Unidentified grief reduces your quality of life. You may be grieving and not even know it.
As cancer is to the body, grief is to the spirit. Like cancer, unidentified grief can slowly kill your spirit, dulling the twinkle in your eyes and snuffing the fire in your belly.
It is the thief of happiness, robbing us of our joy in exchange for low-grade malaise and ineffectiveness in our own lives.
Bereavement: Grief That is Familiar
Most people know grief as sadness over loss. This kind of grief is often associated with bereavement - a period of time to mourn - when we are saddened, and bewail the loss of someone we love.
A mourning period after the death of a person we love is expected and accepted. It is necessary, healthy and respectful to slow down and process loss.
Bereavement gives us time to accept and harmonize our life, paying tribute to honor the person that has passed. Taking time to honor death by celebrating another’s life is vital to moving forward with health and well-being.
Grief, death, and loss are inherent to change. Change means that something dies, and inherently, making room for something new to begin. We need to take the time to honor the death.
Transitions and Everyday Grief
Instead of the monumental grief associated with the death of a loved one (of someONE), I want to address the subtle everyday grief, associated with the passing of a part of us that is no longer (of someTHING).
Everyday grief is what I would call “process grief,” giving us a means to harmonize our day-to-day change and transitions in life.
Process grief is the necessary process of letting go of people, places and things that once served us well. Yet, no longer serve us now.
Process grief is a kind of death that may be subtle but occurs much more frequent. To process everyday grief is to be present to the sacred transitions of our life. It is to stand in loving presence in the space between the spaces of what is outwardly happening.
Process grief happens within us. The change may not be visible to any other, but the person experiencing grief may be deeply (and often times, profoundly) affected.
Process and Well Being
Let’s face it - grieving, sadness, mourning - they can be heavy. This burden can weigh on us like a monkey on our back, inconveniently in the way of our list of things to slay, to do and to accomplish.
We are taught that grieving is weakness and instead of paying tribute, we bury it and hasten an unceremonious expiration.
So for most of us, when we feel the twinge of sadness bubbling up, we don’t take the time to understand what is happening. We may often dismiss the subtle calling of sadness because we don’t think we have the time to spare.
We are often not present to (and thus ignore) the subtle nuances of our inner life because we “haven’t got the time” to feel.
Instead, we shrug it off, shake it off, stuff it down, neglect it, and move on to activities that seem more productive.
Yet, this tiny twinge softly calling to us is a very important message for us to slow down and to simply stop, even for a second, to acknowledge what is happening IN US.
When unacknowledged, grief is like a restless child calling to her mom. It won’t stop until it gets our attention. As with any child, if we continue to ignore it, this soft calling will begin to tug at the hem of our clothes. And soon enough, the soft call will erupt like the bloody siren of a screaming child.
Outer Transition, Inner Process: An Example of Everyday Grief
After two years in Santa Fe, New Mexico we have decided to relocate back to New York City at the end of our lease. Even though we loved our time in the Southwest United States, we have made a decision to move out of the area, and preparations are already underway to move!
We are leaving June 1st! Taking advantage of summer vacations, we have decided to spend 3 months in Paris, France before we settle down again in Manhattan (NYC).
The excitement at our house is through the roof as we collectively dream about our first time in Europe 3-month adventure: the Eiffel Tower, Provence, and the lavender fields, maybe an excursion to the UK or Italy is in store?
Even as we make plans and even in the midst of this overwhelming enthusiasm, there is a subtle heartbreak that is happening within.
This tenuous feeling of loss is present, and in order to move on, I must say farewell to my life here.
My children have to say goodbye and leave a big portion of what they’ve known in their short life.
Nobody wants to acknowledge the death of our routine and the rhythm of our daily experience.
No longer do we get to meet our close friends at our favorite local coffee shop, farmers market or restaurant. We won’t get to see the children gathered at play with the same friends. There will be no more BBQs with our neighbor whom we’ve come to adore.
This type of change, although a lifestyle decision, is death nonetheless.
We are giving up a part of our lives, who we know ourselves to be, and allowing it to be no longer. We will not exist in the same way. We are moving forward and moving on to the next experience that is calling to us.
Change is disruptive to routine and may seem unfair. As I slow down to become still - to be present to this transition, I am present to a death, and the symptoms of grief as I slowly release the life I have lived here.
Loss & Symptoms of Grief
Loss invariably comes with all the symptoms of grief: Heaviness of heart; loss in energy: sadness.
- I am easily agitated; distracted; annoyed.
- Days come and go with a cloud of general malaise: either I am an insomniac or I can’t get enough of sleep!
- Just about the only thing I can do is sigh.
Alas, sighing provides momentary relief! Sighing provides a temporary release of what feels like the weight of the world on my heart.
A New Normal, Albeit Temporary ...
For now, in my process of letting go and releasing, I am aware of this inner process and allow it to be my new normal.
I am letting it be. I am processing and allowing myself to be with what is, at this moment, un-ease and all.
Even though I am headed to a magnificent destination, I find saying farewell to what is the now, a bittersweet experience.
Looking at the Space In Between
Paying attention and tending to the inner need of processing grief doesn’t lessen the excitement of the trip. On the contrary, it is a necessary prerequisite to being fully present to it.
My family and I are in transition, the space between one thing and another in life. It is a chaotic, creative, and exciting time. And also, a time of opportunity to release what no longer serves us.
This release, this letting go is a period of grieving - it is a period of transition. My soul is moving from one endeavor to another, crossing the now into the next.
Moment to moment, as I am aware, I let go of my life here, parting with the home and life I knew here: routine, friends, family, favorite local establishments (and more!) for a new life elsewhere.
Are You in the Midst of Change?
Are you in the process of a transition? Is change underway in your life, however large or small? Do you find yourself thrust into changing directions because of situation or circumstance?
Are you barreling through your emotions or are you taking the time to stand before it?
If the noise is loud, and the malaise is bogging you down, and you simply are in a fog and feeling uncomfortable all over, it may truly be the perfect time to stop.
Cease what you are trying to do and simply take a moment to be present to your own need.
Having worked many years with grief, large and small, monumental and subtle, I have developed a method to foster growth in spite of the grief that has stricken me.
If you follow my work, you’ll know that I appreciate easy ways to remember a process. When I am in the midst of a process, I remind myself to practice these and having a mnemonic to recall the steps helps me immensely.
To fearlessly process your grief and thrive in the midst of transition, I offer these 6 courageous and practical ways to grow through change.
Authors Note: First and foremost, please honor your process. Every person is different. Take what works for you, and leave the rest. Love yourself enough to ask for help (counsel, coaching or otherwise) whenever you need it.
The following 6 steps are processes I personally embrace and undergo to be present to change. These courageous steps help me process, breath and stand firm in the midst of transition and uncertainty.
“G” Is for Give.
In the recognizing grief, give yourself to the process. Give yourself time and space to acknowledge what is happening, both in describing the chronological events that are happening, and labeling things as you see fit. Journal about it if that feels right, get it off your chest!
What is it that you are feeling? Give yourself and your attention to identify and understand what’s brewing within.
In your process, call things out so you have clarity. Don’t try to make it pretty or (to say crudely) put lipstick on a pig. Sometimes, being able to speak about what feels like hell can alleviate stress. After naming it, and getting it off your chest, you may feel like a great weight has been lifted.
“R” is for respect.
Respect the process of what you are going through. Let yourself be with what is coming up for you after you have described and labeled what is happening.
Even if you feel constricted and abandoned, don’t betray yourself by dismissing it and immediately writing it off.
Take time to feel what abandoned and constricted feels like. Do not bypass the experience by minimizing it, or shoeing it away, or avoiding it.
Respect the process and allow yourself to be in the experience of what is happening “to” you. Remember that what-so-ever happens TO you, happens THROUGH you. And so if you let the process be, and respect it - what happens TO YOU can be transformed into what’s happening FOR YOU.
“I” is for illuminate.
Many people use the idiom that they are looking forward to the "light at the and of the tunnel," to mean that they are looking forward to getting out from where they are presently to where they want to be.
In essence, they are saying that they are currently in the dark, somewhere within the tunnel and they are looking toward the exit - the way out - to the light of day.
We sometimes forget the most fortified resource is within ourselves. Light is not just metaphorically or literally at the end of the tunnel, Light is also within each and every one of us.
Don't look for Light. BE THE LIGHT that illuminates your path.
You bring the Light of your soul, your essence, your heart with you wherever you go! No solar power needed! Well, perhaps a wireless connection in terms of prayer may be of help!☺️
Remember the Light within you and the power you possess to turn it on by your own decision, on command, by the power of the word.
To illuminate your own path is a practice that will allow you to strengthen your faith so that you can walk through any valley of the shadow of death that may come your way.
“E" is for Emotion.
Emotions are informants, yet, because of the vulnerability, we feel when emotions come on, we often suppress our emotions when they arise. Although cultural norms dictate that there are appropriate times to process our emotions, it is vitally important that we pay attention to them and process them to prevent our own dysfunction.
It is not unheard of that even in today's society, there are some that attempt to eradicate the display of any emotion altogether. This barrier around our heart may seem to be a defensive gate, disallowing pain and suffering to come in and hurt us.
Yet, this self-made barrier may harden around our heart to a point where we ourselves may not have access. Doing so, we may unintentionally lock ourselves out.
Being with my emotions.
Rather than pushing emotions away, a practice I often take to work with emotion is in meditation. Setting myself up in a safe space and in the peace and quiet achieved from breathing deeply allows me to come into harmony. When my body is relaxed, I visualize my emotions - whatever they may be - as a friend, who needs my loving attention.
When a friend comes to our door, we naturally invite them in, do we not? When anger, or sorrow or anguish, or even despair come to visit, I also invite them in.
Through a meditation process, I envision the visitor to be a long lost friend and parts of myself that is coming back to talk to me. These lost parts of myself, I embrace.
They are here for a visit, to chat, to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. So as host, I am present to what they have to tell me. I listen, empathize and pay attention to what they have to say. When the visit is over, I send my friend along its way, wishing them nothing but the best.
Note: The practice here is to suspend judgment on the uncomfortable/unfavorable emotions that arise (like anger, avarice, and despair). Don’t put it in the closet and label it. Allow it run its course and then move on.
“V” is two-fold: for Victim or Victor.
I get to choose! When I feel powerless, it is easy to create a story about how I am a victim of circumstance. I may need to hear myself - in my self-pity, or compassion, or wail about how life is unfair. In that moment, I allow the victim to embrace the sadness.
Like two sides of the same coin, I can flip them over just as easily. I can change my attitude, and my mindset allowing the victor within me to overcome my own strife. Just like that, I can choose to go from being a victim to being victorious.
As a pessimist chooses to see the glass half empty, an optimist chooses to see the glass half full. Knowing whether you are inherently an optimist or a pessimist can give you the awareness of which channel you are attuned to.
Without presence or awareness, our choices are limited. Knowing your own baseline - whether you inherently see yourself as victim or victor can help you become aware that you always have a choice in how you see a situation.
“E” is for ease.
Go with the flow, my friend! Ease follows grace.
Despite what anyone tells you, you can’t rush God!
When you are in a dark room and making your way across a room full of furniture, it would be foolish to hastily run across the room. If you rush, you may very well hurt yourself.
When you are grieving, and feeling heavy as though you are traversing the darkness, it is okay to take a breath to go slow, even to stop and rest as you need to. It is perfectly acceptable to edge your way forward until you feel comfortable enough to walk out of the darkness.
In the dark, we use intuition to help us access which direction to go. Even in what seems like darkness, let guidance come to you and let it be filled with grace and ease. In a similar light, let the flow of life guide you in the direction you need to go.
The Courage to Be Human
While this post is about processing everyday grief, it is moreover about nurturing yourself, about acknowledging your humanity, and about being with the experience that is this human life.
Change is necessary, and with change, something dies and something is born.
As grief and loss go together, we often fall victim to what has been taken away. Allow yourself to be the victim without judgment. Nurture yourself and let yourself know it’s OK to feel sad, hurt, betrayed, or any other emotion.
Then, as you are ready, choose to be your own champion! Allow the victor within you to overcome the victim and acknowledge the change, name it, feel it and own it.
This process will empower you to lean into change itself, allowing you to return to the most sacred core - the essence of YOUR being - and to courageously live the life of your dreams.
Please Raise Awareness and Share The Love ❤️
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Are you recognizing the change going on in your life right now? Can you sense yourself either leaning into the change or resisting it?
What changes are you currently processing that might need you TLC (tender loving care)?
What have you been grieving and not even know it?
What is your default: optimist or pessimist? Victim or victor?
Which one of the 6 courageous steps might be the most challenging for you and why?
Which one of the 6 courageous steps would you most like embrace in the next 30 days?