Grief, in all its shades, is a natural response to loss. It is my experience and belief that loss is an inevitable part of living, being connected to others, and loving well. The more we are able to be present with the fullness of our experience, especially our loss, and the grief that follows, the more we will know our own wholeness. It is through this, that I believe we become evermore intimate with the truth of how we uniquely live, love and let go. Grief can at times feel groundless, confusing, enraging, devastatingly painful and mysterious. This pain from loss can come in many forms and as a result of various life changes and transitions. These may be specific to the loss of a loved one or relationship, or may also be the result of an identity crisis, a trauma, a divorce, an illness, a child leaving home, caregiving for a partner, aging or other significant life events that shake our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. We may also feel bereaved by celebratory experiences like a wedding, a babies birth, a graduation, or a spiritual awakening, that underneath the surface leaves us in despair or numb.
Aspects of our grief, though sometimes referred to as phases, and initially outlined by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1969 in her book "On Death and Dying," arise in us in any order and at any time. These aspects may include denial or insulation from the loss, anger or protest, or bargaining and all the thoughts shaped like "shoulda/woulda/coulda" that arise out of an effort to control what has already occurred. Many of us spend our time circulating through these few aspects before settling into the sadness and true weight of our loss. Maybe eventually we also experience a sense of acceptance that the loss happened, and that we are changed as a result. Perhaps through this transformation our loss will move us into action in some way in our lives. A mentor of mine, Ted Wiard, founder of Golden Willow Retreat talks about grief as an omelet, filled with these presentations of grief. On any given day or at any moment, we might take a bite, and suddenly be full again of denial, of anger, of bargaining, of sadness or acceptance. All of these states may be part of a grieving process. If we can name them as they arise and learn to be with the experience it can help us to feel a little more empowered in this relationship with grief. A relationship that otherwise we may at times experience as confusing, overwhelming or profoundly undoing. Be gentle with yourself. Give your self permission to grieve and grieve in the way that is right for you. Reach out when you need support, and know you are not alone.
THE WELL OF GRIEF Those who will not slip beneath the still surface on the well of grief, turning down through its black water to the place we cannot breathe,will never know the source from which we drink, the secret water, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness glimmering, the small round coins, thrown by those who wished for something else. -David Whyte