Let’s talk grief.
Here in the northern hemisphere we are in the darkening part of the year and this has a way of instigating internal refection. I like to say that if you don’t know how to feel or how you feel just look at the trees. The exposed branches of the deciduous trees reflect back to us our own bone truth.
Grief… what are we talking about? What is grief? What does it look and sound like?
Physical and/or emotional heaviness. Density. Difficulty breathing, constipation or diarrhea. Weeping. Sighing. Distant stares, often partnered with apathy or fatigue. Sometimes shows up as anger or irritability, especially towards things that are not usually bothersome. Sinus issues. Oversleeping. Despondence. Disinterest, even in things you know or used to know you loved. Distracting yourself, only wanting to _____, filling in the blank to escape.
For me it’s watching sci-fi. These are signs for me to check in on my self, am I sad or tired? Or both? When you check out, consciously or unconsciously, it’s usually because you’re avoiding something like your feelings, or the need for rest. No shame in checking out, mind you, it’s our right. Let’s just get real about if it’s coming form a choice to take a break or if its just happening automatically. This is not a question of moral judgement, it’s about consciousness and lifestyle. Do you know when you are checking out? Do you recognize it before you do it, during or after? Can you tell when it is constructive and resetting and when it is damaging and neglectful of self or life? These questions apply to my whole email series on “Trusting The Dark.”
Grief carves us up. Picture a canyon carved by water. We grieve in proportion to how much we care. Grieving is what happens when we let our caring dig deeper into our being then before. Those canals are the same canals that your love and empathy flow though. Your ability to be empathic and feel, give, receive, and be love is determining of how intimate a life you live. Intimacy doesn’t just happen between people, we also have varying degrees of intimacy with our own self.
Our dominant culture sucks at grieving. Sad=bad to most people and feeling down is responded to with a well intended “Perk up it’s not that bad!” or “it’s okay.” To which I reply, “YES! It is okay to feel sad, or down, or to cry. Exactly!” Which is not always what people mean, and yet I either say it out loud or in my head to make sure I am clear about how it is okay. Change “It’s okay, don’t cry” to, “It’s okay to cry.”
Did you know that when we cry the hormones that carry the sadness through our bodies come out in our tears? IN THEM! Multiple Chinese Medicine Doctors have told me,“Taste your tears.” Tears taste different depending on your emotions. Happy tears are sweet. Sad tears are salty. Angry tears are bitter. To taste them we have to let them flow. The flowing of tears is medicine for the person who cries, and also for any who are blessed to be in the presence of your sacred river, sacred rain.
Many people don’t know how to feel sad, while others can’t step out of a cycle of sadness that brings them back to where they started instead of somewhere new. When we allow ourselves to fully grieve it takes us THROUGH not back. It leads us into the next. If weeping cycles back to the beginning, then it’s weeping that is missing something. It doesn’t need to stop, it just needs something added to it. It’s like a vehicle with tires on only one side: At full speed you still just drive in circles. But add additional tires, and that same force takes you across the land in front of you. Your body knows how to do the full grieving process, but we’ve been culturally conditioned not to do it. So if you find yourself stuck there are things you can do to relax and feel like you have enough space and permission to let your natural process take over.
Ritual is one of my top ways of supporting, setting the groundwork and (re) learning how to grieve.
You can see two different grief rituals here:
1. For general grief
2. For grief specific to the loss of a loved one, death or relationship change.
Letting go and letting be is something that can be learned. Watching a person cry or weep who has practiced is one of the most stunning and inspiring things I’ve seen. I can tell from head to toe if someone is MOVING grief through or if someone is holding, feeding, or resisting grief.
Community is powerful, because like all feelings, grief is not ours personally but ours collectively. It is our grief, the grief that we must all learn to live with as it passes through. Finding confidence in bearing it, allowing it to finish its course with us. Walking in partnership with what Grief has to show and teach us. Keeping these feelings behind closed doors is part of our cultural wounding and isolation that contributes to us feeling bad about feeling a certain way. Opportunities to feel deeply with others are a gift.
We can do this work alone, and some of it we must do alone, but not all of it. The learning is often expedited and the healing profound when we do it together.
The next post in the series is about rage.
I am inviting you to join me at my next Trusting the Dark retreat where together we will learn the theory and practice of being with and transmuting what can be life-deadening into life-awakening.
If you are interested in working with me to host a Trusting the Dark retreat please contact me here.