Thursday, August 11, 2011

Transforming Grief

This is the fourth part in a series on grief. Please visit my blog at Soulseeds for all four articles.

Having allowed all the full range of grief’s emotions to move you, mess with you, mould you and make you who you are today, you may feel ready to pull yourself out of the funk and move forward with a greater sense of peace. You will never be the same again. But that is true in every moment, with or without grief. The question is whether you have the courage to live with the disappointment of an imperfect experience. Anne Lamott sums it up brilliantly-

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

There will be cold days when your grief feels arthritic. There will be other, more limber days, when the spring in your step will surprise you. Dance with a limp, live with the pain and roll with the punches. What else can you do? Trust what the experience of millions has confirmed; that grief comes in waves and like a wave, grief does subside with time. When the wave of grief feels overwhelming, stay with it and remind yourself that “this too shall pass”. Fight the waves, and you will exhaust yourself. Go with them, and they will subside more quickly and you will become stronger with every passing wave. Nothing can be transformed until it is fully accepted.

This brings me to the fourth truth of grief. The first truth is to feel the pain and let it transform you. The second truth is that you are not alone, because you have a unique version of a universal experience. The third truth is that grief follows its own timetable and patterns. The fourth truth of grief is that it is ONE part of your life, and even if it feels all consuming at times, you are more than your grief.

E-motion- Energy in Motion

Grief, and all of its associated emotions, are energy in motion. They are always on the move. Grief is not one, unchanging thing. Grief turns on a dime. Stay alert to the alchemy of grief. Burned in the fire of sadness, strength is born. Elisabeth Kubler Ross offers a visual analogy for changing emotions. She says that grief emotions will come and go. When they knock at your door, let them in, and say “Oh. It’s you. Come on in.” Entertain them, get to know them, talk to them. Let them have the run of your house for a while. Maybe keep some space apart from them. Don’t set a space at the dinner table for them.

Transformation takes place when you realize that emotions come and go. You can witness them, talk to them, feel them. But there is a “you” that is doing the witnessing, talking and feeling. At your essence, you are more than any emotion and more than any experience. Emotions and experiences impact and mould you, but they don’t fully define you.

Grief usually visits as part of a group of changing emotions. Hurt, disappointment, sadness, regret and so much more. Emotional mastery is to know what emotion is what, where it is coming from, to be present to them all, but not get stuck in any one emotion.

Rumi’s Guest House captures it well-

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

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