Muse: to reflect, contemplate, to
meditate in silence on some subject.
Our losses are meant to be embraced not erased.
Everything in our lives shapes us including our losses and our pain. But many of us have been taught that we need to get over our losses and we need to make our pain go away. Author Anne Lamott talks about how in her family whenever somebody died they never talked about them again so it felt like a giant eraser came down from the sky and erased their loved one. Many of us have experienced something like this or we have taken on the belief that we need to make our pain go away because if we can make our pain go away then we have “gotten over” our loss. But the truth is that we need to embrace our losses and let them heal us from the inside out. We need to hold them close and let them absorb into our lives as they help our hearts grow larger.
So may we all learn to embrace our losses and let them shape us into kinder, gentler, and more compassionate beings.
“Haven’t Got Time For The Pain”
In our society we seem to be constantly on the move, it feels like we are always trying to get somewhere but we aren’t really sure where we are going. We seem to be running in place toward some imperceptible finish line and we are so focused on getting somewhere other than where we are that we miss the life that is happening in us and around us. And if we aren’t running toward something we are often running from something and we feel if we run fast enough and hard enough that we can outrun the imaginary boogeyman of our uncomfortable feelings. With this constant motion, we aren’t able to be in the present moment and it distracts us from feeling our pain. When we are on this “road to nowhere” we don’t have time to grieve. But what we don’t realize is that our pain will wait.
When we don’t make time for our pain it can prolong our grief and impede our ability to deal with grief. An essential part of this journey is slowing down long enough to ask ourselves where it is that we are trying to get to or what it is that we may be running from. In taking the time to answer these questions it gives us the opportunity to let our feelings come to the surface as we learn to make time for our pain.
Learning to feel our pain can be terrifying. As the author C.S. Lewis said after the death of his wife, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” Grief feels scary because our lives have been forever altered and we are living in a world we haven’t known before. Life has changed and we are being changed in the process. For most of us when we are afraid we usually try to avoid that which is scaring us. So like a child who is afraid of the dark, we may try to close our eyes to avoid seeing what may be lurking in the darkness or we try to distract ourselves from feeling afraid.
We may also view our pain as an inconvenience, an interruption, in our lives that we don’t have time to deal with because in our culture we are taught to get over it not recognizing that “the healing from the pain is in the pain” (Rumi).
The scariest places are those places that we haven’t explored, the places where we don’t want to turn on the light to see what might be waiting there in the darkness. When we decide to turn on the light we are learning to let go of trying to control our grief. We are taking a risk on ourselves and ultimately we learn that we are stronger and more capable than we ever thought possible.
It is in learning to pause that we make space for whatever feelings we may be carrying. It is in this pausing that our own wisdom, our own truth, our own understanding, and our ability to make meaning from our loss can emerge. This is where our healing begins.
Healing is a time of self-care, self-compassion, and self-reflection. We find healing in letting ourselves cry, writing our feelings in a journal, taking a walk in nature, and learning to be still without the need to distract ourselves.
It is in pausing that we feel the depth of the empty space that our loved one has left behind and come to understand that there is nothing that can fill this emptiness so we learn to honor this sacred space. By making time for our grief we come to understand that our hearts are big enough to hold it all—even this pain—which eventually helps us learn to appreciate true joy.
The Written Word
There are many ways to express our grief and putting our thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper can be a very healing process. The suggested prompts here can be done one time or multiple times. I’ve learned it helps to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and keep your pen moving for the entire time. I encourage using pen and paper rather than a keyboard as there is a hand/heart connection when writing longhand. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar, just write. When the timer goes off you stop writing even if you are in mid-sentence. Don’t reread your work at this time. Just set it aside for a couple of weeks and then go back and see what your words may have to say to you.
(If you choose to use a keyboard the same instructions apply).
Try this writing prompt:
In what ways has your pain taught you about joy?
I will list some books, articles, poems, movies, or other resources that I as well as others have found helpful on this grief journey. I hope these resources may deepen your understanding of grief, maybe bring you some sense of comfort, and help you to feel less alone in your grief.
The Crickets Have Arthritis by Shane Koyczan
If Anything Happens I Love You
Photo By: Daria Leslea
At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.