Grief and Love
Today is my dear friend Lauren’s birthday. She passed away in March of 2014. As I write this, tears of joy, love and grief stream down my cheeks. Losing a best friend suddenly with no explanation is a shock to the system, and even now, five years later, it can still sting. Yet, I am not afraid. Feeling the physical sensations grief welcomes me with does not scare me. It reminds me of our connection. It reminds me of our love.
Grief and sadness have become topics that are almost taboo. We’ve become a society that is afraid to feel. We’re afraid of pain so much so, that we go to great lengths to avoid it. We take pharmaceuticals, we over eat, we use drugs, we watch too much TV, we consume too much social media. We are not tuning into ourselves, and thus we often lose ourselves. The cost is great. It stores in our tissues, muscles, cells. When we don’t process and feel it, it gets stuck. We lose ourselves, and fall out of alignment with us… with our truth… with our true Self. This disconnect causes physical symptoms that we can not deny. Yet, so often we deny the connect to loss of Self. When we experience other tragedies, loss, pain, emotional upheaval, it can dislodge and come out. This means that when we feel, it moves, when we don’t it gets stuck. This means that when we have an incident happen, it can feel more tumultuous than it would had we given ourselves permission to feel and experience the first grieving when it was appropriate.
There is no judgment here though. It is important to remember that. We all grieve when it is appropriate and safe for us. When we can be fully grounded in reality and our present safety.
Our culture spends so much time demonizing these heavier emotions, so then they become trapped, and we become afraid of them. They get lodged into our physical body, and they can manifest as: depression, lethargy, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, thyroid dysfunction, muscle and joint pains and aches, inflammation, headaches, digestive issues, brain fog, liver congestion, constipation, IBS, and more.
I dare to imagine a society that embraces these emotions, as well as the lighter, higher vibrating emotions. Part of my work on this planet is helping people to feel better, but also to teach people to embrace these feelings and learn how to let them move through us rather than consume us. Feeling is not a threat or a danger. Feeling is part of our human experience. It is why we chose to be here at this time on earth.
Grief is tied so deeply to our ability to love. When we love deeply, we grieve deeply. They are two sides of the same coin. One is not wrong, one is not bad. They are both beautiful in their own right.
I have noticed in my own experiences with moving through grief, that sometimes we move through layers of grief. Sometimes the present thing we grieve has nothing to do with the present object that stimulated the grief. Grief has the ability to open and soften our hearts as it shakes us into feeling and removes the shackles that numbness holds over our hearts. Often when we grieve, we grieve for all the times in the past we never gave ourselves permission to feel grieved for. It provides us time and space to move through many layers and come out on the other side with fresh eyes, and a softened heart.
If we choose to avoid, we get stuck. Plain and simple. When we avoid, we feel anxious, we feel depressed. Those wise parts of us know this isn’t right and this energy needs to move. Those parts of us try to get our attention and manifest physical symptoms. Sometimes if the pain is great enough, we listen. Other times we are masters of avoidance and numbing out and so disconnected from our bodies we treat it as separate entity from our mind and spirit.
Grieving is a process of mind-body-spirit. It is a connection of threads woven through our hears and souls and connects us in a deep and profound way. When we allow others to support us while grieving, it moves the energy and it feels like we can surrender into feeling, with a deep knowing we are safe and we are held. Grief helps us hold these memories communally, so that we are not alone. Stephen Levine says “If sequestered pain made a sound, the universe would be humming all the time.” When we really pay attention, we realize we are never far from grief. It reminds us of our impermanence.
We may worry that grief will never pass. We worry that this will become our finally resting place in this deep well of sadness and pain. We wonder if our days will forever be gray and overcast. We have this sense we are floating through life in an aimless walk to nowhere, with no real direction. Luckily for us, grief knows exactly where to take us. If we are open, we move beyond and journey on a pilgrimage to the soul.
Our society puts so much weight and depth and importance on things rising and going up: the stock market, the number in our bank accounts, our health.. even in healing, things are typically biased toward improvement: always getting better and moving beyond our troubles toward improvement. When things start to descend, it brings us great fear and anxiety. We feel instead, unsafe, and anxious. We feel somehow that we are wrong, bad, or failing.
The truth is, when we are able to see times of loss and pain as inevitable and even necessary, we are able to metabolize this suffering into something beautiful, and even sacred. When we distance ourselves from grief, and avoid the intimacy with the pain and visceral aliveness of grief, we really can’t be intimate with any other emotion or experience in the capacity we deserve and want.
While I know that this descend into the dark waters of grief can feel daunting, I also know that we can successfully come back up, cleansed, naked and new. This descent is a rite of passage reminding us that we are in fact creatures of the earth, to one day return to the soil offering it fertile ground for something else to birth.
I want to share some of my favorite rituals for processing, feeling and moving grief.
Talking Circle. Possibly one of the most basic, yet profound, healing rituals around grief. This community ritual is simple. Everyone is invited to take time to become present. This may be done by a guided meditation, meaningful poems or even breath work. Following this centering, everyone is invited to share whatever grief they are carrying. It is important to not offer advice, and just allow people to share, and simply practice saying “We hear you.” or “Thank you.” Space holding is important, practice not giving answers. Grief is not a problem to be solved, it is an experience to be witnessed.
Loving Kindness Meditation. This is a powerful prayer that can help us access our own inner peace. There are many versions of this meditation, and I encourage you to find the one that resonates most deeply with you.
Move Your Body. Grief tends to make us want to freeze. Moving our bodies helps us move grief beyond us. It helps us process without the need to think and rationalize it. Movement should be gentle. It can include yoga, walking, hiking in nature, walking along the beach, or even dancing.
Thank you for joining me on this journey through grief. I would love to hear your feedback, comments and even your own grief rituals.