Grief is an "L" Word
Everyone has experienced grief. We each experience it differently.
Some people allow grief to wash over them, allowing it to settle into their bones. Some never recover, some do.
Others push it away, not able or willing to engage the sense of loss that accompanies grief.
Yet others seem to deal with it only to have the emotions rise up and rebel unexpectedly years later, having denied the clues to their hidden sadness.
Grief occurs when we feel we have lost something, when someone or something in our life dies or passes from our presence.
The five stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.
Behind these stages are three deeper stages of grief that are sometimes hidden from view. When you understand that grief contains these emotions you can move beyond the grief without denying or hiding from it. You can accept the impermanence of all things which includes the cycle of life. Occasionally it even redefines how you perceive life.
This is the first emotion you feel when someone dies or leaves you or when some kind of death, virtually or really, occurs. Loss makes life transitions difficult as you focus on what you believe you are leaving behind instead of focusing on what you are about to create.
Loss creates a hole where once there was someone or something occupying the space. It leaves you feeling empty.
Life is loss. Why? Because nothing remains the same.
Everything changes. Your attachments to people, things and ways of being create a resistance to change and you experience it as loss when there is a shift.
If you allow loss to consume you, to take up permanent residence in your heart, you may never be able to experience your life fully. If you can engage it with tenderness and self-compassion, allowing whatever time is necessary to pass, you can move toward a renewal that will bring a gentle peace however uneasy that may feel.
How often do you experience something and wish that someone was standing next to you to share that with you?
How often does the silence bring tears of longing to be with a special person?
Does your heart open when you remember someone or something that has faded into a past memory?
David Whyte in his book Consolations, speaks to the surrender to silence as the way to make our longing bearable and a portal for rebirth.
Reality met on its own terms demands absolute presence, and absolute giving away, an ability to live on equal terms with the fleeting and the eternal, the hardly touchable and the fully possible, a full bodily appearance and disappearance, a rested giving in and giving up; another identity braver, more generous and more here than the one looking hungrily for the easy, unearned answer.
Longing can transform into gratitude when you can embrace “an ability to live on equal terms with the fleeting and the eternal.”
Gratitude that you had that experience or had the pleasure or honor to be in relationship with someone special.
Gratitude that you had a special experience in your life that helped you to grow and evolve as a human and spiritual being.
Longing allows you to move deeper into the experience of life without feeling trapped in an overwhelming emptiness. It can move you deeper into gratitude and love and rebirth.
Recently the son of a friend of mine was murdered. A senseless act of violence took the life of a gifted young man, a young man with a good heart and an artistic talent that belied his humble nature. As a mother I can’t imagine what that pain is like. My heart aches for her and for her family.
This grief is the underside of Love. We love our children, spouses, friends and family with a fierceness that bonds us to them forever.
When they die or leave, we grieve. We feel that emptiness, that absence, that loss of the physical presence of that person in our lives.
And yet there is redemption in Love. That deep, spiritual Love is the only thing that can sustain the immensity of the absence and longing for someone you love.
This is the Love that resides in your heart, in your very soul.
This is the Love that appears as a smile on your lips when you see or hear something they would have enjoyed or when something brings back a memory that is healing.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Love is the only thing that is more powerful than death.
Love is the only thing that can keep a mother’s heart beating after such an immense and senseless loss.
Love is what provides the courage to continue living, that sustaining love that is infinite and ever present in your heart.
It’s taken time to shift from feeling an acute loss and desperate longing for my mother who died in June 2017.
I can sit quietly with my feelings now and allow love to open my heart to her, and to feel her presence. Tears may come cleansing the regrets that still surface unexpectedly, transforming guilt to compassion. “If only I had….” Is replaced with the gratitude found in “Thank you for being in my life and loving me unconditionally.”
And I’m sure that this will continue as I travel between loss, longing and love with an awareness that neither one of these stages is “bad” and each one is necessary and a gift. This consciousness allows me to open my heart and maintain a loving state even when I still grieve.
I decided to share these thoughts with you on Loss, Longing and Love in the hope that they may help anyone who is going through a grieving process.
Right now the world is experiencing so many changes: so many deaths on so many levels; physically, spiritually, emotionally, politically, morally, etc. We are unconscious to the grieving process which is hidden behind the headlines and the rhetoric and the stress and illnesses that many people are experiencing.
Whether it is a personal loss or the longing for a world that is disappearing, you must know that ultimately the only thing that will sustain you in times of doubt, fear and sorrow, in times when you grieve, is Love.
I simply know that this is a universal (cosmic) truth. Not simple. Not easy. You must have faith that behind each death is a rebirth. You must believe that the essence of who we are forever connects us through love and that what I call soul never dies, is never lost.