Our sorrows and wounds are healed only
when we touch them with compassion.
Loss is a common thread that runs through all of our lives and grief is the natural response to loss. We can experience many kinds of losses such as loss of a job, declining health, separation and/or divorce, loss of sense of self, the death of a loved one, etc.
As part of my continued journey to educate our community about grief and it's impact, I am launching an educational newsletter. It's my hope the newsletter will bring you a sense of comfort and perhaps some tools to help you, or loved ones, work through grief.
Good Grief Yoga Therapy Newsletter
Emotional tears, such as tears of sadness, have a different chemical makeup than other tears. In the early 1980's the biochemist, William Frey, found that our tears of sadness contain more stress relieving chemicals than tears of joy or tears we cry when peeling an onion.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching we may be struggling to feel grateful when our hearts are mourning who or what we have lost. We know there will be someone missing from the table or that something will be different this year and, in the years to come. Gratitude feels like the furthest thing from our minds and feels even further from our hearts. Our ache feels bigger than any gratitude we might be able to muster up.
The longest night of the year.
Grief can feel like the longest night of the year many times over.
When the proverbial rug is pulled out from underneath our lives we end up falling into a deep, dark hole. Some call this the dark night of the soul. Most of us don't want to meet Grief as her painful reputation precedes her. We have been told not to associate with her because she is thought of as scary, overbearing, controlling, stifling, awkward, and depressing. She also makes people uncomfortable, she's not any fun and can be very "dark," and tends to show up at the most inopportune times.
I have heard people say that the three most important words are not "I love you" but are either "I see you" or "I hear you." Sometimes in grief, we can feel invisible or feel like we are screaming into a vacuum, especially in a grief avoidant culture. It is as if we can't see or hear ourselves so having someone who can acknowledge us in such a deep way gives us eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear ourselves until we are able to do this on our own.
Many times in our culture we think that if we have talked about our feelings that we have felt them. But the truth is that feelings are in our bodies not in our heads. Each emotion has different energies and physical sensations that let us know how and what we are feeling. When we feel our feelings it allows the energy of the feeling to begin to move and over time begin to ease. This is what healing feels like.
We often think that the words healing and curing are synonymous but they are not. They are inherently different. Curing means that all of our symptoms are eliminated whereas healing means to become whole even though our symptoms have not disappeared.
These terms can also be applied to grief. Most of us have been led to believe that our grief will be cured, that there will be an end to our pain, and that we will somehow "get over it."
Over time grief has become invisible in our culture and when the bereaved feel they have to hide their grief they too start to feel invisible.
Grief seemed to be more visible and accepted when our loved ones died at home surrounded by family and friends. The deceased's body was cared for by the family and laid out in the parlor where friends came and paid their respects.
My red cape is a bit tattered and worn as it hangs inside the rundown phone booth of my heart. I never asked for this cape nor did I ever want this cape but instead it was placed upon me the day my son died. At first, the cape was way too heavy and way too big and it felt like it was smothering me. I tried to remove the cape but it was too massive and unrelenting. The weight of the cape wore me down and held me in place. I was in a place that I didn't want to be but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't escape. No one likes to feel pain or suffer. These are usually the moments we try to skip over or try to hurry past in some way. But all of our life experiences have something to say if we take the time to listen. There is no getting out of how much things can hurt in this life. When we try to do this we not only miss out on part of our lives but we also end up carrying that pain with us and it influences how we see the world and how we interact in the world.
We may view our "darker" emotions as wrong. We may think there is something wrong with us for feeling them or we may just view any kind of dark emotion as something to be avoided. There is nothing wrong with sadness, anguish, despair, or grief. These feelings can be scary, yes. Painful, yes. But they are not wrong. As the poet, Rumi says we should be grateful for whatever comes our way as each feeling has been sent as a guide from beyond.
Nature takes its time. It doesn't rush or try to hurry things along. It lets things take all the time that they need. As summer turns to autumn we could learn something from nature's wisdom. Instead of trying to rush through our grief or to rush the process along it would be helpful if we learned to slow down and turn inward just like nature does this time of year. May we all be patient with ourselves on this grief journey and may we let things take the time that they take.
The first step toward our grief is the step we most don't want to take. I think most of us would rather skip that first step and just move past our grief entirely. The first step is always the hardest and scariest as it is something we never wanted to do and we aren't sure if we will survive the overwhelming pain. That is the wisdom of taking just one step, one breath, one moment in our grief so we can come to understand that in each movement toward our pain that we are still here and we are learning to live in this world that we never thought we could. Healing begins in that first step, no matter how small.
One of the greatest opportunities we have in grief is to let our hearts be broken open by our pain rather than trying to shut down in self-protection. This is no easy task. When we break open we allow the pain to move through our whole being as it begins to transform us from the inside out. This transformation is an alchemy of sorts where pain is transformed into wisdom, sadness into compassion, heartbreak into empathy, suffering into kindness, despair into hope, longing into connection, struggle into peace, and sorrow turns into healing.
Grief is one of those things we want to push away. Yet she remains no matter how hard we push. And most times when we try to push her away she pushes back and then seems to loom larger and last longer. I often wonder where we think our pain goes when we try to reject it or ignore it. Grief is asking to be allowed the same opportunity as joy or excitement or frustration or anger---the opportunity to be felt and expressed. Grief will speak no matter what so rather than forcing her to yell to get our attention maybe we should try inviting her in and listen to what she has to say. I'm pretty sure she has something to teach us.
May we all be open to learning.