Life happens. People die, jobs and relationships end, events conclude, people we love leave our environment, the circle of life turns. These life events happen to everyone. At some point we will all experience loss of some kind. So how is it that some people are brought to their knees by such events, and others appear to navigate the turbulent waters with a degree of ease and grace?
This question is at the top of my mind at the moment. In the past couple of weeks I have experienced the crossing over of a friend, the conclusion of an amazing event, the consequential physical separation from people I love dearly, and then overnight the passing of Wayne Dyer, one of the first people to inspire me after Louise Hay. In reflective moments I recognise that I am experiencing grief. I am sad, and my heart hurts. For me, that declaration is the first step in moving through the process of grief, and to ultimately healing the pain I feel.
Dealing with our emotions is not typically something that gets taught in schools (how awesome would that be), so we learn from the models we see around us growing up. If our care-givers, parents, teachers, or spiritual leaders are not able to model or teach emotional intelligence and health, then how are we to learn these skills? In my case I have had to develop them much later in life, mainly in response to challenges that all other coping strategies have failed to resolve.
Grief is an evolutionary process. It’s something that delivers a different experience for every person, every time. For me, recognising grief, and owning it, rather than trying to push it away, stuff it, or ignore it is the first step. Next I might spend some time enquiring within myself to discover what it is that I am really grieving. HINT: It’s usually not exactly what you think it is.
As an example, when my Dad died, of course I was sad because he wasn’t here in the physical sense. When I looked within I also discovered that I was sad because I had lost the one person in my family, at the time, with whom I could discuss my spiritual journey. I was also sad because my old wounds of abandonment and rejection had been triggered by his departure. Taking time to check in with yourself and allowing space for greater levels of self discovery is an incredibly valuable thing to do. When you better understand why you feel the way you feel, you can uncover more options for how to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That’s what it takes to move through grief, or any other challenging emotion or experience; keep moving forward, even if it only feels like the tiniest of steps. When we become paralysed, we literally get stuck in the emotion. Unable to move forward or back, we end up in an infinite cycle of sorrow.
Grief doesn’t have to be all consuming
Just because you have experienced loss, and are travelling through the valley of grief, does not mean you must be sad and miserable all the time. Even in the midst of the most horrendous experience of sadness, it’s possible for you to have moments of joy. Don’t be tempted to cut them off, because of a misplaced belief in the all-consuming-ness of grief. Being sad does not prevent you from also being happy. The most important element is to honour all the feelings you feel, when you feel them. There is no ‘should’ when it come to your emotions. You feel how you feel, simply because you feel how you feel.
Even in the process of grieving my dads death I had joy. I gave myself permission to feel whatever emotion was present in the moment. Sometimes that meant I was deeply sad and joyously happy all at the same time. There is no fundamental right or wrong in grief. No two people’s experiences are the same, and no one can tell you how to experience, handle, or deal with grief in your life. It is uniquely your experience.
Yes, there are ideas, concepts, and tools that can help you along the journey, just like a road map. No, no one else can dictate to you how your experience should or will be. Awareness, understanding, and self-compassion are the keys to moving through the journey that is grief. More than six years after my father’s passing I still occasionally find myself bursting into tears when a memory or a thought of him comes up. I let it move through me, I send out a prayer, and when the moment passes, it’s gone. I allow it, and I don’t make up a story about what it means. It just is.
Being compassionate for yourself and how you feel is the greatest gift you can give yourself. In every area of life, but especially grief. Trust yourself, and your innate inner wisdom, to navigate the journey to the very best of your ability. Forgive quickly, feel without fear, and keep moving forward, even if it’s only a small ant step. You are always doing the best you can, and eventually “this too shall pass.”
I dedicate this article to the life, work, and wisdom of Dr Wayne W. Dyer, who made his transition overnight. He was the second inspirational author I discovered on my journey, and he was a man who gave me tools to transform my feelings into something more manageable. Wayne, I love you, I’m so grateful for your presence in my life, I know that you are off somewhere having amazing conversations and engaging in your next grand adventure. My deepest sympathies go out to your family and close friends. You will be sorely missed in this physical paradigm, and we a re blessed by the rich legacy of your work.