On grief, gratitude, and gremlins

“I’m letting myself go feral,” my friend Satya told me many moons ago after her partner had died suddenly. She was deep in her inner process, and I was struck by the courage it took for her to go towards the pain and loss, to grieve in a messy, real way. She wasn’t trying to put on a brave face or show how strong she was; she was living in a messy hair, teary, raw world of loss.

 

And like the caterpillar that has to dissolve before it takes flight as a butterfly, it is our willingness to go into the cocoon and truly grieve what we have lost that can give us wings.

 

We live in a society that wants to neaten death and grief: put on a good face, move on, get over it. But what I’ve seen over and over again is that when we put a mask on and push any emotion down, we end up becoming a hollow (or a violent) version of ourselves. To grieve is human, and when we get out of our own way and let the body process what we have lost, we come out the other side more loving and with more gratitude for every sacred moment.

 

Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of your youth (or your job, relationship, or health) or the current state of politics or people or the planet, take time to be with your emotions. Now, there is important guidance for how to work with grief so it cleanses and leaves space for more love rather than cripples and closes you down.

 

When you are grieving a loss, do your best to not tell yourself a story about your grief. Just feel it. The mind can tell us it is terrifying to feel so deeply, that we will not survive or it will never stop. But I’ve found when you go towards the emotion and let it move through you, you feel clearer and softer on the other side. It is when we repress our grief that it begins a thief, stealing all the color out of our lives for extended periods.

 

The other thing to watch for when learning to dance with grief is getting falsely spun around the dance floor by regret or blame or shame or victimization. These qualities will cause your feet to get stuck in quicksand. Instead of resting in the strong arms of grief which will soon transform into the light step of love and gratitude, you’ll find yourself trapped in a gooey, heavy slog that feels endless. I’m not saying that going through grief is easy. It is not. But there is a huge difference between holding hands with the purity of grief and being chained by your mind’s creation of why and how you should be grieving.

 

And one last thing: grief is not logical. It will come at the most surprising times. Sometimes you may need to ask it to hold until a better time, but always make sure you come back to it when you have space. Sometimes grief will arise unbidden, ravishing you for a moment with its fierce longing or memories.

 

For example: yesterday as I walked into JFK airport in New York I was surprised by a wave of old grief. The airport reminded me of the last airport I ever traveled with my ex-husband, and the intense grief I felt at the time of that last voyage. Suddenly I was transported back five years, remembering the devastated, weeping woman in the San Francisco airport who knew she would never adventure again with the man she loved. As I walked to the ticket counter I welcomed in the grief, and remembered to BOB (Breathe Open Bigger). And in a few minutes I was back in the present, grateful for how deeply I loved and excited about my current solo adventure to France. The grief gifted me a rich-hued poignancy of the preciousness of each moment.

 

So my dear ones, don’t be afraid to grieve. And don’t forget to BOB. It makes all the difference.

 

To learn more about the art and gift of grieving loss, watch my recent interview with Satya below.

https://vimeo.com/299429451

 

Satya is also sharing her gifts in a profound way: click the link below to receive a free video, “Tears that Cleanse,” and a free consultation session (until November 15th), along with her newsletter.

https://mailchi.mp/satyalila/heatherash

 

Satya Lila works with people who are grieving a loss, like the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a way of life. She helps them lighten up the heaviness of grief and find the gift in the loss. In 2013, she had her own loss and recovery when her partner died and she used it to catalyze a deep spiritual journey. Now, having had a spiritual awakening, she is sharing what she learned to assist others in this powerful time of their lives.

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