Grief: Choose to Dive When You’re Falling
As I sat down and started to write this month’s writing, I actually sat here for a good long time with many starts and then deletions. Suddenly I realized that for the last couple of days and even in the process of writing, I’d been circling this subject instead of getting into it. I came to see that this is exactly what we do when it comes to grief: we circle around it. It feels much safer to do grief that way. Because when we peer into it, even consider stepping into it, it feels like a deep dark hole- an abyss actually. And we’re afraid if we step into it, we will never come out.
When I was in high school, I was in a student play that dealt with the dangers of drinking and driving. I played the mother who learns her son has been killed in a drunk driving accident. Every time we would perform the play, I had to “live” through the experience of losing my “son.” It was intense and it was heavy. Interestingly when the play was over, audience members would come up to me and say that the part that affected them the most was that moment of my primal reaction to the news of the death of my son. Reflecting back on that experience now, I recognize that what the audience was able to tap into for even a moment- was that pool of collective grief expression which is no longer familiar to us.
We’re a modern, intellectual, Western society and we’ve lost touch with our ancestors and we’ve lost touch with a communal way to experience and process grief. In the past, grief was experienced within the community: out loud, together, through all the senses and over an extended period of time. We’ve lost our ability to move through the alchemical transformation of grief and we’ve most certainly lost the tools and support to do so in a way that feels safe…
Unresolved grief then remains in our bodies, in our psyches and in our hearts. And then the grief builds up and overflows into our experiences unconsciously of the world, of others and of ourselves. How can we see clearly, how can we move freely, how can we LOVE freely if we are bound by the invisible ties of unexpressed grief?
So much of social media these days is focused on what I like to call “pop positivity.” Great images and cute quotes speaking to the positivity of life and having a positive/choose love attitude; the “highlight reel” of how great everyone else is “doing” life and what attitudes we need to adopt to have a great life… Of course the positive has its place; we all need to be reminded of the positive in life, to be grateful and celebrate the joys in our own lives. What is completely missed is that we cannot circumvent our grief- our deepest emotions. If we try to go around, we think we’ve succeeded but all we have done is suppress the very thing that will bring us the deepest healing, transformation and expression to our lives. It feels counterintuitive to move more fully into our grief but that is the very action that will see us through it. Our fully experienced and expressed grief is the medicine.
We also tend to judge what we “allow” ourselves to grieve- what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to grieving. Usually we base this on judgements outside of ourselves. But the soul does not abide by the judgements of the mind. If someone has lost their gold fish and they are grieving deeply- that is their right. In my 20s I trained for months to work for the NYC Suicide Hotline. What did we spend time learning? How to actively listen (not just waiting so we could hear ourselves talk in response). We also learned how to recognize our own ego and judgements in situations of people who were suicidal. It didn’t matter what we BELIEVED or THOUGHT about someone’s reason for wanting to end their life or to judge and measure what was causing them suffering. Our work was to respond compassionately and to acknowledge their suffering- even if it was about a lamp or a mosquito or the Dali Lama. It didn’t matter. We are all entitled to our own journey.
We all have lost people close to us, whether through death, divorce, ending of friendships, distance, etc. There is not one person on this planet who has not been touched by loss- it is an essential part of the human experience. None of us get out of here alive. What we fail to realize many times is that we need to grieve that loss deeply- we need to actively enter into that alchemical process of undoing. And we need to honor that loss is not only about people but it intimately touches our lost dreams, experiences, hopes, desires and un-lived lives. When you find yourself at the threshold of deep, deep-seated grief- know you are at the edge of a very profound, transformative process.
So when you find yourself falling, choose to dive deeply: you will come though it and you will be transformed. Death is a part of life but it is never just “the end”. On the other side of “the end” is always rebirth.