On Grief and Loss
Grief is messy. It is painful. Blistering. Consuming. Suffocating. It is confusing. In my experience, despite what is written about it in books and articles, there is no clear time-table or path to healing. Loss is so deeply personal that every person’s experience with grief is unique... because humans are unique and complex beings. Therefore our reactions to loss are unique and complex. They are our own.
When we are struck by a loss, whether loss of a loved one, loss of functioning, career, idea/belief about self or others, image or identity, we can find our selves at a loss. No matter how sudden. No matter how traumatic. In my personal and professional life I have seen few things more powerful than loss to send someone spiraling away from their self and up into their heads. Into suffering.
Our mind comes by this honestly. The mind has evolved over millennia to shield us from pain by attaching to anything that might bring a sense of relief or pleasure. So, in the face of grief and loss, up into our mind (problem-solving, rationalizing, avoiding, blaming self or others) we go. Our mind does its very best to do what it can to protect us. Our mind has gotten the message from the outside world that after the funeral, after a month, after a new job/puppy/relationship, after a year, we will not be sad. Our mind has heard messages like “time heals all wounds” or “I should be over this by now” or “be strong for your family” or “be grateful for what you did have.” Our mind believes that it can fix the pain. Because it can fix most problems, outside our body. If we really don’t like the color of the paint on the walls, we have the ability to paint it. If we feel too hot, we can adjust the temperature in the room or put on a sweater. The problem when it comes to grief and loss… there is no paint color, no thermostat, to control what is happening inside our body.
The only way I have found to truly heal the wounds of grief and loss is to work to move toward them. To give them the space they are so desperately asking for. Every twinge in the chest. Each punch in the stomach. This is you, asking for your attention. Come down from the mind, sweet friend. Come down into the body. Place a hand on that pleading space. Find a friend, a journal, a counselor, a healer. Find your yoga mat. Share your experience.
Recognize that no path home to your true self, toward healing, is the same. In my experience, when recovering from a loss, what helped was largely dependent on where I was in time, location, and willingness to trust my intuition in terms of what healing modality would be most helpful in the moment. When I was in a serious car accident, trauma-focused therapy with a trained psychotherapist allowed me to step on a path toward healing. When my brother unexpectedly passed away, my path back to myself was through months of meditation and journaling, and eventually a week-long Yoga Nidra retreat. When a patient I was working with took his own life, healing happened through the compassionate and deep energetic work with a Reiki Master. Each loss, a different path. Each step on the path, a step toward my true self.
When we give the pain space, even just acknowledging its existence, there is room for us to stay connected to our self and the world around us. It is this invisible thread connecting our self to others that allows healing to happen. I cannot promise that sadness will go away. Sadness is a natural and important reaction to loss. It means we had something worth losing. But what I can promise is that life will continue to happen. And you get to choose how you want to show up it.
If you feel like your experiences with grief and loss are keeping you from living the life you want to live, reach out. Together we can explore different pathways toward healing that will work for you. We all only get one shot at this lifetime.