old lives go and who I am now is what has been left over after the smelting of my old self. I really feel like I’ve been smelted. Only my strongest, most resilient, most beautiful parts of me remain from my old life and self.

My god. It only dawned on me recently that truly I am a new person.

I’m no longer with that guy I said I was now with. In hindsight I had gone for a man that was good enough for the old Sanele but nowhere near enough for THIS Sanele. What a wild thing! That I could change SO much even the kind of man I require changes.

I am in awe of who the grief was able to pull out of me. Truly astounded. I have grown so much from that dreadful day. I am one with myself. I am in my body. More present. More alive. Every single cell of my body has come out of survival mode and what a beautiful, beautiful experience this has been and continues to be for me.

Had it not been for my boyfriend’s passing, I would have never gone to that Equanimity retreat I went to in 2021. I would have never met the kinesiologist who has been like a spiritual midwife helping give birth to Sanele’s more evolved soul. I would have never taken up TRE. My life wouldn’t be what it is now.

I have a beautiful life. I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole entire life. I feel more secure in my being. I am deeply contented. I SEE myself. Like, TRULY see myself. I have cultivated better relationships with my friends. I am just more present in my existence. I am highly attuned to spirit. I hear God clearer. I hear myself, my intuition like it’s on loud speaker. Things just make sense.

Next week I begin another journey with a coach to take a deeper look at my relationship with money, heal what needs to be healed and just cultivate good financial health. I feel like I am finally in such a good space I am able to think of such things without survival being the only thing that consumes my mind. I’m no longer just trying to survive, I want to THRIVE.

None of that would have crossed my mind if I was still the spoilt girlfriend I was. It took tragedy to force me to go muuuuch deeper in my internal work. My god I have gone so deep sometimes it feels like I’m floating. I have found a well of wisdom in me I didn’t even know existed.

I have proven to myself that I am so f’n resilient. Also, I don’t waste a tragedy. I feel like my boyfriend’s passing is my own personal credit card from God that I can swipe anywhere and everywhere for my personal growth. And boy have I used it!!!!

Ugh. I have grown so much these past two years hey! I am in awe. So in awe.

I also would have never gotten a dog if my boyfriend hadn’t died. He would have gotten a dog for us but it really would have been his dog. I also like discovering all these tiny ways in which he continues to live in me. It’s like I have two hearts beating in my chest now. His and mine. My god. They don’t tell you the “together forever” bit is when one of you dies.

It’s so painful but also so beautiful, so poetic in a way. Him and I are bound together forever and ever now. FOREVER. I carry his heart with me. I’m even listening to music he liked as I type this. He is dead, I know. I have his ashes to prove he really died. But I feel him in me all the time.

I also realised that I was desperately clinging to people who had any connection with him in hopes of maybe touching him, just getting close to him. But TRE helped me realise that I didn’t have to go searching for him outside of me. He lives on forever in my heart.

Last weekend I treated myself to pizza and wine. It was SO good I wept!! My god it was SO good! If you knew my boyfriend and I in person you’d know pizza and wine were our thing! Lazy Sunday afternoon you’d find us at Piza e Vino in Rosebank or Melville (his fav) having pizza and wine! My god. My heart hurts just typing that. It was our thing.

And then randomly last weekend I just decided to do it. And it felt good?! What. I was SO happy that the next day I had pasta and wine! Ugh. Food. My boyfriend and I didn’t think of it as “dates” where we had to be all serious and/or look cute. It was always just about sharing a meal for us. We shared SO many meals together that I won’t lie I became a comfort eater after he died.

Food was a love language between us. He fed me a lot. We shared SO many meals together! So many that even on his last evening earthside he gave me his favourite home meal, Sunday lunch! I will never forget that he gave me his last Sunday lunch. If you knew how much he looked forward to that meal you’d know how big an act of love that was. He ate my takeaways instead. We swapped meals. It was Sunday lunch which he had saved for dinner :)

My heart. I am NOT the same girl Tshegofatso knew and loved. I have changed so much that I am sure my next partner will be very different from my Tshegofatso. Tshegofatso had his girl and when he died he took his girl with him. I could never bring that girl back no matter how hard I tried. I’ll just never be her again and I can say I am ok with it because finally I can see the beautiful, beautiful woman I am now.

Having been through such tragedy and quite literally still surviving it, I’ll tell you one thing- never waste a tragedy. In the week he died someone sent me this quote:

When I got it I thought peharps the timing for it was off. Cos c’mon, the love of my life just died and you want me to see that as a resource?! For what if it can’t bring him back?! But the words just stayed with me. When I had progressed a little bit in my grief journey I started appreciating the wisdom in them.

I remember writing after the Equanimity Retreat that the pain was a gift. I just felt in my body that it was a tremendous gift. I couldn’t quite make out the how then but now I do. Oh I do. This pain has been probably the best gift I have ever received in how it just uncovered more and more of who I am. Man. I won’t tell you much about who I am but I am tough as nails!

And as if I needed anymore affirmation about my being tough I got this text after our last TRE session.

My name was mispelt but whatevs, the message is so kind.

A legal battle I faced in 2020 showed me how courageous I actually am. And I think my grief journey has needed a lot of courage from me. It takes incredible courage to take that journey to meet yourself. I have been very brave in my personal growth journey. Most people are scared to venture into themselves. I’m not. And the results for that are massive.

Man. Life is just so beautiful right now I don’t think anything else could have brought me here. I will always be sad my boyfriend; the kindest, most thoughtful, best human being that ever lived, died. He died. Nobody can fix that. So it really is about what I do with it. And man, I’ve done some pretty tough but super dope shit with it.

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

“The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver



umzila kawulandelwa

I tell stories about my experience of being alive. Perpetually day dreaming of reading and writing by the beach